Risk Management

In the wake of Ben Roethlisberger’s motorcycle accident I have been getting more static than usual about riding my bike. My sister and I had a heated discussion today on the topic. I like to ride, but she thinks I shouldn’t because it’s dangerous.

This discussion brings up some interesting (at least for me) philisophical issues. The first concerns risk management. How do we, as semi-rational people, come to a concensus on what is safe and what is dangerous. As a motorcycle rider, I believe the problem is with the traffic. Perhaps motorcycles would be safer if there was better awareness, better training and perhaps stiffer penalties on people that cause accidents with their 3000+ lbs automobiles. My sister believes that anyone that engages in what she believes is the high risk behavior of motorcycle riding is at fault for participating in an activity that exceeds her acceptable risk threshold. My question is, where do we draw the line? Is motorcycle riding an acceptable risk? If not, is bicycle riding? Should we get up every morning, slather ourselves with sunscreen and strap on a helmet just in case we go out in the sun or fall down? Should we eat only organic food? Should we lysol bomb our whole house so we don’t get infections? Should we, like Ben Stiller’s character in Along Came Polly, enter every activity we engage in into a computer and live based on the results?

It definitely seems like we all live in a world of our own little construction when it comes to managing risk. One of the largest areas where this is evident is in parenting. I am at the age that, while I don’t have children myself, many of my friends and family are having babies. Nearly everyone seems to rationalize decisions they make for their children based on some kind of internal risk calculation. I won’t go into any specific details right here, but I’m guessing you know what I mean. Things like the amount of supervision they are given, car seats, food they eat, vaccines, where they are allowed to play etc… ect… One parent might be fanatical about having they latest and greatest car seats and helmets while another is ridiculous about only eating certain types of foods? Who is right? Who is wrong? How do we make this judgement?