Wednesday, March 05, 2008

But It's for the Children!

Ever willing to impose any kind of restriction in the name of child safety, the Utah State Legislature has passed a bill that will require all children under age 8 to be restrained in child safety seats when traveling in a vehicle. Unless they’re traveling in the bed of a pickup truck. Then no kind of restraint is required.

HB140 is another do-gooder piece of legislation that imposes restrictions on a broad swath of society to achieve a minimal increase in “child safety.” Ah yes, that lovely phrase that justifies all government meddling in the lives of parents and children.

Studies show that kids ages 4-7 that use a booster seat with seat belts reduce their chance of injury in an accident by 59% over using seat belts alone. Sounds great. So, how many people are we talking about? How many kids ages 4-7 wearing seat belts are injured in accidents where a booster seat would have substantially reduced the injuries? Umm… that’s not quite so clear.

They think that 451 kids nationwide age 5 and under survived what would otherwise have been fatal crashes in 2004, mainly due to being in a car seat. But there’s not much out there about the actual number of kids ages 4-7 that actually had suffered significantly fewer injuries due to being restrained in a booster seat as opposed to being restrained in just seat belts.

How many Utah kids might this help each year? Well, that’s not very clear. But it’s all for a good cause, right? So we’ll let government be our nanny and tell us what to do.

What kind of requirements does this bill impose on parents? If you have kids under 3rd grade, forget carpooling with your neighbors unless you’re going to take the time to move car seats from vehicle to vehicle, or are willing to fund and carry around extra car seats. How many more child safety incidents are we causing by running more vehicles through school zones during drop off and pick up times due to reduced carpooling? How much more environmental impact are we causing?

Ah, never mind that. We’ll soon have a new law (because you know that our big-government-loving governor will sign it) that will make us feel good, will give us a new source of revenue via law enforcement, and will give the finger-waggers another reason to rag on parents.

And don’t expect it to stop there. Because the intrepid child safety interlopers actually recommend that kids be buckled into booster seats through AGE 12, weigh as much as 100 lbs, and grow to 5 feet in height! I’m surprised that they stop before age 18. (What of the girl I knew in college that was 4’11”?)

So in a few years, after we have become accustomed to our new government-approved restricted travel style, our children’s “advocates” will be back for another round to make sure we put our kids into booster seats until they’re most of the way through puberty.

While there seem to be no studies that show that new laws like this one actually have an overall and substantial salutary effect, there are studies that “preliminarily” show that laws like this marginally increase booster seat use. More people complying with overblown safety advocacy must be a good thing. I can’t wait to see what kind of restrictions on your life the legislature comes up with next year — all for a good cause. That’s progress!


Bradley Ross said...

I'm with you on this one. I feel like our legislature blew it. I had many of the same reservations that you have expressed here.

I hate not being able to let a friend pick up my kids or take them somewhere without trying to arrange a car seat swap.

We could make all children more safe by requiring they be buckled into crash resistant capsules, even on school buses. We don't do it because the trade-offs are too burdensome. As harsh as it sounds to say, we must admit that it isn't worth "any price" to save a human life.

Risk is inherent in freedom.

Jeremy said...

"We’ll soon have a new law (because you know that our big-government-loving governor will sign it) that will make us feel good, will give us a new source of revenue via law enforcement, and will give the finger-waggers another reason to rag on parents."

Its not just the is all of our Republicans. These jokers stick us with more and more nanny government year in and year out yet Utahns keep going back to them.

Sorry Reach but any Republican who complains about too much paternalism in our government isn't assigning the guy in the mirror enough of the blame. We need more libertarian minded leaders in both parties. Right now I think the Democratic party is far more open to libertarian thought than the Republicans who are consistently focused on babying all of us at every turn.

Reach Upward said...

Well, let's see how the Democrats in the legislature voted on the bill. Apparently NONE of them voted against the bill. I'm certainly not happy with most of the GOP folks in the legislature, but at least some of them (i.e. my rep, but not my senator) voted against the bill. Let's be a little more careful about hurling the paternalistic epithet.

Rachel said...

The book Freakonomics goes into some detail about this subject and concludes pretty much what you'd expect: properly used seatbelts are just as effective for children over the age of two.

What drives me crazy is when I get hassled for driving a big car... so I can accomodate the kids, carpools and carseats. I think we should add the costs of contributing to "global warming" that legislating mandatory car seats creates. Maybe then we could convince legislators to refrain from imposing another law.