Your New Safety Equipment Probably Won’t Reduce Your Incident Rate Like You Think.
Every year, new technologies are introduced to protect us from the potential hazards around us. Just over 50 years ago, with the help of Swedish inventor Nils Bohlin, Volvo introduced the world to the three-point seat belt system which is still used today. The three-point seatbelt has without a doubt prevented millions of deaths in motor vehicle accidents. However, it is possible that some drivers actually caused accidents because they had their seatbelts on.
The Theory of Risk Compensation, put simply, is the idea that as human beings we all have a set level of risk tolerance. Bill Booth, famed inventor and innovator in the world of Skydiving, explains it perfectly: “The safer skydiving gear becomes, the more chances skydivers will take, in order to keep the fatality rate constant.” Booth’s second law is accurate. Even with the latest advancements in skydiving technology, the fatality rate has not changed significantly as one would expect. This is because the more comfortable people feel, the more likely they are to push the limits.
Think of it this way. When was the last time you were driving without your seatbelt fastened and something made you nervous? Another driver cuts you off or it could be that you just got in the car with that one friend who you love and adore but maybe their driving technique is a little too aggressive. Nevertheless, rather than getting out of the car or turning around, eliminating the risk all together, you quickly fasten your seatbelt. If there wasn’t an option for a seatbelt, you might not risk the situation at all but with Mr. Bohlin’s life saving three-point seatbelt technology on your side, you feel comfortable enough to take the chance.
Research shows that everyone has their own acceptable risk threshold and it plays a role in most aspects of everyday life whether it’s athletes making riskier plays because of their new equipment or roofers being less cautious because they have fall protection. It’s crucial to recognize risk compensation around you and how it impacts your behavior. Think about the times when you were more aware of your surroundings. Was there a higher level of risk? How about a time when you felt entirely safe? Were you focused? Or were you relying on muscle memory?
Having new technologies to keep you safe is useless if you let them make you complacent. Be cautious, because whatever it is you are doing, it’s not worth your arms, legs, or life.
Work with the safety systems that keep you safe. Don’t rely on them.
When you’re jumping out of an airplane, take a moment for a little self-awareness and don’t forget your backpack on the way out.