Random Killing on a Canadian Greyhound Bus
A grisly slaying on a Greyhound bus has prompted calls for tighter security on Canadian bus lines, despite the company and Canada's transport agency calling the stabbing death a tragic but isolated incident.
Greyhound spokeswoman Abby Wambaugh said bus travel is the safest mode of transportation, even though bus stations do not have metal detectors and other security measures used at airports.
"Hearing about this incident really worries me," said Donna Ryder, 56, who was waiting Thursday at the bus depot in Toronto.
"I’m in a wheelchair and what would I be able to do to defend myself? Probably nothing. So that’s really scary."
Ryder, who was heading to Kitchener, Ont., said buses are essentially the only way she can get around the province, as her wheelchair won’t fit on Via Rail trains. As it is her main option for travel, a lack of security is troubling, she said.
"I guess we’re going to have to go the airline way, maybe have a search and baggage check, X-ray maybe," she said.
"Really, I don’t know what you can do about security anymore."
Of course, airplane security won't work on buses.
But -- more to the point -- this essay I wrote on overreacting to rare risks applies here:
People tend to base risk analysis more on personal story than on data, despite the old joke that "the plural of anecdote is not data." If a friend gets mugged in a foreign country, that story is more likely to affect how safe you feel traveling to that country than abstract crime statistics.
We give storytellers we have a relationship with more credibility than strangers, and stories that are close to us more weight than stories from foreign lands. In other words, proximity of relationship affects our risk assessment. And who is everyone's major storyteller these days? Television.
Which is why Canadians are talking about increasing security on long-haul busses, and not Americans.
EDITED TO ADD (8/4): Look at this headline: "Man beheads girlfriend on Santorini island." Do we need airport-style security measures for Greek islands, too?
EDITED TO ADD (8/5): A surprisingly refreshing editorial:
Here is our suggestion for what ought to be done to upgrade the security of bus transportation after the knife killing of Tim McLean by a fellow Greyhound bus passenger: nothing. Leave the system alone. Mr. McLean could have been murdered equally easily by a random psychopath in a movie theatre or a classroom or a wine bar or a shopping mall -- or on his front lawn, for that matter. Unless all of those venues, too, are to be included in the new post-Portage la Prairie security crackdown, singling out buses makes no sense.
Posted on August 4, 2008 at 6:19 AM • 90 Comments