Aside from cryonics and eating better, what else can we do to live long lives?

Using this tool, I looked up the risks of death for my demographic group. As a 15-24 year old male in the United States, the most likely cause of my death is a traffic accident; and so I’m taking steps to avoid that. Below I have included the results of my research as well as the actions I will take to implement my findings. Perhaps my research can help you as well.1

Before diving into the results, I will note that this data took me one hour to collect. It’s definitely not comprehensive, and I know that working together, we can do much better. So if you have other resources or data-backed recommendations on how to avoid dying in a traffic accident, leave a comment below and I’ll update this post.

General points

Changing your behavior can reduce your risk of death in a car crash. A 1985 report on British and American crash data discovered that driver error, intoxication and other human factors contribute wholly or partly to about 93% of crashes.” Other drivers’ behavior matters too, of course, but you might as well optimize your own.2

Secondly, overconfidence appears to be a large factor in peoples’ thinking about traffic safety. A speaker for the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA) stated that “Ninety-five percent of crashes are caused by human error… but 75% of drivers say they're more careful than most other drivers. Less extreme evidence for overconfidence about driving is presented here.

One possible cause for this was suggested by the Transport Research Laboratory, which explains that “...the feeling of being confident in more and more challenging situations is experienced as evidence of driving ability, and that 'proven' ability reinforces the feelings of confidence. Confidence feeds itself and grows unchecked until something happens – a near-miss or an accident.”

So if you’re tempted to use this post as an opportunity to feel superior to other drivers, remember: you’re probably overconfident too! Don’t just humbly confess your imperfections – change your behavior.

Top causes of accidents


Driver distraction is one of the largest causes of traffic accident deaths. The Director of Traffic Safety at the American Automobile Association stated that "The research tells us that somewhere between 25-50 percent of all motor vehicle crashes in this country really have driver distraction as their root cause." The NHTSA reports the number as 16%.

If we are to reduce distractions while driving, we ought to identify which distractors are the worst. One is cell phone use. My solution: Don’t make calls in the car, and turn off your phone’s sound so that you aren’t tempted.

I brainstormed other major distractors and thought of ways to reduce their distracting effects.

Distractor: Looking at directions on my phone as I drive

  • Solution: Download a great turn-by-turn navigation app (recommendations are welcome).
  • Solution: Buy a GPS.

Distractor: Texting, Facebook, slowing down to gawk at an accident, looking at scenery

  • Solution [For System 2]: Consciously accept that texting (Facebook, gawking, scenery) causes accidents.
  • Solution [For System 1]: Once a week, vividly and emotionally imagine texting (using Facebook, gawking at an accident) and then crashing & dying.
  • Solution: Turn off your phone’s sound while driving, so you won’t answer texts.

Distractor: Fatigue

  • Solution [For System 2]: Ask yourself if you’re tired before you plan to get in the car. Use Anki or a weekly review list to remember the association.
  • Solution [For System 1]: Once a week, vividly and emotionally imagine dozing off while driving and then dying.

Distractor: Other passengers

  • Solution: Develop an identity as someone who drives safely and thinks it’s low status to be distracting in the car. Achieve this by meditating on the commitment, writing a journal entry about it, using Anki, or saying it every day when you wake up in the morning.
  • Solution [In the moment]: Tell people to chill out while you’re driving. Mentally simulate doing this ahead of time, so you don’t hesitate to do it when it matters.

Distractor: Adjusting the radio

  • Solution: If avoiding using the car radio is unrealistic, minimize your interaction with it by only using the hotkey buttons rather than manually searching through channels.
  • Solution: If you’re constantly tempted to change the channel (like I am), buy an iPod cable so you can listen to your own music and set playlists that you like, so you won't constantly want to change the song.

A last interesting fact about distraction, from Wikipedia:

Recent research conducted by British scientists suggests that music can also have an effect [on driving]; classical music is considered to be calming, yet too much could relax the driver to a condition of distraction. On the other hand, hard rock may encourage the driver to step on the acceleration pedal, thus creating a potentially dangerous situation on the road.


The Road and Traffic Authority of New South Wales claims that “speeding… is a factor in about 40 percent of road deaths.” Data from the NHTSA puts the number at 30%.

Speeding also increases the severity of crashes; “in a 60 km/h speed limit area, the risk of involvement in a casualty crash doubles with each 5 km/h increase in travelling speed above 60 km/h.

Stop. Think about that for a second. I’ll convert it to the Imperial system for my fellow Americans: in a [37.3 mph] speed limit area, the risk of involvement in a casualty crash doubles with each [3.1 mph] increase in travelling speed above [37.3 mph].” Remember that next time you drive a 'mere' 5 mph over the limit.

Equally shocking is this paragraph from the Freakonomics blog:

Kockelman et al. estimated that the difference between a crash on a 55 mph limit road and a crash on a 65 mph one means a 24 percent increase in the chances the accident will be fatal. Along with the higher incidence of crashes happening in the first place, a difference in limit between 55 and 65 adds up to a 28 percent increase in the overall fatality count.

Driving too slowly can be dangerous too. An NHTSA presentation cites two studies that found a U-shaped relationship between vehicle speed and crash incidence; thus “Crash rates were lowest for drivers traveling near the mean speed, and increased with deviations above and below the mean.”

However, driving fast is still far more dangerous than driving slowly. This relationship appears to be exponential, as you can see on the tenth slide of the presentation.

  • Solution: Watch this 30 second video for a vivid comparison of head-on crashes at 60 km/hr (37 mph) and 100 km/hr (60 mph). Imagine yourself in the car. Imagine your tearful friends and family. 
  • Solution: Develop an identity as someone who drives close to the speed limit, by meditating on the commitment, writing a journal entry about it, using Anki, or saying it every day when you wake up in the morning.

Driving conditions

Driving conditions are another source of driving risk.

One factor I discovered was the additional risk from driving at night. Nationwide, 49% of fatal crashes happen at night, with a fatality rate per mile of travel about three times as high as daytime hours. (Source)

  • Solution: make an explicit effort to avoid driving at night. Use Anki to remember this association.
  • Solution: Look at your schedule and see if you can change a recurring night-time drive to the daytime.

Berkeley research on 1.4 million fatal crashes found that “fatal crashes were 14% more likely to happen on the first snowy day of the season compared with subsequent ones.” The suggested hypothesis is that people take at least a day to recalibrate their driving behavior in light of new snow. 

  • Solution: make an explicit effort to avoid driving on the first snowy day after a sequence of non-snowy ones. Use Anki to remember this association.

Another valuable factoid: 77% of weather-related fatalities (and 75% of all crashes!) involve wet pavement.

Statistics are available for other weather-related issues, but the data I found wasn’t adjusted for the relative frequencies of various weather conditions. That’s problematic; it might be that fog, for example, is horrendously dangerous compared to ice or slush, but it’s rarer and thus kills fewer people. I’m interested in looking at appropriately adjusted statistics. 

Other considerations

  • Teen drivers are apparently way worse at not dying in cars than older people. So if you’re a teenager, take the outside view and accept that you (not just ‘other dumb teenagers’) may need to take particular care when driving. Relevant information about teen driving is available here.

  • Alcohol use appeared so often during my research that I didn’t even bother including stats about it. Likewise for wearing a seatbelt.

  • Since I’m not in the market for a car, I didn’t look into vehicle choice as a way to decrease personal existential risk. But I do expect this to be relevant to increasing driving safety.

  • “The most dangerous month, it turns out, is August, and Saturday the most dangerous day, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.” I couldn’t tell whether this was because of increased amount of driving or an increased rate of crashes.

  • This site recommends driving with your hands at 9 and 3 for increased control. The same site claims that “Most highway accidents occur in the left lane” because the other lanes have “more ‘escape routes’ should a problem suddenly arise that requires you to quickly change lanes”, but I found no citation for the claim.

  • Bad driver behavior appears to significantly increase the risk of death in an accident, so: don't ride in car with people who drive badly or aggressively. I have a few friends with aggressive driving habits, and I’m planning to either a) tell them to drive more slowly when I’m in the car or b) stop riding in their cars.

Commenters' recommendations

I should note here that I have not personally verified anything posted below. Be sure to look at the original comment and do followup research before depending on these recommendations.

  • MartinB recommends taking a driving safety class every few years.

  • Dmytry suggests that bicycling may be good training for constantly keeping one's eyes on the road, though others argue that bicycling itself may be significantly more dangerous than driving anyway.

  • Various commenters suggested simply avoiding driving whenever possible. Living in a city with good public transportation is recommended.

  • David_Gerard recommends driving a bigger car with larger crumple zones (but not an SUV because they roll over). He also recommends avoiding motorcycles altogether and taking advanced driving courses.

  • Craig_Heldreth adds that everyone in the car should be buckled up, as even a single unbuckled passenger can collide with and kill other passengers in a crash. Even cargo as light as a laptop should be secured or put in the trunk.

  • JRMayne offers a list of recommendations that merit reading directly. DuncanS also offers a valuable list.

1All bolding in the data was added for emphasis by me.

2The report notes that "57% of crashes were due solely to driver factors, 27% to combined roadway and driver factors, 6% to combined vehicle and driver factors, 3% solely to roadway factors, 3% to combined roadway, driver, and vehicle factors, 2% solely to vehicle factors and 1% to combined roadway and vehicle factors.”


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A'ight. I specialized in vehicular manslaughters as a prosecutor for ten years. This is all anecdotal (though a lot of anecdotes, testing the cliche that the plural of anecdotes is not data) and worryingly close to argument from authority, but here are some quick ones not otherwise covered (and there is much good advice in the above):

  1. Don't get in the car with the drinker. Everyone's drinking, guy seems OK even though he's had a few... just don't. If you watched the drinker the entire time and he's 190 pounds and had three beers during the three-hour football game, you're fine. But if you don't know, don't get in. If you're a teenager and the drinker's a teenager, don't get in the car. Please.

  2. Tailor your speed to the conditions. Statistics keepers often cite speed when the real culprit is inattention. (It's an unsafe speed to rear-end another vehicle stopped at a light; the safe speed is zero behind a stopped car.) Speeding's a serious problem in residential areas or in rainy or dark condtions. If you're driving from Reno to Utah, a safe speed is probably very high.

  3. Cross the street carefully. Pedestrians and bicyclists get killed. It's sometimes not their fault, but they end

... (read more)
One trick I have for fatigued driving is to always have a stimulant drink in the car so I can pull over, drink it, revive within a few minutes and that enables me to concentrate for 10-20 minutes, enough to find a motel or (sometimes) get home.

Before my car burned the other week, I always kept a sleeping bag and alarm clock in my trunk; if I felt dangerously fatigued, I'd take off 20 minutes for a nap.

I do the same thing. Ever since I did überman for a few months years ago, I've been able to powernap anywhere quite easily.
Adding anecdote to old thread. Washing down a protein bar with a cup of something with sugar and caffeine, followed by a 20-30 minute nap seems to work well to revive me for a good 2-4 hours when driving.

I think this post could do with some estimates of absolute risks.

According to the site you link to, there are 7476 deaths in traffic accidents for people in the 15-24 age range (NB - this presumably includes pedestrians, so is a massive overestimate of the deaths of people who were driving, but I'll go with it for now).

In total, there were 21,859,806 males in your age group, so your probability of dying in a road traffic accident in any given year is approximately 0.0003. This translates to a risk per day of approximately 0.0000009.

Combining these numbers naively, the risk of being involved in a traffic accident on the first snowy day is approximately 0.0000009*1.14. In other words, your excess risk of dying by driving on the first snowy day is approximately 0.0000001. Even assuming that driving in snow is 10 times more dangerous than driving in normal conditions, this risk is 1 in 1 million. Is it really worth going out of your way to avoid driving on the first snowy day to avoid a 1 in 1 million increased chance of dying?

It is worth noting that as an avid transhumanist, I might well expect Michael to think that a 1 in 1 million increased chance of living as long as the Singulari... (read more)

Cycling is around 10 times more dangerous per passenger mile than driving

...but might contribute sufficiently to your reduced risk of dying of coronary heart disease at 45 to offset that?

Cycling does not uniquely reduce risk of coronary heart disease. Even if cycling beats driving because of reduced risk of heart disease, driving + non-dangerous exercise would still beat cycling.
At roughly double the time investment. I prefer to commute by bicycle whenever possible (I live in a city where about 20% of people bike to work during summer and about 5% during the winter, so I suspect risk is lowered by bikes being more common on the road). The commute by bike takes about 80 minutes (including return), sitting in rush-hour traffic takes about the same, as would "non-dangerous" exercise. Discounting the negative effects of commuting by car, I would still be losing about 400 hours per year by "exercising safely". So in order to make up for the lost time, the increased risk of commuting by bicycle should reduce my life expectancy by roughly 0.4%. It doesn't. Also, statistics and my personal experience indicates that the most effective way of avoiding traffic accidents is to live in a western country other than the United States
That doesn't correct for urbanization, which could affect the statistics in any number of ways (both positive and negative), so is worthless.
Canada is less urbanized, Western Europe is more urbanized. All have lower deaths than the USA. Also, why should that correction be necessary? If urbanization leads to lower car deaths, that's a good reason to move to a more urbanized place. I can't find any significant number of news stories about subway deaths, and bus travel would count as cars, so there isn't slack being picked up by other methods of transport.
No, it's not, because you're ignoring other causes of death and we already know that everything else is not equal.
I didn't mean to imply that it's a reason which should override other ones. What I did mean was that is true even if urbanization is a confounding factor.
Is not. Emphasis mine: "...the most effective way of avoiding traffic accidents" is to change countries. Oh, really? By the way, the US is a diverse country. Traffic fatalities per 100,000 population: Italy 6.2, Belgium 7.2, Massachusetts 5.3. So, is the most effective way of avoiding traffic accidents is to move to Boston? DC is even better -- 2.4 fatalities per 100,000 population...
That's true.
Technically true, but the difference is small: about two percent less of the population living in urban areas, which is the usual measure of urbanization. Canada has a smaller population and a larger land area, but most of its land is very sparsely populated. (Several European countries, incidentally, are less urbanized than the US by this measure, including Germany and the UK.) It does seem to have fewer road fatalities by most reasonable measures, though. It's closest if the denominator is in distance driven, and even there the US is about 15% higher.
Thanks for the detailed feedback. I'll be updating the post with adjustments people have recommended very soon. However, I am curious about this: Aside from the recommendations from the community (which say merely ' says X') I did include links to all of my sources. Am I missing something here?
No, I guess maybe my criticism was too hasty, sorry. The bits which say "username says X" currently seem to me to be about as prominent in the post as those which are better researched, which is not ideal. When updating, it would probably be a good idea either to check facts on those bits of advice (probably too much effort to be worth it) or to clearly separate them from the other advice.
This is a very good point - I've updated the post to account for it.
btw, you can delete your other comment after retracting it and reloading the page.
This page claims that pedestrian fatalities represent about 11% of the total fatalities from motor vehicle accidents, so it's in the same ballpark either way. I wouldn't call that a particularly authoritative source, but by some back-of-the-envelope math it's fairly consistent with your numbers.
Thanks for checking. I probably should have bothered to do that myself, after berating Michael's lack of scholarship. This UK government publication says that 25% of road deaths were pedestrians, and 50% were car drivers, so yes, figures for total casualties are basically the same as figures for car drivers.
(accidental double-post)

PSAs involving traffic safety appear to be one use of manipulation for the better, as in this excellent seatbelt commercial (got the link from lukeprog's twitter).

Wow. That is a beautiful commercial -- which utterly transcends the particular UK locality it was originally targeted to -- and remarkably different from typical PSAs of this type. (Indeed, fearing the typical scary PSA, I almost didn't click on the link.)

Apparently it was designed that way:

Created to raise awareness of the importance of wearing a seatbelt, Embrace Life was deliberately developed to provide a counter-point to the hard-hitting 'shock and awe' advertising so common to road safety.

Updated URL.

Here's a few general principles I use.

  • Notice near misses and any aggressive manoevres you have to make. Any violent manoevre that you have to make is quite possibly an accident if anything additional goes wrong. Ask yourself what caused them, and if there was anything you could have done differently to make the incident less dangerous. This includes cases where the other driver is principally to blame ! Basically, treat near misses like aircraft do - think of it as an accident that you luckily didn't have, and try to find some way to avoid depending on luck next time.

  • Don't do things that nobody else will expect you to do. Doing something that nobody else is doing is dumb, not just because there might be a good reason not to do it, but also because nobody else will expect you to do it, and they may not allow for it. Follow the crowd unless you really know you're out there by yourself. This obviously includes driving faster than everyone else, or stopping suddenly (if you don't absolutely have to) etc.

  • Never let your car go where your brain and observation haven't been first. Drive to a complexity level that you can handle - if too much is going on, slow down until you can cope

... (read more)
Especially these cases. It is no good being a righteous corpse. Another suggestion is to get away from bad drivers. If someone is tailgating me I let them past, even if I have to pull over. If I notice someone driving drunk-like or angry etc I create some distance between me and them.
"avoid visual imagery as you literally can't see while you're imagining something visual." Citation? I routinely visualize objects interacting with my environment, or process other visual information while visualizing something. I wouldn't be surprised that visualization is distracting, but the assertion that I can't see surprises me (I do often close my eyes to visualize something, but that's rather different) (It's worth noting I have visual hallucinations and at least mild schizophrenia, so I may well not be a normal case - part of my curiosity is whether this is yet another domain where I'm unexpectedly different from how neurotypical ["normal"] people perceive things :))
Your brain gives the illusion that you can, because it can switch quite quickly. But this is just like the illusion that you can see the whole world around you - it's not actually so. The proof is straightforward, and needs a friend. One person holds up two fingers, one on each hand, and holds them up about a foot apart in front of them. The other person looks rapidly back and forth between the two fingers, switching their gaze from finger to finger twice a second in a regular rhythm. It's not that hard to do this. The person holding up the fingers watches the eyes of the other person, and once they've established a rhythm they ask them a visual memory question. They will be unable to answer it without breaking rhythm on their eye movements, which the friend can observe. Corollary - you at some level only have one internal screen which can either view external images, or internal ones. Not both at the same time.
This sounds like it could be typical mind fallacy, but at least you involved an experiment so handoflixue could see if it applied to them.
Alternatively, read the rest of this comment while you visualize slowly spinning a rubik's cube on the axis that cuts through opposite corners. If you don't have any trouble doing so, you know that you can see while visualizing. As for myself, I find that I can't do both tasks simultaneously.
I kind-of can, though the cube image is not that vivid. (It's still something I wouldn't do while driving, though.) EDIT: BTW, I have several reasons to think that in my case reading mostly involves a part of my brain also used for processing spoken language and different from that used to process non-linguistic visual information, which may be unusual.
If my brain can switch that rapidly, why am I worried about it impacting my driving? And how is it that I can visualize (and hallucinate) objects interacting with the environment?
There you might be a little different - I'm always either looking in or out - there isn't any fusion between the two. Although I have to say I've never tried pushing a fictional thing into the external view - if I try it now I find myself looking at an internal view of what I've just been looking at externally, which is not the same thing. Perhaps in your case the barrier can be persuaded to be less absolute. One thing that's interesting about the two fingers test is that it can be easy to persuade yourself that you can pass it, but a friend will quickly tell you the truth. When you switch to internal imagery, you don't just lose awareness of the visual scene, you also lose awareness of the fact that your visual finger switching missed a beat. It's easier for someone else to see it.
I'm also usually functioning in a state where visual information is dramatically impaired - my boss just came to talk to me and I can't remember anything about his appearance today. I'll happily concede the experimental results to you, because they actually do line up with my experiences. However, "tracking small fingers over the course of split seconds" is very different from "this large object that I am VERY interested in because it can kill me, just suddenly exhibited a major non-rhythmic change in behavior" (i.e. the car in front of me just hit the brakes hard)
I'm also "naturally" like that, but in the last few years I've made a point of consciously noticing what I see whenever I remember to.
I guess depends to the person in question. I am imagining a road, a car on it, me driving it, as i am writing this post, looking at the screen, watching the letters come in and correcting a few typos. When i am really bored out of my mind I imagine silly HUD overlay. The interference is comparable of that from verbal monologue while you listen to someone.
Putting the blame does not do much when dead. The strategy has to include all ways to prevent dying, even if it is solely due to other drivers misdeeds.

One additional factor if you try to incorporate this stuff: everyone acting like you're a freaking weirdo for being vigilant. I'm referred to as a bad driver because I am cautious. People assume caution stems from incompetence.

If you can take the status his, that might lead to fewer people wanting to drive with you -- WIN :-) Reckless driving is sometimes considered manly, in a similar manner like heavy drinking and doing stupid things while under. Just do your safely thing, shrug off useless comments and don't talk that much about your ideas.
Once again, acting rationally is bad for signalling. :-( EDIT: So how exactly are rational people supposed to win here? Perhaps by including prestige in your utility function and calculating how much danger is a reasonable tradeoff. To be extra careful when driving alone or with reasonable people, and relax safety standards with other people; but generally avoid driving with unreasonable people present.
Unless you care about signalling in which case it is overwhelmingly awesome for signalling and you collect an absolute ton of low hanging fruit by making a few google searches.
Such as? There are a hundred different theories about status and signaling but not a lot of useful suggestions or agreement on specifics that I've found.
Researching which clothes will best give the signals you wish to send.
Still, a lot of that has to do with different people's preferences. If you've found a consistent, clear source for good info, I'd be interested though. Also, you're in the UK: we think you guys look weird and vice versa ;)
Australia here.
But srsly, you have any good fashion websites?
I've found the following useful: I don't profess inordinate expertise in this body of knowledge. There may be better resources but those ones are sufficient to point out all the low hanging fruit I care about and then some. Many people (in this case probably males) could benefit from having the realization "Oh, I'm supposed to put effort into signalling!", going and finding 3 full outfits from one of those sites, buying them and then forgetting about fashion for a year or two. It will not make them optimal signalers but will give drastic improvements for trivial investment.
mutatis mutandis...

Suicide is almost as likely cause of your death as a traffic accident. People spend too little effort at preventing traffic accidents, no question about it (all statistics agree that we are getting better at it, just too slowly), but situation is many orders of magnitude worse when it comes to preventing risk of death by suicide. We don't even do routine screening for depression! This total lack of concern is pure madness!!!

Most people replying to this comment seem to be assuming that no one is doing anything to prevent suicide. This is wrong. Public schools in the US spend a significant amount of time on suicide awareness and prevention - more time total than for driver's education, I would guess.

I won't dispute that this may not be sufficient or successful, but it is ignorant to assume that no one is trying to prevent suicides.

Well, it depens on where you are. In Ireland too there are lots of PSAs encouraging depressed people to be open about it, hotlines, etc.; on the other hand in Italy I'm not aware of any significant efforts being made to prevent suicides (unless you count trials where when somebody kills themself their teacher is prosecuted of incitement to suicide for having given them bad marks, or things like that (seriously!)).
I didn't know about that. Any research if this is working at all?
Anecdote: The only billboards in town which I enjoy looking at because they stay topical with puns about recent news are those promoting a depression hotline.
Or maybe preventing risk of death by suicide is hard. (My roommate killed himself four years ago, so I'd better tap out now.)
The point is not to prevent every single suicide, just reduce its rate. Since nobody is doing anything at the moment, it's pretty reasonable to assume modest effort could have major impact. By comparison we're throwing tons of money on cancer without much success, so throwing more money and effort at it probably won't change much at this point.
Or maybe if you care about reduction of the risk of your death (and risk of your death by suicide), your expected suicide rate is already extremely low.
If you asked people "how likely are you to die by suicide in the next 5 years" I'd expect results order of magnitude below real expected death rate. It's difficult to imagine what would make you commit suicide, but some thing make people do it all the time.
But the reference class is not the people who said they are unlikely to die by suicide, it's the people who want to reduce their risk of death, by means such as taking driving exams. I'd say strong self preservation prevents suicide.
Do we actually have any statistical basis whatsoever to infer that? For obvious counterpoint, if depressive realism hypothesis is true, people who are most likely aware of risks are also most likely to be depressed, and most likely to commit suicide at some point in the future. (I have no idea how strong effect this way is).
I'm just suggesting that because the suicides are major risk, doesn't mean that survivalists can do a lot about that risk. Besides, if one is to trust own reasoning in the future one shouldn't try to prevent suicide.
Not so, when I was speculating on all the most effective actions for preventing their own suicide almost none of them were about simply preventing the implementation of a suicide preference. Most involved improving your life in such a way that suicide is not desirable. This allows for trust in your own reasoning. (Enter Buffy, "Give me something to sing about!").
... then one is horribly wrong already. People make wrong decisions all the time for variety of reasons. People do not have utility functions or anything remotely like that. (see Alicorn's Luminosity for entertaining fictional evidence of that, Gianna's transformation in particular)
How do you do about protecting the altered yourself from altered yourself, in the future, though? I sure would try to prevent myself going depressed, and i'd try to keep my cognition working correctly, but that's about it. It is already partial death if you changed too much. edit: btw i live in the country with #1 suicide rate in the world (lithuania). I knew some guy who was suicidal (edit: he actually ended up in hospital at some occasion, idk if he's still alive even), he was outright weird in general, e.g. cutting himself to show some ultra bitchy gf that he loves her. Single anekdote, I know, but that's how many of the suicides are.
This suggests an easy way to drastically reduce your risk - just move somewhere else. EU is all open to you (and even in the middle of economic crisis, most of EU is not as badly affected as Lithuania). That's one obvious thing to do. Due to criminally negligent lack of research I cannot really say much more.
I'm going to for other reasons, though, honestly, I think its very much cultural and maybe heritable, and I'm not Lithuanian. Other issue is anti-depressants, they were found to raise risk of suicide. (which also makes dubious their efficacy at anything; the suicide rate is the only objective measure of depression that is not co-measuring the whining, and it's not improved by anti-depressants. Suggesting that the anti-depressants are an "anti-whining medication")
I'm not an expert in depression or suicide or Lithuania. If you're high risk for any reason (like living in Lithuania), it would probably be a good use of your time to take a look at research.
Sounds like the smoking lesion problem. Maybe people who are more predisposed to suicide in the first place take more anti-depressants.
There are studies that were controlled for this, as much as possible. The double blind trials found no statistically significant effect of medication on attempted suicide rate due to too small sample sizes: (see the wide 95% ci). Such findings were reported by media - thanks the advertisment money from manufacturers - as the connection having been disproved. It's a multi billion dollar subject. Mankind is bad at processing multi billion dollar subjects.
[insert standard peeve against frequentists' ridiculous usage of significant here]
It is not a disease in itself, so on first look living between people who do suicide a lot is not a problem. There might be a common factor in the environment that leads to it. Look into vitamin deficiencies, and social factors, like the way people relate to each other, availability of closeness and company etc. There also is a copycat effect after reports on suicides. Studies indicated that just the reporting leads to a higher rate. Not just earlier suicides of people who where about to anyway, but actually more. Best case I am aware of is the German series: death of a pupil. Each time it was showed on TV suicides went up notably. Responsible media therefore does not report much about suicides.
That sounds like the EDT answer to the Smoking Lesion Problem. (Especially now that he said he's not Lithuanian himself, though you couldn't know that when you wrote your comment.)
Well, the place is rather depressing to top everything of, i'd have to say. I'm probably going to move out sometime late this year actually, not because of suicide risks, but possibly because of the stuff that may be making people here suicidal. I have some immigration issues, actually - I moved out of some other place to the east of Lithuania, and while i do reside here legally, i don't have free movement within EU (in theory) yet. Regarding the risk levels, the correlation between being in Lithuania and being suicidal is still fairly weak evidence for me being suicidal. Weird fact: Lithuania and South Korea are #1 and #2 in both the suicide rates and internet speeds.
Which provides a counterexample to the idea I had in the back of my mind, that scarcity of sunshine in winter had something to do with the high suicide rates in northern Europe: they've got plenty of sunshine all year round in South Korea. (Of course, generalizations from two example have got to be pretty meaningless.)
Without historical info, yeah. My understanding is that South Korea used to have one of the lowest suicide rates in the world.
(Am I the only one who's bothered by the x axis in Fig. 1.1 not being logarithmic? It makes no sense for (say) Switzerland to be horizontally further away from New Zealand than (say) New Zealand is from India!)
My primary method of avoiding suicidal action is to prevent easy access to dangerous weapons, especially guns, and thereby increase the required planning period by orders of magnitude. I've also heard a suggested rule, "Never commit suicide while drunk," which apparently helped someone, similar to my mother's rule of "no killing each other in the house" for my sibling and I.
It is worth bearing in mind that suicide's a substantial death risk for 18-24s, but I don't really know what an individual can do for themselves to reduce their suicide risk. Move somewhere where there's more lithium in the water?
If we spent 1% of the money per casualty on suicide prevention we spend on cancer prevention we'd know the answer already. My guess is that screening for depression and other common problems correlating with suicide would be a cheap and easy way to significantly reduce the risk, but our society is insane, and never funded any real research so I have no way of knowing if I'm right.
This begs the question of what percentage of traffic accident deaths are actually suicide.

There is a discussion on this topic in Cialdini's Influence (which is a great read).

It is very difficult to tell the difference between an accidental traffic accident and a suicidal traffic accident (i.e. purposefully close your eyes and turn the wheel into oncoming traffic). The reason people may commit suicide this way is to avoid the stigma of suicide, avoid hurting their loved ones, and to allow their beneficiaries to receive their life insurance benefits. However some statistical analysis can give us a clue:

There is a trend that when a suicide is committed and covered in the news, there is often a rash of "copy-cat" suicides immediately following. These copy-cats are generally similar to the original in gender, age and style (public v. private, self-only v. murder-suicide, etc) .

The rate of traffic accident deaths ALSO greatly increases following media coverage of a suicide. This suggests that many of these traffic accidents may actually be suicides, but it is possible that there is some other factor (i.e. perhaps hearing about suicides makes people sad, which makes them prone to bad driving).

However, further study reveals that similar to other copy-cat suicides, t... (read more)

Suicide is a more involved way of dying than traffic accidents. It can easier be avoided for your own person than dying in a car accident. Edit: i miswrote one 'suicide' instead of the intended 'car accident' and corrected that now
That's illusion of control fallacy.
How so?
Your current self has delusions that it influences your future self's decision to commit suicide far more than it really does. A survey "are you likely to commit suicide sometime within the next 5 years" will have drastically fewer yes answers than reality.
You keep asserting this, but I doubt (not strongly) that it's actually true. There was a good long while, when I was younger, where I was pretty sure I'd commit suicide eventually, but I've since changed my mind. I may be generalizing from one example, but you're asserting with no examples.
Why did you change your mind?
Some kind of shift in the chemicals in my brain, most likely. No explicit reasoning behind it. Oh, also transhumanism, maybe. also this
I seem to refuse to consider suicide as the same type of problem as an accident. But it can not hurt to act to prevent it. Suggestions on what to do about it?
Suggestions based on no research: Do the things which tend to help with depression-- exercise, light in the morning, arguing rationally against thoughts that portray the world or your self as intrinsically bad.
Some of this discussion assumes that suicide is generally irrational. But you can potentially also affect 'rational' suicide. 1. By avoiding injuries or illnesses that cause a great deal of pain, especially chronic pain. I remember when I had a very painful back problem (now fixed) I read that suicide is unusually common among people with chronic pain. 2. By avoiding social isolation. There are plenty of things you can do to cultivate a wide and vibrant social life.
This is not as trivial for a depressed person as you make it sound. But I agree with the part about the (ir)rationality of suicide and how this method is preferable to tricking yourself into thinking the world is a nicer place than it may be.
I did not mean to imply it was trivial.

Drive less. Commutes are dangerous, expensive, and mentally taxing. You would have to earn 40% more money at a job with a one hour commute to be equally satisfied with a local job.

This is excellent advice which reaches far beyond traffic safety -- even if your survival is guaranteed, you're still making yourself miserable every single day.
I am? I thought my one-hour commute (twice a day, three days a week, to school) was nice and relaxing. I don't know if I would switch, if I were paid ten bucks an hour not to.
Citation needed?
Insufficient details there. It matters how long the shift is and how often you have to work, for example.
I prefer to live in 10-20 minutes walking distances from a place of work. If the time can be reached by public transport or bicycle that is fine too. One can factor in the money saved on transportation, or even the time saved on traveling to justify a slightly higher rent.
Having a place of work that I have to go to sounds like such a burden. These days I only commute to socialise. :)
Walking over to your desk is below the 10minute line. Many people who work from home a lot get an office someday.
Frankly, I have no desire to be one of those people. The ones that work a lot that is. Sure, if there isn't a better way to get a lot of stuff done I may have to but it seems highly intrinsically undesirable to me!
People who work from home have reduced work/life barriers, and IIRC, that's been shown to usually have a significant negative impact on happiness.

“Most highway accidents occur in the left lane”

You might want to specify what country that's about, since “about 66.1% of the world's people live in right-hand traffic countries and 33.9% in left-hand traffic countries” (from Wikipedia).

Quite. Probably better phrased as "most highway accidents occur in the innermost lane"

On a related note, stocking canned food [so that you can remain indoors] for the event of high mortality pandemic (e.g. flu) can easily be order of magnitude more effective than reducing your risk of traffic accident all way to zero.

A high mortality pandemic has probability of one in few hundred years historically, higher if you scale for the population size, higher still if you scale for the pig and poultry farms. The death rates can approach 10% or more.

The problem with the risks that are global, is that anyone who wears seatbelt is vindicated of the accusation of paranoya once every few minutes by a preventable traffic fatality, whereas anyone who stocks up food for pandemic, is vindicated once a hundred years. People tend to act on things to avoid being blamed for ineptitude rather than to preserve themselves.

This by the way goes for safety engineering of anything that's big and few, like nuclear power plants, and natural disasters, like tsunamis.

The food doesn't have to be canned-- dry food also keeps well, and you'll presumably be storing water as well as food.. I've also seen an argument that it's a good thing to have a stash of food so that temporary problems with income aren't as dire.
I did a back-of-the-envelope calculation and I'm not sure stocking canned food would have an easy 10:1 advantage over eliminating road accident death risk. The OP linked to this US death table and said they were male & aged 15-24. That bracket had 7,476 road traffic accident deaths in a year out of 21.86 million people, i.e. 0.034%. By comparison, if the chance of a pandemic with 10% mortality breaking out next year is (say) 1%, that points to an estimated annual death rate of 0.1%. Even assuming that keeping canned food were enough to cut pandemic death risk to nil, that's only a 3:1 advantage in favour of it. And then that number could go either way for people who'd use different probabilities. If someone thinks a pandemic only has a 0.1% chance of happening next year, or would only have 1% mortality, or that stockpiling food would only reduce pandemic death risk by 10%, that reverses the advantage to 3:1 in favour of eliminating traffic accident death risk. That said, it did surprise me that the original raw number comes out at 3:1 in favour of stockpiling food. Before I did the calculation I guessed the ratio would be more even. And it goes up to 7:1 if I use the road accident death rate for everyone in the US (or indeed female Americans aged 15-24). (Upvoted parent anyway, it's got a fair point. It'd be interesting to try a full-blown reference class forecast for pandemic risks, actually.)
Is there a systematic write-up of these ideas? We might start to put them in the wiki. Stocking up food is also great to sit out short term problems with the local infrastructure. Like blackouts or massive snow.
No idea about systematic write up, I posted some on that in general. Much of risk of homicide, for example, may be in the small fraction of futures where the society collapsed, while only a small part is in the business as usual futures.

I missed a few important tips:

  1. Take a driving safety class every few years. The practical exercises are quite valuable.
  2. Avoid driving. I actually changed my lifestyle to prevent it. Germany has decent public transportation so it is feasible, other places might be different. The safest drive is a drive not taken.
  3. Check if you car is any good. Different brands offer different safety features.

And do not forget: Traffic fatalities go down for decades. It is not as bad as one might think from looking into it.

This. Seriously all else being equal the more miles you are in a car for the more likely you are to die, or to be seriously injured.
Not entirely correct. It also depends on where you drive. Inner city has a differnt security profile from country roads and car lanes.
Very true, but very unhelpful answer. :/ If you don't use a car, how will you get to places? Buses/taxies/motorcycles are probably one of the more convenient forms of transportation nowadays. The only other thing I can think of are rapid transit, trains, bikes, and planes. But you can't ride the subway/bike/take a plane with as much flexibility as a car.
There are a few very cultural biased responses in the thread. Your statement seems really ignorant to me. Obviously your usage of alternatives depends on what the situation in your area is like. There are cultures that are very much into bicycles (Netherlands, Denmark), some where just no one even has a car (China, many other non-rich countries). Some where public transport is crappy and car is the only alternative (Fill in your own). Some where many alternatives exist. It is for everyone to find out which alternatives exist in her or his locale. It should be easy to figure out the local transport abilities. On an international forum no one can give all-suitable advice that fits every situation. For example I choose to move into the inner city of a 400.000ppl city in Germany. There is much public transport (bus, tram, subway, distance trains) available, including a great website that tells me how to get from A to B anytime. As a backup there are taxis. But since I am young, poor and healthy I mostly walk everywhere. If is more than 1,5h walking distance I take public transport. The OP probably does not suggest to never ever drive, but to make a reasonable effort to stay safe. Reducing driving if possible is one way. If it is not feasible in your area, than you still can do the other things. Since we deal with probability here it is all about comparing alternatives and improving your odds. From a financial viewpoint one can calculate the total cost of a car broken down on usages, vs. public transport vs. increased rent for a more favorable place. And if you do not need a car on a (work)daily basis you can find the local car-sharing offer (no idea if the US provides it. In Germany it is slowly growing), rent a car at times or take the Taxi.
I think a fair question to ask is, "If you don't use a car, how will you get to places safely?" There seems to be an unsupported assumption that the alternatives to driving (cycling, walking, public transportation) are SAFER than driving. On a per-mile travelled basis, what are the risks associated with various forms of transportation (driving, walking, cycling, public bus, public train, etc)? My suspicion is that the danger is (in descending order): cycling, walking, driving, public bus, public train, but I don't know where to go to find evidence.
Ah, I feel very embarrassed now. That was very ignorant of me-- to not consider the situations outside my own area. (stupid, stupid!) I can't believe I didn't think of that, especially the China thing, and only a couple of days after my mum told me how amazing the transportation in Taiwan was (to the point that no one really wants a car). Clearly I have much more to learn. (-facedesk-) The mistake won't happen again.
Happens, no need to worry about making mistakes. And welcome on the board.
Is riding a bike really safer than driving per mile?
Dunno what the CDT answer would be (i.e., whether a given individual is more likely to die when cycling one mile or when driving one mile, all other things being equal -- I suspect it depends on where you are, anyway), but it seems obvious to me that the RDT answer (i.e., if x% of the miles travelled in a town are cycled and (100 - x)% are driven, whether the expected total number of people dying in road accidents per mile travelled would increase or decrease with x) is that cycling is safer. And if you only care about your own life and are a CDTist, you shouldn't vote unless there's a non-negligible probability of your vote deciding the election, you should defect in the PD, etc.
I don't live my life as a CDTing agent (nor does anyone else, for that matter), but of the examples you listed, none seem particularly problematic for CDT. As far as I am concerned, not voting usually is the correct decision when your own decision doesn't significantly influence others' decisions (which for me, in a national election, it doesn't). Also, actual PDs are extremely rare in everyday life, rather than, say, the indefinite iteration (with error) variety (and CDT seems to handle the latter just fine, as far as I know).
We should be careful to note that this is the RDT answer when you're reasonably confident the other agents in your town are also RDT agents. I'm not so sure most of the people where I live even have much agency, let alone RDT agency.
I still feel kind of like an a**hole when in order to decrease the probability of killing myself I increase the probability of killing someone else by a much larger amount, even if they do the same. (And, before you tell me "So how comes you don't take up some risky but well-paying job and buy mosquito nets with the salary?", we're talking about killing someone directly and in my town. If I accidentally killed someone by driving a car when I could have avoided that, I'd feel so awful for the rest of my life that I'd likely enjoy it half as much -- defined as "I wouldn't prefer n% probability of living such a life to (n/2)% probability of just dying".) (WOW. In markdown if I write a**hole the first asterisk is displayed normally and the second causes the rest of the text to be italicized. Is that a bug or a feature?)
Human social intuitions do seem to perform a lot better than CDT on a lot of these problems. To the extent that human social intuitions approximate RDT, the RDT-agent will vote, cooperate, and maybe even ride a bicycle.
You could just try writing "asshole" - I'm pretty sure we've all heard the word before ;-)
Well, my self-censorship is kind-of intended to be tongue-in-cheek... (The reasoning is that in places where it's inappropriate to write "asshole", it's likely to be inappropriate to write "a**hole" too, and when I see people who are OK with the latter but not the former my hypocrisy detector goes [insert appropriate onomatopoeia for fire alarm here] and I walk away.)
You can take a bike with more flexibility than a car; speed (and safety, as remarked elsewhere) are the problems here. (Conversely, speed is a bonus for planes.)
I suspect differing definitions of "flexibility". I would be interested to see them explicated.
I meant that a bike can go anywhere that a car can go, and then some. (Here in the U.S., at least, bikes are legal anywhere that cars are, except for most freeways, and even freeways must have a parallel road open to bikes before bikes can be banned from them. Similar remarks apply to walking, which is even more flexible than biking. Possibly other countries have more restrictions on bikes, but there are still plenty of places that bikes can go but cars can't.) So by flexibility, walking > biking > cars > trains > planes, with the last two reversed for long-distance travel in the U.S., and with planes moved up drastically for intercontinental travel and travel to remote regions. Now, taking a bike on certain roads may not be safe, and it almost always will take more time, but I would count these issues separately from flexibility.
I generally avoid driving, however I accomplish this by cycling instead. Do you have any pointers on where to look for information on becoming a safer cyclist?
Drive a car instead. Seriously, cycling is incredibly dangerous. At least 10 times more dangerous per mile than driving a car - it's barely better than walking, and the only thing more dangerous is driving a motorbike. If this isn't an option, then standard bike safety procedures do at least seem to help. see, e.g.
I am surprised to learn that walking is less safe than biking, per mile! I (somewhat generously) estimate that I ride about 40 miles a week: 16 for commuting, 9 for errands and transportation to social events and the like, and 15 for longer rides, amortized. From your link, that translates into 2 micromorts a week, or about 0.3 micromorts a day. To me this feels like an acceptable risk, especially when I consider the alternatives. One possible alternative is reducing mobility altogether by working from home or finding an apartment closer to work and replacing my long bike trips with other activities like board games or going to the gym. I suspect, though, that my overall exercise levels would drop and that my mental and physical health would suffer past the point of 0.3 micromorts per day. So this is a non-starter. Another, owning a car, in addition to being expensive ($5000 a year is a conservative estimate — see e.g., would lead to dangerous activities like 200-mile weekend road trips and walking to and from parking spots. This does seem like it would translate into some amount of safety savings, but again, it's an expensive option. Another thing to notice is that my chances of causing a fatal accident go way up even if my own safety is relatively unaffected, which makes this option feel like defecting. This analysis is of course extremely simplistic, and I admit that a large part of why I transport myself the way I do is wrapped up in complex considerations of identity and affect. Cycling is convenient, time- and resource-efficient, and I like it.
The Dutch figures [are closer to yours than I expected|] (link in Dutch); I'd expect us to do quite a bit better than that, since people here are very used to bicyclists. Unfortunately, cyclists still die at 12 per 10^9 km traveled, pedestrians at 14 per 10^9 km, but drivers at 2 per 10^9 km (i.e. 1 to 6 instead of 1 to 10+, but still not very good.) I do wonder how much of this effect can be explained by the fact that travelling (by car or otherwise) in a city or on a country road is much harder than highway driving. Or by the fact that people standing still die at a rate of infinity per km traveled. (And standing still near traffic is indeed measurably dangerous!)
Nothing in particular. Look up the accident rates compared to base rates. With tiny vehicles one big problem is the behavior of other drivers. I would guess that a culture that likes bicycles (Netherlands, Denmark) and provides the necessary infrastructure is a safer place than a culture that hates bikes. Currently I completely avoid bicycling, due to indicators that it is still to dangerous. A decade ago I used to be a stupidly unsafe driver. Driving at night on public roads without light and such. Do you use a helmet, and is your bike in top condition?

Stop. Think about that for a second. I’ll convert it to the Imperial system for my fellow Americans: “in a [37.3 mph] speed limit area, the risk of involvement in a casualty crash doubles with each [3.1 mph] increase in travelling speed above [37.3 mph].” Remember that next time you drive a 'mere' 5 mph over the limit.

Could be that generally reckless drivers are more likely to exceed the speed limit.


So if you find yourself exceeding the limit, that's evidence that you're a reckless driver, and you should adjust your behavior accordingly.

Meaning what precisely? Decision theorists, a gauntlet with significant real world consequences has been throw down before you! Do you accept the challenge?
I like the response, but I'm not sure how well it works in the real world, for either problem. All three decision theories would recommend that King Solomon avoid overthrow by working on his charisma, since his inclination to sleep with another man's wife is evidence for its lack. Similarly, if you notice that you regularly drive way over the speed limit, maybe you should ask yourself "am I being reckless?" and consider taking an advanced driving course.
Playing this out for didactic purposes, why would someone increase their charisma or decrease their recklessness? The standard line is that Gandhi wouldn't try to increase his murderousness... what's the difference?
If someone is passionately committed to their recklessness, to the point of dying for it, or to having the charisma of a dead toad, to the point of being overthrown for it, none at all. The former is explicitly avowed by some ("live fast, die young!"), and there's no shortage of people on the Internet who pride themselves on being obnoxious and take validation from being excluded. And then, some people would rather get things done, and there's not much of significance you can accomplish without being alive and getting other people to take you seriously.

Also note that millions more are injured rather than killed every year, making the dangers far higher than the death statistics indicate.

And brain injury is particularly prevalent: From Causes and Outcomes of Mild Traumatic Brain Injury: An Analysis of Ciren Data

As an amateur race car driver, I've got a few things to add here.

There's one very important tip I've never seen driver's ed courses mention concerning rain driving: the available traction on wet pavement varies wildly depending on the surface. Rougher surfaces tend to offer more grip, some feel nearly as good as driving in the dry. Smoother surfaces tend to offer less, some (the worst blacktop parking lots) feeling as bad as driving on ice. Any paint (such as painted-on brick strips on some intersections) is going to be very slick, as is most concrete (as its generally smooth, though rougher concrete like is found on runways will have lots of grip). Between different types of wet asphalt the difference in grip of my race car (on street tires) can range from around 1.0 gees of maximum lateral acceleration to as low as 0.65.

Metal drawbridges are also extremely slick in the wet, to the point where a strong wind can blow a car into other lanes.

So unless your familiar with the surface you're driving on, do not take anything for granted in the wet. On poor surfaces even a little bit of water can massively increase stopping distances. Unfortunately you can't count on newer construction be... (read more)

This is all good information. One thing missing in the seat belt part. Everybody in the car needs to be buckled down and heavy cargo like your laptop should be stowed in the trunk. There is a great video they showed in my defensive driving class which was an Irish television public service advertisement with four people in a car and three of them were wearing their seat belts and they were in an accident and everybody got killed with the unbuckled passenger flopping around the inside of the passenger compartment like a billiard ball.

I hadn't realized that other people not wearing a seatbelt could kill me. That makes a certain amount of sense. Mind you I'd speculate that the chance of three buckled people dying due to one ricochetting fourth passenger where those three would not have died anyway is approximately a gazzilion to one and has never ever happened.
I found the seat belt commercial on youtube.

Driverless cars FTW.

Ten years later: How to avoid dying in a driverless car crash

  • Update your software frequently. Don't use cheap firewalls, choose the more reliable ones.

  • Don't use laptop or cell phone in the car, their electromagnetic frequencies may interfere with the car driving system. For extra safety, turn off the radio.

  • Don't drive after rain or in fog. Water may get into circuits, causing hardware failure in a dangerous situation.

  • Don't drive in the rain. A lightning close to you car may disrupt your GPS system or car driving system.

  • Don't drive in the first snowy day. The optical recognition system may not be fully adjusted yet.

  • When crossing a time-zone boundary, be ready to manually override the car navigation in case of a software bug.

  • Avoid the roads with human drivers, cyclicts, pedestrians, or where animals appear. The software does not always recognize them perfectly.

What? Teleportation FTW!

Twenty years later: How to avoid dying during teleportation: Turn off your electronic implants, because their signals may interfere with the scanning device. Don't teleport in a rainy day; a lightning in a wrong time may disrupt the data transfer. Etc.

Twenty years later: How to avoid dying during teleportation:

Adjust your philosophy as necessary such that the casual destruction of your physical form is not considered 'death'. Then make damn sure the anesthetizing system is in good functioning order before you are put to sleep, scanned, sent and destroyed.

And read the fineprint before using it.
No! It seems to me that driverless cars will be under much heavier supervision than manual driven cars. Think airplane security. Any problem with the driverless cars will be seen as systematic and attacked. From what I read so far they are probably safer than human drivers already, but not perfect.
Can you clarify what your "No!" is meant to negate? The most natural interpretation of your comment for me is "It seems to me that [driverless cars won't have fatal accidents because they] will be under much heavier supervision...", which I think unlikely.
I mean that driverless car are safer than human driven cars. One factor being that they will be much more interest in all accidents they cause. I expect dying in a driverless car to not be a problem, since few people will experience it.
Cool, thanks for the clarifiication. I certainly agree that the number of deaths caused by driverless cars would be far lower than those caused by human-driven cars. I also expect that within a generation, that much lower number of deaths would be considered a problem.
I look forward for that day. I sometimes wish the care for the capabilities of Pilots would also be used for car drivers. Regular health checks, retests, training in critical situations. Building safe vehicles. Won't happen.
It seems like if your car's driving computer is capable of connecting to the Internet, it's already badly designed.
I'd have to disagree. An optional feature to update a street database and possibly be notified of critical updates to the algorithm (when other modules are found to be killing people, say) seems like a wise inclusion.
Also, live traffic data to use the available road-space more efficiently. My GPS does that already, and will divert me around traffic jams when there are available side roads, but will stay on the main route when the side-roads as just as bad.

Rather than all of these efforts to mitigate somewhat the dangers of driving, why don't you just take public transportation?

In some places there is way too little public transportation, though. Where I live there are pretty much no buses after 8 pm.
Unfortunately, taking public transportation means you have to walk, and walking is 12 times as dangerous per mile as driving (hat tip: bentarm). Of course if you're driving you typically have to walk some distance from your parking spot also.
I wonder if the stats for walking and bicycle riding are not somewhat skewed by people who are walking or riding due to license suspension from drunk driving. I have known a few people who took up cycling for this reason. And if you think drunk driving is dangerous, drunk cycling is orders of magnitude worse. Drunk walking is also highly dangerous
I am so glad to live in a city (London) where I really do not need a car and it's much more cost-effective to just hire one for a holiday or whatever. On the other hand, I live in London.
That's my own solution too. I'm lucky to live in a place here it's possible - Paris' suburb - and I almost never use a car (I don't even own one). When you make the maths of how much a car costs (buying it, insurance, fixing it and having it checked regularly, gas, ...), the risks they come with, and the fact that driving is lost time (while in public transports you can take a book and read, or use a laptop for a long enough train trip), public transports is a clear winner to me. And exceptionally call a taxi when you can't go somewhere, that'll still cost less than a car.
Most people, when told their 30 minute car trip would take 1 hour by bus, would not read for 30 additional minutes once they get home, so while reading or using your laptop is worth more than doing nothing, it's worth less than what you'd be doing if you weren't on the trip. All you're doing is cutting your losses. And depending on how you value things, this could very well mean the loss from the time on the bus is still greater even after considering that you can read so it's not a complete loss. Furthermore, I listen to podcasts in the car. By your reasoning this counts as the driving not being lost time anyway.

One factoid says that your chance of death doubles for each 5 km/h above the limit you are. Another says that speeding factors into 40% of crashes.

Suppose the average speeder's risk is equivalent to 5 km/h over the limit (which seems low). Then only 25% of drivers must be speeding. Those 25% of drivers make up 40% of deaths, and the other 75% of drivers make up 60% of deaths. This keeps the ratio at 2.0, as required.

But non-speeders die too, when hit by speeders. The "40% of deaths had speeding as a factor" includes those non-speeders. T... (read more)

The suggested hypothesis is that people take at least a day to recalibrate their driving behavior in light of new snow.

Solution: make an explicit effort to avoid driving on the first snowy day after a sequence of non-snowy ones. Use Anki to remember this association.

What, one can recalibrate one's driving behaviour in snow without actually driving? If not, not driving on the first snowy day only means that you'll get the effect of increased risk on the second snowy day instead. (But on the other hand you'd still be less likely to be involved by accidents caused by others -- but such a rule is not Categorical Imperative-izable.)

Aren't there stable rules which are perfectly Categorical Imperative-compatible? Thinking in UDT sort of terms, perhaps the rule would be 'flip a coin to decide whether you start driving on the first or second day'. If everyone did that, half the population would drive day 1 and half day 2, which seems superior.
Huh yeah, it would. I had forgotten that in such cases good strategies can be non-deterministic.
Well, it's not just in 'such cases' but in tons of games there are mixed strategies and even mixed strategies which are the Nash equilibrium.
Well... by such cases I kind-of meant "several-player games". (Then there is the absent-minded driver problem... maybe if you count the driver's self before and after the first intersection as different players... but then that becomes a variable-number-of-players game. Whatever. I guess I've just internalized way too much.)
Other drivers causing accidents is a major problem. But also you should put in some effort to update your own driving. In general I would say: do not drive while problematic drivers are abound. That means weekend nights, and the few days with severe changes in conditions.
Exactly the time when alternatives to driving are the least available.

Drive a bigger car for bigger crumple zones. (Not an SUV, which are top-heavy and roll more.) In a collision, people in smaller cars generally suffer worse injuries. Crash test reports are great reading.

Don't go on a motorcycle, ever. Even if you're ridiculously careful, car drivers aren't.

Do an advanced driving course, then drive like a granny anyway.

Yes to each of them! "Drive like a granny" might be the wrong image still. Some people are related to driving way to slow, which is also bad. As far as I am aware reckless driving does not even give a notable time advantage. Conservatism rocks when applied to safety. Distance to the car in front is a very cheap remedy.
I do not have a citation but I do recall reading that taking advanced driving courses was not cost effective because the increase in over-confidence countered the modest improvements in skill. So A made you less likely to do B. We do need a citation for the claim that an advanced driving course does good. And we need to be aware that people running such courses are not disinterested parties.

"The Road and Traffic Authority of New South Wales claims that “speeding… is a factor in about 40 percent of road deaths.” Data from the NHTSA puts the number at 30%."

What does this mean, "is a factor"? If it means "at least one car was speeding," then it sounds like speeding might reduce the chance of a fatality. Suppose 40% of all drivers speed. Then, if speeding has no effect, the chance that neither driver is speeding is only 36%, which means speeding would be a factor in 64% of fatalities, not 40% or 30%.

Of course, ... (read more)

I've heard that driving in the beginning of a rain after a dry spell is especially dangerous because the oil on the road is floating on the water-- after more rain, it'll be washed away.

Anyone know whether this should be included in one's calculations? The research is somewhat muddied but it appears that using headlights during the day helps.

This is why several brands (e.g. Volvo) have running lights that are on at all times - not full-beam headlights, but smaller white lights at the front.

One simple precaution is to drive a car with a light color.

Consider whether your journey is necessary - not travelling is always safer than travelling.

Consider what you can do to restructure your life to minimise the need for routine travel - Can you live closer to your place of employment/study, either by moving your home, or moving your employment/study? Can you work or study from home (at all? more often?)

I now live 20 minutes' walk from my employment instead of an hour's drive + 20 minute's walk, and there are many other benefits (much cheaper), but the safety improvements of not having to drive, especially a... (read more)

Nationwide, 49% of fatal crashes happen at night

Doesn't that mean that 51% of fatal crashes happen during the day?

I think the point may be that people do a lot less driving during the night and so 49% means that per-mile or per-trip, night driving is a lot riskier.
Also, I imagine that 'night' ('when it's dark out'), is often less than 12 hours of a 24 hour period.
Wouldn't it pretty much have to be half on average?
I really want to see a multivariate analysis. Is this due to the dark, or due to alcohol?

The concept of blind spots only exists because people don't know how to adjust mirrors:

First off, I want to state that I agree heavily with this.

I teach driver's education and want to add that what has helped my driving the most has been the mere repetition of truisms ("don't drink and drive", "look where you're going while backing up", "think about what you're doing", "check you're blind spot before moving over", etc.) and the knowledge that a crash resulting from these types of failures would be especially low status for me. When I'm tempted to keep driving late at night vs. pulling over at the next ... (read more)

The added complication of autopsy after death by road accident could imperil cryonics arrangements. How many road accident deaths are also accompanied by autopsy, especially of neural tissue?


The Road and Traffic Authority of New South Wales claims that “speeding… is a factor in about 40 percent of road deaths.” Data from the NHTSA puts the number at 30%.

Speeding also increases the severity of crashes; “in a 60 km/h speed limit area, the risk of involvement in a casualty crash doubles with each 5 km/h increase in travelling speed above 60 km/h.”

Speeding relative to the speed limit isn't a problem, it's actually just a proxy for speeding relative to other drivers. That's why going slow is also dangerous. Two cars colliding given the same geom... (read more)

This is probably entirely off-topic, but I actually suffered a car crash last week (no, I did not die). I have evidence to believe the crash was caused by a mechanical defect (f.ex., my steering locked up completely in a way that mere loss of power steering cannot explain). Unfortunately, I only have liability insurance, and the cost of repairs is quite steep.

Is there anything I can do to make the car manufacturer pay the repair costs ? Does anyone have experience in this area ?

(please downvote this comment into oblivion if you believe it is off-topic)

You could sue. The brouhaha over sudden acceleration in Toyotas at the end of the last decade was probably mostly not even their fault, but the lawsuits are still messing them up. You'd have to talk to an attorney to see whether you really have enough evidence for a case.

Another addition: Never ever drive while drunk or tired. If you have a history of doing that work on changing that!

Related: plan long drives in a way that does not exhaust you. By having stops and/or replacement drivers with you.

Dmytry recommends replacing driving with bicycling, and various commenters agreed that the safest way to drive is to avoid driving whenever possible. Living in a city with good public transportation is recommended.

I haven't actually studied this, but as someone who basically uses my bike as a car, it doesn't feel that much safer. Most cities don't have comprehensive enough bike paths to allow you to only use the paths, especially if you have a time limit and want to take the most direct route. Intuitively, it seems like bikes sharing roads with cars, wh... (read more)

I've read that biking is more dangerous than driving per mile, and walking is more dangerous than biking. Not only are you more fragile, you're on the road longer (especially with walking).
Didn't recommend replacing driving with bicycling, other than by moving to a car-less town where everyone cycles. The point was that bicycling conditions you (or at least me) to not take eyes off the road, not sure though if its so for everyone or just me because i have bad sense of balance and compensate for it with eyes. My theory is that if you bike, you are used to mind state of not being distracted. Or at least, I do, 'cause my eyes are busy replacing for the inner ear function. (i don't know how much other people have to look to keep themselves upright).
I'm the opposite. When I started driving, I became a safer bicyclist. More concentration and more explicit checking my surroundings.
Indeed, before I had a car - an I was in the dangerous 15-24 age group - I did all sorts of tricks with my bike (I thought I was good), wheelie, no-handed turns, never waited for the green light etc. Because of the low speed, I speculate, you arrive at the feeling of control easier, you see and know the margins of the vehicle, you don't have blind spots. Reinforcing intuition: you're better and better everyday, WYSIATY. After I went to driving school (car and motorbike) I realized the dangers; also knowing some data about deaths and injuries car scare you. Without data you are provincial, you have no context.
0Swimmer963 (Miranda Dixon-Luinenburg) 12y
I know for sure that I can bike with my eyes closed. I don't most of the time, of course, and I definitely don't if I'm on a road with cars on it (I'm pretty confident that I won't accidentally swerve into the adjacent lane, but it just seems like a stupid idea in general.) So no, not everyone is like that, and I wouldn't consider myself as someone with especially good balance either. Can you bike no hands? This seems like something that would require good balance. (I can bike no hands, but it took a lot of practice.)
Biking with no hands easily when the speed is correct and surface is smooth... i think there's not a lot of balancing going on, besides bike's own, and the vestibular system may generally be bad for this kind of thing because of centrifugal force. To think about it some more, I guess I just need to see some reference, not necessarily ahead, and I also bike on really messy surfaces most of the time, on which it is necessary to actively keep balance. Plus there's far more pedestrians getting in the way of bicycle path. I also bike a fair bit on snow/ice in the winter.
0Swimmer963 (Miranda Dixon-Luinenburg) 12y
Yeah... Messy surfaces are generally not a good place to bike with eyes closed either, any more than they are to walk on. Biking no hands feels like a balance challenge to me, but that's mostly when I try to swerve or turn corners no hands. (You can do it by leaning in the direction you want to turn.)
Not very much; on the other hand the lack of mirrors require me to pay more attention in order to be aware of what's behind and beside me. (This is partly compensated by the fact that, not being in an enclosed space such as a car, I can hear better. But if we go down this road we encounter differences between people in how they process visual vs auditory input, the fact that Feynman counted in his mind by listening while Bethe did by reading, so that Feynman could count while reading but not while speaking and vice versa, and so on, and so forth.)
0Swimmer963 (Miranda Dixon-Luinenburg) 12y
Having not really learned to drive until after I'd been biking for years, I'm much more comfortable looking around and keeping track of what's around me on a bike than I am looking in a car's mirrors. The car itself, as an enclosed space with walls and stuff, makes me feel half-blind even when I do look in the mirrors. I don't know if I can hear better on a bike; I do frequently listen to my iPod, which might not be a good idea, but which makes a 40-minute commute a lot more fun.
Makes sense; I'll adjust the post.

I'm in the same demographic and I thoroughly enjoyed this post. It was a great question to ask and you addressed it along all of the relevant avenues. Thanks!

I started out enjoying this post, but the formatting in the Distraction section was so bad I stopped reading. It's very annoying to read endless lines, not separated from each other, with identical beginnings.

Agreed - I'm nearly done fixing all of those errors.

I haven't looked at the statistics, but my impression is that if you are sober and somewhat cautious, the two types of common traffic mishaps most likely to result in death or serious injury are (1) a t-bone collision, i.e. another driver runs straight into the side of your car at an intersection; and (2) a head-on collision on a non-divided, high-speed road, where one car crosses the center line for whatever reason.

As to the first, I try to look both ways when the light turns green to reduce my chances of getting t-boned by someone who is trying to beat t... (read more)

With respect to vehicle choice: keep in mind personal versus collective choice. The incentive to pick heavier vehicles as "safer" is a tragedy of the commons. In any particular crash, the heavier vehicle is likely to fare better. But if you make both vehicles lighter, both drivers fare better.

There's a lot of discussion about biking (and to a lesser extent walking) as more dangerous than driving. This really depends on the extent to which your values are selfish or altruistic.

This is an oversimplified dichotomy, of course, but if you're selfish, then you should prefer to be in a large (but not so tall that it rolls easily) vehicle, while if you're altruistic, then you should prefer to be in a small vehicle or a bike or (best of all) on foot. The increased personal risk to is more than made up for by the decreased risk to others, if you count the others as just as valuable as yourself.

Some people have hinted at this, but I don't think that anybody made it explicit (my apologies if I missed that).

Solution: Download a great turn-by-turn navigation app (recommendations are welcome).

The Google Maps app on Android has a beta "Navigation" mode that does this, fantastically (reading out street names is a bonus, although it tends to add "State Route" to the end of everything).

What I didn't see mentioned in this post: probability of death by car crash given no interventions, cost (mostly in time) of performing each intervention, and amount it decreases your death probability by. It seems like most of the interventions outlined above are pretty high-cost ways of avoiding an already low risk. Do the proposed strategies actually increase the number of quality-adjusted years of life?

Also note that health-related risks (cancer, heart disease, etc.) are probably all grouped separately but going to a doctor regularly helps with all of ... (read more)

When recommending more involvement with the medical system, it is important to consider iatrogenic effects. See the discussion in "Antifragility" by Nassim Taleb. He suggests that, due to the fact that severe side effects from treatment often only come to light years after treatment, one should be wary of treatments for minor conditions or treatments with minor benefits. Examples: Thalidomide, Stilbestrol, PhenFen My doctor recommended to my parents that I have growth hormone therapy (many years ago) due to my short stature. I could easily have ended up with as a result.
There is a class of ridiculously easy interventions that also safe money on the way.
What are they then? (Other than not driving, which I agree is a good idea but is not always feasible.)
In general if a behavioral change gives you both security and another desired benefit you already win. For example: Safety classes cost 150EUR and need one afternoon, for punctual benefit when an accident occurs. Maybe out depending on your criteria. Driving safely, conservative, with correct distances and non-aggressive is basically free. Maybe one needs to look into it for a few hour, otherwise you lose a few minutes that dangerous driving could have thought (i read studies on that, but that was ages ago). Using a seatbelt is basically free. Replanning your transport infrastructure takes a few hours but can also lead you to safe actual time. (Reading on a train vs. actively driving a car.) Choosing the car you buy on safety features has a one time limited effort for durable benefit over car usage. I am not aware of actual effects of these activities on longevity. The OP pointed out how car accidents are a major cause of death in his age group. Avoiding them sounds like a good idea.

I propose some amount of recreational bicycling. That'll strongly condition you not to take eyes off road (or at least it is the case for me due to damaged sense of balance and me having to look to keep bicycle upright).

I used to cycle a lot, and I had no doubts whatsoever this drastically increases my chance of dying early, or suffering other horrible accident. There are health benefits due to regular physical activity (and attractiveness and energy level benefits), but they probably don't come anywhere near matching increased risk of death due to drivers completely disregarding cyclists' safety.
If you're travelling a fixed distance, be very wary of cycling (and walking). Some numbers: Casualty rate per 100 million Casualties Occupant/ Occupant/ Occupant/ rider trips rider km rider hours Killed Pedal cycle 227 12.5 4.6 64 Walk 1753 7.0 6.6 27 Motorcycle 670 122 11.4 342 Car 2142 5.2 0.4 12.4 Bus and Coach 17 0.4 0.06 1.4 Killed and Seriously Injured (KSI) Pedal cycle 4879 268 98 1377 Walk 17880 72 68 279 Motorcycle 12654 2311 215 6461 Car 29346 71 5.7 170 Bus and coach 892 14 2 51 Source: which quotes Transport Statistics Great Britain 1979-1989 (If you're otherwise unhealthy and this is the only exercise you'd give yourself, you may still be better off. If you can make yourself do other exercise, please do.) And if you thought you'd get away with walking by staying mostly not alongside traffic: Table 2: estimated casualty risk, relative to crossing a street Travel mode Distance travelled for casualty risk equivalent to one road crossing Walking alongside traffic, UK 160 metres All walking, UK 210 metres Road vehicle passenger, Australia 6,300 metres Source:
The scale of the benefits of buses is pretty dramatic.Based on that it seems rational to take buses whenever possible (unless I'm missing something).
Here in Tampa Bay, my commute by car usually takes about 25 minutes. Google says that, by bus, it would take around 2 hours. Commute time has a huge effect on quality of life. So, I probably wouldn't gain and quality-adjusted life years by switching to bus.
I also noticed when I was managing large numbers of people that people who used public transportation seemed to get a lot more (~double) the number of illnesses. When they bought a car, their sickness rates went down. I found the same thing myself when I switched. However as this is a politically fraught topic, good studies seem to be scarce.
It'd be great to get same data, but without highway fatalities at long trips.
An article in an Italian magazine I've read claims a study found the reverse. Among the 181 thousand subscribers of Barcelona's bike sharing service (11% of the population), who cycled in average 3.29 km a day during weekdays and 4.15 km a day during weekends, there appear to be 0.03 more deaths per year (than among the same number of car drivers) from traffic accidents and 0.13 more deaths per year from air pollution but 12.46 fewer deaths per year from sedentary lifestyle. (Plus, cycling instead of driving itself reduces pollution, which affects everybody's death rate, so even if your point is to decrease your own chance of dying there still can be superrational reasons to do that.)
I know this thread is 8 years old at this point, but all I really had to add is that the conclusion that risk from collisions exceeds benefits from cycling couldn't be further from the truth: Another obvious point that no one seems to have touched on is risk placed upon others. Buying the biggest vehicle one can for safety may (debatably) decrease one's own mortality in a collision but undoubtedly increases mortality for others. Many safe streets advocates have pointed out a correlation in the increases purchase of SUVs and pick up trucks in America and the increase in pedestrian deaths. Indeed, 2019 was the deadliest year for pedestrians in the united states since 1988.
Then cycle in a safer place. (I agree btw about the drivers).
Unless you're suggesting stationary bike, it's hard to find a safer place in the middle of London.
Not to mention the enormous quantities of crap you'll inhale cycling in the street in London. (Anecdotal evidence from friends who've done it, complete with black snot.)
I've never really notice that, how long ago is your anecdotal evidence from?
About nine or ten years ago. The hanky in question was a notably foul sight.

A better way to avoid fatigue-caused accidents is to not drive long distances at times when you would usually be sleeping. Ways to achieve this include leaving parties earlier (maybe by setting a phone alarm), asking to crash at the place you're partying, or reserving an AirBnB near the location you'll be visiting. My housemates and I have done the last one several times when we're driving 25+ miles for a late-night event; $50 per person is well worth the convenience, not to mention the significantly reduced chance of death.

I know no one is likely to do this, but consider the safeguards taken by auto racing drivers. They are required to wear a helmet. For high speed driving helmets on all in the car would cut the death rate. That said, I doubt anyone will do this, as the inconvenience is great for a small payoff.

We're required to wear helmets, nomex suits, gloves, socks and shoes (lots of fun in 90F+ degree weather), head and neck restraint devices and 5 or 6 point harnesses. However keep in mind race cars do not have airbags, while its becoming more and more common for passenger cars to have airbags galore. With airbags, the benefits of a helmet are much reduced.
I don't suppose you know of any research on what effect helmets have on rates of death and injury at speeds people are likely to drive at for ordinary transportation?
3-4 times more effective than fitting the inside of the car with padding. Up to $600 AUD per annum decrease in accident associated costs in 1997 dollars. That seems well worth while. Interestingly I have to wear a helmet when I walk (when my employer may get sued if I'm injured). I'm required by law to wear a helmet on a bicycle, motorcycle or hang glider. I have worn helmets to swim, climb, fly a plane and ride a horse. About the only transport situation I've never worn a helmet is in a car. I think that must be some sort of cognitive hole.

When I lived in the USA death in a road accident was often accompanied by an autopsy. This needs to be assessed in your article as it presents a serious problem to those of us, like myself, who have cryonics arrangements in place

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I no longer live in the USA, but for those with cryonics arrangements, it is important to consider the likelihood of an autopsy in a car crash, so death is also compounded by wilful and legal destruction of brain tissue by a medical examiner.

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Eh. I'm more interested in questions of how these effects interact with each other. For example, I find it much easier to be engaged as a driver when I'm driving 5-20 mph faster than other cars on the road (or, if there are no cars or only fast cars, at somewhere between 80 and 100 mph, assuming clear skies and a straight highway), and so I'm less likely to get into an accident because of the increased attention, but I'm much more likely to die in an accident if it does happen.

Similarly, the increased fatalities due to driving at night are probably primari... (read more)

I did one that involved a lot of practice. Learning how to actually hit the brakes for real was awesome. It is especially useful if you still have a car without break assistant (which you should not). Other parts were driving on wet roads, partially wet roads. How to get control back when loosing it. Effects of aquaplaning. And a visible demonstration of the square law of motion. 10 km/h really can make an impressive difference on bad road conditions.
Indeed, all other things (including my level of tiredness) being equal, I find it easier to drive at night than during the day. (The darkness for some reason makes it easier for me to concentrate on the road and harder for me to be distracted by other stuff, it's easier for me to see distant cars (with their lights on) in the dark than in the light -- especially if the sun is shining and it has been raining -- the reflection of the sunlight on the wet road nearly blinds me.)
Oh man, the sun. So glad that I don't have to regularly drive at sunrise and sunset (which, unfortunately, tend to be most people's commute times). I wish more roads were NW/SE and NE/SW to make the sun's position less of an issue, but that's difficult to change now.
In June, the sun rises in the NE and sets in the NW; in December, it rises in the SE and sets in the SW. If I'm modelling the geometry in my head correctly, W/E roads are indeed worst overall, but N/S roads are best. ETA: I'm pretty sure that a global change as you suggest would still be an overall improvement.
Unless, of course, I want to get somewhere east or west of me. Then they aren't so useful.
Assuming you're not in a polar region, you should be able to set up a network of NW/SE, and NE/SW roads that never face directly towards the sun; using these, you can get anywhere. As you get farther from the equator, however, the NW/SE and NE/SW roads have to get ever closer to being due N/S roads, so travelling E or W becomes ever more inconvenient. And once you reach an (Ant)-Arctic Circle, no directions are safe.
Are those effects latitude dependent?
The effect exists at all latitudes where a sunrise or sunset actually occurs, but the precise direction (how much N or S of W or E) will vary with latitude (as well as date, of course). The extreme case is the point near the pole where the sunrise or sunset is barely averted, where the position of the sun will be due N or S (neither W nor E since it is simultaneously rise and set); even at the equator, however, the sun will be somewhat N or S of W or E. The exception is when sunrise or sunset occurs at the precise moment of equinox; then all latitudes will experience a sunrise or sunset, and all (except at the poles themselves where these directions don't exist) will experience it as due W or E. (All exact claims are theoretical assuming a perfectly spherical Earth, but the general phenomenon should occur any time that's not very close to the equinox and any place that's not right up next to a cliff or something.)
(Dunno how much of this is because I first started learning to drive in December when it was dark most of the time, and even now I mostly drive at night -- I prefer using public transportation during the day.)