Thursday, June 17, 2010

Which is more risky--flying through volcanic ash or driving to the store?

A very interesting article on risk and are we, as individuals, able to accurately assess risk especially if the consequences are not immediate or we don't associate one danger with another because they appear remotely connected.

From  BBC: Is driving more dangerous than flying through ash?
""The problem is that people are generally terrible at making rational decisions about risk.
To take just one of many examples, many Americans avoided planes after 9/11 and travelled by road instead. As a result, a team of researchers from Cornell University estimated there were at least 1,200 more deaths on America's roads than there would have been...Some 1,200 people died because they were avoiding what they perceived to be a riskier form of transport, 954 more than who died on the planes used for the terrorist attacks. 
An example of government not properly assessing risk...I don't have the source handy, but I understand that when the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) mandated that people with small children buy an extra seat and use a car seat rather than hold children in their laps, deaths of small children actually increased! They did not increase in planes however (as far as I know, no child has been killed in-flight as a result of turbulence), but on the highways, as parents elected to not pay for the extra seat because of the expense and drove instead.  More families driving than flying, hence the incidents of car accidents increases. (Note: I am not saying it is the SAME kids getting killed in accidents as would be flying)...
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