Pascal Haegeli, Reto Rupf and Barbara Karlen
Proceedings of the 2018 International Snow Science Workshop in Innsbruck, Austria
Publication year: 2018


While the effectiveness of airbags for reducing mortality in avalanche involvements has been examined in various studies, the nagging question of whether the added safety benefit might actually lead to increased risk-taking – a phenomenon referred to as risk compensation or risk homeostasis – has only been tackled by a few. Building on the existing research on airbags, risk compensation and stated terrain preferences in winter backcountry recreation, we developed an extensive online survey to approach the topic of avalanche airbags and risk compensation from multiple directions. In the spring of 2017, 155 airbag owners and 237 non-owners mainly from Switzerland, Germany and Austria participated in our study. While our analysis of the survey responses indicates that risk compensation behavior in response to airbags is likely among recreational backcountry travelers, the discrete choice experiment included in our survey failed to provide conclusive empirical evidence. To allow backcountry users to make informed choices about airbag use, we recommend the topic of risk compensation to be included in avalanche safety courses and airbag user manuals.

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