Social Psychology of Risk Challenge

by Dave Collins on May 12, 2015

in Psychology of Safety and Risk,Road Safety

Social Psychology of Risk Challenge

Road closed and flood signLast week, in my suburb, 5 people drowned trying to drive across flooded roads – I wrote a bit about it here: Why Do We Ignore Warning Signs-Sometimes With Tragic Results?. One of our blog authors, Rob Sams,  had a similar experience with storms in his town the week before (see Am I Stupid I didnt think of that).

Our local paper posted on their Facebook Page the following question:

Police and Moreton Bay Regional Council will be working together to stop people driving into floodwater. What do you think would be the most effective solution?

What followed in most of the 60 odd comments really troubled me and I hope that authorities don’t formulate their response based on these ignorant and judgmental responses. I felt like I was reading traditional or zero harm workplace safety committee meeting minutes or incident investigation report. Has “safety” done this to society or has society done this to safety?  The vast majority of responses fell into 3 categories:

  1. Compliance and punishment: $10,000 fines, make them pay for rescue, leave them to drown, take their license, fire a warning shot, film & shame them, void insurance, new laws
  2. Engineering Controls: Flashing lights operated by sensors, gates that come up out of the road, build flood proof roads, road spikes, and,
  3. Stupidity and Common Sense.

Regular readers of this blog would appreciate that there are no simple solutions to complex problems like this. The authorities need to focus on upstream (excuse the pun) solutions and we need to understand why people do what they do, apart from because they are stupid.  The current focus, sensationalism and debate is likely to dissipate very quickly and be resurrected next time it rains a lot.

Soooo, what is some intelligent advice that we could give The Council and Police?

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