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Cautionary Tales – When the autopilot switched off


An airline captain thought he was giving his children a harmless thrill by letting them “fly” his packed airplane – the young cockpit visitors weren’t really in control… the autopilot was doing the real flying. Until it wasn’t. Do safety features actually lull us into a false sense of security – tempting us to take greater risks than we otherwise would?

Cautionary Tales is written by me, Tim Harford, with Andrew Wright. It is produced by Ryan Dilley, with support from Courtney Guarino and Emily Vaughn.

The sound design and original music is the work of Pascal Wyse. Julia Barton edited the scripts.

Thanks to the team at Pushkin Industries, including Mia Lobel, Jacob Weisberg, Heather Fain, Jon Schnaars, Carly Migliori, Eric Sandler, Emily Rostek, Royston Beserve, Maggie Taylor, Nicole Morana, Daniella Lakhan and Maya Koenig.

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Further reading and listening

ESPN covered the accident that killed Dale Earnhardt.

The official report into the crash of Flight 593 is available on Aviation Safety (pdf). Also see the article on Tailstrike.

The Effects of Automobile Safety Regulation Author(s): Sam Peltzman Source: Journal of Political Economy, Vol. 83, No. 4 (Aug., 1975), pp. 677-726. Sam Peltzman criticises the quality of his own analysis here.

“Rubbin’ is racin”’: evidence of the Peltzman effect from NASCAR Adam T. Pope · Robert D. Tollison. Public Choice (2010) 142: 507–513 DOI 10.1007/s11127-009-9548-2

Southern Economic Journal 2007, 74(1), 71–84. Automobile Safety Regulation and the Incentive to Drive Recklessly: Evidence from NASCAR Russell S. Sobel and Todd M. Nesbit

Academic articles weighing up risk compensation in a variety of contexts are published in the Journal of the International AIDS Society, the British Medical Journal, OSF Preprints, Annals of Behavioural Medicine, and Scientific Reports.

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