My favourite example of the availability heuristic is related to travelling. Imagine that you’re finally getting to that long-awaited holiday on a paradise island. Your friend drops you off at the airport. As you gather your suitcase and are just about to leave, your friend shouts to you “Have a safe flight!” You say thanks, and proceed to check-in.
So it’s not just that availability is a poor guide to probability. In the case of mass media, availability is actually inversely proportional to the probability! After all, papers want to report new, exciting things, and not just car accidents that happen every day. This essentially means that “oh, I saw an article about this in the paper” is not a good guide to the world of things to come.
If you’re a nitpicker (I know I am, so there’s no shame to admitting) you might say that saying safe trip is really not a probability estimation claim. When you say “have a safe trip”, you’re not trying to state that “I believe your mode of travels is statistically more likely to result in death or injury, and I aim to prevent a part of that by this utterance”. No, of course not. Even an economist wouldn’t claim such a thing! It’s more a statement of wishing your friend well, and hoping for a good trip. But still, I find it funny that we use the word “safe” here, in exactly the wrong place.