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The Independent Online
When scientists are unable to predict the consequences of their experiments, and government ministers accept their own inability to challenge, or even understand, the advice given by their scientific advisers, it is clear that as far as risk assessment is concerned, we must all make our own decisions. But how good are you at assessing risk? Try the following questions to see how good you are at assessing the risks of everyday life.

1. What chance are you taking when making a journey within or from this country? In terms of deaths per passenger kilometre, arrange the following in order of risk: a) scheduled flight; b) train; c) car; d) UK registered ship; e) bicycle; f) motorbike; g) walking.

2. If you buy one lottery ticket, which is most likely to happen? a) you win the jackpot; b) you are murdered within a week; c) you are struck dead by lightning within a year.

3. According to statistics, which professional group has the highest incidence of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease? a) farmers; b) teachers; c) vicars.

4. Last year, the Department of Trade and Industry published a table of accidents in the home, giving the number of people who ended up in hospital as a result of accidents involving various dangerous items. Rank the following in order of risk: a) mushrooms; b) tea cosies; c) wooden spoons; d) paper clips.

5. Which is most dangerous: smoking 10 cigarettes a day for 40 years or playing one game of Russian roulette?

6. Where are you most likely to suffer a fatal accident? a) at home; b) at work; c) playing football.

7. You are an average married adult. Which is most likely to happen to you in the next year? a) injury in a road accident; b) divorce; c) your car is stolen.

8. Which of the following has not been recorded as a cause of death, somewhere in the world, so far in the past year? a) drowning in a bowl of sauerkraut; b) fractured skull by a falling tortoise; c) killed while sunbathing by a swimming pool by a person falling from a hotel window; d) acute nicotine poisoning after smoking 100 cigarettes at a sitting for a bet.


1. In decreasing order of danger (deaths per billion passenger kilometres in brackets): motorbike (103), walking (69), bicycle (49), ship (10.1), car (4.5), train (1.0), aircraft (0.2).

2. c). The other two are about equally likely.

3. Vicars.

4. (With accident rates) wooden spoons 95, mushrooms 14, paper-clips 8, tea cosies 9.

5. Smoking. A 10-cigarette a day person has a 1 in 200 chance of dying of smoking-related disease in a single year.

6. Playing football (1 in 25,000 per year). The comparable figures are 1 in 26,000 at home and 1 in 43,500 at work.

7. c) The annual rates are 1 in 100 for car theft, 1 in 200 for road accident, 1 in 350 for divorce.

8. b) That was how Aeschylus allegedly died around 456BC (the tortoise was dropped by an eagle), but has not, as far as we know, happened to anyone yet this year. The others occurred (a) in Budapest, (c) in Bangkok and (d) in Beijing.