TSA's full-body scanners in airports lead to more overall deaths, lawsuit claims

An airline passenger stands in a full-body scanner at an LAX TSA checkpoint in 2014. (Reuters)

People who fear the TSA's airport body scanners might start driving more instead of flying, and that will raise the number of traffic deaths. That's the argument behind a new legal challenge filed against the Transportation Security Administration today over the much-loathed airport security scanning machines. We have blogged about them zillion times here at Boing Boing. We hate them too.

The lawsuit was filed today in the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, DC, on Monday. The Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) and the Rutherford Institute argue that “because car travel is much riskier than air travel, the net result could be an increase in overall travel fatalities.”

That's a novel approach. Could it work?

The suit doesn't demand that all 789 full-body scanners currently in use at 156 airports around the country be removed. But it does ask that TSA consider the higher risk of driving for a portion of our population who are too upset by the experience of the TSA's full-body scans to endure the machines.

The TSA published its new airport body scanner rule after various delays on March 3, 2016.

In a statement about the lawsuit, CEI Fellow and co-petitioner Marc Scribner said:

While the TSA is promoting body scanners as a security measure, the odds are that this rule actually puts the traveling public at greater risk, not less. For years, the TSA violated federal law and a court order by deploying body scanners in airports without a required regulation. When they finally produced the court-ordered rule in March, they failed to account for the invasiveness and delays associated with the TSA’s scanners that prompt some air travelers to take to their cars instead, which is a riskier mode of travel than flying. This failure is yet another violation of federal law and we seek to hold this rogue agency accountable.

We wish them well in their battle against the TSA, but there actually isn't a lot of evidence to support the claims they make in the lawsuit.

As the Washington Post points out:

There is scant research to support the central contention of the CEI lawsuit. Scribner cited a Cornell University study published in 2007 — a year before body scanners were introduced at airports — that suggested that “substitution of driving for flying by travelers seeking to avoid security inconvenience likely led to over 100 road fatalities.”

More on the case at CEI: "Competitive Enterprise Institute v. Department of Homeland Security"

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