September 17, 2009

Why marathons are safer than elections

fail owned pwned pictures

All the research I've studied lately seems to lead toward one conclusion: cars bad, bicycles or foot power good.

Marathons reduce road accidents

According to a British journal, "... marathons lower the risk of fatal motor vehicle crashes that might otherwise have taken place if the roads had not been closed."

On the other hand, road accidents rise on election day.

So it seems to me that what this world needs is more marathons and fewer elections. Can we take a vote on that?

Don't drive in the rain

Almost 25% of car crashes occur in bad weather. But apparently, snow and ice aren't responsible for as many crashes as mere rain. More accidents occurred in the southern parts of the U.S., which don't really go in for the ice and snow like the Midwest does.

"Many drivers recognize that snow and ice can cause them to lose control of their cars, but most underestimate the dangers that rain can pose. For this reason, more people travel in wet weather, and do not realize the need to adjust to lower speeds when traveling on wet roads."
Pile up Fail.jpg

On the other hand, runners and cyclists...
tend to reduce speed a whole lot when the weather's bad. Or opt to spend the day at the gym. Or they just go back inside, curl up on the couch, and catch up on the latest in Reality TV shows.
Yeah, we'll run later...
Photo credit: cursedthing

It's true what they say about Those Kinds of Drivers

fail owned pwned pictures

People always told me that Volvo drivers were the worst on the road, because they felt safer in their cars. Turns out there might be something in that theory. (Not necessarily Volvo drivers, but in general people in 'safe' cars.)

According to The Smithsonian, the concept is that humans have an inborn tolerance for risk—meaning that as safety features are added to vehicles and roads, drivers feel less vulnerable and tend to take more chances. The feeling of greater security tempts us to be more reckless. Behavioral scientists call it "risk compensation."

Likewise, airbags and anti-lock brakes seem to thwart their intent because drivers with these are more aggressive.

I think there's a lot of truth in these studies, but I take exception to one part of this research.

These experts go on to say that this practice extends to sports, but I don't see that in my own commute. Cyclists wearing bicycle helmets are not nearly as risk-seeing as the ones who don't wear helmets but do wear headphones. Those are the ones you have to watch out for.

See? Wearing a helmet makes people happy.


Note: no one in this picture is wearing a helmet.

Likewise, a runner wearing fancified running shoes with a garmin or whatever is much less likely to take off his shoes and throw them at you even if you're a foreign president visiting his country. It took too much money to get his shoes; he'll want to keep them near his feet.

I know that if a study agrees with your own observed behavior, you're more likely to agree with it.

fail owned pwned pictures

But I don't see people with fancy types of safety sports equipment being reckless, unlike people who drive fancy cars.

Moral? Buy lots of fancy sports equipment and stop saving up for that Lexus. You'll live longer. So long as you don't vote.


  1. I suppose a mail-in ballot might be safe. So long as you don't slip on snow or ice while going to the mailbox.

  2. I live in Pittsburgh where there are narrow, hilly, basically awful roads. And yet people insist on not wearing helmets when they bike. I try really hard to be a good, conscientious driver, but we all suck sometimes, and I'd prefer it didn't end with a non-helmeted bicyclist.

  3. When we lived in DC I couldn't believe how people's driving absolutely fell apart when it rained. It was as though they had never seen the wet stuff come out of the sky before!

  4. Oh good, another study that doesn't make sense to me! I would so predict that people who opted for extra expensive safety features on cars would be more cautious by nature and safer drivers. We've bought two (used, old, cheap) Volvos for their safety features and are both very cautious drivers, so of course I feel like I should be able to generalize from that.

    I also read recently that the vast majority of bicycle injuries & fatalities are due to car drivers being negligent, not cyclists. This only reinforces my conviction that I must wear a helmet no matter how safely I intend to ride my bike, because some careless driver might still door me or make a turn right on top of me. It's scary out there!

  5. OMG, I loved the pics & especially the dogs & resting on the couch. I love that right now since I just finished my crazy workout & need more sleep!

    Here in southern CA, man, the rain drivers.. they either go so slow that a snail could pass them or they still drive 85++ miles per hour with no regard for the slick roads.

    As for elections, I can see how accidents might be more since they seem to bring out the worst in many people.. craziness!

  6. @Diane - I live in the DC area now and it's still happening!! Your comment gave me a good chuckle this morning :)

  7. I've lived in the South all my life. I completely believe that more accidents happen in the South when it rains. I am still waiting for my neighbors to learn how to drive in the rain.

  8. I just learned that Boston has the lowest ratio of fatal car accidents per capita of any major city in the country! Want to know why? Because we have so much damn traffic that nobody can get up enough speed to kill each other when they crash.

    Another thing contributing to the fact that car owners aren't as careful is that there's insurance. If you spend $3000 on a bicycle, you're going to be damn sure that you take good care of it (hell, even if it's only $200 you will, if you have to pay out of pocket to replace it). But if you're insurance company is going to pay for you to replace your car, it's not as big a deal, right? Nevermind that insurance premiums are sky-high, but there's always that niggling idea that there's insurance out there.

    Also, it's easier to feel invincible in a car, because you're enclosed and in your own little cocooned world. Whereas on a bike, you have to really pay attention and be careful because any little thing could make you feel or fly off or something.

    That said, I'd almost rather bike down a city street than on the bike path. The bike path has little children and dogs running all over it and it's much harder to predict where they're going to go than it is for the cars.

  9. Cars are definitely on the top of the food chain :-(
    I've heard talk of on-line voting, but why make it easier for people to vote?

    FYI: Calorielab is rolling again


  10. I wish those politicians in that first picture had been doing online voting! That picture was taken while the Connecticut legislature was talking about ways to balance the state budget. Oi vey.

  11. I'd normally agree with you here, Crabby, about cycling being good for you with the caveat of inner city messengers. You only have to be flattened once to flinch around bikes in general.

    And driving a car? In Massachusetts? It doesn't matter what the weather's like - everyone's an equally horrible driver under any conditions. I always feel safe wearing my helmet when I drive.

  12. Having grown up (and learned to drive) in Boston, I'm pretty amazed at the lack of major accidents there. Having also lived in SoCal (San Diego and Los Angeles), I can attest to the odd driving-in-the-rain styles there. (One time, in San Diego, there was a freak hail storm. It lasted 10 minutes, but there were 25 accidents on the freeways in that short span of time.)
    Now we're near San Francisco, and I'm always amazed at the number of cyclists tearing through he hills sans helmet.
    (LOVE the pics, esp. the dogs!)

  13. Obviously if you are wearing your bike helmet you are going to be much more likely to survive an accident, and accidents can happen to anyone. That said, I totally agree with this and similar studies that say helmeted bikers are more likely to be hurt than non-helmeted bikers. Why does this happen? As you said, risk-taking behavior. When I bike without a helmet, I am cautious, stick to bike lanes where possible, signal and try to catch the eye of drivers if possible, and generally try to be as visible and predictable and law-abiding as possible. This is partly BECAUSE of not having a helmet, (which, yes, is finally on my shopping list) but mostly it is because I don't ride my bike in scary traffic all that much, so when I am on a busy road I am very aware of the possibility of getting creamed. Bikers who regularly go through tricky areas tend to buy helmets, to prevent their death. Bikers who ride their bikes all the darn time to everywhere and everything wear helmets. They also get cocky and bored with such things as red lights or other people's green lights or left turn arrows or... anything any car is legally doing. They drive the wrong way down one-ways, they cut diagonally across busy intersections, forcing cars to swerve to dodge them... I can't tell you the number of car accidents (minor fender-benders) I have seen caused by jerks on bikes. I saw one run into the side of a slow-moving car who understandably did not see him because it was proceeding in the flow of traffic through an intersection at which it had a green and clearly did not expect to be rammed by a bike coming out of nowhere. The guy on the bike reamed out the car driver. This is NOT all bikers, of course it is not. And certainly bike-car accidents are more likely to be the car's fault in general. But it has to be said that there is a significant population of bike commuters, at least in my city, who are begging to be killed in car accidents, helmet or no helmet.

    Finally, I think there was a tiny study done where the same biker rode with and without a helmet, and with a proximity measuring device, and cars gave a wider berth to him without the helmet. Possibly seeing him as less experience and less likely to hold his line? Who knows. But if cars really do give more space to unprotected bikers, that would also explain some of the outcomes.

  14. Here it's the whole SUV truck thing. They seem to come with an asshat to wear while driving them.

    I'm glad to drive an actual park bike path to work...I don't have to dodge cars on my bike. I grew up in a small town with no troaffic...I'd be a bug on someone's windshield pretty fast...

  15. I have a theory.

    Methinks it is not merely a Conspiracy of Asshats who drive SUVs, or a Conspiracy of Asshats who ride bicycles. Nay, verily, I believe that it is a Conspiracy of Asshats who are behind every incidence of bad SUVing or bad bicycling that you will encounter. Yes, the person who encounter behind the wheel of an SUV might well be the same person that you encounter riding a bicycle to the detriment of all pedestrians.

    Like I said. It's a conspiracy.

  16. Hilarious! I vote that to vote you have to run a marathon. Ok, maybe not run but at least walk to the polling station. Do you think we'd get more than just a sticker that said "I voted"?

  17. This post cracked me up!

    Here in Cape Town the first rains always bring lots of car accidents. The roads are slick from water on the oil residues and people don't adjust their driving to the prevailing conditions. As the winter progresses and people get used to driving in the wet the accidents decrease again.

    As for feeling more vulnerable in cheaper cars, I can attest to that. I used to drive a powerful, solid Mercedes and felt invincible. Now that I have a cheap, flimsy Renault, I'm much more aware of how vulnerable I am and drive much more defensively.

  18. Oh my too many studies on things that won't even matter once I am dead and gone anyway. Where do some people's time go? sheesh. Here's one.
    It is inspiring me to come up with some not so useful studies myself. Hmmmm, how about the relationship between men and women?


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