AWA argument :
Airline industry representatives have recently argued that flying is safer than driving,citing two separate studies. First, U.S. statistics show that each year there areapproximately 40,000 deaths in automobile accidents versus only approximately 200in flight accidents. Second, studies indicate that pilots are four times less likely thanaverage to have accidents on the road.Write a response in which you discuss what questions would need to be answered inorder to determine whether the argument is reasonable. Be sure to explain whateffects the answers to these questions would have on the validity of the argument
The above argument claims that flying is safer than driving after citing two different studies. But the author fails to mention under what conditions are those studies correct. Are the weather conditions for flying always favourable ? Is the flight always in a good condition to be flown ? Are all the pilots good are handling exceptions in climate and flight accidents ?
Comparing flying and driving is a very broad idea and it is almost impossible to compare these two without checking the parameters for the comparison such as distance, location, weather conditions, vehicle condition. What if it is heavily raining or there is a high probabilty of having a thunderstorm, is flying still better then ? What if the distance to be travelled only a few kilometers , is flying option available for such distances ? Obviously not, and hence the comparison is baseless in this case.
The author compares by just considering the number of accidents in both cases. A road is full of vehicles and commuters wheras a sky is clear and open space. Therefore, the chances of having an automobile accident is very high than that of having a flight accident. Do pilots face a traffic jam in air ? Of course not, then why is the number of accidents compared ? Is it possible for everyone to use a flight as a daily mode of travel ?
Pilots are trained for the best and worst scenarios and so are drivers. The author simply mentions that pilots are four time less likely than average to have accidents on the road but doesn't mention the mode of travel on road used by the pilot i.e is he walking, driving a car, riding a bike or simply travelling through a cab or a taxi. It fails to mention, whether, pilots if driving are driving with high speed or with low speed or an average speed.
The above argument is dependent on lot of assumptions and fails to address a lot of factors and hence it can be concluded that the argument is not at all valid.
The purpose of the airline industry’s argument, elucidated in the passage above, isto convince the reader that flying is safer than driving. The industry representativescite two pieces of evidence to support their conclusion—first, that fewer people dieper year in flight; second, that airline pilots get into fewer driving accidents. To showthat these arguments are reasonable, several questions need to be answered. The firstquestion has to do with the proportion of deaths represented by the figures of annualdeaths; the second has to do with the degree to which being a safe driver translatesinto being a safe pilot.Suppose the CEO of a car company tried to convince shareholders that thecompany was succeeding in a marketing campaign to sell a certain kind of car bysaying that over 10,000 cars had sold since the campaign began. The obviousquestion on the shareholders’ minds should be the fraction of the total number of carssold that this figure represents. If 10,000 cars represents less than 1% of the entiremarket on cars for this period, presumably they would not be very pleased with thecampaign. Similarly, knowing that only 200 people, versus 40,000 people, died inflight versus on the road is not informative until we know the proportion of the totalnumber of fliers and drivers that these numbers represent. If far fewer people fly thandrive, 200 could represent a large fraction of all fliers. And if the proportion of flightdeaths is higher than the proportion of car-deaths, then regardless of the total number,it would be fair to say that flying is not safer than driving. The question that needs tobe answered, in other words, is how many people fly and drive each year. This wouldthen allow us to calculate the portion of the total that these figures represent.Turning to the second piece of evidence used to support the argument that flying issafer than driving, we learn that airline pilots are safer-than-average drivers, havingfour times fewer accidents than the norm. In order for this fact to be convincing,several questions would need to be answered. First of all, we would need to knowwhether being a safe driver translates into being a safe pilot. But more than this, wewould need to know what being a safe pilot means. Keep in mind that we are solelyevaluating the argument that flying is safe relative to driving. So knowing that pilotsare “safe fliers” is nonsensical unless we can evaluate that claim in the context ofdriving. Therefore, a question that needs to be answered to make this argument validis what having a “safe pilot” means for airline passengers. An example of an answerto this question that would make the argument more valid would be that for any given hourof flight, pilots are vastly less likely to crash than for a given hour of driving. This is quiteclearly a long distance away from the statement as initially phrased—evidence that theargument as-is is in need of serious revision.In sum, we see in this passage the beginnings of a coherent argument, but moreinformation is needed in order to fully evaluate the strength of the claims. Namely,we would need to know what fractions 200 and 40,000 represent of the entirepopulation of fliers and drivers, respectively, and also what implications being a safedriver has for being a safe airline pilot.
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