Redistributing Risk


How a safety feature can decrease safety:

The NHTSA had volunteers drive a test track in cars with automatic lane departure correction, and then interviewed the drivers for their impressions. Although the report does not describe the undoubted look of horror on the examiner's face while interviewing one female, 20-something subject, it does relay the gist of her comments.

After she praised the ability of the car to self-correct when she drifted from her lane, she noted that she would love to have this feature in her own car. Then, after a night of drinking in the city, she would not have to sleep at a friend's house before returning to her rural home.

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  1. She doens’t need that. She just needs me to give her a ride. I’ll be happy to do it.

    1. Speaking of risk-taking, keep in mind you haven’t seen a picture.

      1. Tulpa beat me to it.

      2. There’s a safety feature to mitigate that kind of risk.

        I call it the Paper Bag.

        1. You are aware that bad teeth get etched into your memory and therefore don’t respond to the paper bag treatment, right?

      3. Yeeah, OK. I can always push her out the door and steal her car though.

      4. Listen to Tulpa pretend that he’s never gone hoggin’. Don’t worry, dude, the stink washes off after a few days.

        1. Every guy should have navel sex just once.

    2. How date-rapey. Do you have some rohypnol in mind too?

      1. I’m not Steve Smith.

        1. So you’ll be using the rohypnol then?

          1. On myself, yes.

  2. The safety device does not decrease safety. Poor personal decisions do.

    According to your logic, boats, trains, cars, and planes increase deaths.

    1. “boats, trains, cars, and planes increase deaths.”

      Well, they do.

      And he’s pointing out that this particular safety feature encourages people to be less responsible and aware while operating a vehicle.

      1. And he’s pointing out that this particular safety feature encourages people to be less responsible and aware while operating a vehicle.

        More exactly, I’m pointing out that this particular safety feature encouraged at least one person to be less responsible and aware while operating a vehicle. I don’t know how typical her reaction is, so I won’t hazard a guess as to whether the feature in question would be good or bad on net for safety. Either way, this woman’s response is a very stark (and funny) demonstration of the Peltzman effect in action.

      2. Yes, but note that he would never describe boats, etc. that way.

    2. Well, they do, from a strict “but for” causation standpoint. Just this week in Virginia, there were several people killed in boating accidents reported by the news. If they had not been out on those boats, they would not have been killed. Every person killed in a plane crash would not have died that day but for that airplane.

      And don’t get me started on cars! They cause tens of thousands of deaths every year in the U.S. alone. They should be banned.

      1. Yes, but think of all the people who would die because of lack of medical helicopters and ambulances. Also the malnutrition that would occur during the winter without fruit and vegetables delivered by trucks or shipping. And the increase in crime that would result from police being on foot.

        1. Your last sentence presumes that police prevent crime rather than merely respond to reports of it.

          1. Whoa! This troll is actually kinda cool. What are your views on Firefly, WTF?

            1. 1. I’m not a troll; I’ve been hanging out here for a while and don’t comment merely to stir up a shitstorm.

              2. I don’t know what Firefly is.

            2. Oh, and BTW, my post above about cars and such causing deaths was written with more than just a hint of snark and sarcasm. I was kinda kidding, but also kinda making the point.

              I suppose I should hang out the “satire” or “sarcasm” flag when I do stuff like that, just to be clear.

              1. How can you not know Joss Wedon’s Firefly show? And yes, WTF, I know you’re not a troll. I’ve been on these boards for a little while myself. I was being mischievous.

                1. I purposely watch very little TV. There are very few shows I’ll actually sit down and watch for more than about 20 minutes. Nearly everything on TV is pure shite anyhow – fluff, nonsense and a complete and utter waste of time. The vast majority of what is supposed to be entertainment is not at all entertaining, and is instead simply grating and depressing. And forget “news.”

                  I have much more productive things to do with my time.

                  I also don’t know who Joss Wedon is.

    3. No, safety devices don’t decrease safety. They just increase the chances of people taking more risks, and if those risks decrease overall safety OR injure innocent bystanders — well that’s the Peltzman effect.

    4. Nothing wrong with the logic — those modes of transportation do increase deaths. Their benefits are high enough that our society considers it a good trade-off.

      1. That’s me being imprecise. It’s more an issue with the rhetoric. I think we can assume safely that Jesse would never saying anything as stupid as “the invention of the car means more people will die” with the unstated-but-intended conclusion that cars are suspect for this reason. That’s why this post is bullshit.

        1. Again, there’s nothing wrong with the logic.

          I think it’s perfectly acceptable to say “the invention of the car means more people will die.” It’s not rhetoric.

          Picking those particular words is a bad idea because the average person can’t get their head around the fact that people assume a certain amount of risk when they do anything besides sit on their ass.

  3. SkyNet starts as the designated driver, you know.

    1. Really, it makes all the sense in the world for cars to be automated. I’ve got concerns about the implications of automated, networked cars, of course, since the government will undoubtedly abuse our rights all the more with such things, but as a practical matter, it’s a good idea.

      1. You might want to rethink that if you look at the state of air traffic control in this country.

        1. Planes will be fully automated within twenty years. Maybe sooner, depending on the strength of the pilot unions.

          1. Yeah and internet companies will cause all brick and mortar stores to go out of business. I’m skeptical of your prediction all the same.

            1. I’m sticking to it, but I do think pilots will retain their jobs, as we’re all creeped out by the idea of flying in a pilotless plane.

              1. I’ll meet you both back here on July 8, 2030, to see who was right. Unless Global Warming gets us first.

                1. You fool!! 2030? Are you familiar with a little thing called 2012? WE’RE DOOMED!

                  1. Yeah, 2012 sucked. One of the worst disaster movies ever.

                    I guess you win. Within 20 years no flying cars or jetpacks whatever the fuck you guys were arguing about.

                  2. Baktung Baby!

              2. Aren’t there planes flying now that could land themselves?

                IIRC, the space shuttle can fly land itself also.

                1. Given the proper Instrument Landing System installed at the airport;

                  and given a properly equiped and certified aircraft;

                  and given a properly trained and current flight crew;

                  and given the appropriate set of clearances from Air Traffic Control to vector the aircraft to an intersecting course with the ILS beacons;

                  then it is possible to landing in near zereo visibility.

                  However, the crew is still deeply involved in monitoring the performance of the automated landing and is totally responsble for taking any necesary action to avert an accident of something goes wrong.

          2. Sorry, not gonna happen.

            In the future, the cockpit will have seats for two individuals, one person and one dog. The person’s job is to feed the dog. The dog’s job is to bite the persion if he or she attempts to fly the aircraft.

            1. Yes BUT — the real job of the guy in the cockpit will be to die with everyone else so you feel that the pilot has some skin in the game.

      2. You don’t know enough programmers. As one, I am sure to shit not riding in Versions 1.x, 2.x, and possibly 3.x if it involves MS at all.

        1. What? Don’t you trust your peers to find the bugs before the control logic flames the engine out at 35,000 feet due to some odd combination of variables?

          Not that I blame you. It’s hard enough doing industrial controls in a fixed environment with few variables. A plane control system would be a nightmare.

    2. From the original:
      The driver is no longer the fail-safe that ensures the machine is running correctly. The driver is a problem to work around. The driver, you might say, is a bug.

  4. The Peltzman effect! “When the offsetting risky behavior encouraged by the safety regulation has negative externalities, the Peltzman effect can result in redistributing risk to innocent bystanders who would behave in a risk-averse manner even without the regulation.”
    I had an econ class with him 30-some years ago. Interesting comments over at with other examples — see also Wikipedia.

    1. Peltzman effect applies to finance too, obviously. Combine it with Sharpe ratio analysis and an investor who, do to a regulation, has one of his investments become less risky, will shift his investment pattern to higher return investments that still meet his overall risk comfort level.

      Which, as weve seen in housing industry, can lead to pain to lots of others.

  5. Lane correction needs to be coupled with infra-red controlled accelerator and brakes to make a car auto-pilot.

    1. That’s an awful idea. I don’t want punk kids causing 20 car pile ups with a TV remote.

      Also, talk about a terrorist target. Leave individuals in charge of their vehicles.

      Also, what if the Cylons hacked our network?

      1. It wouldn’t be centrally controlled. Each car would have an unlinked nav system with each axis or control surface under independent control. Cylons would have to gain control of each vehicle separately, and they would have to do it through sexual manipulation, which is fine by me.

        1. What, you mean that Eagle Eye wasn’t a documentary?!

  6. I thought she had a point until I got to that “rural” part.

  7. People are stupid, and they believe in magic.

  8. No shit! SRSLY.

    1. Crap – that was in response to:

      P Brooks|7.8.10 @ 11:53AM|#
      People are stupid, and they believe in magic.

  9. From CSV: To prove the phenomenon even exists, one particularly inspired British researcher had volunteers ride bicycles on a closed course, with half the people wearing helmets and proper attire, and the other half clad in their underwear. Graduate students positioned on the sidelines graded the volunteers performance and tallied any unsafe maneuvers. The results showed that the unclothed group practiced much safer driving habits, thereby supporting risk compensation theory – and Britain’s reputation for eccentricity.
    More at

    1. Gordon Tullock suggested removing the seat belts and putting a metal spike on the steering column. I would say replacing the airbag with a Claymore mine might work even better.

    2. I may be wrong about this, but I think that Stossel did a similar experiment where he rode a bike through traffic with and without a helmet. It showed that drivers were more reckless around bikers with helmets than those sans head protection.

      Maybe to show the futility of mandatory helmet laws.

  10. think of all the people who would die because of lack of medical helicopters and ambulances.

    Didn’t I just see photos of a medical helicopter and its occupants splattered all over the pavement, recently? It didn’t seem to help that guy very much.

    1. There really isn’t good evidence that medical helicopters save lives.

      They’re kind of like SWAT teams–a good idea in rare situations but people want more of them because they’re cool, and then they end up being used routinely because they have to justify their existence.

      1. You do realize that they use medical helicopters because the victim will likely die because an ambulance can’t get them to the hospital in time?

        So basically, every time they are used, it’s in a situation where if they weren’t used, the victim would die. This means that every time a medical helicopter is used, it’s almost definitely saving someone’s life – thus ample evidence is available.

        Even the existence of medical helicopters could be considered evidence that they save lives.

        1. Until the helicopter crashes, that is:

        2. Yeah, that’s the theory however it’s just not true. I know of at least one operator that sells subscriptions so if you ever “have an accident or emergency just call”. I have personally received patients that have been transported for “loss of conciousness” — drunk, a dogbite to the foot, no injury at all. I have personally sent at least 25 patients home from the ED after being helicoptered in. Part of the problem is that any EMT (at least in my area) can call for the helicopter for any reason or none at all. It lessens the amount of time the ambulance crew is out and reduces their paperwork and the get to see the chopper.


    The NHTSA had volunteers drive a test track in cars with automatic lane departure correction, and then interviewed the drivers for their impressions. Although the report does not describe the undoubted look of horror on the examiner’s face while interviewing one female, 20-something subject, it does relay the gist of her comments.
    After she praised the ability of the car to self-correct when she drifted from her lane, she noted that she would love to have this feature in her own car. Then, after a night of drinking in the city, she would not have to sleep at a friend’s house before returning to her rural home.
    I assume that we eventually will have cars that can drive themselves; the pieces of the puzzle, from GPS to distance sensors, are falling into place. Until then, however, humans will continue to treat safety improvements as a License to Idiocy, considerably reducing the safety improvements from optimal.

    This is not to say that all safety regulations are useless–the number of tired or drunk drivers (and their victims) saved by lane drift alerts seems likely to exceed the victims of the extra idiots lured onto the road by the technology. But as Tom Vanderbilt chronicled in his book, Traffic, (and at shorter length on his blog) you can sometimes actually reduce traffic accidents by making driving harder; people who feel uneasy are less likely to make inattentive mistakes.

    I just liked this sentence “saved by lane drift alerts seems likely to exceed the victims of the extra idiots lured onto the road by the technology”

    This Presumes a unitary idiot function. However, the “extra” idiots may function at a far more idiotic level than the average or baseline idiots.
    Extra idiotic idiot: I sure am drunk, but I sure wanna see that childrens parade – hey, I got lane correction software, and if I go real fast I should be able to get to the street their marching on right way?.


  12. Not an unusual effect. When you engineer out most hazards, or control them through the influence of technology; most humans will not use thier innate intelegence to identify, evaluate and mitigate the hazard. This is an unanticipated and undesireable byproduct of our society.

    The response of the 20 year old female is not unusual in the current time. Using technology to encourage and promote irresponsible behavior is commonplace among the young. Example: sexting.

  13. Typical libertards. Of course you ratfuckers don’t want to let cars drive themselves. Too much like public transportation for the idiots at reason.

    1. 010000010111000001100101011100110010

      1. That is what I would expect a ratfucker to say.

        1. 0101100101101111011101010010011101

        2. Max, your comment would seem to imply that you believe fucking rats to be an activity to be frowned upon.

      2. 010011100110111101110100001000000111010 001101111001000000111000101110101011001 010111001101110100011010010110111101101 110001000000111100101101111011101010010 110000100000011011010111100100100000011 011000110100101100101011001110110010100 101100001000000110001001110101011101000 010000001110111011010000110000101110100 001000000110000101100010011011110111010 101110100001000000110110101101111011011 100110101101100101011110010010000001110 011011010000110000101101011011001010111 001101110000011001010110000101110010011 0010100111111

        1. 0100010001101111011001010111001100

          1. 010101110110100001101001011011000110010 100100000010010010010000001101000011000 010111011001100101001000000110100101101 110011101100110010101110011011101000110 010101100100001000000110100101101110001 000000111100101101111011101010111001000 100000011101000110000101101001011011100 111010000100000011100110110000101100110 011001010111010001111001001000000110110 001101001011011100110010100100000011011 110110011000100000011100000111001001101 111011001000111010101100011011101000111 001100100000010010010010000001100110011 001010110000101110010001000000110100101 110100001000000111011101101111011101010 110110001100100001000000110111001101111 011101000010000001110000011100100110010 101110110011001010110111001110100001000 000111010001101000011001010010000001100 101011100000110100101100011001000000111 010001100001011010010110111001110100001 000000111011101101001011101000110100001 100101011100100110100101101110011001110 010000001111001011011110111010100100000 011000010111001001100101001000000110001 101100001011100000110000101100010011011 000110010100100000011011110110011000101 110001000000100100001100001011101100110 010100100000011011010110010101110010011 000110111100100101100001000000111001101 101001011100100110000101101000001011100 010000001001000011000010111011001100101 001000000110110101100101011100100110001 10111100100101110

            1. I wonder if yon Urkobold has discovered a way to finally force REASON‘s hand into dropping these threaded comments. We could really fuck up everything if we posted in nothing but binary. Plus trolls would disappear(I think/hope).

              1. Hmmmmm. I wonder . . . . . if the wackos can even pick binary off the threads.

                010000110100100001000101010011010101010 001010010010000010100100101001100010100 110010000100100001001000000100001101001 000010001010100110101010100010100100100 000101001001010011000101001100100001001 000010010000001000011010010000100010101 001101010101000101001001000001010010010 100110001010011001000010010000100001101 000010100000110100001010010000100111011 101100001011010000110000101101000011000 010110100001100001011010000110100001100 001011010000110000101101000011000010110 100001101000011000010110100001100001011 010000110100001100001011010000110000101 101000011000010110100001100001001000010

            2. 010001100110111101101111011011000010

          2. 011101000110100001100001011011100110101101110011001000000111010001101111001000000110100001110100011101000111000000111010001011110010111101110111011101110111011100101110011100100110111101110101011000100110000101101001011110000110100101101110011101000110010101110010011000010110001101110100011010010111011001100101001011100110001101101111011011010010111101010000011011000110000101111001010001110111001001101111011101010110111001100100001011110100001001101001011011100110000101110010011110010101111101000011011011110110111001110110011001010111001001110011011010010110111101101110001011110100001001101001011011100110000101110010011110010101111101010100011011110101111101010100011001010111100001110100001011100110000101110011011100000010000001001001001000000110001101100001011011100010000001110010011001010110000101100100001000000110000101101100011011110110111001100111

            1. 011100110110111101101101011001

            2. 0100100101110100001001110111001100

              1. 0100100101110011011011100010011

              2. 001001001000000111010101110011011001010010000001101101011110010010000001100101011110010110010101100010011000010110110001101100001000000111001101100011011000010110111001101110011001010111001001110011001000000110001001101001011101000110001101101000011001010111001101

                1. Okay, let’s try to keep it civil, gentlemen. Saying 1000000111010101 about someone’s 1111001001000001 goes a bit too far.

                  1. Ugh, try that again…

                    Okay, let’s try to keep it civil, gentlemen. Saying 01110111 01101000 01101111 01110010 01100101 about someone’s 01101101 01101111 01110100 01101000 01100101 01110010 goes a bit too far.

                    1. I don’t get it?

                      Fist of Etiquette|7.8.10 @ 2:31PM|#
                      Ugh, try that again…

                      Okay, let’s try to keep it civil, gentlemen. Saying 01110111 01101000 01101111 01110010 01100101 about someone’s 01101101 01101111 01110100 01101000 01100101 01110010 goes a bit too far

                      How is saying “ugnqd” at all offensive when refering to someone’s “lnscdq”? I actually find ugnqd quite complimentary in some cases.

                      10110101? That’s gibberish. (looks in mirror) 10101101 ! AHHHH!!!

                    2. Clich?
                      01000010 01100001 01101110 01100100 01101001 01110100 00101100 00100000 01111001 01101111 01110101 00100111 01110010 01100101 00100000 01101100 01101111 01101111 01101011 01101001 01101110 01100111 00100000 01101001 01101110 00100000 01110100 01101000 01100101 00100000 01110111 01110010 01101111 01101110 01100111 00100000 01110000 01101100 01100001 01100011 01100101 00100000 01100110 01101111 01110010 00100000 01110100 01101000 01100101 00100000 01101010 01101111 01101011 01100101 00100001

                  2. 0101100101101111011101010010000001

                    1. 49 20 70 75 74 20 61 20 68 65 78 20 6f 6e 20 61 6c 6c 20 6f 66 20 79 6f 75 2e

                    2. 59 6F 75 72 20 70 6F 77 65 72 73 20 61 72 65 20 77 65 61 6B 2C 20 66 6F 6F 6C 2E

                    3. QVNDSUkgY29kaW5nIHdhcyBiZXR0ZXIgd2hlbiBQb3N0cmVsIHdhcyBlZGl0b3I=

                    4. QVNDSUkgY29kaW5nIHdhcyBiZXR0ZXIgd2hlbiBQb3N0cmVsIHdhcyBlZGl0b3I=

                    5. QVNDSUkgY29kaW5nIHdhcy BiZXR0ZXIgd2hlbiBQb3N0cmVsIHdhcyBlZGl0b3I=

                    6. Great, BASE64 is marked as SPAM. For magazine called Reason…

  14. Making a technology idiot-proof merely evolves bigger idiots.

  15. let me get this straight……if i was travelling down the road in this topic car, and i see a branch, or a chunk of truck tire in middle of my lane…….if i make a precise, methodical move to “safely” cross the double yellow line to avoid it,…robo-car will’self-correct’ me right back into the object i’m trying to avoid????

    1. DO NOT question robo-car.

    2. Not if you use your turn signal…otherwise see hmm’s answer.

  16. What about drone cars? I’d love to get blitzed in a bar and then instead of calling a cab, I get in my car and delegate control of the car to some remote operator.

    The remote operator would use sensors and cameras to drive my car home (with my drunk ass in it).

    That would be great. It would also work for long distance trips too. Instead of paying attention to the long stretches of North Dakota, I could go to sleep while someone pilots my car.

    1. No. Congress would limit the remote driver’s liability to $75 in order to encourage our remote driving industry and promote new Remote Jobs. So they’d get bored with North Dakota too and crash you just to get a job on Route 666 or someplace cool like that.

    2. Why not? We already have millions of Indians and Pakistanis working as taxi drivers in this country. This would just extend the concept a bit further (and allow them to do their chauffeuring from thousands of miles away. What could possibly go wrong?

      1. Packet loss would be a bitch, wouldn’t it?

  17. “Nothing is foolproof because fools are so ingenious.”

  18. If they named the system ATMOS that would be awesome.

    1. If they named the system ATMOS that would be awesome.


  19. LOL im for anything that lets me drive and text with both hands LOL

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