Wednesday, March 04, 2009

More On Backseat Child Coffins

After an interesting exchange with my friend TF Stern about child restraints for cars, I realized that I may have been a mite flip in my response. While my opinion of these foul gadgets hasn't changed, there is far more to my answer than I have given thus far.

TF is a retired traffic officer who has far more experience than I with handling the aftermath of auto collisions. I'm sure he's seen many cases in which the lives of small children were saved by these contrivances, and I'll reluctantly concede the point.

Reluctantly, because my mind rebels at restricting a child's ability to see, do and learn. Yet, in a collision, a small child is nearly as vulnerable to physical trauma when restrained by a standard seat belt than he would be with no restraint at all.

Here's the problem. Years ago, someone came up with the idea of placing slots in a baby's bassinet in order to thread the seat belt through these slots, to hold it on the seat of the car during sudden maneuvers and panic braking. The baby was further strapped into the bassinet. Soon, the bassinet became a little seat for toddlers. Not too bad, so far.

Enter the federal government. The National Transportation Board (NTSB). What was a good idea became mandatory, and after a few tweakings to make the device even more difficult to operate quickly, it became frozen in time. There was no room left for further innovation, because.....the law's the law.

The fact that NTSB continues to try to require special booster/restraint seats for larger and older children tells me that safety isn't the only goal. Larger children are, in fact, equally safe in the car's standard seat belt/air bag systems as adults.

I submit that these unnecessary laws were adopted for no lesser a reason than to take even more choices away from the individual.

What might've happened had the NTSB not goose-stepped over individual prerogatives in this area? Perhaps further, and widely diverse solutions to these problems might be made available. perhaps the driver's and front seat passenger's seat belt release could also release the child restraints. In the 1993 action movie, Demolition man, cars automatically filled with a cushioning foam that protected the passengers.

But, in today's political climate, any innovation that threatens to disrupt the status quo is looked at with suspicion, if not outright banned. So children will continue to be drowned, or burned to death in car crashes because they cannot be easily extricated from their mandatory child confinement coffins, and the NTSB will continue to pressure for increased penalties for those who resist.

They've killed Freedom! Those bastards!

Col. Hogan
Stalag California


T. F. Stern said...

We are in agreement as to the idea that government has no place legislating those decisions which should only be made within the structure of the family unit, the parents holding all deadlocked votes should such a vote be taken.

On rare instances when my grandchildren have been left in our care and no safety seat left to go with the grandchild; I have no problem violating state laws which require the use of a safety seat and no guilt for "putting my grand child in harms way" if we go for a ride in either my truck or car. It wasn't such a huge risk for my parents when I was young and I drive with reasonable care so as not to be a menace to society. The grand children's safety are my responsibility, not the states.

All the same, I prefer the added protection afforded by the well designed safety seats which my children use most of the time.

The Wine Commonsewer said...

What TF Stern said.......

I'm a little pissy about mandatory air bags. I miss that the kids couldn't ride up front with me when they were smaller. Chances are slim, I know, but I just didn't want a dead six year old at the hands of a malfunctioning (or functioning) air bag.

On balance, I think one is safer with the contraptions they put in modern cars, but as the choir well knows, it ain't the government's business to legislate it.

More of that nannying coming down the pike. Much more.

T. F. Stern said...

I had to remind Lucy that grandchildren are not to ride in the front seat of her car because of the dangers associated with an air bag that cannot be turned off depending on who is in the front passenger seat.

My truck, on the other hand, has a place to turn off the airbag. I guess truck owners, by virtue of our superior intellect, are given more ( I almost wrote "rights") latitude when working with the Nanny state. not so lol

Anonymous said...

The car-seat things i've seen have one release for the 3 belt clips. All in one go, so it seems easy enough to release when you want to do it fast. The bit that parents struggle with when taking their kids out is when they're trying to take the whole contraption out, not just the baby/child.

I must say though, if i had a child in the back seat, i would drive carefully, child seat or not. Which is what i've seen with other parents as well.

When it comes to growing children, a standard seatbelt can actually be worse as the thing is mounted so high it comes across the their neck and not their shoulder, so a booster seat is needed.

The Wine Commonsewer said...

The seatbelts in the back seat of my politically incorrect foreign truck that is made entirely in America are on strangulation setting for adults (and are not adjustable). In this case, the kids are better off locking the belts behind them and skipping the chest restraint.

The Wine Commonsewer said...

My truck (referenced above) has a sensor that shuts off the airbag if anyone in the passenger seat is too light to be safe. Not sure I want to test that function.

MK said...

And most people don't even know that they should adjust those seatbelt mounts as low as possible, some even push it up as much as they can. I'm just lost for words when i see that.

Col. Hogan said...


I've never been an advocate of those cheesy seat belts they're required to put in cars nowadays, either. I'll take a simple lap belt, and that just to keep my butt in the seat while skidding around or rolling over.

My injury prevention plan remains: don't bump into anything.

It's been working for many, many years.


Col. Hogan said...


I've heard that an air bag is the equivalent of a 12-gauge shotgun shell pointed at your face. The fact that they add many hundreds of dollars to the price of the car is part of what keeps me driving older cars.

Air bags are made of an unknown kind of plastic, and plastics deteriorates and gets brittle with age. Who knows what that might portend?

Col. Hogan said...


Mercedes Benz has a concept car that has no steering wheel and no pedals. There's only a joystick in the center console. That takes care of the objects you can hit in a front-end collision. That, along with a good five- or six-point quick release belt system should save you if anything can.

It was not ordered, mandated or invented by government. If it becomes available though, it soon will be mandatory.

Col. Hogan said...


I've never used one of those things, I've just observed parents wrestling with them. But, it does seem that if you have to get the child out in a hurry, you have a dead kid.

Col. Hogan said...


See, I don't want to have to depend 'pon all these make-do quick fixes that may or may not work at crunch time. Too much chance of a corroded contact or an abraded wire rendering the device useless. If I bought a car with an airbag I'd remove it, leaving it looking intact.

And let's not get me started about the "bumpers" they put on cars now.....

O! What a tangled web we weave, when we to drive without using our minds.

Col. Hogan said...


The best (by orders of magnitude) restraint system is a five- or six-point belt system with a quick release buckle. One over each shoulder, one around each side of the waist, and one or two twixt the thighs (with appropriate allowances). It could be made adjustable for differently sized people, too. Even kids.

I follow NHRA drag racing, and I'd say there's a reason why they don't use airbags.