No TSA issues as New Canaan stays grounded
Published 7:07 pm, Wednesday, December 1, 2010
The anticipated horror at the airports may have been a lot of hype since some local travelers avoided the full-body scans this past holiday weekend.
"It was actually less painful than most times," Lisa Isherwood of Talmadge Hill Road said of her trip to Tampa earlier this month.
In the wake of recent terrorist attempts in the U.K. and U.S., the Transportation Security Administration initiated stricter and more controversial security regulations at airports. When going through the checkpoints, people are expected to go through a full body scanner that uses x-ray vision to project a naked image of the person. Travelers can opt out of the scanner but then they would have to submit to a rigorous full-body pat down.
Isherwood found no issues at JFK when she flew out to Florida on Nov. 19. There were no full-body scanners or protestors at the security lines.
"I had my eyes open for all that stuff since it had been all over the news," she said. "But all we had to do was take off our shoes and all the other usual stuff."
Returning to JFK was even easier for Isherwood.
"There was no one in the airport Sunday in Florida," she said. "It was great."
Still, she remained cautious about the new measures before and after the trip since she was traveling with her children.
"If anyone was going to pat down my 12-year-old daughter, I would certainly have had a problem with that," she said. "But thankfully, there were no issues."
Another New Canaan resident, Kristin Thomas, also cited no problems with holiday travel.
This may have something to do with the nationwide uproar to the new measures. Formal protests and frustrated travelers may have just decided to avoid the airports in general. In fact, most New Canaan residents stayed grounded this year, apparently keeping in line with the majority of travelers in the country. According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, 91 percent of all holiday travel is done by personal vehicle.
"I am one of those folks who have most of our family within easy driving distance, so I will be avoiding the groping," Scott Hobbs of Hobbs Inc. said before the holiday break. Town officials including Selectman Rob Mallozzi and Superintendent David Abbey also thought best to stay close to home this Thanksgiving.
Websites such as optoutday.com and wewontfly.com believe the emptiness at airports is a direct result of opposition to the TSA. The sites state it may even have something to do with the lack of actual full body scanners at many airports this past Thanksgiving.
However, with Thanksgiving out of the way, some people are still bracing themselves for the Christmas rush and they do not seem too excited about the travel.
"We are not traveling until after Christmas, but I can tell you none of us are actually looking forward to it," New Canaan resident David Lee said. "I don't really want the full body scan or the freedom pat down," he added. "I have little girls and I don't want to have them possibly get violated with security guards or radiated with the full body scans, and realistically I am sure it will just take forever to get through the lines."
The radiation issue is more of a recent controversy. The TSA full body scanners use something called ionizing radiation and a Fairfield University professor said there could be added risk.
"Since no studies have been done, and since ionizing radiation without medical necessity is being used on the general public, I would say that the increased risk has not been properly assessed," said Dr. Douglas Lyon, a computer engineering professor. "Ignorance of the harmful effects of low-level long-term radiation requires that we engineer on the side of caution. DNA is very sensitive to damage from ionizing radiation. It's time to take consumers' health seriously."
Dr. Lyons did say that the general public is not the main group at risk with these scanners. "Considering the ionizing radiation is focused on the skin (not the entire volume of the human body) and that the dose is chronic, it would be unethical not to disclose the added risk. The general public is probably not at as much risk as other subgroups -- TSA screeners, airline staff, frequent fliers, children, pregnant women, among them."
So Lee's concerns about his daughters getting radiated in the scanners are not unwarranted. Still, with all the uproar and furor about the new screenings, most airports ran smoothly during Thanksgiving as no widespread protests or clogging took place according to most reports.
What remains to be seen is whether or not this surprising "peace" in the airports will continue through the remainder of the holiday season.