Driving risks

Our brain is notoriously bad at assessing modern risks and here are some that is related to driving.

  1. We overestimate chance of big catastrophe happening and underestimate risks in everyday events. After 9/11, many opted to drive instead of getting on a plane resulting in more accidents knowing that driving is actually far more dangerous than flying.
  2. We substitute one risk with another. This risk compensation caused drivers of ABS-equipped vehicles to drive more aggressively. Same thing happens when we wear seat belts.
  3. We take more risk if (we think) are in control. It feels less dangerous if we are given the choice to decide how much to risk. The reason why I always choose to drive myself.

There are many more scenarios where we misjudge the odds of danger. Check out this article if you would like to know more.

Driving in Beijing

During my trip to Beijing last year, I noticed something rather interesting while I was staring out from the tour bus. There are many road signs that mention "Ring roads" and upon further inquiry along with some googling, it seems Beijing is one of the few cities in the world that have rings roads or beltways. As you probably have guessed from the name, ring road is basically a road, highway or expressway around a city. The 2nd Ring Road in Beijing surrounds the city and form an area that is roughly equivalent to the old city. The later ring roads are further and further away from the city center. Most of the 2008 Olympics venues are accessible from the 5th Ring Road.

To combat air pollution and congestion for the Olympics, Beijing implemented a rather brilliant scheme to reduce the number of vehicles on the road by half. Dubbed the odd-even scheme, you can only enter the city if the last number of your license plate is in the right half for that day. (e.g. odd or even) I don't think they are still enforcing this but I can't stop to wonder how will it turn out if we were to do it here in Malaysia.