Window seat dwellers, take note: In case of a train crash in which windows shatter, passengers in the aisle seat would be less likely to be struck by glass.
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Since the tragic Amtrak derailment, I've faced a dilemma when I board my train to and from work: Where is the safest place to sit? I think of the eight victims who died, and how their choice of seat determined their fate.

I used to always head for the first car, a designated quiet area, so I could read or daydream in peace. After a Metro-North train in New York struck a passenger car at a crossing in February, and rails  pierced the first car of the train, I moved toward the middle of my commuter train—generally a good place to be, as it turns out.

In a derailment like the one on May 12, all cars were affected. But if a broken rail is to blame or a train strikes a car at a crossing, "Sitting in the middle of a car can be somewhat safer since it's more likely the forward part of the train and cars would be dislodged from the track," Bruce Becker, a consultant for the National Association of Railroad Passengers, tells

Window seat dwellers, take note: In case of a train crash in which windows shatter, passengers in the aisle seat would be less likely to be struck by glass. And you might not want to park yourself in the café car, either, because of the tables fixed in place: "When there's a great release of momentum and then a train rapidly decelerates, people get moved around violently and quickly," says Becker, "so there's the opportunity of a blunt force injury."

As for planes, don't grumble if you're assigned a seat in the rear—it's likely the safest spot, per an oft-cited analysis by Popular Mechanics that examined commercial airline crashes. Another choice safety spot is seating within five rows or less of an exit, finds research from the University of Greenwich.  Just avoid taking off your shoes, napping or putting on a video within the first three minutes or last eight minutes of flights (aka Plus Three/Minus Eight,  in expert speak). That's when crashes are most likely to take place, notes Ben Sherwood in The Survivors Club: The Secrets and Science That Could Save Your Life—and you want to be on alert for anything amiss.

I know, generally, that I'm safe on the rails. As newscasters have repeatedly reassured Americans since the latest Amtrak accident, train travel is far safer than traveling by car—ditto for planes and buses. The passenger death rate in cars, vans, sports utility vehicles and light trucks was 0.49 per 100 million passenger miles in 2012 (the latest data available), versus 0.04 for buses, 0.02 for trains and 0.00 for airlines, per the nonprofit National Safety Council.

Still, I'm sticking with the middle of the train. Circumstance and luck may ultimately determine your general risk of getting into any accident, but I'll gladly give up the peacefulness of a quiet car for a little more peace of mind.