A creative safety initiative but beware of the by-products

by Dave Collins on June 24, 2015

in Risk Homeostasis,Road Safety,Simplistic Safety



A creative safety initiative but beware of the by-products

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Video of this “life saving” road safety initiative by Samsung has gone viral on Youtube. I can understand that, its a pretty cool idea. However, the number of hits on Youtube or the use of technology to provide a relatively simple solution to a complex problem are not measures or guarantees of success. Samsung say that they are now working to obtain regulatory approval for the deployment of their so-called “Safety Truck” but they may not be economically viable for all vehicles. I hope the authorities understand about the psychology of risk and safety when reviewing this approval.

Risk Homeostasis Theory tells us that people will respond to and compensate for increased safety in one aspect of an activity by perhaps behaving less safe in other aspects in order to maintain their “target risk” level. See our recent article Risk Homeostasis Theory–Why Safety Initiatives Go Wrong for a more detailed information on RHT and examples of safety initiatives going wrong, risk shifting and risk compensation.

The only safety initiatives that are really effective are those that reduce the level of risk that people are willing to accept.

I quickly thought of the following concerns about this safety initiative and I would love to know your thoughts:

  1. We don’t have the same ability to judge depth and distance when we view things in only 2 dimensions (in the attached photo – just look at the image on the screen compared to the actual)
  2. Drivers may become fixated or mesmerised by the cool footage on the screen and become less perceptive to all of the other important information we receive both consciously and unconsciously when driving in normal “autopilot” mode ie speed, road conditions, vehicles behind us etc
  3. Cars will likely now drive very close to these trucks in order to see the screen and without the usual need to hang back to see oncoming traffic – will the truck driver see them in his mirrors
  4. In dark or foggy conditions could the screen just look like the road ahead?
  5. Solar glare?
  6. What if the screen or camera became very dirty or the video feed were to freeze or malfunction?
  7. How many younger drivers will switch into video game mode?
  8. What company wouldn’t be tempted to start displaying advertisements?

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