SuperFreakonomics: Rethinking the Car Seat

From Chapter 4, “The Fix is in – and it’s cheap and simple”:

Imagine you were charged with starting from scratch to ensure the safety of all children who travel in cars. Do you really think the best solution is to begin with a device optimized for adults and use it to strap down some second, child-sized contraption? Would you really stipulate that this contraption be made by dozens of different manufacturers, and yet had to work in all vehicles even though each vehicle’s seat has its own design?

So here’s a radical thought: considereing that half of all passengers who ride in the backseat of cars are children, what is seat belts were designed to fit them in the first place? Wouldn’t it make more sense to take a proven solution – one that happens to be cheap and simple – and adapt it, whether through adjustable belts or fold-down seat inserts (which do exist, though not widely)-rather than relying on a costly, combersome solution that doesn’t work very well?

But things seem to be moving in the opposite direction. Instead of pushing for a better solution to child auto safety, state governments across the United States have been raising the age when kids can graduate from car seats. The European Union has gone even further, requiring most children to stay in booster seats until they are twelve.

Alas, governments aren’t exactly famous for cheap or simple solutions, they tend to prefer the costly-and-cumbersome route…The government [didn’t] put seat belts in cars. Robert McNamara thought they would give Ford a competitive advantage. He was dead wrong. Ford had a hard time marketing the seat belt, since it seemed to remind customers that driving was inherently unsafe. This led Henry Ford II to complain to a reporter: “McNamara is selling safety but Chevrolet is selling cars.”


1 Comment

  1. John says:

    I think the problem here falls more on government having the ability to be lobbied by business. It is not that they want the most complex solution, but that the auto industry has always been resistant to change and lobbies against it. Add to that partisan BS and you have a complete stoppage of governments ability to actually act on something affectively.


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