Already on ArticleSlash?

Forgot your password? Sign Up

Risk Compensation and Accident Occurrence Rates


Visitors: 380

Whenever debate arises over the compulsory wearing of seat belts, the opposition can be heard citing evidences of risk compensation. What is risk compensation and what role does it play in the Seat Belt Legislation opposition?

In 1981, John Adams of the Department of Geography, University College London published a study that looked into data from several countries with seat belt laws. It hoped to establish a correlation between increased seat belt use and the reduction of injuries and fatalities resulting from vehicle collision and other road accidents. Data showed that in all associated deaths and injuries, the accidents were being displaced from car drivers to other road users such as pedestrians and cyclists. While fatalities may have decreased, the number of accidents – as well as the probability of injury and damage to property – remains unchanged.

Over the years, other studies conducted on road safety interventions such as anti-lock brakes, bicycle helmets, speed limits, etc. all provided evidence of a phenomenon, which investigators called “risk compensation”.

Risk Compensation and Human Nature

As a theory of social behavior, risk compensation describes the effect that happens when people perceive a change in the risks they face. Risk compensation claims that people make adjustments to their behavior according to the level of risk or danger and that, most of the time, when these dangers are perceived to be lesser, people tend to be bolder. The feeling that they are safer somehow makes them less cautious of their actions.

Several evidences exist to support this theory, which point to the universality of this behavior. Some researchers and commentators say that risk compensation is self-evident since people will truly act more cautiously when faced with great risks or dangers. All the same, research was conducted, mostly on road safety, which revealed that risk compensation can be observed in various conditions, from seat belt usage in automobiles to ski helmet use and use of skydiving safety gears. No matter the conditions, the situation remains: as people perceive themselves to be safer or more protected, concern and alertness tend to take the back seat.

Evidence of Risk Compensation

As mentioned, risk compensation has been observed in the use of anti-lock brakes. In three separate studies conducted in Canada (1993), Denmark (1997), and Germany (1994), there is a direct correlation between the presence of an anti-lock brake system and the drivers’ road behavior. Speed is generally faster for drivers with the ABS system in place compared to those who lack the technology in their cars. They also tend to follow leading cars closer and brake later, leading researchers to conclude that the ABS fails to show any measurable improvement in road safety.

The same trend was observed in drivers who were habitually belted and those habitually unbelted. In 1994, a US study found out that the driving style of drivers who are used to wearing seat belts run contrary to the expected heightened concern for safety. Habitually belted drivers were seen to be safety-conscious but were actually revealed to drive faster and less carefully when belted. Subsequent research showed that those who were not in the habit of wearing seat belts display risk compensation when asked to drive with seat belts on, driving faster than they would on average without the seat belt. This change in driving style continued to be observed after the drivers returned to driving without seat belts.


Independent studies conducted on skydiving safety gear, speed limits, ski helmets and bicycle helmets also show evidence of risk compensation. With this evidence in place, does this mean that seat belts and other safety systems designed to save lives are useless? The debate on seat belt use goes on, but as for other safety mechanisms, experts still promote their use. While seat belts and ABS systems have no effect on the rate of accident occurrences, they do have a positive effect in buffering the damages caused by accidents that result from miscalculations and errors of human judgment.

DISCLAIMER: The information provided on this website or the web site linked here in are not a substitute for professional medical or legal advice, diagnosis or treatment. In addition, viewing the content on these websites, requesting additional information, or transmitting information through a contact form does not form an attorney-client relationship with the sponsoring attorney. Any results set forth herein are based upon the facts of that particular case or scientific study and do not represent a promise or guaranty regarding similar outcome or causes. The information on this site is intended for educational purposes only and should never interfere with a patient/site visitor and his or her healthcare provider. Internet subscribers or online readers should not act upon any information contained herein without seeking professional legal and/or medical advice. This firm is licensed to practice law only in the state of California, but is affiliated with a network of licensed attorneys in other states. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. PersonalInjuryorg and JD Law Group make no representation or warranty regarding the accuracy, reliability, completeness, currentness, or timeliness of the content, text or graphics. Links to other sites are provided for information only — they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites.

Resource :

This article is brought to you by the San Francisco car accident attorneys at JD Law Group.

You should always use the services of a reputable Pomona car accident attorney when victim of an accident. While the CA personal injury lawyers at JD Law Group have settled millions of dollars worth of claims negotiated by California car accident attorneys, they can refer you to the highest rated car accident firms anywhere in the United States in order to maximize your settlement. Call them today at 1-888-736- 4248 for a free consultation.


Article Source:

Rate this Article: 
Few Words About Car Accident and Compensation Claim
Rated 4 / 5
based on 5 votes

Related Articles:

How To Claim Compensation From Accident

by: Darren Walsh (August 01, 2011) 
(Legal/Personal Injury)

Claiming Compensation after a Car Accident

by: Adam R. Singleton (September 04, 2009) 

Car Accident, Compensation And The Lawyer's Fee

by: Remy Na (May 14, 2008) 
(Legal/Personal Injury)

Your Accident Compensation Guide

by: Diana Joseph (January 28, 2008) 
(Legal/Personal Injury)

No Win No Fee Compensation For Safe Accident Claims

by: Diana Joseph (August 21, 2008) 
(Legal/Personal Injury)

Understanding Road Accident Compensation

by: Adam R. Singleton (May 13, 2009) 
(Legal/Personal Injury)

Guide to Claiming Compensation Following a Car Accident

by: David Halbert (October 19, 2008) 

Car Accident Compensation Claims - Uncovered

by: Paul Hockney (December 07, 2008) 
(Legal/Personal Injury)

No Win No Fee Compensation After Suffering an Accident at Work

by: Helen Cox (September 07, 2008) 
(Legal/Personal Injury)

Few Words About Car Accident and Compensation Claim

by: Markus Skupeika (August 12, 2008) 
(Legal/Personal Injury)