Are You a Risk Taker?


By Ellen Voie

Imagine you wake up at 3 am. to a fire alarm in your hotel room on the 15th floor. The announcement from the loudspeaker instructs everyone to exit the building immediately without using the elevator. What do you do?

This recently happened to me and after trudging down the flights of stairs and being guided to a parking lot across the street I was not in a good mood. At least I had pulled on my jeans and grabbed a jacket as some people were still in their pajamas and were shivering in the chilly morning air.

As you can imagine we were all relieved but irritated to learn it was a false alarm. The waiting line for the (very slow) elevators was long so I decided to walk back up the stairs to my room. Later I asked a companion how many stairs he had to maneuver and he told me he had just gotten into the shower and decided to take a chance that there was no fire and it was only a false alarm.

He beat the odds this time but what if it had been a real fire? What would you do?

If you’re a risk taker you’ll do what my colleague did and bet that there’s no fire. If you’re not a risk taker you’ll be the person in the pajamas scurrying down flights of stairs and shivering in the cool morning air.

One definition of risk is “a situation involving exposure to danger.” Certainly allowing yourself to ignore a fire alarm is exposing yourself to danger.

Good professional drivers are typically risk averse and female drivers are even less likely to put themselves in a situation involving risk. However a 2012 study in Norway compared professional drivers to non-professional drivers and found some interesting results.

The study looked at the responses of 1864 individuals of which 113 were professional drivers. Here’s what they found. The professional drivers took more risks in some areas but had less risky behavior in others.

First professional drivers were less likely to wear seatbelts which could be identified as risky behavior. However professional drivers were much less likely to operate a vehicle after alcohol consumption. (This could be contributed to the possible loss of a job but is still a good risk to avoid.)

The report also found that professional drivers were more likely to use phones or other electronic devices while driving than their four-wheeler counterparts. This type of activity is related to the job and the need to communicate with family friends customers and carriers but was more prevalent in commercial vehicles and is identified as risky behavior.

It was interesting to note that the study found differences in how professional drivers take personal responsibility for road safety overall. A person with a strong safety priority will be more proactive in avoiding risks. Professional drivers have stronger attitudes toward safety because of training and company values however due to the higher demands placed on them they experience higher levels of stress and fatigue which could contribute to lower personal responsibility regarding traffic safety.

It wasn’t surprising to note that the report claims that professional drivers have a negative opinion of non-professionals as they perceive themselves as being more skilled and trained than others.

While the Norwegian study identified drivers by age and gender they didn’t comment on any risk-taking tendencies for female drivers other than claiming that younger men are the most risk-taking group on the road.

A report from the Social Issues Research Centre focusing on automobile drivers found that women take fewer risks and men are more likely to be in crashes involving speed or those that occur while passing or on curves.

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that male (automobile) drivers were more likely than females to report aggressive driving behaviors and the World Health Organization claims that “masculinity” may be hazardous to health and cited risky driving as one factor.

Women are driven by estrogen which encourages bonding and connections while men are motivated by testosterone which results in the desire to win and to demonstrate power. Women activate the amygdalae which is the brain’s fear center more quickly than men. For these reasons we can assume the typical female drivers has less risky behavior than men.

Regardless of your age or gender risk taking on the road is not something anyone professional or not should be doing. Ignoring a fire siren in the early morning hours and hoping it’s a false alarm is another form of risk and one we should all avoid.

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