An open letter to film production companies doing documentaries on "rail safety":
We are often approached by film companies, TV studios, magazines and newspapers doing stories related to train safety. So far, almost all of them have produced hit pieces showing "how unsafe trains are". Many times these stories are under the guise of being a public service to make people aware of rail safety, and then proceed to show 30 to 60 minutes of simulated or actual rail crashes. Because of that, I've become very skeptical of anyone that approaches me doing a piece on "rail safety".
There are statistics that show that rail travel is the safest of all modes of transportation despite what the airlines would have you believe. For more information on that, read: "Flying Blind, Flying Safe,"the book written by Mary Schiavo, the Former Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Transportation!
There have been some recent crashes of both trains and planes. If you had to be on one of those, would you rather have been on Egypt Air Flight 9-90 or on the Amtrak Southwest Chief #3 that derailed a few weeks ago during an earthquake in Southern California? Or for that matter, would you rather have been on the Sunset Limited derailment in 1993 or TWA Flight 800? At least on that major Sunset Limited derailment, you are likely to have stepped off the train with few or no injuries. There were only a few fatalities on that derailment compared to any plane going down!
I once met someone who was a passenger on that Sunset Limited. I can't say I've ever met a survivor of an airline crash. I used to not have a problem with flying, but then I took 20 hours of training to become a private pilot. I haven't been comfortable on an airplane since and avoid them when possible. Another member of our staff spent a few years of his life working on the assembly of commercial aircraft. There is no way that we can get him to take a plane anywhere after what he has seen!
I think what I might find really entertaining is a documentary on airline safety featuring 30 to 60 minutes of airplanes crashing into the ground and the aftermath! That would be a real public service and provide an education of what can happen to you when you fly! It would certainly match the same type of format used for rail safety documentaries!
On a related topic, why do we not see commedians joke about air crashes right after they happen? Jay Leno and other commedians joke about train derailments right after they occur! Could it be that there is rarely a death or injury after a passenger train derailment so it is OK to joke about it? Since airline accidents almost always involve a massive number of deaths, it would be in bad taste to make jokes about those right away.
You might claim these are anecdotal and don't reflect the true nature of air travel. You are right. But they are just as fair in representing airline safety as all of the documentaries that I have seen on rail safety so far!
For more on Rail Safety, you may want to visit: www.RailSafety.org
Thanks for your inquiry. I hope your production is more balanced than what we have seen in the past, but you cannot blame me for being skeptical.