Awareness needed around psychology of hunting accidents

Published: Tue 15 Apr 2014 02:54 PM
Hunter Safety Lab
HSL - “Awareness needed around psychology of hunting accidents”
April 15, 2014
Wellington start-up, Hunter Safety Lab says there needs to be greater awareness around the subconscious psychological factors that can cause safety conscious, experienced hunters to mistakenly shoot another hunter.
The comment came in light of the death of a Southland hunter shot by another hunter over the weekend.
It is the hunting season’s second shooting accident to take place in the space of two weeks since it officially kicked off at the beginning of April.
At the beginning of the month a Bay of Plenty man was seriously injured after being mistakenly shot by his father during a deer-hunting trip.
Michael Scott, co-founder of Hunter Safety Lab said that, sadly, these accidents occur nearly every hunting season.
Contrary to popular belief, they often involved an experienced, responsible hunter who knows and follows hunting rules, yet still made a tragic mistake.
Mr. Scott said hunters were encouraged to follow the “Seven Rules of Safe Hunting” (see below) by the Mountain Safety Council and the police, but these did not take into account human factors such as inattentional blindness, scenario fulfillment and tricks of the brain under particular conditions.
“Training and hunter education is absolutely essential for all hunters, however there needs to be a lot more awareness around other subconscious factors that can cause accidents and are not influenced or solved by training and education,” said Mr. Scott.
“It’s about the psychology of visual perception, and funnily enough, it is proven you are more susceptive to it the longer you have been hunting because what you see is subconsciously based on previous hunting experiences.
“99.9% of the time this subconscious processing of visual information is beneficial and enables us to function as humans, but occasionally it results in serious mistakes.
When these mistakes involve a high-powered hunting rifle, the consequences can be deadly.
“Because training and education mainly affects conscious voluntary behaviours, these types of hunting accidents are difficult to prevent.
“So hunter education groups, clubs and governance bodies need to bring this to the forefront so that hunters are taking this into consideration as well,” said Mr. Scott.
To address this, Hunter Safety Lab has created IRIS, a globally unique, active alert technology for hunters, which gives the shooter a warning if the target is wearing Hunter Safety Lab’s safety gear.
Hunter Safety Lab’s mission statement is to eliminate hunting accidents and the heartache caused by them.
“IRIS is not a replacement for hunter education, personal responsibility or the need to follow the basic rules, but it can give a last second warning if a mistake has been made, potentially saving someone’s life,” said Mr. Scott.
Product designers, fathers and hunters themselves, Mr. Scott and co-founder David Grove came up for the idea of IRIS when they were separated in the bush on their own hunting trip.
The Mountain Safety Council’s 7 Rules of Hunter Safety 1.
Treat every firearm as loaded 2.
Always point firearms in a safe direction 3.
Load a firearm only when ready to fire 4.
Identify your target beyond all doubt 5.
Check your firing zone 6.
Store firearms and ammunition safely 7.
Avoid alcohol and drugs when handling firearms
Key Hunter Safety Statistics
The average hunting accident distance is about 35 meters.
A hunter is accidentally killed every nine months in NZ on average.
Two-thirds of hunting accident victims are shot by their companion.
The shooter is frequently an experienced, responsible hunter.
In the USA around half of victims are wearing high vis ‘blaze’ orange when shot.

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