I am currently reading – as ever – a couple of books. I have always thought that if I can manage to maintain my credulity whilst watching 24, sniff out red herring #32 in The Killing and swallow back vomit whilst watching this years X-Factor then I have the requisite skills to read more than one book at the same time.
Anyhoo – one of the books that I am reading is called Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Investigates the Hidden Side of Everything. The writers ask some pretty ‘out there’ questions like: why do drug dealers live with their mothers? Does reading your children bedtime stories make your children smarter? Who cheat more, kids or teachers? Do estate agents make more money selling their own house than yours?* You get the idea.
Some of the data that the writers (Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner) write about and dissect is truly astonishing. But, in a chapter on parenting, they casually threw in the following statement: ‘…the data shows that car seats are, at best, nominally helpful.’
I read that and thought,‘buuuulll-sheeeeeeeeit!’ You just need to look at the bloody things, with their four point harnesses, side impact protection systems and rigourous fitting instructions that forbid you to drive anywhere without one or your child WILL DIE – all printed, lovingly, using the exact same pictograms the airline industry uses it it’s air-safety guides (like those will make a difference as the cartwheeling, fireball of fuselage plummets towards the ground at 400mph…). Surely, they must be safer than no car seat? I mean, the car seats we bought for our urchins cost – like – loads. A ton at least. For a chair! They’re not even Arne Jacobsen chairs…
So, I did a bit of research and guess bloody what? A child between the ages of 1 and 4 is – actually – 54% more likely to survive a crash in a child car seat (a baby under the age of 1 is 71%) than with no restraints at all. Source
Let’s read that sentence again, shall we?
If your child is wearing no restraints at all they are definitely 46% more likely to die in a crash – I mean, that’s bloody obvious really, isn’t it?. You could make them wear egg boxes and drop that figure a bit I reckon…and newborns cannot physically sit in a car without a car seat, that’s a given.
So, is there data out there that determines if your child would be as safe wearing a conventional seat belt? You know, those loopy things that live in the back of your car? No, there isn’t.
So the authors compiled their own data at the same test centre (they had to do it anonymously) the seat manufacturers and car makers use to test their safety and they found that there was no difference at all in whether a kids wears a seat belt or uses a car seat AND the testers went as far as to say that some booster seats were in some circumstances more dangerous as it placed the child in an elevated position. Fuck me. Source – Source: Video – Source: refutation
This kind of enrages me a bit because these things aren’t cheap and it turns out they are 50% fear marketing and 50% bullshit. The other side thing is how car rental companies use these (virtually pointless objects) to fiscally bone me at the rental counter. Finally, if there was some suspicion that the restraints in cars themselves were inadequate for protecting our most precious cargo then the car manufacturers themselves should have provided a solution \but they didn’t because they knew they were and were thus complicit in allowing Britax and Reccarro and all these leeching bastards to skim money off parents. FINALLY – it’s now law to have your child cocooned in one of these chocolate teapots that could possibly put the survival of your child in the balance.
So, woo-fuckin’-hoo for the power of marketing, exploitation-fear, upselling a product we don’t need using juiced numbers and convincing governments that they know best – ooh, sounds like a bunch of hedge fund managers, doesn’t it?
Maybe time for some independent research and perhaps the car manufacturers could step-up and install a child safety system in every car they make.
All this is by-the-by – but it is a great book…and I am still going to keep my kids in child car seats because, well, they keep the little blighters in one place and that must be a major safety factor, no? Sorry I haven’t posted much. Busy, tis all.
* 1.Because they don’t earn very much. 2.No. 3. Teachers. 4.They try harder to sell theirs than yours.