How can one easily understand risks and dangers

What is risk?

In everyday life, the term “risk” is often used to mean “risk”. However, this is not entirely true. Rather, a risk is an event or a decision with an uncertain outcome: the hoped-for or feared event may or may not occur. The decision we make can lead to the desired goal, but it can also go wrong. There is no clear definition of the term “risk” in science. Accordingly, it is used differently in different specialist disciplines, for example in engineering, economics or social sciences. However, a lowest common denominator can be identified: In general, one speaks of a risk when there is the possibility of damage or loss that is the result of an event or an action.

Seen in this way, every road participation involves a risk: there is always the possibility of being injured or killed in an accident. However, many people are not aware of this danger. Strangely enough, more people are afraid of air travel than of taking part in traffic by car, motorcycle, bicycle or on foot. Objectively, flying is much safer. When driving, however, we imagine that we have (almost) everything under control. A fallacy: More than 300,000 accidents with personal injury in Germany (2014) prove this.

In the natural sciences and mathematics, attempts are made to assess and determine risks mathematically. Both the probability of occurrence and the amount of possible damaging events are taken into account. The risk is understood as the product of these two variables. If the probability of occurrence of the damage is high, one will also want to rule out a rather small damage. If this is very low, one may accept greater harm if the behavior promises a benefit. The probability of occurrence and the amount are also related to the expected benefit: The lottery player knows that the probability of winning is low. However, the potential gain is so high that he tries his luck again week after week.

There is no sense organ with which one can perceive “the risk”. Rather, people attribute certain risks to certain objects, situations, events or actions. Astonishing observations can be made here: Apparently, people consider risks that they take voluntarily (for example during sport) to be lower than those that are brought to them from outside (for example when performing certain jobs at work). Risks that you believe you can control (e.g. driving fast) are perceived as less threatening than those to which you feel exposed (e.g. pollutants in the environment or in food).

Apparently different people have different basic attitudes towards risk. This is due to their personality structure. Some are willing to take higher risks and find a thrill in the process. Others, on the other hand, tend to try to avoid risks and are more cautious and cautious in this regard. Younger men in particular tend to seek out risks. In doing so, they ignore dangers and overestimate their abilities. However, there are also differences in risk tolerance within a person. This is because risk decisions also depend on the situation one is in. Emotions such as anger, anger and euphoria can influence a risk decision just as much as fatigue or the presence of other people. Research shows that people only react with caution to perceived risks. This means that they have to recognize possible dangers in order to include them in their risk decision. If a feeling of boredom arises - for example during a long motorway drive - this can lead to consciously or unconsciously going into risky situations.

The willingness to take risks was and is a prerequisite for human development. Columbus could only discover America because he was willing to take the risk of the journey into the unknown and accept the possible failure in the process. Even today, for example, the introduction of new technologies such as genetic engineering or fracking in gas and oil production always harbors both opportunities and risks. We are all confronted with the interplay of opportunities and dangers.

This interplay is also evident in mobility. It opens up new areas of action for us and enables us to get from one place to another quickly and to transport goods and goods. For some, however, moving around in a vehicle is not only a way of moving quickly. They also try to realize so-called extra motives: for example, the living out of power and strength, feeling superior to others or experiencing the thrill associated with fast driving. This, too, is a “benefit” that can tempt you to take risks.

Mobility that takes place without any risk and without any accidents is inconceivable. This expectation would be impractical and would not correspond to human nature. The request to avoid all risks ultimately leads to a complete standstill; there should no longer be any spatial mobility. Rather, what is needed is so-called risk optimization, namely to weigh up the optimal ratio of potential benefit and potential damage for the respective situation and person and to derive the right decision from this. This also applies to road traffic: it is obvious that many accidents, particularly serious ones, could be avoided if car and motorcycle drivers were better able to recognize and assess the risks and, in certain traffic situations, choose behaviors with a lower risk.

The key to this lies in what is known as risk competence: This is understood to mean the ability to recognize and evaluate the direct benefits / opportunities and dangers / harms of a behavior as well as its long-term consequences and to cope with the situation in a risk-optimized manner. This includes several elements: risk perception competence (e.g. the ability to distinguish dangerous traffic situations from harmless ones), risk decision-making competence (e.g. to choose the right one from several behavioral options), risk-taking competence (e.g. to be able to carry out a driving maneuver correctly) and risk assessment (e.g. possible consequences of a Accident to know). Against the background of the impact assessment, it is advisable in decision-making situations to keep in mind how great the benefit of a risky behavior really is and how long we might suffer from the consequences.

Risk literacy can be trained. One possibility for this is the security training or security programs of the DVR and its partner organizations. “He who dares nothing, wins nothing” and “Trust is good, control is better” both have their validity. Risk literacy means using the optimal strategy.

Michael Geiler: Risk: Lexicon Safety and Health at Work - Version 16 - Universum Verlag, Wiesbaden 2013
Rüdiger Trimpop: Risk: Lexicon of Psychology, Heidelberg 2001
Rüdiger Trimpop: Risk Optimization: A Concept for Increasing Applied Safety Work by Acquiring Risk Competence, 18th Workshop “Psychology of Occupational Safety and Health 2014” in Dresden

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