I have been invited to contribute a chapter to a book called Risk Theory Handbook to be published by Springer. Publication is scheduled for a year from now, so there is still time to make changes/corrections/improvements. Comments are welcomed. Here is the abstract.
What does a transport safety regulator have in common with a shaman conducting a rain dance? They both have an inflated opinion of the effectiveness of their interventions in the functioning of the complex interactive systems they purport to influence or control. There is however a significant difference. The clouds are indifferent to the antics of the shaman and his followers. But people react to the edicts of a regulator and frequently not in the way the regulator intends. There are two different kinds of manager involved in the management of transport risks: there are the “official”, institutional, risk managers who strive incessantly to make the systems for which they are responsible safer, and there are the billions of individual fallible human users of the systems, each balancing the rewards of risk against the potential accident risks associated with their behaviour. Conventional road safety measures rest on a model of human behavior that assumes that road users are stupid, obedient automatons who are unresponsive to perceived changes in risk and who need protecting, by law, from their own and others’ stupidity. The idea of risk compensation underpins an alternative model of human behavior: that road users are intelligent, vigilant, responsive to evidence of safety and danger and, given the right signals and incentives, considerate.