Has Successful Terror Gone to Ground?

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Abstract

This article considers all 87 attacks worldwide against air and rail transport systems that killed at least two passengers over the 30-year period of 1982–2011. The data offer strong and statistically significant evidence that successful acts of terror have “gone to ground” in recent years: attacks against aviation were concentrated early in the three decades studied whereas those against rail were concentrated later. Recent data are used to make estimates of absolute and comparative risk for frequent flyers and subway/rail commuters. Point estimates in the “status quo” case imply that mortality risk from successful acts of terror was very low on both modes of transportation and that, whereas risk per trip is higher for air travelers than subway/rail commuters, the rail commuters experience greater risk per year than the frequent flyers.

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