Summertime is a top travel time for families, and tens of thousands of families nationwide choose to fly to their summer vacation destinations, whether via large commercial airlines or smaller private planes. Statistics from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the federal agency charged with investigating domestic aviation accidents and implementing safety regulations and initiatives, the survival rate in US plane crashes from 1983 to 2000 was 95.7 percent. Officials say that figure hasn't changed in the years since.
While that's certainly good news, understand that multiple factors can affect your chances of surviving an aviation accident – and many of them depend on you:
- Choose your seat wisely: If possible, book your flight early so that you have first choice of seats. Ideally, choose an aisle seat that's within five rows of an exit or in the rear of the plane. While everyone loves a window seat for the view, it's the aisle seat that will allow you to exit the plane quicker should an accident occur. In any case, while boarding the plane, count the number of rows between yours and the plane's nearest exit and keep that number in mind, should an incident cause the cabin to fill with smoke, limiting your visibility and forcing you to feel your way to safety.
- Pay attention and envision: Statistically, 80 percent of plane accidents happen within the first three minutes of takeoff or the eight minutes prior to landing. Though you've heard them dozens of times and think you know them by heart, listen again to the pre-flight safety instructions and envision just what you'll need to do should an accident happen. This is all the more crucial if you're traveling with young children who undoubtedly will be frightened.
- Brace for impact: If you must prepare for impact, place your weakest hand over your strongest hand to protect it from being pounded against the seat in front of you or from flying debris. This is important because you'll need your strongest hand for things like unbuckling your seatbelt, operating oxygen masks and holding your children. And, if the plane you're riding crashes into the water wait until you're outside the plane to inflate your life jacket. This will allow more room for you and other passengers to move through the plane and out the exit before the fuselage begins to sink.
- Keep your cool: This one won't be easy, but it's crucial. Remaining calm, alert and clear-minded enough to assess your situation, find a solution and act on it could make the difference between life and death for you and those around you.