Friday, 9 March 2012

Perception of risk

This morning, I got a frantic call from my partner to say she had broken down on the M25 and she was sat in her car on the 'hard shoulder.'

I told her to get out of her car immediately, put the hazards on, put out the warning triangle and wait on the grass verge. She said to me that it was too cold to stand outside and the grass was wet. At the risk of unpopularity, I insisted she did. Why?

I don't remember the exact statistic released by the Police but it was something like this:

'if you stay in your car or stand on the hard shoulder, your life expectancy is about 9 minutes!'

Because we don't see this as part of our daily lives (unless we work in Emergency services) we don't perceive the risk. Which is interesting when compared to aircraft - which I will get back to.

When I arrived on my motorbike (actually more dangerous than any vehicle and most sports including adrenaline sports) a nice Polish man was already helping my partner.

The first thing my partner said was that she had been stood there for 20 minutes and no-one had crashed into the car and she was in fact now freezing.

And this, in a nutshell, goes some way to explain the perception of risk we have.

1. The car tyre exploded due to some metal scrap on the motorway. This took out an essential tyre at the corner of the car. There was no back up tyre there just like on aircraft where you could have up to 18 tyres in case one bursts.

The car - I can guarantee - was not checked this morning. The oils weren't checked. The tyres weren't checked for wear, debris attached or even for correct pressures. And yet in we jump (without even warming the engine) and zoom 80 mph up the motorway.

2. The fact my partner's car was not hit in 20 minutes does not mean that the risk wasn't there. She was just lucky. A lot of people on our courses don't believe the I.A.M. figure of 3,500 people killed on the worlds' roads EVERY day. 'I don't see many accidents.' Or worse, 'I haven't been in a serious accident.'

3. I drove my motorbike quite 'directly' to my partner's aid. I didn't check the tyres, oil or anything. Just got on it and expected it to work. I had less tyres than my partner's car plus didn't have even the illusion of a little box to sit in that protects me.

We are all guilty of mis diagnosing risk. We just don't consider it.

Without getting ridiculous, if you want to stay as safe as possible then fly on commercial aircraft more often - everyday even. You are at less risk that way - except of course, the journey to the airport!

Off to prepare for Gatwick fear of flying course this weekend.
Take care

Paul & Richard



Paul Tizzard

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