Members in the Media
From: The Wall Street Journal

Helmet or No Helmet? It Depends Which Side of the Atlantic You’re On

The Wall Street Journal: 

I learned to ride my bicycle at the edge of a small German village. My parents fastened a set of training wheels to it, strapped a helmet onto my head, and gave me a gentle push down the road. With practice, the training wheels came off, and the helmet disappeared at some point during high school. It seemed like a natural progression in which “going helmet-free” was merely one of the rites that mark the gradual transition toward adolescence: the first drink, the first kiss, the first unprotected bike ride—although not necessarily in that order. I can’t remember being scolded by my parents for tossing the helmet, and I doubt it would have been effective—I never saw them wear bicycle helmets either.

Yet, I still don’t wear one. The reason, I believe, is as simple as it is common: We generally don’t care about statistical risk. What we care about, and what we rely on in our decisions, is risk perception. Paul Slovic is a psychologist at the University of Oregon whose work focuses on risk perception. He makes two important observations: First, not all risks are created equal. People tend to be especially sensitive to risks that are seen as uncontrollable. Second, cultural environments shape risk perceptions. That’s why we continue to drive despite relatively frequent car accidents: Driving is seen, first, as something that can be rendered safe with practice and, second, as a normal mode of transportation. The risks we accept when we climb behind the wheel suddenly appear unacceptable when we mount a bicycle.

Read the whole story: The Wall Street Journal

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