Great Example of How Poor Humans Are At Evaluating Risk

A lot of academic research concludes that human beings - you and me - are simply awful at evaluating risk. We tend to overestimate the probability of frightening & fearful events, and underestimate the danger of seemingly "safe" actions.

Here's a really great example.

What do you think kills more people every year:

- Floods
- Tornadoes
- Lightening
- Winter car accidents
- Hurricanes
- Freezing
- Melting

There's an outlier in that list, of course. The thing is if you added up deaths by heat, floods, tornadoes, lightening, wind, hurricane, and freezing, you'd have an average of 460 deaths (2002-2011).

Comparatively, 842 people died per year driving their car in the winter. So nearly twice as much as every natural disaster combined:

Yet none of us think about that when we start our car and pull out of the driveway. In spite of the fact that it's twice as likely for us to die driving in the snow than in any natural accident, we think nothing of racing down the highway at 70 miles per hour.

That's one of the reasons that we are terrible at evaluating risk. We confuse routine actions as safe, and our brains overreact to the sensational.

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