As for airliner safety in the US, expect that all carriers are going to be just about the same, regardless of size. Maintenance facilities are strictly controlled, and after ValuJet, even the low-cost/low-fares are heavily scrutinized and safe (judging by the FAA presence at the low-cost/low-fare I work at, I'd say more so than the majors).
As for airlines outside the United States, it would be better to look at national records, since each nation is responsible for its own safety standards and keeping airlines in line with those standards. Personally, I'd never have flown Swissair, and I will never fly Aeroflop. I just wouldn't feel safe.
Still, flying has been and will continue to be the safest way to travel. Well, okay. Monorails have a slightly better record, but they're just different!
Those who fail to learn history are doomed to repeat it in summer school.