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When Safety Proves Dangerous

When Safety Proves Dangerous

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Risk Compensation

Risk protection is normally done to minimize the harm a particular activity can do to us. There are various things we do to reduce our risk, to make ourselves safer.

Behaviour scientists point out that taking measures to reduce the harm we can do to ourselves, can actually make us take mo...

  • When automobile safety laws were introduced, the drivers started taking more risks while driving, leading to more pedestrian accidents.
  • Children (and even adults) take more physical risks while playing a sport with protective gear.
  • Safety features like Anti-lock brakes ...

Having a safety device in place, and armed with the knowledge that we can push the envelope a bit, the appetite for risk increases.

  • People who have an emergency fund in place tend to be less careful about their investments.
  • People wearing a face-mask in this...

This means that enforcing measures that supposedly make people safer, will lead to changes in behaviour almost like a reflex action, compensating for the extra safety and to maintain the ‘desired’ level of risk, making it a zero-sum action.

If something has been made safer (like fitting sports bikes with disk brakes) then it does not mean the risk has been eliminated, as it may just put a different group of people (like pedestrians) in increased danger. This is known as Risk Transfer.

  • Safety measures need to be invisible, and not marketed or glorified.
  • Prudent behaviour needs to be rewarded, giving people an incentive to stay within limits.
  • Taking an action to decrease risk isn’t always a good strategy. We sometimes end up just changing the nature of...

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