11 February, 2008

Risk, the law and human behaviour

'Dangerous' activites are often banned by law to try and make people safer. So, for example, driving without a seatbelt is more dangerous than driving with a seatbelt, therefore the law makes it mandatory to wear one.

The law, therefore, is trying to act as a substitute for our awareness of risk. However, it would seem that humans are pretty good at analysing risk and often compensate in such a manner that risk is 'constant'. To continue the seatbelt analogy, there is evidence that when wearing seatbelts drivers drive more dangerously and at greater speeds than without a seatbelt. The reason they do this is because the seatbelt makes them feel safer so they feel they can take the risk. I assume the same logic applies to bike helmets etc.

It also seems we do a similar type of compensation for diet. So diet coke may not be as effective as we thought when trying to lose weight.


Jak said...

I suppose this whole concept of 'constant risk' compensation has its downfalls for instance you mention speeders and seat belts as well as the diet drinks example.

It wouldn't be out of the question to say that this 'rubber band effect' is a sign of progress in some ways as it only shows us that the major problem with our technology is that it works most of the time!

I propose the introduction of seat belts that have a one in three chance of purposefully not working upon impact!

Liz Ford said...

Ha ha, love it!

State instituted randomised risk...

Maybe that's why, with the rise of 'health and safety' culture, people seem to be more stupid on a lot of basic safety issues. The state has removed the need to think about it for themselves so they don't and no longer have the ability to make a proper decision on the issue.