Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Are Car Seats Safer?

So Utah is looking at legislation that will "allow adults to transport smaller children in cars without a booster seat, as long as it [is] within four miles of their home and not on streets with speed limits over 45 mph."

As a law I think it seems to have too many conditions to be enforced easily. And if this bill would have come out a few months ago I might have thought it was stupid altogether. However, I somewhat recently saw a presentation by Steven Levitt (the author of Freakonomics) on TED.com where he argued that there is no added safety benefit for using car seats with children above the age of two. Rather than explaining all his points I'll let you watch/listen to his presentation:

This presentation was done back in 2005. Since that point Steven Levitt and his partner Stephen Dubner have done additional research that has supported this theory. Including that of the prevention of injury. They often talk about it on their nytimes blog. They point out that those people/organizations that think these conclusions are misleading and damaging will not share their data with them to prove them wrong once and for all (even though Levitt and Dubner say they will happily share their data with them in the process).

Now I don't know if Levitt and Dubner are right or not. In fact from my reading it seems they still don't know for sure, they just see all this data and what it could mean and want to know the answer. Although they certainly lean the "car seats are pointless after 2" way.

As a parent I want my children to be as safe as possible within reason. And I don't want any of my actions (or lack of actions) causing pain or death to my children. That would kill me. But I do want to know when I'm given an "expensive" placebo to try and make me feel better or an actual pill that works (to use Levitt's analogy).

So what do you all think on this subject? Have any of you seen actual reports that give data supporting the "make sure your kid is harnessed in rear-facing until age 18" point (yes I'm exaggerating but sometimes it sure feels like that is what they are saying)? Reports/articles giving actual data that compares car seats to seat belts instead of just SAYING car seats prevent injury and death? I haven't been able to find that yet, and certainly children's doctors seem to be in the majority in supporting car seats for much of childhood. But again along with Levitt's argument, I haven't seen any data to support what many doctors are saying. I've only found them saying car seats are better. Maybe that's just because they haven't seen a reason to share the hard, possibly confusing data yet. I certainly don't want a statistical analysis for every point my doctor makes.

So I really don't know what I think yet. But I'm curious what all of you think about and/or have seen on the safety of car seats in relation to seat belts for children over 2?


merrilykaroly said...

I am curious about supporting research for the other side, too. That video is very convincing!

Nathan and Sarah said...

I was in a traffic class one time where an officer said he had seen a lot of accidents where kids were trying to look out the window. He was a fan of boosters just because it helped eliminate the desire to wiggle out of your seat belt to get higher to look out the window. I am going to watch the video now, but I thought that was interesting when I heard it.

Linda said...

I saw this video and watched it on Josh's Facebook a while back. It made me wish I could go back and not worry so much when our children were little. Also, my parents NEVER had a car seat of any kind for me and I survived!