A Safety Compendium: Real Risks versus Perceived Risks (Part 1)

Posted By Regan Zambri Long, PLLC || 28-Nov-2017

As complex and advanced as the human psyche is, it’s remarkable how often and how easily our minds can be tricked. One key example of this phenomenon is our perception of risk versus actual risk. We are more fearful of things that are statistically unlikely than we are of dangers that lurk around us every day. Overall, we’d live much safer lives if we could differentiate more clearly between real and perceived risks, and plan accordingly to stay safe. Here are a few more examples of how often we confuse the two.

Tornadoes versus Flash Floods

Both tornadoes and floods are admittedly dangerous, but tornado deaths have dropped dramatically due to early warnings, while flood deaths remain about the same. In 2016, flood skilled nearly 10 times more people in the U.S. than tornadoes. Yet the same person who runs to the storm shelter at the first sign of wind will willingly drive into a flooded street, despite all warnings not to do so.

Shark Attacks versus Sunburn

You should always exercise care by the beach, especially if shark attacks have been reported in your area. However, your odds of getting killed by a shark are 1 in 3.7 million. On the other hand, 86 percent of skin cancer is caused by ultraviolet sunlight, and getting sunburned once every two years can triple your chances of getting skin cancer. In other words, sunbathing is more dangerous by the numbers than a shark attack! Why, then, will we stay out of the water but not use sunscreen?

Flying versus Driving

We tend to be more afraid of dramatic accidents than of common ones. Many people would rather drive than fly because they are afraid of plane crashes, yet by the numbers, far more people die in car crashes than in airplane crashes. In fact, Psychology Today estimates that due to reduced flight travel after 9/11, as many as 1,000 more people died on the roads that wouldn’t have died had they flown in planes.

In addition to the examples above, the difference between real and perceived risk plays a role in how we approach healthcare, as we’ll see in part 2. This post offers some surprising statistics regarding medical mistakes that you might not have realized, for instance.

If you believe you or a loved one is suffering due to medical error or malpractice, consult our Washington D.C. medical malpractice attorneys to see how we can help.

Categories: Medical Malpractice
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