We all know that most things are pretty much out of our hands when we go to the airport. Our luggage might get rifled through during a search, our outfit could be ruined going through security, and there’s always the chance that one of our personal belongings will be lost or stolen.
Most people try to take any small measure they can to make sure their suitcase stays safe, and a luggage lock is usually the route most people go. If only it actually kept your stuff any safer.
Luggage locks are just one example of the tools and rules we all rely on to keep us safe. The problem is, these things actually don’t work very well at all.
To start, luggage locks are actually pretty easily opened.
According to Kevin Coffey, a retired sergeant and detective from the Los Angeles Police Department, a luggage lock is essentially there to keep an honest person honest. “Somebody who is really committed will get into the lock very easily,” he said to Reader’s Digest. Surprisingly, part of the reason thieves can make it into your bag so easily is because the TSA unknowingly helped them do it!
You see, you have to have a TSA-approved lock on your bag in order to take it through the airport. The officers there will have a ring of master keys that can open any approved lock should they need to. However, after a photo of those keys appeared in The Washington Post, thieves actually made their own copies using 3D printers.
Thankfully, there are certain locks that can help prevent this by setting off an alert when they’re opened, which can only be turned off by someone with the code. However, a quick thief may be able to grab something and take off before you realize what’s going on, so even using this type of smart lock still requires some diligence on your part.
In fact, most luggage-related safety gadgets are foiled pretty easily.
An experienced thief could break into your bag by simply breaking open the zipper with a pen—they can even seal it closed once they’re done so you don’t notice anything has been stolen until they’re far, far away from you.
There are devices that can help out with this by looping through both your suitcase’s zipper and around its handle, but even that won’t prevent theft. This device does make it so that a thief can’t re-zip your suitcase, which means you’ll know something is wrong faster, but it does nothing to prevent them from stealing in the first place.
If you feel like that leaves you out of options, don’t worry—there’s still one really ridiculous option left, and it’s having the TSA wrap your luggage in plastic like a box of leftovers. “If the TSA needs to get in, they will just cut it,” Coffey said.
There are quite a few safety measures TSA has put in place that don’t really protect us at all.
Take something like the no-fly list, for example. It was established after the events of 9/11 and is thought to contain over a million names, even though it’s not always clear what risk each of those people pose.
In 2005, a flight going to Mexico from Amsterdam had to turn around because, as it turns out, it was carrying two passengers who were on the no-fly list and the route took the flight into United States airspace.
However, despite the fact that an entire flight had to be diverted because of them, they didn’t even get arrested when they landed. It’s one of the reasons why Bruce Schneier, a security expert, describes the list as “a list of people so dangerous they cannot be allowed to fly under any circumstance, yet so innocent we can’t arrest them even under the Patriot Act.”
It’s not even that hard to bypass the no-fly list, either.
In 2002, CBS performed an undercover investigation in which they attempted to make it through airport security using a $150 fake ID and tickets purchased from three major airline services. Believe it or not, they went to five different airports in Nevada and California and were able get through security and catch flights at all of them.
Their correspondent claimed that both the ticketing and security agents barely paid attention to the fake license itself or any of the information it contained, and most didn’t even ask for the ID to be taken out of the correspondent’s wallet for a closer look.
The report from CBS says the license was examined approximately 20 times and was never called out as a fake. Senator Barbara Boxer of California said this was especially troubling if the FBI is relying largely on its list of known terrorists to keep airports safe. “If they can go ahead and change their names and get phony ID, we’re way behind the eight ball,” she said. “We’ll never catch them.”
Car and bike travel are pretty dangerous, too.
Driving a car, we rely on the brake system. Riding a bike, we assume our helmet will keep us safe. It turns out those assumptions might not be entirely reliable.
While anti-lock brakes have proven to make our cars stop faster and helmets have been proven to protect our heads during accidents, our own behaviors kind of mess it all up.
In a 10-year study done by the Highway Loss Data Institute, the organization found that having anti-lock brakes didn’t make someone less likely to be involved in a crash—in fact, it found that they’re actually 45 percent more likely to die in a crash if their car has an anti-lock brake system. Why? Because they often drive more aggressively, falsely believing that their brake system will offset any reckless driving they take part in.
The same thing goes for bikers, sort of. A researcher from Bath, England, found in 2006 that cyclists are actually more likely to get hit by a car while wearing a helmet. In fact, it’s estimated that drivers got 3.35 inches closer to cyclists when they were wearing some type of safety gear, helmets included.
Even speed limits don’t truly make a difference.
We’ve all been on the road with someone who drives like they’re trying to win a NASCAR race, and it can definitely be annoying. “Why can’t they just obey the speed limit?!” you think to yourself as you simultaneously wonder where all the state troopers are at a time like this. Well, as it turns out, driving the speed limit doesn’t actually reduce accidents at all.
In 1995, the state of Montana conducted a test by removing all speed limit signs from every non-urban area in the entire state. After a couple of years, they were able to deduce that, on the roads that had their speed limit signs removed, the fatality rate didn’t increase one bit.
In fact, after the state finally introduced new speed limit regulations throughout all of Montana, the rate of fatal accidents on interstates actually went up by 111 percent.
It just goes to show that (most) people probably do have more common sense than you think, and that speeder is going to drive fast whether there’s a speed limit in place or not.