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Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Risk taking and avoidance.

Canajun posted an excellent question on his blog.  I'm not going to repost it here, but basically it's about risk.  Do we take more risks if we feel somehow safer?  Do we push the bike faster if we are wearing ATGATT?  Do we take more risks if driving a car?  His take is "Yes, we do."
I'm not sure I agree.  Until this moment I never heard of the theory of Risk Homeostasis nor have I read the book. I can only give my own thoughts on the matter.  For me at least I think the amount of risk we are willing to take is based upon who our friends are and how old we are.  For example, when I was 16 I drove my car faster then I should have and did “slalom’s” around the parking lot lights.  Till I took off my driver’s side mirror, and that was enough of that.  I did these idiotic stupid things because my friends did these stupid idiotic things and to impress the girls.  At 46; I don’t bungee jump, I don’t go parachuting out of planes (although my GF does) and I always wear my helmet when I ride.  Although I will admit to going sans jacket at times; however I have not noticed any change in how I ride.   According to the theory...I should.

When I was a child I rode my Huffy 10 speed everywhere, but did not wear a helmet…despite going off of jumps and racing down the side of busy roads.  Today I wear a helmet if going anywhere…even on my “acoustic motorbike” I don’t go off jumps anymore.

The problem however is "other lifestyle choices".  According to the theory, if one level of risk decrease do to some reason then my risk level should increase in another.  For example, you may enjoy a glass of wine or a cold beer with dinner.  Your risk of drinking and driving should increase under this theory.  I know better than to drink and drive because I am aware of the penalties for doing so but I won't lie to times in my life I drove when I should not have.  I knew the risks but did that anyway.  I was in my 20's at the time.  By the time I was in my 30's I simply didn't do that.  Nor did I put myself in that situation.
Well I have certainly an experimenter with various things as I grew up; I also grew into a man with one long term girlfriend, no police record, no nasty diseases.  I do not smoke, gamble (I have but really don't see the excitement in it), or buy risky stocks.  Does that mean I'm risk adverse?  Or did I maintain control over those "risky behaviors"?  

No other “risks” have replaced the old ones that I used to take. With age comes wisdom and the knowledge that a scrape knee will heal, but it does hurt. Don't scrape your knee if you don't need to.

If you have been following this blog then you know that I'm rather new to the concept of ATGATT. The "Gearing up saga" covers those adventures. I've ridden without the proper gear. I can't imagine going without it now. For me it was more about learning and doing things the right way. To eliminate that risk as much as possible. Getting my motorcycle endorsement was all about learning how to do things correctly.
In the end I guess is that yes, I am risk adverse.  When I ride I tend to be a little more careful because I am very aware of how hard the asphalt is.  I know that no matter how much safety gear I wear the physics of the crash will not be denied.  The gear is there to dissipate the energy protecting the fragile body underneath.  When I drive my car, protected by heavy steel and seat belts, my behavior does not change.  I understand things now a hell of a lot more than I did when I was 16.  I still am friends with two of the people I knew in high school.  We are all alive and fine and laugh at the stupid shit we used to do.  Welcome to being an adult.  


Canajun said...

An interesting perspective - will have to give that some thought. But whether I agree or not I'm glad my post triggered some discussion.

Keith - Circle Blue said...

I know as I've grown older I've become more "risk adverse". I've figured this has had to do with the frontal lobe of my brain further developing and the learning the consequences of my actions/stupidity.

I do think your point about peer groups is spot on. I've never liked the term "pressure" when attached to peer groups, rather it seems to me there becomes a way of looking at things a group share and whether this outlook is even sensible or not, still it makes sense in the context of the group. Not sure that is very clear, but I'm not sure I could explain it better either.

Thanks for the share,