Episode Summary

Welcome back to the Safety of Work podcast. Today, we discuss risk compensation and decide whether or not it actually exists.

Episode Notes

We are fortunate to have a few resources we can reference for today’s topic. Please see below for links to the papers we mentioned in our conversation.


  • Defining risk compensation.
  • Risk compensation in road traffic.
  • Argument by analogy.
  • What causes people to believe in risk compensation.
  • Why robust data equals a real effect.
  • Practical takeaways.


“…I think this is the sort of phenomenon that causes people to believe in risk compensation.”

“Basically, what they’re saying is, if there was a real effect, it would be robust regardless of how you crunched the data.”

“Just because someone does lots of citing of literature or quotes from scientific literature, doesn’t mean that their interpretation of that literature is rigorous and scientific.”


Esmaeilikia, M., Radun, I., Grzebieta, R., & Olivier, J. (2019).  Bicycle Helmets and Risky Behaviour: A Systematic Review Transportation research part F: traffic psychology and behaviour60, 299-310.

LEVYM, D. T., & Miller, T. (2000).  Risk Compensation Literature – The Theory and Evidence Journal of Crush Prevention and Injury Control2(1), 75-86.

Ward, N. J., & Wilde, G. J. (1996).  Driver Approach Behaviour at an Unprotected Railway Crossing Before and After Enhancement of Lateral Sight Distance an experimental investigation of a risk perception and behavioural compensation hypothesis. Safety Science22(1-3), 63-75.

Peltzman, S. (1975).  The Effects of Automobile Safety Regulation Journal of political Economy83(4), 677-725.

Wilde, G. J. (1982).  The Theory of Risk Homeostasis  implications for safety and health. Risk analysis2(4), 209-225.