Stricter security measures n U.S. airports is making air travel less safe.

Ever stricter security measures in place in U.S. airports is making air travel less safe and airports more vulnerable, according to University of Illinois mathematics professor Sheldon H. Jacobson. The reason is too many resources are spent screening passengers who pose little risk, which steals time and money away from identifying real threats.

“A natural tendency, when limited information is available about from where the next threat will come, is to overestimate the overall risk in the system,” says Jacobson in a press release. “This actually makes the system less secure by over-allocating security resources to those in the system that are low on the risk scale relative to others in the system.”

Jacobson recommends airports work to distinguish high-risk from lower-risk passengers before subjecting every flier (and all that baggage) to zealous screening. More programs like the TSA’s Pre-Check, which expedites screening for eligible passengers by rating their risk against that of entire flying population, would help airports perceive security threats more accurately. His recently published paper also explores scenarios to expose security gaps.

Sources: University of Illinois.

Addressing Passenger Risk Uncertainty for Aviation Security Screening by Adrian J. Lee and Sheldon H. Jacobson, Transportation Science (December 2011)

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