Risk and Freedom

Mike Sales
Posts: 5164
Joined: 7 Mar 2009, 3:31pm

Risk and Freedom

Postby Mike Sales » 3 Sep 2020, 8:14pm

I am rereading Risk and Freedom by John Adams. It looks at road safety from a different angle to the road safety establishment. It is well worth reading for this alone.
In the run up to the Parliamentary debate on seat belt compulsion the DoT commissioned a report on the result of compulsion in the countries which already had a law, in order to demolish the troublesome arguments of Adams. Unfortunately Isles concluded that Adams was correct, and the results of compulsion were not as expected. The report had to be suppressed, and only leaked out in the New Scientist years later. There is a full account of this unsavoury episode in the book, and a copy of the Isles Report on Adams's site.

I copy in a review from the Amazon site.

Risk and Freedom is a book of historic significance. Published in 1985 and out of print for many years it continues to have a profound influence on road safety policy. It provides the first coherent application of the concept of “risk compensation” to the management of risk on the road. Risk compensation is a term coined by Canadian psychologist Gerald Wilde in the 1970s to describe the behavioural adjustments of people to perceived changes in safety or danger. In Risk and Freedom Adams applies the idea to a wide variety of road safety measures – seat belts, helmets, speed limits, alcohol limits, highway improvements, crumple zones and other crash protection measures, improved brakes and tires, and accident blackspot treatments, to name the main ones.

The idea that risk compensation could explain the failure of such measures to achieve their promised benefits was, at the time, unanimously dismissed out of hand by highway engineers, vehicle designers, and regulators. Today it is widely accepted as mere common sense, and serves as the basis for the new, and increasingly popular, shared space schemes. The most obvious explanation for the success of these schemes is Adams’ argument that road users are not obedient automatons, but alert and responsive participants in what Adams calls in his last book, Risk, “the dance of the risk thermostats”. Also, unlike most books on this subject it is well-written and entertaining.


It is available as a free down load.

http://www.john-adams.co.uk/books/

cycle tramp
Posts: 832
Joined: 5 Aug 2009, 7:22pm

Re: Risk and Freedom

Postby cycle tramp » 3 Sep 2020, 9:31pm

Indeed, I believe it has been attributed to Lawrence (of Arabia) that the best way to make any car or truck safer was to mount a single steel spike to the steering wheel and have its point projected to a space some 6 inches in front of the driver's rib cage - Suddenly late braking, following too close to the car in front, and inappropriate speeding are all banished.

Mike Sales
Posts: 5164
Joined: 7 Mar 2009, 3:31pm

Re: Risk and Freedom

Postby Mike Sales » 3 Sep 2020, 9:36pm

cycle tramp wrote:Indeed, I believe it has been attributed to Lawrence (of Arabia) that the best way to make any car or truck safer was to mount a single steel spike to the steering wheel and have its point projected to a space some 6 inches in front of the driver's rib cage - Suddenly late braking, following too close to the car in front, and inappropriate speeding are all banished.


I have never heard that Lawrence was the original of that idea, and given that he died crashng his (Brough Superior?) motorbike he is perhaps not the most convincing authority on road safety.
What is the line? "If you try to make something foolproof you will only produce a bigger fool."

PaulaT
Posts: 158
Joined: 20 Dec 2018, 6:41pm
Location: Staffordshire

Re: Risk and Freedom

Postby PaulaT » 3 Sep 2020, 9:41pm

It's worth noting that for quite some years before seat belts were compulsory it was compulsory for manufacturers to fit them in the front seats and many people were using them on a voluntary basis. I know I did as did my parents and brothers and from memory just about everyone I knew was also wearing them. We didn't overnight go from a nation of non-seat belt wearing risk averse drivers to a nation of seat belt wearing Kamakazis.

Mike Sales
Posts: 5164
Joined: 7 Mar 2009, 3:31pm

Re: Risk and Freedom

Postby Mike Sales » 3 Sep 2020, 9:46pm

PaulaT wrote:It's worth noting that for quite some years before seat belts were compulsory it was compulsory for manufacturers to fit them in the front seats and many people were using them on a voluntary basis. I know I did as did my parents and brothers and from memory just about everyone I knew was also wearing them. We didn't overnight go from a nation of non-seat belt wearing risk averse drivers to a nation of seat belt wearing Kamakazis.


Adams does not suggest we did. His analysis is rather more sophisticated than that. He, and Isles, look at the statistics.

mattsccm
Posts: 3398
Joined: 28 Nov 2009, 9:44pm

Re: Risk and Freedom

Postby mattsccm » 4 Sep 2020, 11:50am

Interesting. My recollection is that few people I knew wore belts before compulsion. Many of my parents generation, 80ish still need reminding and quite a few people of my age, late 50's who learned to drive before compulsion still don't find it automatic or don't bother in certain situations. Same with motor cycle helmets but as that was a bit earlier everyone is a bit older. However compulsory helmets in motorcycle trials came later and the effects are evident on younger people.
I know that the risks I take riding a m/c or bike are most definitely a affected by helmets. Body armour also affects this.

Mike Sales
Posts: 5164
Joined: 7 Mar 2009, 3:31pm

Re: Risk and Freedom

Postby Mike Sales » 4 Sep 2020, 11:55am

mattsccm wrote:
I know that the risks I take riding a m/c or bike are most definitely a affected by helmets. Body armour also affects this.


In the book Adams recounts how he often asks motorcyclists a question.

"Imagine yourself riding bareheaded, in shorts and T shirt, and wearing flip flops. Would you ride differently if in full leathers, boots and helmet?"

pete75
Posts: 13163
Joined: 24 Jul 2007, 2:37pm

Re: Risk and Freedom

Postby pete75 » 4 Sep 2020, 4:17pm

Mike Sales wrote:
mattsccm wrote:
I know that the risks I take riding a m/c or bike are most definitely a affected by helmets. Body armour also affects this.


In the book Adams recounts how he often asks motorcyclists a question.

"Imagine yourself riding bareheaded, in shorts and T shirt, and wearing flip flops. Would you ride differently if in full leathers, boots and helmet?"

No. It's a bit of a fool who takes a risk on a motorbike in the knowledge that he'll crash but will be protected by his body armour and helmet. Regardless of clothing you don't do things which will lead to you coming off but ride in a way to prevent it.

Mike Sales
Posts: 5164
Joined: 7 Mar 2009, 3:31pm

Re: Risk and Freedom

Postby Mike Sales » 4 Sep 2020, 6:09pm

pete75 wrote:No. It's a bit of a fool who takes a risk on a motorbike in the knowledge that he'll crash but will be protected by his body armour and helmet. Regardless of clothing you don't do things which will lead to you coming off but ride in a way to prevent it.


You assume perfect knowledge of the future! This is not available. The thing about risk is that it is a judgement of future events, with less than perfect knowledge. That is what makes it risk, which is what we all have to deal with in life, in all sorts of areas. [If you knew you were going to crash presumably you would take the necessary steps to avoid it. Like not kicking the engine into life. If you carried on knowing you were going to crash, it would not be called taking a risk.]
We have to make these judgements with imperfect knowledge or not go forward.
You say that people ride in the way which would avert a crash, but nevertheless they still come off.
If you could be sure of not crashing, you could indeed ride naked, but most people cannot see the future with such certainty, and take precautions which they hope will minimise consequences.
Would you really ride as fast nude as in full protective gear? Perhaps any motorcyclists here could comment? Mattsccm's behaviour is affected by the protective gear he is wearing, he tell us.

tatanab
Posts: 4178
Joined: 8 Feb 2007, 12:37pm

Re: Risk and Freedom

Postby tatanab » 4 Sep 2020, 6:57pm

Mike Sales wrote:Would you really ride as fast nude as in full protective gear? Perhaps any motorcyclists here could comment?
Look up Rollie Free who broke a speed record at 150mph in 1948 whilst wearing only swimming trunks --- and a rudimentary helmet.

I recall almost 50 years ago taking a short trip to fuel the motorcycle, only a mile, so I did not bother with anything other than the compulsory helmet - peak speed probably 25 mph. I recall feeling very vulnerable, but I think that was because I was not used to riding without decent kit. Contrast that with cycling where I am relaxed and happy at 40mph on a descent wearing cycling kit i.e almost nothing.

mattsccm
Posts: 3398
Joined: 28 Nov 2009, 9:44pm

Re: Risk and Freedom

Postby mattsccm » 4 Sep 2020, 7:37pm

Pete, in the nicest possible way you don't see the point. If i am popping up the road i put a helnet on and thats it. I know the risks are small and only use the helmet fof legal reasons. Racing off road, I know that at some point I'll come off so add armour, knee pads etc. To ride so carefully that coming off was almost impossible would mean riding to lose. Racing means taking risks which are mitigated by protective gear. Faster riders have longer necks.
I dress for the possible conseqences, within limits. When i did a lot of 4wd off roading I wore a harness if rolling the vehicle was likely but not when stuck in a bog.
I wear a climbing helmet if a fall is likely to mean a tumble or falling rock may happen. Mountain crags for example. On overhanging rock its a free swing so don't wear one.
I use a cycle helmet about half the time. Usually commuting as there are cars for the last 2 miles and there is half a mile of awful road. The risk is higher. I wear a helmet on club runs are we are in a group . Gravel riding , hill climbing in qiuet areas i don't.
Like many I balence risks. Avoiding risks is not an option.

User avatar
mjr
Posts: 16037
Joined: 20 Jun 2011, 7:06pm
Location: Norfolk or Somerset, mostly
Contact:

Re: Risk and Freedom

Postby mjr » 4 Sep 2020, 10:36pm

mattsccm wrote:I use a cycle helmet about half the time. Usually commuting as there are cars for the last 2 miles and there is half a mile of awful road. The risk is higher. I wear a helmet on club runs are we are in a group . Gravel riding , hill climbing in qiuet areas i don't.
Like many I balence risks. Avoiding risks is not an option.

How do cars and being in a group increase the risk of a fall, remembering that cycle helmets aren't intended for collisions?
MJR, mostly pedalling 3-speed roadsters. KL+West Norfolk BUG incl social easy rides http://www.klwnbug.co.uk
All the above is CC-By-SA and no other implied copyright license to Cycle magazine.

irc
Posts: 4779
Joined: 3 Dec 2008, 2:22pm
Location: glasgow

Re: Risk and Freedom

Postby irc » 5 Sep 2020, 12:04am

mjr wrote:How do cars and being in a group increase the risk of a fall, remembering that cycle helmets aren't intended for collisions?


Because if a rider in front goes down he may bring others down as well. Forward view of potholes etc reduced for riders at the back. .

landsurfer
Posts: 5175
Joined: 27 Oct 2012, 9:13pm

Re: Risk and Freedom

Postby landsurfer » 5 Sep 2020, 8:07am

mattsccm wrote:Pete, in the nicest possible way you don't see the point. If i am popping up the road i put a helnet on and thats it. I know the risks are small and only use the helmet fof legal reasons. Racing off road, I know that at some point I'll come off so add armour, knee pads etc. To ride so carefully that coming off was almost impossible would mean riding to lose. Racing means taking risks which are mitigated by protective gear. Faster riders have longer necks.
I dress for the possible conseqences, within limits. When i did a lot of 4wd off roading I wore a harness if rolling the vehicle was likely but not when stuck in a bog.
I wear a climbing helmet if a fall is likely to mean a tumble or falling rock may happen. Mountain crags for example. On overhanging rock its a free swing so don't wear one.
I use a cycle helmet about half the time. Usually commuting as there are cars for the last 2 miles and there is half a mile of awful road. The risk is higher. I wear a helmet on club runs are we are in a group . Gravel riding , hill climbing in qiuet areas i don't.
Like many I balence risks. Avoiding risks is not an option.


I'm sure the mean sprits that abound on this forum will dismantle and question just about everything you sat mattsccm.
Not because they have anything positive to add, just because they can ...
I agree with all you say from my own experiences of driving, cycling and motorcycling.
The balanced risk approach and quality of life approach have granted me an exciting and fulfilling life and long it may endure.
Avoiding all levels of risk is to avoid so much of life ... The balance is the important issue.
"There will come a day, when all the lies will collapse under their own weight, and truth will again triumph." Guess Who ...
The Road Goes On Forever

Mike Sales
Posts: 5164
Joined: 7 Mar 2009, 3:31pm

Re: Risk and Freedom

Postby Mike Sales » 5 Sep 2020, 9:08am

landsurfer wrote:Avoiding all levels of risk is to avoid so much of life ... The balance is the important issue.


Indeed, and choosing for oneself where and how one finds this balance is the very essence of personal autonomy. It is rather more complex than the instrumentality of "you must wear a helmet in order to be safe."
It should go without saying that your choices ought not to impinge on others' safety choices.
Adams discusses the "dance of the risk thermostats".