Monday, December 28, 2009

Toddler Car Seats Debunked

Shocking result reported in the book SuperFreakonomics. Perfectly installed and fitted car seats for 3 and 6 year olds are no more effective in a crash in protecting children than the poorly fitting built-in lap belt. Hear the authors talk about it in segment 7 of this talk.

Other interesting comments from that segment, though I don't know if all of these are actually backed up by the research or if they are merely conclusions based on the new intuition informed by the study:
  • The passenger seat is the least safe seat in the car.
  • A child would fare better than an adult in the front seat because they are smaller and less likely to get squashed by something.
  • The safest place for an infant would be on the floor of the backseat.
  • Crash testing companies had never done comparative testing of regular seat belts and child seats. The authors were turned down several times. The engineer who finally did the test was certain they were going to destroy his crash test dummy and made them promise to replace it if it got destroyed in the tests using only a plain seat belt.
  • Using a seat belt of any sort makes an enormous difference in the survivability of a crash.
  • Babe-in-arms in the front seat is the worst possible place for an infant.
  • The authors note that other people disagree with their conclusions.
Legislators, will you take action to further investigate this and remedy the situation if further study bears this out?

I feel more oppressed by child safety seat regulation than any other government regulation I can think of because it affects me nearly every day as a father of four children under the age of 7. We switched to a minivan from a sedan when our third child was born because fitting three car seats in the back seat was problematic. (It was hard to close the back doors.)

Now that we have a minivan, I'm still concerned about adding the fifth child to this car because I'm not sure how easy it will be to access the built in seat belt when three booster seats or child seats are squeezed onto that back bench. Perversely, the cumbersome nature of child safety seats makes me less inclined to buckle my kids for trips of three blocks or less. I'm sure that isn't the safety result the legislators were hoping for.

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