Sunday, March 01, 2009

Protected to Death

Buried in a "news in brief" column in the OC Register today is a sad story about a car crash in which a car went off the road and skidded down a 60-ft bank into the Colorado River. The woman and her 11-year-old daughter escaped the car, but her 5-year-old daughter apparently sank with the car.

My knowledge of some of the laws foisted 'pon us by our omnipotent federal government reminds me that smaller children are required to be hogtied into an inescapable contrivance, far enough away from the driver that (s)he will be unable to reach the child in a panic situation. The restraints are secure enough that they are not easily undone, nor can the child save his(her)self.

I constantly wonder, watching parents deal with these child seats as they try to get them undone in supermarket parking lots or at nursery schools, why a parent would put up with this crap.

Now, I'm sure the National Transportation Authorities have cooked up hundreds of pages of statistics why making a mummy of your child in a coffin in the back seat of the car is a good idea, and that, as San Fran Nan might say, "500 million children's lives are saved each day" by these infernal devices. Some of that stuff can be found here.

Tell that to little Danica Maestas. Oh. You can't tell her. She's dead and her body has yet to be found.

Her body remains in the back seat of the car, rolling along in the Colorado River current to be found, probably sometime soon. Dead.

So, thank you, NTSB, for preempting yet another parent's prerogative regarding the safety of his (her) children--to the child's detriment. It's a one-size-fits-all world.

There were no child safety coffins around in my childhood. My parents avoided killing us in car wrecks by not having any. Following that line of thinking, I did the same thing. As I see it, all these safety devices (on the occasions when they don't kill the kids by drowning or by fire) actually do is give parents reason to believe that they can drive faster and more carelessly. Watch some of the suv's blasting down the freeways, careening from lane to lane, kids safely hogtied in the back seat, going 85 mph while talking on the cell phone, then tell me how well those little coffins work.

We don't know (the news story doesn't say) how fast little Danica's mother was driving, or whether she was talking on the phone, but I'll wager she would've tried to grab Danica's hand and pull her out of the car, had the little girl not been trussed up in that awful little death trap.

Aside: I wonder what was Ted Kennedy's excuse.....sorry. I couldn't resist.

Government is the root of all evil.

Warm regards,

Col. Hogan
Stalag California


Chatelaine said...

The only child seat I remember having is one that had a bar that came down over my head like a roller coaster seat does. It wasn't fastened at all. Just a pull down.

I rarely sat in it, though. I just sat in the back seat, and I sat still too. My Mom would have spanked my bottom if I had jumped around and acted like a hooligan while in the car.

Besides, we lived in a small town with about three thousand people, and hardly ever had the opportunity to go over 45 miles an hour. No need for restraints.

Col. Hogan said...

Lady C,

A fond recollection is of the many times the family drove into Grand Forks to shop and see a movie or something, in Dad's 1947 Chevy. I liked to get up in the rear window shelf and lie there, looking at the following cars--if any--and looking up at the moon and stars.

Often, I'd fall asleep back there. Sometimes my brothers or my sister would try to pull me down, so one of them could get up there. Mom, from the front seat, didn't tolerate much of that, though.

I now know that it Dad had had to stop suddenly, the consequences could be dangerous, but he never did. And, it wasn't very long before we were too big to fit up there anyway.

T. F. Stern said...

On this item I'd have to step outside the line and say that child safety seats do a good job in protecting young children while driving. I'm against the Nanny state laws which make criminals of parents who don't use them, the parent, not the state should make such rules. The idea that in this particular instance a child died does not detract from the many children who were given extra protection, those who would have been severely injured or died had they not had extra protection.

While we generally agree on lots of issues, I think you picked a poor example to "rage against" this time.

Col. Hogan said...


That's the key. If the parents think that immobilizing their children in the back of the car is a good idea, then it should be their choice--not that of government. After all, it worked well for Susan Smith, back in 1994, eh?

I think the government's own utterly unbiased statistics show that no child has ever been harmed while correctly mummified and sarcophagized in one of those plastic maidens.

Meanwhile, neither me nor any of my past or present wives, nor either of my sons have ever been trussed up in one of these things. Neither have we ever been injured in a car crash--except for me, having suffered a cracked ankle in a car crash while hitchhiking in Tennessee back in 1963.

I don't concern myself to much about that, because I really have spent a lot of time and passed a lot of miles on the streets, roads and highways across this and a few other countries.

Far better than a plastic coffin, is the simple notion of paying 100% attention while driving and driving safely and courteously (a policy which I haven't always followed to the letter).