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How to avoid dying in a car crash

71 Post author: michaelcurzi 17 March 2012 07:44PM

Aside from cryonics and eating better, what else can we do to live long lives?

Using this tool, I looked up the risks of death for my demographic group. As a 15-24 year old male in the United States, the most likely cause of my death is a traffic accident; and so I’m taking steps to avoid that. Below I have included the results of my research as well as the actions I will take to implement my findings. Perhaps my research can help you as well.1

Before diving into the results, I will note that this data took me one hour to collect. It’s definitely not comprehensive, and I know that working together, we can do much better. So if you have other resources or data-backed recommendations on how to avoid dying in a traffic accident, leave a comment below and I’ll update this post.

General points

Changing your behavior can reduce your risk of death in a car crash. A 1985 report on British and American crash data discovered that driver error, intoxication and other human factors contribute wholly or partly to about 93% of crashes.” Other drivers’ behavior matters too, of course, but you might as well optimize your own.2

Secondly, overconfidence appears to be a large factor in peoples’ thinking about traffic safety. A speaker for the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA) stated that “Ninety-five percent of crashes are caused by human error… but 75% of drivers say they're more careful than most other drivers. Less extreme evidence for overconfidence about driving is presented here.

One possible cause for this was suggested by the Transport Research Laboratory, which explains that “...the feeling of being confident in more and more challenging situations is experienced as evidence of driving ability, and that 'proven' ability reinforces the feelings of confidence. Confidence feeds itself and grows unchecked until something happens – a near-miss or an accident.”

So if you’re tempted to use this post as an opportunity to feel superior to other drivers, remember: you’re probably overconfident too! Don’t just humbly confess your imperfections – change your behavior.

Top causes of accidents

Distraction

Driver distraction is one of the largest causes of traffic accident deaths. The Director of Traffic Safety at the American Automobile Association stated that "The research tells us that somewhere between 25-50 percent of all motor vehicle crashes in this country really have driver distraction as their root cause." The NHTSA reports the number as 16%.

If we are to reduce distractions while driving, we ought to identify which distractors are the worst. One is cell phone use. My solution: Don’t make calls in the car, and turn off your phone’s sound so that you aren’t tempted.

I brainstormed other major distractors and thought of ways to reduce their distracting effects.

Distractor: Looking at directions on my phone as I drive

  • Solution: Download a great turn-by-turn navigation app (recommendations are welcome).
  • Solution: Buy a GPS.

Distractor: Texting, Facebook, slowing down to gawk at an accident, looking at scenery

  • Solution [For System 2]: Consciously accept that texting (Facebook, gawking, scenery) causes accidents.
  • Solution [For System 1]: Once a week, vividly and emotionally imagine texting (using Facebook, gawking at an accident) and then crashing & dying.
  • Solution: Turn off your phone’s sound while driving, so you won’t answer texts.

Distractor: Fatigue

  • Solution [For System 2]: Ask yourself if you’re tired before you plan to get in the car. Use Anki or a weekly review list to remember the association.
  • Solution [For System 1]: Once a week, vividly and emotionally imagine dozing off while driving and then dying.

Distractor: Other passengers

  • Solution: Develop an identity as someone who drives safely and thinks it’s low status to be distracting in the car. Achieve this by meditating on the commitment, writing a journal entry about it, using Anki, or saying it every day when you wake up in the morning.
  • Solution [In the moment]: Tell people to chill out while you’re driving. Mentally simulate doing this ahead of time, so you don’t hesitate to do it when it matters.

Distractor: Adjusting the radio

  • Solution: If avoiding using the car radio is unrealistic, minimize your interaction with it by only using the hotkey buttons rather than manually searching through channels.
  • Solution: If you’re constantly tempted to change the channel (like I am), buy an iPod cable so you can listen to your own music and set playlists that you like, so you won't constantly want to change the song.

A last interesting fact about distraction, from Wikipedia:

Recent research conducted by British scientists suggests that music can also have an effect [on driving]; classical music is considered to be calming, yet too much could relax the driver to a condition of distraction. On the other hand, hard rock may encourage the driver to step on the acceleration pedal, thus creating a potentially dangerous situation on the road.

Speeding

The Road and Traffic Authority of New South Wales claims that “speeding… is a factor in about 40 percent of road deaths.” Data from the NHTSA puts the number at 30%.

Speeding also increases the severity of crashes; “in a 60 km/h speed limit area, the risk of involvement in a casualty crash doubles with each 5 km/h increase in travelling speed above 60 km/h.

Stop. Think about that for a second. I’ll convert it to the Imperial system for my fellow Americans: in a [37.3 mph] speed limit area, the risk of involvement in a casualty crash doubles with each [3.1 mph] increase in travelling speed above [37.3 mph].” Remember that next time you drive a 'mere' 5 mph over the limit.

Equally shocking is this paragraph from the Freakonomics blog:

Kockelman et al. estimated that the difference between a crash on a 55 mph limit road and a crash on a 65 mph one means a 24 percent increase in the chances the accident will be fatal. Along with the higher incidence of crashes happening in the first place, a difference in limit between 55 and 65 adds up to a 28 percent increase in the overall fatality count.

Driving too slowly can be dangerous too. An NHTSA presentation cites two studies that found a U-shaped relationship between vehicle speed and crash incidence; thus “Crash rates were lowest for drivers traveling near the mean speed, and increased with deviations above and below the mean.”

However, driving fast is still far more dangerous than driving slowly. This relationship appears to be exponential, as you can see on the tenth slide of the presentation.

  • Solution: Watch this 30 second video for a vivid comparison of head-on crashes at 60 km/hr (37 mph) and 100 km/hr (60 mph). Imagine yourself in the car. Imagine your tearful friends and family. 
  • Solution: Develop an identity as someone who drives close to the speed limit, by meditating on the commitment, writing a journal entry about it, using Anki, or saying it every day when you wake up in the morning.

Driving conditions

Driving conditions are another source of driving risk.

One factor I discovered was the additional risk from driving at night. Nationwide, 49% of fatal crashes happen at night, with a fatality rate per mile of travel about three times as high as daytime hours. (Source)

  • Solution: make an explicit effort to avoid driving at night. Use Anki to remember this association.
  • Solution: Look at your schedule and see if you can change a recurring night-time drive to the daytime.

Berkeley research on 1.4 million fatal crashes found that “fatal crashes were 14% more likely to happen on the first snowy day of the season compared with subsequent ones.” The suggested hypothesis is that people take at least a day to recalibrate their driving behavior in light of new snow. 

  • Solution: make an explicit effort to avoid driving on the first snowy day after a sequence of non-snowy ones. Use Anki to remember this association.

Another valuable factoid: 77% of weather-related fatalities (and 75% of all crashes!) involve wet pavement.

Statistics are available for other weather-related issues, but the data I found wasn’t adjusted for the relative frequencies of various weather conditions. That’s problematic; it might be that fog, for example, is horrendously dangerous compared to ice or slush, but it’s rarer and thus kills fewer people. I’m interested in looking at appropriately adjusted statistics. 

Other considerations

  • Teen drivers are apparently way worse at not dying in cars than older people. So if you’re a teenager, take the outside view and accept that you (not just ‘other dumb teenagers’) may need to take particular care when driving. Relevant information about teen driving is available here.

  • Alcohol use appeared so often during my research that I didn’t even bother including stats about it. Likewise for wearing a seatbelt.

  • Since I’m not in the market for a car, I didn’t look into vehicle choice as a way to decrease personal existential risk. But I do expect this to be relevant to increasing driving safety.

  • “The most dangerous month, it turns out, is August, and Saturday the most dangerous day, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.” I couldn’t tell whether this was because of increased amount of driving or an increased rate of crashes.

  • This site recommends driving with your hands at 9 and 3 for increased control. The same site claims that “Most highway accidents occur in the left lane” because the other lanes have “more ‘escape routes’ should a problem suddenly arise that requires you to quickly change lanes”, but I found no citation for the claim.

  • Bad driver behavior appears to significantly increase the risk of death in an accident, so: don't ride in car with people who drive badly or aggressively. I have a few friends with aggressive driving habits, and I’m planning to either a) tell them to drive more slowly when I’m in the car or b) stop riding in their cars.

Commenters' recommendations

I should note here that I have not personally verified anything posted below. Be sure to look at the original comment and do followup research before depending on these recommendations.

  • MartinB recommends taking a driving safety class every few years.

  • Dmytry suggests that bicycling may be good training for constantly keeping one's eyes on the road, though others argue that bicycling itself may be significantly more dangerous than driving anyway.

  • Various commenters suggested simply avoiding driving whenever possible. Living in a city with good public transportation is recommended.

  • David_Gerard recommends driving a bigger car with larger crumple zones (but not an SUV because they roll over). He also recommends avoiding motorcycles altogether and taking advanced driving courses.

  • Craig_Heldreth adds that everyone in the car should be buckled up, as even a single unbuckled passenger can collide with and kill other passengers in a crash. Even cargo as light as a laptop should be secured or put in the trunk.

  • JRMayne offers a list of recommendations that merit reading directly. DuncanS also offers a valuable list.

1All bolding in the data was added for emphasis by me.

2The report notes that "57% of crashes were due solely to driver factors, 27% to combined roadway and driver factors, 6% to combined vehicle and driver factors, 3% solely to roadway factors, 3% to combined roadway, driver, and vehicle factors, 2% solely to vehicle factors and 1% to combined roadway and vehicle factors.”

Comments (284)

Comment author: JRMayne 19 March 2012 12:06:42AM *  30 points [-]

A'ight. I specialized in vehicular manslaughters as a prosecutor for ten years. This is all anecdotal (though a lot of anecdotes, testing the cliche that the plural of anecdotes is not data) and worryingly close to argument from authority, but here are some quick ones not otherwise covered (and there is much good advice in the above):

  1. Don't get in the car with the drinker. Everyone's drinking, guy seems OK even though he's had a few... just don't. If you watched the drinker the entire time and he's 190 pounds and had three beers during the three-hour football game, you're fine. But if you don't know, don't get in. If you're a teenager and the drinker's a teenager, don't get in the car. Please.

  2. Tailor your speed to the conditions. Statistics keepers often cite speed when the real culprit is inattention. (It's an unsafe speed to rear-end another vehicle stopped at a light; the safe speed is zero behind a stopped car.) Speeding's a serious problem in residential areas or in rainy or dark condtions. If you're driving from Reno to Utah, a safe speed is probably very high.

  3. Cross the street carefully. Pedestrians and bicyclists get killed. It's sometimes not their fault, but they end up dead, anyway. If you're a bicyclist in an area where motorists drive badly, don't bike there.

  4. Don't let the fatigued family member drive. We've had a few where the family is on a long haul and they're rotating people. Someone falls asleep at the wheel. Don't take the wheel if you're too tired. Don't give the reins to someone who is too tired to drive. If you can't afford a motel, find a place to pull over and nap.

  5. Report very bad driving. You've got a cell phone; when you see a car lurching off onto the exit ramp, weaving away, call the cops. Help take dangerous drivers off the road.

FWIW.

Comment author: po8crg 25 March 2012 05:01:23PM 1 point [-]

One trick I have for fatigued driving is to always have a stimulant drink in the car so I can pull over, drink it, revive within a few minutes and that enables me to concentrate for 10-20 minutes, enough to find a motel or (sometimes) get home.

Comment author: gwern 25 March 2012 09:26:24PM 6 points [-]

Before my car burned the other week, I always kept a sleeping bag and alarm clock in my trunk; if I felt dangerously fatigued, I'd take off 20 minutes for a nap.

Comment author: Mqrius 18 January 2013 08:06:45PM 1 point [-]

I do the same thing. Ever since I did überman for a few months years ago, I've been able to powernap anywhere quite easily.

Comment author: Rain 17 March 2012 08:55:50PM *  20 points [-]

PSAs involving traffic safety appear to be one use of manipulation for the better, as in this excellent seatbelt commercial (got the link from lukeprog's twitter).

Comment author: komponisto 17 March 2012 10:37:37PM 8 points [-]

Wow. That is a beautiful commercial -- which utterly transcends the particular UK locality it was originally targeted to -- and remarkably different from typical PSAs of this type. (Indeed, fearing the typical scary PSA, I almost didn't click on the link.)

Apparently it was designed that way:

Created to raise awareness of the importance of wearing a seatbelt, Embrace Life was deliberately developed to provide a counter-point to the hard-hitting 'shock and awe' advertising so common to road safety.

Comment author: taw 17 March 2012 08:00:36PM 17 points [-]

Suicide is almost as likely cause of your death as a traffic accident. People spend too little effort at preventing traffic accidents, no question about it (all statistics agree that we are getting better at it, just too slowly), but situation is many orders of magnitude worse when it comes to preventing risk of death by suicide. We don't even do routine screening for depression! This total lack of concern is pure madness!!!

Comment author: tgb 18 March 2012 07:43:54PM 11 points [-]

Most people replying to this comment seem to be assuming that no one is doing anything to prevent suicide. This is wrong. Public schools in the US spend a significant amount of time on suicide awareness and prevention - more time total than for driver's education, I would guess.

I won't dispute that this may not be sufficient or successful, but it is ignorant to assume that no one is trying to prevent suicides.

Comment author: army1987 18 March 2012 08:14:24PM *  4 points [-]

Well, it depens on where you are. In Ireland too there are lots of PSAs encouraging depressed people to be open about it, hotlines, etc.; on the other hand in Italy I'm not aware of any significant efforts being made to prevent suicides (unless you count trials where when somebody kills themself their teacher is prosecuted of incitement to suicide for having given them bad marks, or things like that (seriously!)).

Comment author: taw 18 March 2012 08:58:25PM 1 point [-]

I didn't know about that. Any research if this is working at all?

Comment author: Rain 19 March 2012 02:37:01PM 0 points [-]

Anecdote: The only billboards in town which I enjoy looking at because they stay topical with puns about recent news are those promoting a depression hotline.

Comment author: Rain 19 March 2012 02:41:57PM *  6 points [-]

My primary method of avoiding suicidal action is to prevent easy access to dangerous weapons, especially guns, and thereby increase the required planning period by orders of magnitude.

I've also heard a suggested rule, "Never commit suicide while drunk," which apparently helped someone, similar to my mother's rule of "no killing each other in the house" for my sibling and I.

Comment author: army1987 17 March 2012 08:16:30PM 5 points [-]

Or maybe preventing risk of death by suicide is hard. (My roommate killed himself four years ago, so I'd better tap out now.)

Comment author: taw 17 March 2012 08:49:29PM 3 points [-]

The point is not to prevent every single suicide, just reduce its rate. Since nobody is doing anything at the moment, it's pretty reasonable to assume modest effort could have major impact. By comparison we're throwing tons of money on cancer without much success, so throwing more money and effort at it probably won't change much at this point.

Comment author: Dmytry 17 March 2012 09:35:15PM *  4 points [-]

Or maybe if you care about reduction of the risk of your death (and risk of your death by suicide), your expected suicide rate is already extremely low.

Comment author: taw 17 March 2012 09:59:16PM 1 point [-]

If you asked people "how likely are you to die by suicide in the next 5 years" I'd expect results order of magnitude below real expected death rate.

It's difficult to imagine what would make you commit suicide, but some thing make people do it all the time.

Comment author: Dmytry 17 March 2012 10:06:19PM *  2 points [-]

But the reference class is not the people who said they are unlikely to die by suicide, it's the people who want to reduce their risk of death, by means such as taking driving exams. I'd say strong self preservation prevents suicide.

Comment author: taw 17 March 2012 11:15:28PM 5 points [-]

Do we actually have any statistical basis whatsoever to infer that?

For obvious counterpoint, if depressive realism hypothesis is true, people who are most likely aware of risks are also most likely to be depressed, and most likely to commit suicide at some point in the future. (I have no idea how strong effect this way is).

Comment author: Dmytry 17 March 2012 11:19:40PM 2 points [-]

I'm just suggesting that because the suicides are major risk, doesn't mean that survivalists can do a lot about that risk. Besides, if one is to trust own reasoning in the future one shouldn't try to prevent suicide.

Comment author: wedrifid 18 March 2012 01:35:12AM 4 points [-]

Besides, if one is to trust own reasoning in the future one shouldn't try to prevent suicide.

Not so, when I was speculating on all the most effective actions for preventing their own suicide almost none of them were about simply preventing the implementation of a suicide preference. Most involved improving your life in such a way that suicide is not desirable. This allows for trust in your own reasoning. (Enter Buffy, "Give me something to sing about!").

Comment author: taw 17 March 2012 11:24:02PM 3 points [-]

Besides, if one is to trust own reasoning in the future

... then one is horribly wrong already. People make wrong decisions all the time for variety of reasons. People do not have utility functions or anything remotely like that. (see Alicorn's Luminosity for entertaining fictional evidence of that, Gianna's transformation in particular)

Comment author: Dmytry 17 March 2012 11:30:15PM *  1 point [-]

How do you do about protecting the altered yourself from altered yourself, in the future, though? I sure would try to prevent myself going depressed, and i'd try to keep my cognition working correctly, but that's about it. It is already partial death if you changed too much.

edit: btw i live in the country with #1 suicide rate in the world (lithuania). I knew some guy who was suicidal (edit: he actually ended up in hospital at some occasion, idk if he's still alive even), he was outright weird in general, e.g. cutting himself to show some ultra bitchy gf that he loves her. Single anekdote, I know, but that's how many of the suicides are.

Comment author: satt 17 March 2012 11:37:16PM 3 points [-]

It is worth bearing in mind that suicide's a substantial death risk for 18-24s, but I don't really know what an individual can do for themselves to reduce their suicide risk. Move somewhere where there's more lithium in the water?

Comment author: taw 17 March 2012 11:43:51PM 5 points [-]

If we spent 1% of the money per casualty on suicide prevention we spend on cancer prevention we'd know the answer already.

My guess is that screening for depression and other common problems correlating with suicide would be a cheap and easy way to significantly reduce the risk, but our society is insane, and never funded any real research so I have no way of knowing if I'm right.

Comment author: curiousepic 19 March 2012 08:01:00PM 2 points [-]

This begs the question of what percentage of traffic accident deaths are actually suicide.

Comment author: [deleted] 21 March 2012 05:52:28PM *  10 points [-]

There is a discussion on this topic in Cialdini's Influence (which is a great read).

It is very difficult to tell the difference between an accidental traffic accident and a suicidal traffic accident (i.e. purposefully close your eyes and turn the wheel into oncoming traffic). The reason people may commit suicide this way is to avoid the stigma of suicide, avoid hurting their loved ones, and to allow their beneficiaries to receive their life insurance benefits. However some statistical analysis can give us a clue:

There is a trend that when a suicide is committed and covered in the news, there is often a rash of "copy-cat" suicides immediately following. These copy-cats are generally similar to the original in gender, age and style (public v. private, self-only v. murder-suicide, etc) .

The rate of traffic accident deaths ALSO greatly increases following media coverage of a suicide. This suggests that many of these traffic accidents may actually be suicides, but it is possible that there is some other factor (i.e. perhaps hearing about suicides makes people sad, which makes them prone to bad driving).

However, further study reveals that similar to other copy-cat suicides, these traffic accidents also match the original in gender, age, and style. For example, if the original was a murder-suicide, then the copy-cat accidents will take out bystanders (such as by driving into oncoming traffic), but if the original was suicide-only, then the copy-cat accidents will only kill themselves (such as by driving into a pole). This data strongly suggests that these post-suicide "accidents" are actually copy-cat suicides

Therefore, it is much more dangerous to drive or fly after a highly-publicized murder-suicide, fyi.

Note- I do not have my copy in front of me right now, so this is all from memory. But I read it relatively recently, and although I do not recall the exact percentages, am rather certain that this was a confident conclusion.

Comment author: DuncanS 19 March 2012 12:41:54AM *  15 points [-]

Here's a few general principles I use.

  • Notice near misses and any aggressive manoevres you have to make. Any violent manoevre that you have to make is quite possibly an accident if anything additional goes wrong. Ask yourself what caused them, and if there was anything you could have done differently to make the incident less dangerous. This includes cases where the other driver is principally to blame ! Basically, treat near misses like aircraft do - think of it as an accident that you luckily didn't have, and try to find some way to avoid depending on luck next time.

  • Don't do things that nobody else will expect you to do. Doing something that nobody else is doing is dumb, not just because there might be a good reason not to do it, but also because nobody else will expect you to do it, and they may not allow for it. Follow the crowd unless you really know you're out there by yourself. This obviously includes driving faster than everyone else, or stopping suddenly (if you don't absolutely have to) etc.

  • Never let your car go where your brain and observation haven't been first. Drive to a complexity level that you can handle - if too much is going on, slow down until you can cope again. In my own driving, I guess I travel at the posted limit about 50% of the time - and when I'm going slower than that, it's normally because of the needs of brain and observation. If you don't have time to think about what you're doing, you're going too fast.

Similarly, schedule distracting things into time slots where not much else is happening on the road. Aggressively ignore any distraction that will take you over your complexity threshold. Stay off the phone as phone callers won't allow for your driving situation - and avoid visual imagery as you literally can't see while you're imagining something visual.

  • Give some (not too much) thought to how you'd feel about flattening some child who runs out in front of you. Maybe it was mostly their fault - but you are going to wonder what you could have done differently, and if you were really driving in a way that kept the risks reasonable. In residential areas, car parks and so on, react to the chance of a child you can't see.
Comment author: handoflixue 22 March 2012 10:10:32PM 1 point [-]

"avoid visual imagery as you literally can't see while you're imagining something visual."

Citation? I routinely visualize objects interacting with my environment, or process other visual information while visualizing something. I wouldn't be surprised that visualization is distracting, but the assertion that I can't see surprises me (I do often close my eyes to visualize something, but that's rather different)

(It's worth noting I have visual hallucinations and at least mild schizophrenia, so I may well not be a normal case - part of my curiosity is whether this is yet another domain where I'm unexpectedly different from how neurotypical ["normal"] people perceive things :))

Comment author: Dmytry 22 March 2012 10:14:22PM *  2 points [-]

"avoid visual imagery as you literally can't see while you're imagining something visual."

I guess depends to the person in question. I am imagining a road, a car on it, me driving it, as i am writing this post, looking at the screen, watching the letters come in and correcting a few typos. When i am really bored out of my mind I imagine silly HUD overlay. The interference is comparable of that from verbal monologue while you listen to someone.

Comment author: DuncanS 26 March 2012 09:55:40PM 2 points [-]

Your brain gives the illusion that you can, because it can switch quite quickly. But this is just like the illusion that you can see the whole world around you - it's not actually so. The proof is straightforward, and needs a friend.

One person holds up two fingers, one on each hand, and holds them up about a foot apart in front of them. The other person looks rapidly back and forth between the two fingers, switching their gaze from finger to finger twice a second in a regular rhythm. It's not that hard to do this.

The person holding up the fingers watches the eyes of the other person, and once they've established a rhythm they ask them a visual memory question. They will be unable to answer it without breaking rhythm on their eye movements, which the friend can observe.

Corollary - you at some level only have one internal screen which can either view external images, or internal ones. Not both at the same time.

Comment author: faul_sname 26 March 2012 10:40:03PM 2 points [-]

Alternatively, read the rest of this comment while you visualize slowly spinning a rubik's cube on the axis that cuts through opposite corners. If you don't have any trouble doing so, you know that you can see while visualizing. As for myself, I find that I can't do both tasks simultaneously.

Comment author: army1987 24 December 2012 06:35:00PM *  1 point [-]

I kind-of can, though the cube image is not that vivid. (It's still something I wouldn't do while driving, though.)

EDIT: BTW, I have several reasons to think that in my case reading mostly involves a part of my brain also used for processing spoken language and different from that used to process non-linguistic visual information, which may be unusual.

Comment author: Vaniver 26 March 2012 10:50:38PM 1 point [-]

Corollary - you at some level only have one internal screen which can either view external images, or internal ones. Not both at the same time.

This sounds like it could be typical mind fallacy, but at least you involved an experiment so handoflixue could see if it applied to them.

Comment author: handoflixue 26 March 2012 10:39:04PM *  0 points [-]

Your brain gives the illusion that you can, because it can switch quite quickly.

If my brain can switch that rapidly, why am I worried about it impacting my driving? And how is it that I can visualize (and hallucinate) objects interacting with the environment?

Comment author: DuncanS 26 March 2012 11:10:04PM 1 point [-]

There you might be a little different - I'm always either looking in or out - there isn't any fusion between the two. Although I have to say I've never tried pushing a fictional thing into the external view - if I try it now I find myself looking at an internal view of what I've just been looking at externally, which is not the same thing. Perhaps in your case the barrier can be persuaded to be less absolute.

One thing that's interesting about the two fingers test is that it can be easy to persuade yourself that you can pass it, but a friend will quickly tell you the truth. When you switch to internal imagery, you don't just lose awareness of the visual scene, you also lose awareness of the fact that your visual finger switching missed a beat. It's easier for someone else to see it.

Comment author: handoflixue 27 March 2012 08:19:33PM *  1 point [-]

I'm also usually functioning in a state where visual information is dramatically impaired - my boss just came to talk to me and I can't remember anything about his appearance today. I'll happily concede the experimental results to you, because they actually do line up with my experiences.

However, "tracking small fingers over the course of split seconds" is very different from "this large object that I am VERY interested in because it can kill me, just suddenly exhibited a major non-rhythmic change in behavior" (i.e. the car in front of me just hit the brakes hard)

Comment author: army1987 24 December 2012 06:41:21PM 1 point [-]

I'm also usually functioning in a state where visual information is dramatically impaired - my boss just came to talk to me and I can't remember anything about his appearance today. 

I'm also "naturally" like that, but in the last few years I've made a point of consciously noticing what I see whenever I remember to.

Comment author: MartinB 19 March 2012 01:36:24PM 1 point [-]

This includes cases where the other driver is principally to blame.

Putting the blame does not do much when dead. The strategy has to include all ways to prevent dying, even if it is solely due to other drivers misdeeds.

Comment author: waveman 28 February 2014 11:50:13AM 0 points [-]

This includes cases where the other driver is principally to blame !

Especially these cases. It is no good being a righteous corpse.

Another suggestion is to get away from bad drivers. If someone is tailgating me I let them past, even if I have to pull over. If I notice someone driving drunk-like or angry etc I create some distance between me and them.

Comment author: RomeoStevens 18 March 2012 01:48:06AM 14 points [-]

One additional factor if you try to incorporate this stuff: everyone acting like you're a freaking weirdo for being vigilant. I'm referred to as a bad driver because I am cautious. People assume caution stems from incompetence.

Comment author: MartinB 18 March 2012 07:40:30AM 5 points [-]

If you can take the status his, that might lead to fewer people wanting to drive with you -- WIN :-) Reckless driving is sometimes considered manly, in a similar manner like heavy drinking and doing stupid things while under. Just do your safely thing, shrug off useless comments and don't talk that much about your ideas.

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 19 March 2012 08:39:16AM *  3 points [-]

People assume caution stems from incompetence.

Once again, acting rationally is bad for signalling. :-(

EDIT: So how exactly are rational people supposed to win here? Perhaps by including prestige in your utility function and calculating how much danger is a reasonable tradeoff. To be extra careful when driving alone or with reasonable people, and relax safety standards with other people; but generally avoid driving with unreasonable people present.

Comment author: wedrifid 19 March 2012 09:20:23AM 6 points [-]

Once again, acting rationally is bad for signalling. :-(

Unless you care about signalling in which case it is overwhelmingly awesome for signalling and you collect an absolute ton of low hanging fruit by making a few google searches.

Comment author: Blueberry 25 March 2012 01:08:50AM 1 point [-]

Such as? There are a hundred different theories about status and signaling but not a lot of useful suggestions or agreement on specifics that I've found.

Comment author: wedrifid 25 March 2012 01:59:54AM 1 point [-]

Such as?

Researching which clothes will best give the signals you wish to send.

Comment author: Blueberry 27 March 2012 02:53:16AM 0 points [-]

Still, a lot of that has to do with different people's preferences. If you've found a consistent, clear source for good info, I'd be interested though. Also, you're in the UK: we think you guys look weird and vice versa ;)

Comment author: wedrifid 27 March 2012 09:09:29AM 0 points [-]

Also, you're in the UK: we think you guys look weird and vice versa ;)

Australia here.

Comment author: Dmytry 19 March 2012 08:55:26AM *  11 points [-]

On a related note, stocking canned food [so that you can remain indoors] for the event of high mortality pandemic (e.g. flu) can easily be order of magnitude more effective than reducing your risk of traffic accident all way to zero.

A high mortality pandemic has probability of one in few hundred years historically, higher if you scale for the population size, higher still if you scale for the pig and poultry farms. The death rates can approach 10% or more.

The problem with the risks that are global, is that anyone who wears seatbelt is vindicated of the accusation of paranoya once every few minutes by a preventable traffic fatality, whereas anyone who stocks up food for pandemic, is vindicated once a hundred years. People tend to act on things to avoid being blamed for ineptitude rather than to preserve themselves.

This by the way goes for safety engineering of anything that's big and few, like nuclear power plants, and natural disasters, like tsunamis.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 19 March 2012 02:08:29PM 4 points [-]

The food doesn't have to be canned-- dry food also keeps well, and you'll presumably be storing water as well as food..

I've also seen an argument that it's a good thing to have a stash of food so that temporary problems with income aren't as dire.

Comment author: MartinB 19 March 2012 01:26:35PM 2 points [-]

Is there a systematic write-up of these ideas? We might start to put them in the wiki.

Stocking up food is also great to sit out short term problems with the local infrastructure. Like blackouts or massive snow.

Comment author: Dmytry 19 March 2012 01:41:02PM 4 points [-]

No idea about systematic write up, I posted some on that in general.

Much of risk of homicide, for example, may be in the small fraction of futures where the society collapsed, while only a small part is in the business as usual futures.

Comment author: satt 28 April 2012 05:53:43PM 0 points [-]

I did a back-of-the-envelope calculation and I'm not sure stocking canned food would have an easy 10:1 advantage over eliminating road accident death risk.

The OP linked to this US death table and said they were male & aged 15-24. That bracket had 7,476 road traffic accident deaths in a year out of 21.86 million people, i.e. 0.034%. By comparison, if the chance of a pandemic with 10% mortality breaking out next year is (say) 1%, that points to an estimated annual death rate of 0.1%. Even assuming that keeping canned food were enough to cut pandemic death risk to nil, that's only a 3:1 advantage in favour of it.

And then that number could go either way for people who'd use different probabilities. If someone thinks a pandemic only has a 0.1% chance of happening next year, or would only have 1% mortality, or that stockpiling food would only reduce pandemic death risk by 10%, that reverses the advantage to 3:1 in favour of eliminating traffic accident death risk.

That said, it did surprise me that the original raw number comes out at 3:1 in favour of stockpiling food. Before I did the calculation I guessed the ratio would be more even. And it goes up to 7:1 if I use the road accident death rate for everyone in the US (or indeed female Americans aged 15-24).

(Upvoted parent anyway, it's got a fair point. It'd be interesting to try a full-blown reference class forecast for pandemic risks, actually.)

Comment author: bentarm 20 March 2012 04:56:58PM *  29 points [-]

I think this post could do with some estimates of absolute risks.

According to the site you link to, there are 7476 deaths in traffic accidents for people in the 15-24 age range (NB - this presumably includes pedestrians, so is a massive overestimate of the deaths of people who were driving, but I'll go with it for now).

In total, there were 21,859,806 males in your age group, so your probability of dying in a road traffic accident in any given year is approximately 0.0003. This translates to a risk per day of approximately 0.0000009.

Combining these numbers naively, the risk of being involved in a traffic accident on the first snowy day is approximately 0.0000009*1.14. In other words, your excess risk of dying by driving on the first snowy day is approximately 0.0000001. Even assuming that driving in snow is 10 times more dangerous than driving in normal conditions, this risk is 1 in 1 million. Is it really worth going out of your way to avoid driving on the first snowy day to avoid a 1 in 1 million increased chance of dying?

It is worth noting that as an avid transhumanist, I might well expect Michael to think that a 1 in 1 million increased chance of living as long as the Singularity, or dying in such a way as to allow his head to be frozen is probably worth quite a lot. But by revealed preference, most people in the US are only willing to pay around $10 to avoid a 1 in 1 million chance of dying (cf The Value of Statistcal Life), and so should probably only avoid driving on the first snowy day if they'd be willing to pay less than $10 to avoid the inconvenience.

The other examples could do with a similar analysis. A good way of thinking about it is how many fewer people would you expect to die if 1000 people took your advice.

Another point is that, even for the avid transhumanist, it seems unlikely that avoiding traffic accidents really is the best way of trying to live long enough to reach the Singularity - basically no-one dies before the age of 40 - a much more common cause of death among today's 15-24 year olds than dying in an RTA is living until you're 45 and then dying of Coronary Heart Disease, so you should probably look at optimising your lifestyle/diet to avoid that before you worry too much about getting an ipod cable for the car (although, actually, just running some quick numbers in my head, it seems like that one is likely to be a good investment). I note Dymtry has already made a comment along these lines.

Finally, some of the advice from other people that you've included in your bullet-pointed list is just terrible. Cycling is around 10 times more dangerous per passenger mile than driving. One anecdote which says that cycling might increase your ability to drive safely cannot possibly outweigh the massive evidence that says cycling is massively more likely to get you killed than driving is. Similarly, I would like to see some evidence that, say, driving safety courses actually help. Someone on the internet said so is not very convincing.

What's my point?

First - thou shalt not report odds ratios. There is a wealth of literature on the subject which says that people make better decisions when present with absolute risk estimates than with odds ratios.

Second - it always pays to crunch some numbers. Car crashes are the most common cause of death among 15-24 year olds, but it is far from clear that steps taken to avoid car crashes are the best way for 15-24 year olds to extend their lifespan.

Third, [citation needed]. If you are compiling a list of advice like this, I think the onus is on you to make some effort to check that the advice you're giving is useful, or at least to put a disclaimer saying that you haven't. This could be useful resource, if it could be trusted.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 20 March 2012 06:00:06PM 7 points [-]

Cycling is around 10 times more dangerous per passenger mile than driving

...but might contribute sufficiently to your reduced risk of dying of coronary heart disease at 45 to offset that?

Comment author: MTGandP 12 August 2013 10:27:38PM 2 points [-]

Cycling does not uniquely reduce risk of coronary heart disease. Even if cycling beats driving because of reduced risk of heart disease, driving + non-dangerous exercise would still beat cycling.

Comment author: Fossegrimen 04 February 2014 04:32:15AM *  0 points [-]

At roughly double the time investment. I prefer to commute by bicycle whenever possible (I live in a city where about 20% of people bike to work during summer and about 5% during the winter, so I suspect risk is lowered by bikes being more common on the road). The commute by bike takes about 80 minutes (including return), sitting in rush-hour traffic takes about the same, as would "non-dangerous" exercise. Discounting the negative effects of commuting by car, I would still be losing about 400 hours per year by "exercising safely".

So in order to make up for the lost time, the increased risk of commuting by bicycle should reduce my life expectancy by roughly 0.4%. It doesn't.

Also, statistics and my personal experience indicates that the most effective way of avoiding traffic accidents is to live in a western country other than the United States

Comment author: michaelcurzi 21 March 2012 06:05:02AM 2 points [-]

Thanks for the detailed feedback. I'll be updating the post with adjustments people have recommended very soon. However, I am curious about this:

Third, [citation needed]. If you are compiling a list of advice like this, I think the onus is on you to make some effort to check that the advice you're giving is useful, or at least to put a disclaimer saying that you haven't. This could be useful resource, if it could be trusted.

Aside from the recommendations from the community (which say merely '<UserName> says X') I did include links to all of my sources. Am I missing something here?

Comment author: bentarm 21 March 2012 08:51:15AM 1 point [-]

Aside from the recommendations from the community (which say merely '<UserName> says X') I did include links to all of my sources. Am I missing something here

No, I guess maybe my criticism was too hasty, sorry. The bits which say "username says X" currently seem to me to be about as prominent in the post as those which are better researched, which is not ideal. When updating, it would probably be a good idea either to check facts on those bits of advice (probably too much effort to be worth it) or to clearly separate them from the other advice.

Comment author: michaelcurzi 21 March 2012 02:41:24PM 3 points [-]

The bits which say "username says X" currently seem to me to be about as prominent in the post as those which are better researched, which is not ideal.

This is a very good point - I've updated the post to account for it.

Comment author: shminux 21 March 2012 07:09:49AM 0 points [-]

btw, you can delete your other comment after retracting it and reloading the page.

Comment author: Nornagest 20 March 2012 06:12:47PM *  2 points [-]

this presumably includes pedestrians, so is a massive overestimate of the deaths of people who were driving, but I'll go with it for now

This page claims that pedestrian fatalities represent about 11% of the total fatalities from motor vehicle accidents, so it's in the same ballpark either way. I wouldn't call that a particularly authoritative source, but by some back-of-the-envelope math it's fairly consistent with your numbers.

Comment author: bentarm 20 March 2012 06:34:58PM 2 points [-]

Thanks for checking. I probably should have bothered to do that myself, after berating Michael's lack of scholarship. This UK government publication says that 25% of road deaths were pedestrians, and 50% were car drivers, so yes, figures for total casualties are basically the same as figures for car drivers.

Comment author: Rain 19 March 2012 02:43:47PM 10 points [-]

Also note that millions more are injured rather than killed every year, making the dangers far higher than the death statistics indicate.

Comment author: woodchuck64 20 March 2012 08:29:05PM *  4 points [-]

And brain injury is particularly prevalent:

In a previous analysis of injuries among drivers admitted to Maryland hospitals following car crashes, it was noted that 37.7% incurred a TBI (Dischinger, 1999).

From Causes and Outcomes of Mild Traumatic Brain Injury: An Analysis of Ciren Data

Comment author: MartinB 17 March 2012 08:49:34PM 10 points [-]

I missed a few important tips: 1. Take a driving safety class every few years. The practical exercises are quite valuable. 2. Avoid driving. I actually changed my lifestyle to prevent it. Germany has decent public transportation so it is feasible, other places might be different. The safest drive is a drive not taken. 3. Check if you car is any good. Different brands offer different safety features.

And do not forget: Traffic fatalities go down for decades. It is not as bad as one might think from looking into it.

Comment author: Antisuji 17 March 2012 11:44:43PM 3 points [-]

I generally avoid driving, however I accomplish this by cycling instead. Do you have any pointers on where to look for information on becoming a safer cyclist?

Comment author: bentarm 18 March 2012 11:12:25PM 4 points [-]

Do you have any pointers on where to look for information on becoming a safer cyclist?

Drive a car instead. Seriously, cycling is incredibly dangerous. At least 10 times more dangerous per mile than driving a car - it's barely better than walking, and the only thing more dangerous is driving a motorbike. If this isn't an option, then standard bike safety procedures do at least seem to help.

see, e.g.

http://plus.maths.org/content/os/issue55/features/risk/index

Comment author: Antisuji 20 March 2012 10:40:03PM 1 point [-]

I am surprised to learn that walking is less safe than biking, per mile!

I (somewhat generously) estimate that I ride about 40 miles a week: 16 for commuting, 9 for errands and transportation to social events and the like, and 15 for longer rides, amortized. From your link, that translates into 2 micromorts a week, or about 0.3 micromorts a day. To me this feels like an acceptable risk, especially when I consider the alternatives.

One possible alternative is reducing mobility altogether by working from home or finding an apartment closer to work and replacing my long bike trips with other activities like board games or going to the gym. I suspect, though, that my overall exercise levels would drop and that my mental and physical health would suffer past the point of 0.3 micromorts per day. So this is a non-starter.

Another, owning a car, in addition to being expensive ($5000 a year is a conservative estimate — see e.g. http://www.investopedia.com/articles/pf/08/cost-car-ownership.asp), would lead to dangerous activities like 200-mile weekend road trips and walking to and from parking spots. This does seem like it would translate into some amount of safety savings, but again, it's an expensive option. Another thing to notice is that my chances of causing a fatal accident go way up even if my own safety is relatively unaffected, which makes this option feel like defecting.

This analysis is of course extremely simplistic, and I admit that a large part of why I transport myself the way I do is wrapped up in complex considerations of identity and affect. Cycling is convenient, time- and resource-efficient, and I like it.

Comment author: JoachimSchipper 01 March 2014 08:39:24PM 0 points [-]

The Dutch figures [are closer to yours than I expected|https://www.swov.nl/ibmcognos/cgi-bin/cognos.cgi?b_action=powerPlayService&m_encoding=UTF-8&BZ=1AAAB7pUZHH542oVOXW~CIBT9M1C3F3Oh1o_HPtBSo8ummzXZM7PXhrUFQxuX7NePWhNjlmU3cM7J4cAhyLfjfL~dZWsZt511uJYPlHM9S6eMQyKFWLIJiGweZnKazMVSzESSJNJnHoP_biZ26epV7Fcx5cuDNR2azqujrQt0NEroBIxqkIZytEFv1coU7YhG8o~QTrf6YK_BkzpUqsT7xDu6Cmv9WSHloJTpVO1FYQs0ngdwpu106dW5D6NrS~yyZkicfCWHpi48OtTfuvTnla5tg51XfXUg83ScbjebLN2vPYmXLL6rtc1ZmfL~x4LkLT4CEAYAjAEhBMg0isLoikB67xm7FuvLpyksnpRyngjlc8pDoBwZ5R_ULwaD3Qzya9hl9WIovezb~ACpc4us] (link in Dutch); I'd expect us to do quite a bit better than that, since people here are very used to bicyclists. Unfortunately, cyclists still die at 12 per 10^9 km traveled, pedestrians at 14 per 10^9 km, but drivers at 2 per 10^9 km (i.e. 1 to 6 instead of 1 to 10+, but still not very good.)

I do wonder how much of this effect can be explained by the fact that travelling (by car or otherwise) in a city or on a country road is much harder than highway driving. Or by the fact that people standing still die at a rate of infinity per km traveled. (And standing still near traffic is indeed measurably dangerous!)

Comment author: waveman 18 March 2012 09:36:01PM *  2 points [-]
  1. Avoid driving.

This. Seriously all else being equal the more miles you are in a car for the more likely you are to die, or to be seriously injured.

Comment author: MartinB 18 March 2012 10:41:34PM 2 points [-]

Not entirely correct. It also depends on where you drive. Inner city has a differnt security profile from country roads and car lanes.

Comment author: Rejoyce 18 March 2012 09:54:47PM *  0 points [-]

Very true, but very unhelpful answer. :/ If you don't use a car, how will you get to places?

Buses/taxies/motorcycles are probably one of the more convenient forms of transportation nowadays.

The only other thing I can think of are rapid transit, trains, bikes, and planes. But you can't ride the subway/bike/take a plane with as much flexibility as a car.

Comment author: MartinB 18 March 2012 10:39:43PM 2 points [-]

If you don't use a car, how will you get to places?

There are a few very cultural biased responses in the thread. Your statement seems really ignorant to me. Obviously your usage of alternatives depends on what the situation in your area is like. There are cultures that are very much into bicycles (Netherlands, Denmark), some where just no one even has a car (China, many other non-rich countries). Some where public transport is crappy and car is the only alternative (Fill in your own). Some where many alternatives exist. It is for everyone to find out which alternatives exist in her or his locale. It should be easy to figure out the local transport abilities. On an international forum no one can give all-suitable advice that fits every situation.

For example I choose to move into the inner city of a 400.000ppl city in Germany. There is much public transport (bus, tram, subway, distance trains) available, including a great website that tells me how to get from A to B anytime. As a backup there are taxis. But since I am young, poor and healthy I mostly walk everywhere. If is more than 1,5h walking distance I take public transport.

The OP probably does not suggest to never ever drive, but to make a reasonable effort to stay safe. Reducing driving if possible is one way. If it is not feasible in your area, than you still can do the other things. Since we deal with probability here it is all about comparing alternatives and improving your odds.

From a financial viewpoint one can calculate the total cost of a car broken down on usages, vs. public transport vs. increased rent for a more favorable place. And if you do not need a car on a (work)daily basis you can find the local car-sharing offer (no idea if the US provides it. In Germany it is slowly growing), rent a car at times or take the Taxi.

Comment author: Rejoyce 18 March 2012 11:50:37PM *  6 points [-]

Ah, I feel very embarrassed now. That was very ignorant of me-- to not consider the situations outside my own area. (stupid, stupid!) I can't believe I didn't think of that, especially the China thing, and only a couple of days after my mum told me how amazing the transportation in Taiwan was (to the point that no one really wants a car). Clearly I have much more to learn. (-facedesk-) The mistake won't happen again.

Comment author: MartinB 19 March 2012 12:24:53AM 4 points [-]

Happens, no need to worry about making mistakes. And welcome on the board.

Comment author: jdinkum 19 March 2012 02:28:24AM 4 points [-]

I think a fair question to ask is, "If you don't use a car, how will you get to places safely?"

There seems to be an unsupported assumption that the alternatives to driving (cycling, walking, public transportation) are SAFER than driving.

On a per-mile travelled basis, what are the risks associated with various forms of transportation (driving, walking, cycling, public bus, public train, etc)? My suspicion is that the danger is (in descending order): cycling, walking, driving, public bus, public train, but I don't know where to go to find evidence.

Comment author: Jayson_Virissimo 19 March 2012 02:17:56PM 0 points [-]

Is riding a bike really safer than driving per mile?

Comment author: army1987 19 March 2012 02:57:49PM 0 points [-]

Dunno what the CDT answer would be (i.e., whether a given individual is more likely to die when cycling one mile or when driving one mile, all other things being equal -- I suspect it depends on where you are, anyway), but it seems obvious to me that the RDT answer (i.e., if x% of the miles travelled in a town are cycled and (100 - x)% are driven, whether the expected total number of people dying in road accidents per mile travelled would increase or decrease with x) is that cycling is safer. And if you only care about your own life and are a CDTist, you shouldn't vote unless there's a non-negligible probability of your vote deciding the election, you should defect in the PD, etc.

Comment author: Jayson_Virissimo 22 March 2012 11:13:56AM *  0 points [-]

Dunno what the CDT answer would be (i.e., whether a given individual is more likely to die when cycling one mile or when driving one mile, all other things being equal -- I suspect it depends on where you are, anyway), but it seems obvious to me that the RDT answer (i.e., if x% of the miles travelled in a town are cycled and (100 - x)% are driven, whether the expected total number of people dying in road accidents per mile travelled would increase or decrease with x) is that cycling is safer. And if you only care about your own life and are a CDTist, you shouldn't vote unless there's a non-negligible probability of your vote deciding the election, you should defect in the PD, etc.

I don't live my life as a CDTing agent (nor does anyone else, for that matter), but of the examples you listed, none seem particularly problematic for CDT. As far as I am concerned, not voting usually is the correct decision when your own decision doesn't significantly influence others' decisions (which for me, in a national election, it doesn't). Also, actual PDs are extremely rare in everyday life, rather than, say, the indefinite iteration (with error) variety (and CDT seems to handle the latter just fine, as far as I know).

Comment author: khafra 19 March 2012 05:43:53PM 0 points [-]

We should be careful to note that this is the RDT answer when you're reasonably confident the other agents in your town are also RDT agents. I'm not so sure most of the people where I live even have much agency, let alone RDT agency.

Comment author: army1987 19 March 2012 06:33:24PM *  1 point [-]

I still feel kind of like an a**hole when in order to decrease the probability of killing myself I increase the probability of killing someone else by a much larger amount, even if they do the same. (And, before you tell me "So how comes you don't take up some risky but well-paying job and buy mosquito nets with the salary?", we're talking about killing someone directly and in my town. If I accidentally killed someone by driving a car when I could have avoided that, I'd feel so awful for the rest of my life that I'd likely enjoy it half as much -- defined as "I wouldn't prefer n% probability of living such a life to (n/2)% probability of just dying".)

(WOW. In markdown if I write a**hole the first asterisk is displayed normally and the second causes the rest of the text to be italicized. Is that a bug or a feature?)

Comment author: khafra 19 March 2012 07:30:55PM 2 points [-]

I still feel kind of like an a**hole when in order to decrease the probability of killing myself I increase the probability of killing someone else by a much larger amount, even if they do the same.

Human social intuitions do seem to perform a lot better than CDT on a lot of these problems. To the extent that human social intuitions approximate RDT, the RDT-agent will vote, cooperate, and maybe even ride a bicycle.

Comment author: Stuart_Armstrong 19 March 2012 06:49:32PM 0 points [-]

You could just try writing "asshole" - I'm pretty sure we've all heard the word before ;-)

Comment author: army1987 19 March 2012 08:51:29PM 2 points [-]

Well, my self-censorship is kind-of intended to be tongue-in-cheek... (The reasoning is that in places where it's inappropriate to write "asshole", it's likely to be inappropriate to write "a**hole" too, and when I see people who are OK with the latter but not the former my hypocrisy detector goes [insert appropriate onomatopoeia for fire alarm here] and I walk away.)

Comment author: TobyBartels 25 March 2012 06:17:15AM 0 points [-]

But you can't ride the subway/bike/take a plane with as much flexibility as a car.

You can take a bike with more flexibility than a car; speed (and safety, as remarked elsewhere) are the problems here. (Conversely, speed is a bonus for planes.)

Comment author: kpreid 25 March 2012 10:30:55PM 0 points [-]

I suspect differing definitions of "flexibility". I would be interested to see them explicated.

Comment author: TobyBartels 25 March 2012 11:43:58PM 0 points [-]

I meant that a bike can go anywhere that a car can go, and then some. (Here in the U.S., at least, bikes are legal anywhere that cars are, except for most freeways, and even freeways must have a parallel road open to bikes before bikes can be banned from them. Similar remarks apply to walking, which is even more flexible than biking. Possibly other countries have more restrictions on bikes, but there are still plenty of places that bikes can go but cars can't.) So by flexibility, walking > biking > cars > trains > planes, with the last two reversed for long-distance travel in the U.S., and with planes moved up drastically for intercontinental travel and travel to remote regions.

Now, taking a bike on certain roads may not be safe, and it almost always will take more time, but I would count these issues separately from flexibility.

Comment author: Dr_Manhattan 19 March 2012 04:12:12AM 7 points [-]

Driverless cars FTW.

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 19 March 2012 08:27:18AM 13 points [-]

Ten years later: How to avoid dying in a driverless car crash

  • Update your software frequently. Don't use cheap firewalls, choose the more reliable ones.

  • Don't use laptop or cell phone in the car, their electromagnetic frequencies may interfere with the car driving system. For extra safety, turn off the radio.

  • Don't drive after rain or in fog. Water may get into circuits, causing hardware failure in a dangerous situation.

  • Don't drive in the rain. A lightning close to you car may disrupt your GPS system or car driving system.

  • Don't drive in the first snowy day. The optical recognition system may not be fully adjusted yet.

  • When crossing a time-zone boundary, be ready to manually override the car navigation in case of a software bug.

  • Avoid the roads with human drivers, cyclicts, pedestrians, or where animals appear. The software does not always recognize them perfectly.

What? Teleportation FTW!

Twenty years later: How to avoid dying during teleportation: Turn off your electronic implants, because their signals may interfere with the scanning device. Don't teleport in a rainy day; a lightning in a wrong time may disrupt the data transfer. Etc.

Comment author: wedrifid 19 March 2012 08:38:47AM *  13 points [-]

Twenty years later: How to avoid dying during teleportation:

Adjust your philosophy as necessary such that the casual destruction of your physical form is not considered 'death'. Then make damn sure the anesthetizing system is in good functioning order before you are put to sleep, scanned, sent and destroyed.

Comment author: MartinB 19 March 2012 01:31:06PM 1 point [-]

And read the fineprint before using it.

Comment author: MartinB 19 March 2012 01:28:28PM 3 points [-]

No! It seems to me that driverless cars will be under much heavier supervision than manual driven cars. Think airplane security. Any problem with the driverless cars will be seen as systematic and attacked. From what I read so far they are probably safer than human drivers already, but not perfect.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 19 March 2012 02:54:50PM 0 points [-]

Can you clarify what your "No!" is meant to negate? The most natural interpretation of your comment for me is "It seems to me that [driverless cars won't have fatal accidents because they] will be under much heavier supervision...", which I think unlikely.

Comment author: MartinB 19 March 2012 03:09:03PM 0 points [-]

I mean that driverless car are safer than human driven cars. One factor being that they will be much more interest in all accidents they cause. I expect dying in a driverless car to not be a problem, since few people will experience it.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 19 March 2012 04:59:15PM 2 points [-]

Cool, thanks for the clarifiication.
I certainly agree that the number of deaths caused by driverless cars would be far lower than those caused by human-driven cars.
I also expect that within a generation, that much lower number of deaths would be considered a problem.

Comment author: MartinB 19 March 2012 05:53:24PM 4 points [-]

I look forward for that day.

I sometimes wish the care for the capabilities of Pilots would also be used for car drivers. Regular health checks, retests, training in critical situations. Building safe vehicles. Won't happen.

Comment author: [deleted] 25 March 2012 02:04:54AM 0 points [-]

Update your software frequently. Don't use cheap firewalls, choose the more reliable ones.

It seems like if your car's driving computer is capable of connecting to the Internet, it's already badly designed.

Comment author: wedrifid 25 March 2012 02:38:29AM 2 points [-]

It seems like if your car's driving computer is capable of connecting to the Internet, it's already badly designed.

I'd have to disagree. An optional feature to update a street database and possibly be notified of critical updates to the algorithm (when other modules are found to be killing people, say) seems like a wise inclusion.

Comment author: po8crg 25 March 2012 05:04:20PM 2 points [-]

Also, live traffic data to use the available road-space more efficiently. My GPS does that already, and will divert me around traffic jams when there are available side roads, but will stay on the main route when the side-roads as just as bad.

Comment author: Craig_Heldreth 18 March 2012 06:11:00PM 6 points [-]

This is all good information. One thing missing in the seat belt part. Everybody in the car needs to be buckled down and heavy cargo like your laptop should be stowed in the trunk. There is a great video they showed in my defensive driving class which was an Irish television public service advertisement with four people in a car and three of them were wearing their seat belts and they were in an accident and everybody got killed with the unbuckled passenger flopping around the inside of the passenger compartment like a billiard ball.

Comment author: wedrifid 18 March 2012 06:43:29PM 2 points [-]

I hadn't realized that other people not wearing a seatbelt could kill me. That makes a certain amount of sense. Mind you I'd speculate that the chance of three buckled people dying due to one ricochetting fourth passenger where those three would not have died anyway is approximately a gazzilion to one and has never ever happened.

Comment author: Craig_Heldreth 18 March 2012 11:23:02PM 3 points [-]

I found the seat belt commercial on youtube.

Comment author: Nominull 17 March 2012 10:47:27PM 6 points [-]

Rather than all of these efforts to mitigate somewhat the dangers of driving, why don't you just take public transportation?

Comment author: army1987 17 March 2012 11:59:45PM 6 points [-]

In some places there is way too little public transportation, though. Where I live there are pretty much no buses after 8 pm.

Comment author: Antisuji 20 March 2012 10:54:39PM 2 points [-]

Unfortunately, taking public transportation means you have to walk, and walking is 12 times as dangerous per mile as driving (hat tip: bentarm). Of course if you're driving you typically have to walk some distance from your parking spot also.

Comment author: waveman 28 February 2014 12:06:00PM 0 points [-]

I wonder if the stats for walking and bicycle riding are not somewhat skewed by people who are walking or riding due to license suspension from drunk driving. I have known a few people who took up cycling for this reason.

And if you think drunk driving is dangerous, drunk cycling is orders of magnitude worse. Drunk walking is also highly dangerous http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drunk_walking.

Comment author: David_Gerard 17 March 2012 11:49:32PM 1 point [-]

I am so glad to live in a city (London) where I really do not need a car and it's much more cost-effective to just hire one for a holiday or whatever. On the other hand, I live in London.

Comment author: MileyCyrus 18 March 2012 05:41:22AM 14 points [-]

Drive less. Commutes are dangerous, expensive, and mentally taxing. You would have to earn 40% more money at a job with a one hour commute to be equally satisfied with a local job.

Comment author: MBlume 19 March 2012 08:10:40PM 3 points [-]

This is excellent advice which reaches far beyond traffic safety -- even if your survival is guaranteed, you're still making yourself miserable every single day.

Comment author: [deleted] 24 March 2012 07:52:24PM *  0 points [-]

I am? I thought my one-hour commute (twice a day, three days a week, to school) was nice and relaxing. I don't know if I would switch, if I were paid ten bucks an hour not to.

Comment author: katydee 19 March 2012 08:12:56PM 1 point [-]

Citation needed?

Comment author: wedrifid 18 March 2012 05:46:56AM 1 point [-]

Drive less. Commutes are dangerous, expensive, and mentally taxing. You would have to earn 40% more money at a job with a one hour commute to be equally satisfied with a local job.

Insufficient details there. It matters how long the shift is and how often you have to work, for example.

Comment author: MartinB 18 March 2012 07:31:08AM 1 point [-]

I prefer to live in 10-20 minutes walking distances from a place of work. If the time can be reached by public transport or bicycle that is fine too. One can factor in the money saved on transportation, or even the time saved on traveling to justify a slightly higher rent.

Comment author: 110phil 19 March 2012 02:31:08AM 5 points [-]

One factoid says that your chance of death doubles for each 5 km/h above the limit you are. Another says that speeding factors into 40% of crashes.

Suppose the average speeder's risk is equivalent to 5 km/h over the limit (which seems low). Then only 25% of drivers must be speeding. Those 25% of drivers make up 40% of deaths, and the other 75% of drivers make up 60% of deaths. This keeps the ratio at 2.0, as required.

But non-speeders die too, when hit by speeders. The "40% of deaths had speeding as a factor" includes those non-speeders. Therefore, speeders have to be fewer than 25% of drivers. Call it 20%, for the sake of argument.

It's hard for me to believe that only 20% of drivers are doing 65 or more in a 60 km/h zone. And, remember: we made the conservative assumption that the average effect is 5 km/h. If you keep in mind that some drivers do 10 km/h over the limit, and have four times the risk, and some do 15 km/h over the limit, and have eight times the risk ... well, now, you're WAY below 20% of drivers speeding.

I have occasionally done 20 km/h over the limit (80 in a 60 zone), and so my risk was 16 times. But, still, the overall incidence is only twice as high. So there can be only 6% of drivers like me -- maybe 4%, if you include innocent other drivers in the death count -- and that's if you assume that there are ZERO drivers doing 5, 10, 15, 25, 30, or any other number of km/h over the limit.

Is there something wrong with my calculations?

Comment author: army1987 18 March 2012 01:45:38PM 12 points [-]

“Most highway accidents occur in the left lane”

You might want to specify what country that's about, since “about 66.1% of the world's people live in right-hand traffic countries and 33.9% in left-hand traffic countries” (from Wikipedia).

Comment author: taryneast 24 March 2012 12:11:20PM 1 point [-]

Quite.

Probably better phrased as "most highway accidents occur in the innermost lane"

Comment author: John_Maxwell_IV 17 March 2012 08:46:29PM 11 points [-]

Stop. Think about that for a second. I’ll convert it to the Imperial system for my fellow Americans: “in a [37.3 mph] speed limit area, the risk of involvement in a casualty crash doubles with each [3.1 mph] increase in travelling speed above [37.3 mph].” Remember that next time you drive a 'mere' 5 mph over the limit.

Could be that generally reckless drivers are more likely to exceed the speed limit.

Comment author: michaelcurzi 17 March 2012 09:02:15PM 21 points [-]

So if you find yourself exceeding the limit, that's evidence that you're a reckless driver, and you should adjust your behavior accordingly.

Comment author: JenniferRM 20 March 2012 05:15:06AM 5 points [-]

Meaning what precisely? Decision theorists, a gauntlet with significant real world consequences has been throw down before you! Do you accept the challenge?

King Solomon wants to sleep with another man's wife. However, he knows that uncharismatic leaders frequently sleep with other men's wives, and charismatic leaders almost never do. Furthermore, uncharismatic leaders are frequently overthrown, and charismatic leaders rarely are. On the other hand, sleeping with other men's wives does not cause leaders to be overthrown. Instead, high charisma decreases the chance that a leader will sleep with another man's wife and the chance that the leader will be overthrown separately. Not getting overthrown is more important to King Solomon than getting the chance to sleep with the other guy's wife.

Causal decision theory holds that King Solomon can go ahead and sleep with the other man's wife because it will not directly cause him to be overthrown. Timeless decision theory holds that he can sleep with the woman because it will not cause his overthrow in any timeless sense either. Conventional wisdom holds that Evidential decision theory would have him refrain from her, because updating on the fact that he slept with her would suggest a higher probability that he will get overthrown.

Comment author: RichardKennaway 20 March 2012 11:58:28AM 5 points [-]

I like the response, but I'm not sure how well it works in the real world, for either problem. All three decision theories would recommend that King Solomon avoid overthrow by working on his charisma, since his inclination to sleep with another man's wife is evidence for its lack. Similarly, if you notice that you regularly drive way over the speed limit, maybe you should ask yourself "am I being reckless?" and consider taking an advanced driving course.

Comment author: JenniferRM 20 March 2012 01:55:19PM 1 point [-]

Playing this out for didactic purposes, why would someone increase their charisma or decrease their recklessness? The standard line is that Gandhi wouldn't try to increase his murderousness... what's the difference?

Comment author: RichardKennaway 20 March 2012 03:01:26PM 2 points [-]

If someone is passionately committed to their recklessness, to the point of dying for it, or to having the charisma of a dead toad, to the point of being overthrown for it, none at all. The former is explicitly avowed by some ("live fast, die young!"), and there's no shortage of people on the Internet who pride themselves on being obnoxious and take validation from being excluded.

And then, some people would rather get things done, and there's not much of significance you can accomplish without being alive and getting other people to take you seriously.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 17 March 2012 10:46:53PM 4 points [-]

I've heard that driving in the beginning of a rain after a dry spell is especially dangerous because the oil on the road is floating on the water-- after more rain, it'll be washed away.

Anyone know whether this should be included in one's calculations?

Comment author: beoShaffer 17 March 2012 10:00:57PM 4 points [-]

http://www.lrrb.org/pdf/trs1009.pdf The research is somewhat muddied but it appears that using headlights during the day helps.

Comment author: David_Gerard 17 March 2012 11:50:25PM 1 point [-]

This is why several brands (e.g. Volvo) have running lights that are on at all times - not full-beam headlights, but smaller white lights at the front.

Comment author: army1987 18 March 2012 12:06:35AM 7 points [-]

The suggested hypothesis is that people take at least a day to recalibrate their driving behavior in light of new snow.

Solution: make an explicit effort to avoid driving on the first snowy day after a sequence of non-snowy ones. Use Anki to remember this association.

What, one can recalibrate one's driving behaviour in snow without actually driving? If not, not driving on the first snowy day only means that you'll get the effect of increased risk on the second snowy day instead. (But on the other hand you'd still be less likely to be involved by accidents caused by others -- but such a rule is not Categorical Imperative-izable.)

Comment author: gwern 18 March 2012 01:03:02AM 5 points [-]

But on the other hand you'd still be less likely to be involved by accidents caused by others -- but such a rule is not Categorical Imperative-izable.

Aren't there stable rules which are perfectly Categorical Imperative-compatible? Thinking in UDT sort of terms, perhaps the rule would be 'flip a coin to decide whether you start driving on the first or second day'. If everyone did that, half the population would drive day 1 and half day 2, which seems superior.

Comment author: army1987 18 March 2012 07:33:49AM *  3 points [-]

Huh yeah, it would. I had forgotten that in such cases good strategies can be non-deterministic.

Comment author: gwern 18 March 2012 04:28:56PM 0 points [-]

Well, it's not just in 'such cases' but in tons of games there are mixed strategies and even mixed strategies which are the Nash equilibrium.

Comment author: army1987 18 March 2012 05:49:36PM 0 points [-]

Well... by such cases I kind-of meant "several-player games". (Then there is the absent-minded driver problem... maybe if you count the driver's self before and after the first intersection as different players... but then that becomes a variable-number-of-players game. Whatever. I guess I've just internalized way too much.)

Comment author: MartinB 18 March 2012 07:42:36AM 2 points [-]

Other drivers causing accidents is a major problem. But also you should put in some effort to update your own driving. In general I would say: do not drive while problematic drivers are abound. That means weekend nights, and the few days with severe changes in conditions.

Comment author: po8crg 25 March 2012 05:54:53PM 3 points [-]

Consider whether your journey is necessary - not travelling is always safer than travelling.

Consider what you can do to restructure your life to minimise the need for routine travel - Can you live closer to your place of employment/study, either by moving your home, or moving your employment/study? Can you work or study from home (at all? more often?)

I now live 20 minutes' walk from my employment instead of an hour's drive + 20 minute's walk, and there are many other benefits (much cheaper), but the safety improvements of not having to drive, especially as I have a sleep disorder that makes it impossible to always avoid driving when fatigued, are certainly one factor.

If you have to make a journey, consider alternatives to driving for all or part of the journey. All public transportation is much safer than driving; off-road public transportation (ie all rail except trams, flying) is safer still.

Remember that walking (strictly, crossing roads on foot) is higher risk than driving, so be prepared to go for a multi-modal journey to avoid walking in non-pedestrianised areas.

Comment author: 110phil 19 March 2012 02:17:06AM 3 points [-]

"The Road and Traffic Authority of New South Wales claims that “speeding… is a factor in about 40 percent of road deaths.” Data from the NHTSA puts the number at 30%."

What does this mean, "is a factor"? If it means "at least one car was speeding," then it sounds like speeding might reduce the chance of a fatality. Suppose 40% of all drivers speed. Then, if speeding has no effect, the chance that neither driver is speeding is only 36%, which means speeding would be a factor in 64% of fatalities, not 40% or 30%.

Of course, I've made some assumptions here. The linked site doesn't tell us what percentage of drivers speed, and it doesn't say what "is a factor" means. So, the factoid, as presented, is meaningless.

Comment author: Grant 08 August 2013 10:52:03AM 6 points [-]

As an amateur race car driver, I've got a few things to add here.

There's one very important tip I've never seen driver's ed courses mention concerning rain driving: the available traction on wet pavement varies wildly depending on the surface. Rougher surfaces tend to offer more grip, some feel nearly as good as driving in the dry. Smoother surfaces tend to offer less, some (the worst blacktop parking lots) feeling as bad as driving on ice. Any paint (such as painted-on brick strips on some intersections) is going to be very slick, as is most concrete (as its generally smooth, though rougher concrete like is found on runways will have lots of grip). Between different types of wet asphalt the difference in grip of my race car (on street tires) can range from around 1.0 gees of maximum lateral acceleration to as low as 0.65.

Metal drawbridges are also extremely slick in the wet, to the point where a strong wind can blow a car into other lanes.

So unless your familiar with the surface you're driving on, do not take anything for granted in the wet. On poor surfaces even a little bit of water can massively increase stopping distances. Unfortunately you can't count on newer construction being better here, as the slickest interstate I've encountered was relatively new (if you can read a sign from its reflection off the wet surface, the road probably sucks).

I regard tips on how to drive (at night? during the rain? at what speed?) as being largely dependent on environment and visibility. You always need to be prepared to react to something as soon as you can see it. Rain, night time and curvy roads keep you from seeing things as quickly, and mean you need to be more conservative. Every time you drive faster than you can react to unseen dangers you're rolling the dice. Always drive within your visibility. Sounds like common sense, but it doesn't seem to be commonly followed.

Aside from working headlights, tires are the #1 accident-avoidance device on the car. Almost all cars on the road have brakes powerful enough to lock the tires up, meaning stopping distances are a function of available grip. They may look like simple blocks of inflated rubber, but tires are extremely complex and not at all created equal. The best tire for a vehicle is going to vary with wheel size, ambient temperatures and budget, and you definitely don't always get what you pay for here.

All other things equal, more tread depth = more hydroplaning resistance. Bald tires can grip just fine in the wet provided there is no standing water, but this is generally not recommended for obvious reasons.

Some people say tire inflation pressures are critical. You definitely don't want them more than 5 or so psi from ideal, but I've done a lot of testing here and not generally found pressures to make a measurable difference in overall grip when they're kept within reason. Lower pressures feel "sloppier" but still grip, while high pressures feel "crisper" and probably save you some gas. A severely under-inflated tire can overheat and de-laminate just driving in a straight line, and no you won't always notice this until the tread is already coming off. Tire pressure monitors are really great safety devices and I wish I had them on my race car.

Here's an anecdote where tires saved the day: I was driving on the interstate and came upon a block of traffic. In front of me was a Toyota, and I slowed to match its speed. Less than a minute later the Toyota veers off the road and his right front tire hits a concrete construction barrier. The tire climbs up this barrier and flips the car onto its roof, landing in my lane. I was blocked in by traffic and had no other choice than to slam on my brakes and hope. The impact with the barrier slowed the car very quickly, to the point where I came within a few feet of hitting it. Once I matched its speed it skidded away from me as roofs obviously don't slow cars down very well.

I was in a sports car equipped with aerodynamic downforce and road-legal racing tires. Had I of been been on economy tires I certainly would have hit the car with significant force. Had I of been in an SUV I likely would have run it over. As it was the driver crawled out of the car shaken and bleeding, but largely alright. He didn't remember what caused the incident. As it was in the afternoon, I suspect he was distracted, dropped a tire off the road, and the pavement height change pulled on the steering and sucked the car into the barrier.

In hindsight I shouldn't have been following so closely, though I was maintaining more distance than others in the block. I admit it never went through my mind that the car in front of me might veer off into a concrete wall and be deflected back into my lane.

So thats what I've learned: tires are very important, and rain needs respect to be handled safely.

Comment author: David_Gerard 17 March 2012 11:47:54PM *  6 points [-]

Drive a bigger car for bigger crumple zones. (Not an SUV, which are top-heavy and roll more.) In a collision, people in smaller cars generally suffer worse injuries. Crash test reports are great reading.

Don't go on a motorcycle, ever. Even if you're ridiculously careful, car drivers aren't.

Do an advanced driving course, then drive like a granny anyway.

Comment author: MartinB 18 March 2012 07:44:57AM 3 points [-]

Yes to each of them! "Drive like a granny" might be the wrong image still. Some people are related to driving way to slow, which is also bad.

As far as I am aware reckless driving does not even give a notable time advantage. Conservatism rocks when applied to safety. Distance to the car in front is a very cheap remedy.

Comment author: waveman 28 February 2014 12:00:55PM *  0 points [-]

[A] Do an advanced driving course, then [B] drive like a granny anyway.

I do not have a citation but I do recall reading that taking advanced driving courses was not cost effective because the increase in over-confidence countered the modest improvements in skill. So A made you less likely to do B.

We do need a citation for the claim that an advanced driving course does good. And we need to be aware that people running such courses are not disinterested parties.

Comment author: AntonioAdan 07 February 2013 08:44:34PM *  2 points [-]

First off, I want to state that I agree heavily with this.

I teach driver's education and want to add that what has helped my driving the most has been the mere repetition of truisms ("don't drink and drive", "look where you're going while backing up", "think about what you're doing", "check you're blind spot before moving over", etc.) and the knowledge that a crash resulting from these types of failures would be especially low status for me. When I'm tempted to keep driving late at night vs. pulling over at the next exit for a rest, the thought of my friends, coworkers, and students judging me harshly were I to crash gets me to pull over when all else fails.

One note:

Solution: Watch this 30 second video for a vivid comparison of head-on crashes at 60 km/hr (37 mph) and 100 km/hr (60 mph). Imagine yourself in the car. Imagine your tearful friends and family. (emphasis added)

That video is great, and helps get the difference on a gut level. But vividly imagining one's friends and family morning their loss can increase suicide rates in those that are already predisposed.

Comment author: cath 30 March 2012 04:40:47AM 2 points [-]

The added complication of autopsy after death by road accident could imperil cryonics arrangements. How many road accident deaths are also accompanied by autopsy, especially of neural tissue?

Comment author: pcm 21 March 2012 03:04:32AM 2 points [-]

One simple precaution is to drive a car with a light color.

Comment author: mcross 19 March 2012 03:15:11PM 2 points [-]

Nationwide, 49% of fatal crashes happen at night

Doesn't that mean that 51% of fatal crashes happen during the day?

Comment author: gwern 19 March 2012 03:21:07PM 3 points [-]

I think the point may be that people do a lot less driving during the night and so 49% means that per-mile or per-trip, night driving is a lot riskier.

Comment author: michaelcurzi 19 March 2012 04:47:19PM 1 point [-]

Also, I imagine that 'night' ('when it's dark out'), is often less than 12 hours of a 24 hour period.

Comment author: waveman 28 February 2014 12:11:47PM 0 points [-]

I really want to see a multivariate analysis. Is this due to the dark, or due to alcohol?

Comment author: MartinB 19 March 2012 01:34:13PM 2 points [-]

Another addition: Never ever drive while drunk or tired. If you have a history of doing that work on changing that!

Related: plan long drives in a way that does not exhaust you. By having stops and/or replacement drivers with you.

Comment author: Swimmer963 18 March 2012 03:27:30PM 2 points [-]

Dmytry recommends replacing driving with bicycling, and various commenters agreed that the safest way to drive is to avoid driving whenever possible. Living in a city with good public transportation is recommended.

I haven't actually studied this, but as someone who basically uses my bike as a car, it doesn't feel that much safer. Most cities don't have comprehensive enough bike paths to allow you to only use the paths, especially if you have a time limit and want to take the most direct route. Intuitively, it seems like bikes sharing roads with cars, which is basically the only option much of time, is more dangerous because of the fragility of bikes compared to cars. (Since I still bike, I guess I'm willing to put up with this risk in exchange for better physical fitness, saving money on public transit, and getting where I have to be faster.)

Comment author: DanielLC 18 March 2012 10:25:15PM 1 point [-]

I've read that biking is more dangerous than driving per mile, and walking is more dangerous than biking.

Not only are you more fragile, you're on the road longer (especially with walking).

Comment author: Dmytry 18 March 2012 04:11:10PM *  0 points [-]

Didn't recommend replacing driving with bicycling, other than by moving to a car-less town where everyone cycles. The point was that bicycling conditions you (or at least me) to not take eyes off the road, not sure though if its so for everyone or just me because i have bad sense of balance and compensate for it with eyes. My theory is that if you bike, you are used to mind state of not being distracted. Or at least, I do, 'cause my eyes are busy replacing for the inner ear function. (i don't know how much other people have to look to keep themselves upright).

Comment author: jmmcd 19 March 2012 12:35:02PM 1 point [-]

I'm the opposite. When I started driving, I became a safer bicyclist. More concentration and more explicit checking my surroundings.

Comment author: velisar 20 March 2012 09:40:32AM *  0 points [-]

Indeed, before I had a car - an I was in the dangerous 15-24 age group - I did all sorts of tricks with my bike (I thought I was good), wheelie, no-handed turns, never waited for the green light etc. Because of the low speed, I speculate, you arrive at the feeling of control easier, you see and know the margins of the vehicle, you don't have blind spots. Reinforcing intuition: you're better and better everyday, WYSIATY. After I went to driving school (car and motorbike) I realized the dangers; also knowing some data about deaths and injuries car scare you.

Without data you are provincial, you have no context.

Comment author: Swimmer963 19 March 2012 11:50:36AM 0 points [-]

Or at least, I do, 'cause my eyes are busy replacing for the inner ear function. (i don't know how much other people have to look to keep themselves upright).

I know for sure that I can bike with my eyes closed. I don't most of the time, of course, and I definitely don't if I'm on a road with cars on it (I'm pretty confident that I won't accidentally swerve into the adjacent lane, but it just seems like a stupid idea in general.) So no, not everyone is like that, and I wouldn't consider myself as someone with especially good balance either.

Can you bike no hands? This seems like something that would require good balance. (I can bike no hands, but it took a lot of practice.)

Comment author: Dmytry 19 March 2012 11:57:57AM *  0 points [-]

Biking with no hands easily when the speed is correct and surface is smooth... i think there's not a lot of balancing going on, besides bike's own, and the vestibular system may generally be bad for this kind of thing because of centrifugal force.

To think about it some more, I guess I just need to see some reference, not necessarily ahead, and I also bike on really messy surfaces most of the time, on which it is necessary to actively keep balance. Plus there's far more pedestrians getting in the way of bicycle path. I also bike a fair bit on snow/ice in the winter.

Comment author: Swimmer963 19 March 2012 02:10:49PM 0 points [-]

Yeah... Messy surfaces are generally not a good place to bike with eyes closed either, any more than they are to walk on. Biking no hands feels like a balance challenge to me, but that's mostly when I try to swerve or turn corners no hands. (You can do it by leaning in the direction you want to turn.)

Comment author: army1987 18 March 2012 05:54:54PM *  0 points [-]

i don't know how much other people have to look to keep themselves upright

Not very much; on the other hand the lack of mirrors require me to pay more attention in order to be aware of what's behind and beside me. (This is partly compensated by the fact that, not being in an enclosed space such as a car, I can hear better. But if we go down this road we encounter differences between people in how they process visual vs auditory input, the fact that Feynman counted in his mind by listening while Bethe did by reading, so that Feynman could count while reading but not while speaking and vice versa, and so on, and so forth.)

Comment author: Swimmer963 19 March 2012 11:48:10AM 0 points [-]

on the other hand the lack of mirrors require me to pay more attention in order to be aware of what's behind and beside me.

Having not really learned to drive until after I'd been biking for years, I'm much more comfortable looking around and keeping track of what's around me on a bike than I am looking in a car's mirrors. The car itself, as an enclosed space with walls and stuff, makes me feel half-blind even when I do look in the mirrors. I don't know if I can hear better on a bike; I do frequently listen to my iPod, which might not be a good idea, but which makes a 40-minute commute a lot more fun.

Comment author: michaelcurzi 18 March 2012 04:21:01PM 0 points [-]

Makes sense; I'll adjust the post.

Comment author: Vaniver 18 March 2012 07:07:05PM *  -1 points [-]

Eh. I'm more interested in questions of how these effects interact with each other. For example, I find it much easier to be engaged as a driver when I'm driving 5-20 mph faster than other cars on the road (or, if there are no cars or only fast cars, at somewhere between 80 and 100 mph, assuming clear skies and a straight highway), and so I'm less likely to get into an accident because of the increased attention, but I'm much more likely to die in an accident if it does happen.

Similarly, the increased fatalities due to driving at night are probably primarily due to fatigue (with reduced visibility likely as the secondary cause). Notice the difference in traffic accidents due to daylight savings time- picture study (notice the scale on the picture- it looks like it doubles and halves, but it's really just an increase or decrease of a few hundred accidents). If you're not fatigued, there are many less other drivers on the road- which suggests that it's safer, so long as you're extra careful when someone else shows up.

I'm also skeptical about the value of defensive driving courses (at least, the sort that you can take to dismiss speeding tickets), though in-car tutoring by skilled drivers seems effective. (If there are driving courses that offer that, I'd suspect they're worth trying.)

Comment author: MartinB 18 March 2012 11:00:02PM 1 point [-]

though in-car tutoring by skilled drivers seems effective

I did one that involved a lot of practice. Learning how to actually hit the brakes for real was awesome. It is especially useful if you still have a car without break assistant (which you should not). Other parts were driving on wet roads, partially wet roads. How to get control back when loosing it. Effects of aquaplaning. And a visible demonstration of the square law of motion. 10 km/h really can make an impressive difference on bad road conditions.

Comment author: army1987 18 March 2012 08:26:38PM 0 points [-]

Similarly, the increased fatalities due to driving at night is probably primarily due to fatigue (with reduced visibility likely as the secondary cause). Notice the difference in traffic fatalities due to daylight savings time- picture study (notice the scale on the picture- it looks like it doubles and halves, but it's really just an increase or decrease of a few hundred accidents).

Indeed, all other things (including my level of tiredness) being equal, I find it easier to drive at night than during the day. (The darkness for some reason makes it easier for me to concentrate on the road and harder for me to be distracted by other stuff, it's easier for me to see distant cars (with their lights on) in the dark than in the light -- especially if the sun is shining and it has been raining -- the reflection of the sunlight on the wet road nearly blinds me.)

Comment author: Vaniver 18 March 2012 10:12:40PM 3 points [-]

Oh man, the sun. So glad that I don't have to regularly drive at sunrise and sunset (which, unfortunately, tend to be most people's commute times). I wish more roads were NW/SE and NE/SW to make the sun's position less of an issue, but that's difficult to change now.

Comment author: TobyBartels 25 March 2012 07:29:47AM *  0 points [-]

I wish more roads were NW/SE and NE/SW to make the sun's position less of an issue

In June, the sun rises in the NE and sets in the NW; in December, it rises in the SE and sets in the SW. If I'm modelling the geometry in my head correctly, W/E roads are indeed worst overall, but N/S roads are best.

ETA: I'm pretty sure that a global change as you suggest would still be an overall improvement.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 25 March 2012 04:22:42PM 1 point [-]

Unless, of course, I want to get somewhere east or west of me.
Then they aren't so useful.

Comment author: TobyBartels 25 March 2012 11:37:49PM 1 point [-]

Assuming you're not in a polar region, you should be able to set up a network of NW/SE, and NE/SW roads that never face directly towards the sun; using these, you can get anywhere. As you get farther from the equator, however, the NW/SE and NE/SW roads have to get ever closer to being due N/S roads, so travelling E or W becomes ever more inconvenient. And once you reach an (Ant)-Arctic Circle, no directions are safe.

Comment author: Vaniver 25 March 2012 07:48:18AM 1 point [-]

Are those effects latitude dependent?

Comment author: TobyBartels 25 March 2012 11:34:23PM 2 points [-]

The effect exists at all latitudes where a sunrise or sunset actually occurs, but the precise direction (how much N or S of W or E) will vary with latitude (as well as date, of course). The extreme case is the point near the pole where the sunrise or sunset is barely averted, where the position of the sun will be due N or S (neither W nor E since it is simultaneously rise and set); even at the equator, however, the sun will be somewhat N or S of W or E. The exception is when sunrise or sunset occurs at the precise moment of equinox; then all latitudes will experience a sunrise or sunset, and all (except at the poles themselves where these directions don't exist) will experience it as due W or E. (All exact claims are theoretical assuming a perfectly spherical Earth, but the general phenomenon should occur any time that's not very close to the equinox and any place that's not right up next to a cliff or something.)

Comment author: army1987 19 March 2012 02:29:16PM 0 points [-]

(Dunno how much of this is because I first started learning to drive in December when it was dark most of the time, and even now I mostly drive at night -- I prefer using public transportation during the day.)

Comment author: Bugmaster 22 March 2012 10:58:35PM 1 point [-]

This is probably entirely off-topic, but I actually suffered a car crash last week (no, I did not die). I have evidence to believe the crash was caused by a mechanical defect (f.ex., my steering locked up completely in a way that mere loss of power steering cannot explain). Unfortunately, I only have liability insurance, and the cost of repairs is quite steep.

Is there anything I can do to make the car manufacturer pay the repair costs ? Does anyone have experience in this area ?

(please downvote this comment into oblivion if you believe it is off-topic)

Comment author: TobyBartels 25 March 2012 07:01:37PM 0 points [-]

You could sue. The brouhaha over sudden acceleration in Toyotas at the end of the last decade was probably mostly not even their fault, but the lawsuits are still messing them up. You'd have to talk to an attorney to see whether you really have enough evidence for a case.

Comment author: shokwave 18 March 2012 04:55:23PM 1 point [-]

Solution: Download a great turn-by-turn navigation app (recommendations are welcome).

The Google Maps app on Android has a beta "Navigation" mode that does this, fantastically (reading out street names is a bonus, although it tends to add "State Route" to the end of everything).

Comment author: TheStevenator 17 March 2012 11:17:11PM 1 point [-]

I'm in the same demographic and I thoroughly enjoyed this post. It was a great question to ask and you addressed it along all of the relevant avenues. Thanks!

Comment author: Dmytry 17 March 2012 09:33:41PM *  1 point [-]

I propose some amount of recreational bicycling. That'll strongly condition you not to take eyes off road (or at least it is the case for me due to damaged sense of balance and me having to look to keep bicycle upright).

Comment author: taw 17 March 2012 10:04:44PM 4 points [-]

I used to cycle a lot, and I had no doubts whatsoever this drastically increases my chance of dying early, or suffering other horrible accident. There are health benefits due to regular physical activity (and attractiveness and energy level benefits), but they probably don't come anywhere near matching increased risk of death due to drivers completely disregarding cyclists' safety.

Comment author: matt 19 March 2012 06:54:16PM *  2 points [-]

If you're travelling a fixed distance, be very wary of cycling (and walking).

Some numbers:

 Casualty rate per 100 million
Casualties Occupant/ Occupant/ Occupant/
rider trips rider km rider hours
Killed
Pedal cycle 227 12.5 4.6 64
Walk 1753 7.0 6.6 27
Motorcycle 670 122 11.4 342
Car 2142 5.2 0.4 12.4
Bus and Coach 17 0.4 0.06 1.4
Killed and Seriously Injured (KSI)
Pedal cycle 4879 268 98 1377
Walk 17880 72 68 279
Motorcycle 12654 2311 215 6461
Car 29346 71 5.7 170
Bus and coach 892 14 2 51

Source: http://www.swov.nl/rapport/promising/wp5final.pdf which quotes Transport Statistics Great Britain 1979-1989

(If you're otherwise unhealthy and this is the only exercise you'd give yourself, you may still be better off. If you can make yourself do other exercise, please do.)

And if you thought you'd get away with walking by staying mostly not alongside traffic:

Table 2: estimated casualty risk, relative to crossing a street
Travel mode Distance travelled for casualty risk equivalent
to one road crossing
Walking alongside traffic, UK 160 metres
All walking, UK 210 metres
Road vehicle passenger, Australia 6,300 metres

Source: http://grapevine.net.au/~mccluskeyarundell/Ped_casualty.pdf

Comment author: FiftyTwo 02 May 2012 03:33:07AM 1 point [-]

The scale of the benefits of buses is pretty dramatic.Based on that it seems rational to take buses whenever possible (unless I'm missing something).

Comment author: khafra 02 May 2012 03:00:26PM 4 points [-]

Here in Tampa Bay, my commute by car usually takes about 25 minutes. Google says that, by bus, it would take around 2 hours. Commute time has a huge effect on quality of life. So, I probably wouldn't gain and quality-adjusted life years by switching to bus.

Comment author: waveman 28 February 2014 12:31:36PM 2 points [-]

I also noticed when I was managing large numbers of people that people who used public transportation seemed to get a lot more (~double) the number of illnesses. When they bought a car, their sickness rates went down.

I found the same thing myself when I switched.

However as this is a politically fraught topic, good studies seem to be scarce.

Comment author: Dmytry 19 March 2012 07:28:01PM 1 point [-]

It'd be great to get same data, but without highway fatalities at long trips.

Comment author: army1987 17 March 2012 11:43:37PM 3 points [-]

There are health benefits due to regular physical activity (and attractiveness and energy level benefits), but they probably don't come anywhere near matching increased risk of death due to drivers completely disregarding cyclists' safety.

An article in an Italian magazine I've read claims a study found the reverse. Among the 181 thousand subscribers of Barcelona's bike sharing service (11% of the population), who cycled in average 3.29 km a day during weekdays and 4.15 km a day during weekends, there appear to be 0.03 more deaths per year (than among the same number of car drivers) from traffic accidents and 0.13 more deaths per year from air pollution but 12.46 fewer deaths per year from sedentary lifestyle. (Plus, cycling instead of driving itself reduces pollution, which affects everybody's death rate, so even if your point is to decrease your own chance of dying there still can be superrational reasons to do that.)

Comment author: orthonormal 17 March 2012 07:49:23PM 1 point [-]

I started out enjoying this post, but the formatting in the Distraction section was so bad I stopped reading. It's very annoying to read endless lines, not separated from each other, with identical beginnings.

Comment author: michaelcurzi 17 March 2012 07:56:41PM 3 points [-]

Agreed - I'm nearly done fixing all of those errors.

Comment author: orthonormal 02 March 2014 03:04:33AM 0 points [-]

A better way to avoid fatigue-caused accidents is to not drive long distances at times when you would usually be sleeping. Ways to achieve this include leaving parties earlier (maybe by setting a phone alarm), asking to crash at the place you're partying, or reserving an AirBnB near the location you'll be visiting. My housemates and I have done the last one several times when we're driving 25+ miles for a late-night event; $50 per person is well worth the convenience, not to mention the significantly reduced chance of death.

Comment author: brazil84 03 February 2014 07:23:56AM 0 points [-]

I haven't looked at the statistics, but my impression is that if you are sober and somewhat cautious, the two types of common traffic mishaps most likely to result in death or serious injury are (1) a t-bone collision, i.e. another driver runs straight into the side of your car at an intersection; and (2) a head-on collision on a non-divided, high-speed road, where one car crosses the center line for whatever reason.

As to the first, I try to look both ways when the light turns green to reduce my chances of getting t-boned by someone who is trying to beat the red light. As to the second, I try to avoid this type of road, particularly at night or in bad weather and especially on nights when a lot of people are likely to be drinking.

Comment author: alahonua 06 February 2013 07:05:54PM 0 points [-]

I know no one is likely to do this, but consider the safeguards taken by auto racing drivers. They are required to wear a helmet. For high speed driving helmets on all in the car would cut the death rate. That said, I doubt anyone will do this, as the inconvenience is great for a small payoff.

Comment author: Grant 08 August 2013 11:03:20AM 0 points [-]

We're required to wear helmets, nomex suits, gloves, socks and shoes (lots of fun in 90F+ degree weather), head and neck restraint devices and 5 or 6 point harnesses. However keep in mind race cars do not have airbags, while its becoming more and more common for passenger cars to have airbags galore. With airbags, the benefits of a helmet are much reduced.

Comment author: Desrtopa 06 February 2013 07:11:58PM 0 points [-]

I don't suppose you know of any research on what effect helmets have on rates of death and injury at speeds people are likely to drive at for ordinary transportation?

Comment author: AnthonyC 03 February 2013 03:05:14PM 0 points [-]

With respect to vehicle choice: keep in mind personal versus collective choice. The incentive to pick heavier vehicles as "safer" is a tragedy of the commons. In any particular crash, the heavier vehicle is likely to fare better. But if you make both vehicles lighter, both drivers fare better.

Comment author: TobyBartels 31 March 2012 03:44:07AM 0 points [-]

There's a lot of discussion about biking (and to a lesser extent walking) as more dangerous than driving. This really depends on the extent to which your values are selfish or altruistic.

This is an oversimplified dichotomy, of course, but if you're selfish, then you should prefer to be in a large (but not so tall that it rolls easily) vehicle, while if you're altruistic, then you should prefer to be in a small vehicle or a bike or (best of all) on foot. The increased personal risk to is more than made up for by the decreased risk to others, if you count the others as just as valuable as yourself.

Some people have hinted at this, but I don't think that anybody made it explicit (my apologies if I missed that).

Comment author: jsteinhardt 18 March 2012 02:38:08PM *  0 points [-]

What I didn't see mentioned in this post: probability of death by car crash given no interventions, cost (mostly in time) of performing each intervention, and amount it decreases your death probability by. It seems like most of the interventions outlined above are pretty high-cost ways of avoiding an already low risk. Do the proposed strategies actually increase the number of quality-adjusted years of life?

Also note that health-related risks (cancer, heart disease, etc.) are probably all grouped separately but going to a doctor regularly helps with all of them simultaneously. I realize that these are unlikely to affect 25-year-olds but behavior in your 20s can affect what happens in your 40s and 50s. (EDIT: I reread the post and saw that you did mention eating better.)

Comment author: waveman 28 February 2014 12:26:20PM 0 points [-]

When recommending more involvement with the medical system, it is important to consider iatrogenic effects.

See the discussion in "Antifragility" by Nassim Taleb. He suggests that, due to the fact that severe side effects from treatment often only come to light years after treatment, one should be wary of treatments for minor conditions or treatments with minor benefits. Examples: Thalidomide, Stilbestrol, PhenFen http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Withdrawn_drugs

My doctor recommended to my parents that I have growth hormone therapy (many years ago) due to my short stature. I could easily have ended up with http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Creutzfeldt-Jacob_disease as a result.

Comment author: MartinB 18 March 2012 11:01:39PM 0 points [-]

There is a class of ridiculously easy interventions that also safe money on the way.

Comment author: jsteinhardt 18 March 2012 11:53:28PM 0 points [-]

What are they then? (Other than not driving, which I agree is a good idea but is not always feasible.)

Comment author: MartinB 19 March 2012 12:36:45AM 0 points [-]

In general if a behavioral change gives you both security and another desired benefit you already win. For example: Safety classes cost 150EUR and need one afternoon, for punctual benefit when an accident occurs. Maybe out depending on your criteria. Driving safely, conservative, with correct distances and non-aggressive is basically free. Maybe one needs to look into it for a few hour, otherwise you lose a few minutes that dangerous driving could have thought (i read studies on that, but that was ages ago). Using a seatbelt is basically free. Replanning your transport infrastructure takes a few hours but can also lead you to safe actual time. (Reading on a train vs. actively driving a car.) Choosing the car you buy on safety features has a one time limited effort for durable benefit over car usage. I am not aware of actual effects of these activities on longevity. The OP pointed out how car accidents are a major cause of death in his age group. Avoiding them sounds like a good idea.