Risk Arrogance

기사승인 2018.03.16  13:26:56


- How insensitivity to risk triggers the insensibility to danger


 THE YEAR 2018 has begun with a series of fire incidents: the Miryang hospital fire, Jongno motel fire, and Hongdae conflagration are just a few to name. The news of death has been occupying almost half of ‘TOP 10 real-time searches’ in major search engines. Facing the deaths of countless others, the public responded to the reoccurring accidents with the question: “again?” Ulrich Beck, a prominent sociologist, refers to the modern society as a “risk society,” in which modernization provokes hazards and insecurities among people. As we are more exposed to mass casualty incidents, their severity appears to be gradually less significant, and our risk sensitivity becomes blunt. When the news of accidents hit the headlines, citizens become obsessed with rummaging through the institutional loopholes to which the accident can be attributed and holding the government accountable for the successive calamities. After a bout of public criticism, the public soon become oblivious to these safety concerns, and this vicious cycle—accident, criticism, and oblivion—repeats. Hindsight is 20/20.

   However, it is nothing but a day after the fair*. The government is not the only entity that is responsible for such continuing misfortune. It is now time for individuals to reflect their risk arrogance, which is insensitivity towards safety, and scrutinize the risk-abound elements that are prevalent in their daily lives. On that note, *The Yonsei Annals* examined risk arrogance on a personal level by highlighting the ubiquitous appearance of the crowds’ insecurities on their ways to and within Yonsei University.

▲ Jaywalking

▲ Violation of the traffic light

   Yonsei-ro is one of the streets that Yonseians walk through almost every day. To guarantee the safety of the pedestrians, who are mostly university students, the traffic on the Yonesi-ro is strictly restricted to public transportation on weekdays and designated as an auto-free road on weekends. Ironically, this policy makes the pedestrians insensitive to the dangers of car accidents, and susceptible to violating the traffic laws such as jaywalking or traffic light violation.
On the way from Sinchon station to Yonsei University, there were dozens of people crossing the crosswalk without paying attention to the traffic lights, and some were even jaywalking when there were vehicles running towards them. The bright-red speed limit sign drawn on the road deludes the pedestrians to believing that the vehicles will have enough time and distance to avoid them when they rush into the road. However, that is not the case. Despite these signs, pedestrians are always exposed to the risk of car accidents.
▲ A pedestrian crossing the street on blinkers
   After passing through the Yonsei-ro, there comes an eight-lane thoroughfare between the main gate of Yonsei University and the end of the said road. Unlike narrow paths with no more than two lanes, thoroughfares have less people who dare to start crossing them on the red light. On these larger roads exists a problem that is second to jaywalking: crossing on blinkers. A surprisingly large number of people belittle the risk of dashing towards the crosswalk on blinkers. All they can see is the color green, which means that the dangerously blinking lights, clearly indicating the limited amount of time they have to safely cross the streets, are ignored. Crossing the streets on blinkers, however, is as dangerous as traffic light violation or jaywalking as it is only a matter of seconds until the blinking green light turns into an ominous red.
▲ "No smartphone while walking" sign
   The foremost duty of a driver is to keep his or her eyes on the road. The same is true for pedestrians. However, there has been less emphasis placed on the pedestrians compared to the drivers. With the increase in the number of smartphone users, formerly non-existent signs have appeared on the streets. “No smartphones while walking,” says one of the more frequently seen signs. When you take the subway or look around the people on the street, they are uniformly looking down, with their eyes fixed on a tiny electronic device: the ever-so-cherished smartphone. Immersion to this small, illuminating device not only blinds your eyes but also closes your ears. Focusing on smartphones, instead of looking forward, can have you neglect your own safety and can distract you from protecting yourself from the fast-running cars. Either on crosswalks or on crossroads, your eyes should always gaze forward, towards where you are headed.

▲ Dive-and-board

▲ The sign reads "Do not walk or run, and please hold on to the handrail."
At the end of the day, the majority of students who commute to Yonsei University use the Sinchon underground station. During their commute, most students run down the escalators or stairs to not miss their train. With their desire to rush back home preceding their safety sensibility, they overlook the sign “Do not walk or run, and please hold on to the handrail.” Some even raise the question of why people should not walk or run on the escalator, stating that it is an etiquette to stand in one row to let others who are busy to pass by.
Rushing on the escalator is discouraged as there is a higher possibility of slipping and tumbling down the rapidly moving stairs. In addition, it can also trigger a secondhand hazard: the dive-and-board. In morning rush hours, commuters dash to the closing doors in order to not miss the subway that takes them to their workplace in time. When these passengers jump towards the closing doors, their posture resembles that of a diver: hence the term “dive-and-board.” Getting on a subway in the nick of time is a frequent challenge, but it is extremely dangerous in that it places one in a high risk of getting caught between the closing doors.


▲ Unclosed gas valve
   Danger lurks in the path of our daily lives. It also menaces us even within our home sweet home. Absence of fire extinguishers, unclosed gas valves, and glass dishware on a high cupboard: these are all risk elements that demonstrate how awareness is not equivalent to practice. Although people perceive such risk elements as danger, they often belittle them and have no regard in avoiding the potential accidents. In some cases, however, people commit risky behaviors because they are unaware of the peril that could possibly result from them.
With the fad of scented candles, some people put candles besides their bed for a sound sleep, and others, especially young couples, light up candles to put their babies to sleep. Scented candles are often utilized against unpleasant odor, but it is known that long-term exposure to them can cause carbon monoxide poisoning, to which those deep in sleep would be more vulnerable. Just like death can be caused by the poisonous gases released from the burning of a briquette, burning scented candles can also provoke asphyxiation due to imperfect combustion. Furthermore, cloth—like the common blanket or curtains—is prone to fire, and when it catches on fire the flame will spread in an instant.
*                 *                 *
In this complex modern society, risk is ubiquitous, and the majority of the population is insensible to it. There exist institutional factors that jeopardize the mass, but it is not always a grandiose cause that provokes a big-scale disaster. As the term “butterfly effect” implies, minor elements in the individual level can trigger social or even international outcomes. World War I had begun with the bang of two gunshots. The same could be true for the status quo. Individual’s inattention can expand into a social problem that millions of people can become affected by. Instead of lapsing into the swing of a series of social disaster, the society ought to be wary of the risk elements, starting from the individual level.
*A day after the fair: An idiom which implies that it is too late to propose a solution as the problem has already taken place; Additionally, it derives from the Chinese character idiom, *sa hoo yak bang moon*, which means that it is no use to prescribe medicine after the death.


Lee Hyun-kyung

<저작권자 © 연세애널스 무단전재 및 재배포금지>




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