Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Another Example of the Peltzman Effect

At the beginning of the year, we read an article about how when seat belts became mandatory in cars, people started to drive more dangerously, countering the effect of seat belts. Here is another example of that so-called Peltzman Effect: the NY Times magazine reporting on research that motorists drive closer to people on bicycles when they are wearing a helmet.

(Source: Newmark's Door)


Anonymous said...

I completely see where the idea that motorist drive closer to people on bicycles when they are wearing a helmet--according to Ian Walker, "Motorists regard a helmet as a signal that the cyclist is experienced and thus can be approached with less caution." This seems to make sense, as the parallel between better saftey equipment in vehicles cause people to drive more recklessly. So it seems like as a cyclist, it would be a better idea to not wear a helmet so cars wont drive so close to you. I disagree. As a cyclist, that whole 8.5 cm seems to be a negligible number in comparion to the 45 to 88 per cent of brain injuries that can be fixed if bikers wore helmets. I agree with the idea of saftey causing more careless reactions, but i disagree that this should discourage bikes from wearing helmets.
--Alena Reich

Anonymous said...

I think this article provides an interesting point. Does the wearing of a helmet possibly cause a greater risk of an accident? Honestly, I think not. I know personally just because I see someone wearing a helmet, doesn't mean I give them less room than a cyclist without one. To me, a driver is going to get as close or as far away from the biker simply because they are on a cycle, not a car. I don't see a little girl with a helmet riding a bike in my neighborhood and give her less room than if I saw her without one. I'm going to avoid her simply because she is riding a bike. It may make sense to think a biker with a helmet is more experienced, but many experienced bikers don't wear helmets because they don't think they need to wear them. This is counterintuitive to what one might think, as an experienced biker should know the dangers of riding and would wear a helmet religiously...anyways i'm rambling. So what I'm trying to say is that I don't think it makes that much of a difference to wear a helmet or not in relation to the distance a car leaves for you.


Anonymous said...

Although individual opinions on how much room to give a helmeted and an unhelmeted bike rider may differ the reasons behind the people that treat them differently are the same. The people that pass closer to the bike riders with the helmet assume that the bike rider is less likely to be hurt by collision with their vehicle, lowering the cost of collision. This makes the drivers less cautious. Similarly making drivers more safe with seatbelts increased the number or car accidents. It may be different in the situation for bike riders but if the statistics follow the same pattern as they did for car seat belts bike riders can be indifferent to wearing a helmet and not wearing a helmet.

Anonymous said...

I don't see many people openly thinking, "ok now here's a guy with a helmet...I won't be as careful around him" Personally, driving near cyclists scares me in the first place so I wouldn't conciously think about the person wearing a helmet but rather the person not wearing one. Seeing someone with a helmet wouldnt make me drive any closer to him but seeing someone drive without one would make me think "Oh what an idiot...I'd better stay away" for fear of what his driving may lead to. Another thing that comes to mind is the possibility of someone rear-ending you causing you to slide into the cyclist in front of you. Knowing how unsafe they were being would make you want to stay farther away.