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!