Web edition: March 3, 2004
Print edition: March 6, 2004; Vol.165 #10 (p. 159)
In "9/11's Fatal Road Toll: Terror attacks presaged rise in U.S. car deaths" (SN: 1/17/04, p. 37: http://www.sciencenews.org/articles/20040117/fob6.asp), it was assumed that people who switched from planes to cars after the terrorist attacks did so because of fear. However, many people who switched probably did so because of the inconvenience of added airport security. But before these extra deaths can be blamed on fear, security, or something else, it is necessary to determine why people switched.
I wonder if anyone's checked speeding tickets for the period considered. As someone who hates airport lines at the best of times, I decided to drive from my home in northeastern Pennsylvania to a business appointment in Boston in late October 2001. On the Massachusetts Turnpike, I clocked the average speed at between 80 and 85 miles per hour, which I initially attributed to crazy New England drivers. However, over the next months, I noticed that on almost all highways people were driving, on average, about 10 mph faster than previously. Did it have to do simply with more people on the road trying to make up for lost flying time? Or did it reflect a heightened fear?
For some, driving instead of flying may have been due to fear of dying in a hijacked plane. At least as common are folks like me, who feel no need to subject themselves to the harassment of someone pawing through your carry-on or getting patted down.
I'm sure the new therapies, including drug therapy, outlined in "Fear Not" (SN: 1/17/04, p. 42: http://www.sciencenews.org/articles/20040117/bob9.asp) will greatly help many people. I was unhappy, however, to see that the drug D-cycloserine was going to be used to help people overcome their fear of public speaking. I had a great fear of public speaking, but 1 year in the club Toastmasters International has changed me tremendously. I have seen people with debilitating fears of speaking become poised and polished. I'm sure drug therapy has its place, but I feel it's dangerous for people to rely on quick fixes to solve their social problems.