Airlines Show Dramatic Safety Improvement

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The accident rate for U.S. airlines has dropped by 65 percent in the last 10 years, according to a Sunday New York Times story by aviation reporter Matthew Wald. The White House set a goal in 1997 to reduce the rate by 80 percent over 10 years, Wald wrote. Although the decline has fallen short of that mark, it is still an impressive improvement. The data, which excludes the terrorist-caused crashes of 2001, shows a steady decline in fatalities, bearing out recent remarks by outgoing FAA Administrator Marion Blakey that this is "the golden age of safety." Blakey said this is the safest period, in the safest mode of transportation, in the history of the world. The improvements of the last decade reflect the sum of many small changes, Wald said, including better technology, enhanced ground-proximity warning systems, and safer cockpit procedures.

The original goal was set after two crashes in 1996 killed 375 people.