Originally Posted by GSWayne
There is a psychological phenomenon known as risk compensation which other posters have mentioned. The idea is people will attempt to maintain a constant level of risk in their lives. It may be one reason people in SUVs pay no attention to driving because they have been sold the idea that the SUV makes them safer. I have read that people in SUVs end up no safer than in regular sedans because of this (and the fact that people can more easily lose control and run off the road and roll them over). It is also the reason that ABS in cars did not seem to improve safety significantly, people with ABS apprently took more risks driving that people without ABS. The whole issue is whether the PERCEIVED improvement in safety is greater or less than the ACTUAL improvement in safety. If the perceived improvement is greater than the actual improvement, then the device can increase the risk to the user. I have never read any studies indicating whether ATGATT is actually increases or decreases risk. I have read that helmets do decrease risk, but I have not seen anything about armored jackets or other gear.
My personal practice is ATGATT and hope that it doesn't give me a false sense of security.
It's an interesting phenomenon. Another term for it is "risk homeostasis
" coined by Gerald Wilde in his book "Target Risk", the 1st ed. of which is available for free as a .pdf here
The latest data to support the observation that safety benefits are not maximized because some of the safety it "consumed" by increased risk-taking is a little disturbing: A UK study
showed that cars passed closer to bicyclists wearing helmets when overtaking them. What that means is that not only is ATGATT less effective because it's human nature to ride more aggressively, but others are consuming some of your additional safety by driving more aggressively around you. The nerve!
I look at it like this: if the (arbitrary for the sake of illustration) safety scale goes from 1 (least safe) to 10 (most safe), wearing no gear is a 1... wearing full gear brings you up to a 10, all else equal, and then the differences in driving attitude from yourself (somewhat controllable with a lot of mental effort) may bring that down to an 8, and that of other drivers brings it down to a 7, and you still end up WAY ahead.
Another way of looking at it is this: if your practice is not to ever ride unless ATGATT, then no gear at all ironically represents the safest you'll be... because you won't be riding. That's the Chicago beach lifeguard method of safety. They pride themselves in their safety record, but they hardly let anyone in water, certainly never deeper than their knees, and nobody drowns.