Less Wrong is a community blog devoted to refining the art of human rationality. Please visit our About page for more information.

MartinB comments on How to avoid dying in a car crash - Less Wrong

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

You are viewing a comment permalink. View the original post to see all comments and the full post content.

Comments (288)

You are viewing a single comment's thread.

Comment author: MartinB 17 March 2012 08:49:34PM 11 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 5 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 2 points [-]

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 1 point [-]

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: MartinB 18 March 2012 07:21:11AM 0 points [-]

Nothing in particular. Look up the accident rates compared to base rates. With tiny vehicles one big problem is the behavior of other drivers. I would guess that a culture that likes bicycles (Netherlands, Denmark) and provides the necessary infrastructure is a safer place than a culture that hates bikes. Currently I completely avoid bicycling, due to indicators that it is still to dangerous. A decade ago I used to be a stupidly unsafe driver. Driving at night on public roads without light and such.

Do you use a helmet, and is your bike in top condition?

Comment author: waveman 18 March 2012 09:36:01PM *  3 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 5 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: [deleted] 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: [deleted] 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: [deleted] 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.