Are Health Advocates Finally Wising Up About the Nature of Risk?: New at Reason

Everything we do entails risk. The question is our tolerance for it.

Steven Greenhut writes:

Not to be outdone by a friend who is having his mid-life crisis, I've been going through my own way-past-mid-life crisis. So I've been looking into motorcycle riding as a way to spark a little everyday excitement, which has naturally led to some reading and research about risk—and the amount of it that people are willing to endure.

It's a fascinating topic. Every year, the Isle of Man—a self-governing British dependency in the Irish Sea—hosts a motorcycle race that zooms through the island's gnarled, twisting roadways. Competitors in the Tourist Trophy are routinely killed, with the total death count on the Snaefell Mountain Course hitting 255. It's amazing reading accounts of this risky contest.

I doubt that Americans would tolerate such a dangerous spectacle. But we do accept everyday activities that have a high body count. Nearly 89 Americans die each day in car crashes. And 13 motorcyclists are killed in the U.S. daily on top of that, but risks for bikers are far higher when one factors in vehicle-miles traveled. Motorcyclists account for only 0.6 percent of the miles traveled yet riders account for 21 percent of all vehicle fatalities, according to the National Motorcycle Institute. Bikers are 38 times more likely to die in an accident than people in cars.

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