DVD players as effective as car seats for keeping kids safe?

Brother #2 forwarded me the news, via the SFGate baby blog, The Poop, that Stephen Dubner and Steven Levitt, the authors of Freakonomics, believe that car seats may be no more effective than seat belts for keeping kids over the age of two safe in accidents, and that if there is any difference between the two, it could be made up by DVD players.

They make their case in this column from a long-ago issue of the NY Times Magazine, in which they posit that

  • car seats are no safer than seat belts for kids over the age of two
  • booster seats may do more harm than good in an accident
  • the only benefit of car seats is to make kids sit still, meaning that they could be replaced by seat-back DVD players (no, I didn’t make that up)

They warn that consumers may be needlessly spending millions of dollars–and probably millions of hours–every year on devices which have not been proven to provide the sole benefit that they are designed for. According to Stephen and Steven, complicit in this waste are the government agencies that mandate car seat use without proof of their efficacy, making it a crime for parents to save some money without putting their kids in any greater jeopardy.

For my money, if the only benefit is to keep the kids in one place, I think that this is another problem that a little duct tape could fix. Or perhaps someone could make a onesie out of Velcro; then, all that car manufacturers would have to do is add some Velcro patches to seat belts.

What do you think?

(Oh, and full disclosure: Stephen Dubner is a distant cousin of Mama’s, although they’ve never met.)

  • Velcro and duct tape, huh? You don’t happen to work for Homeland Security, do you?

  • Anonymous

    Well FSB and the King are probaly old enough that we didnt have car seats. Cilla and I wonder if the need for car seats arose with the cell phone use of drivers? Were kids safer till mom and dad got hooked up on the airwaves??

    TCB in the back window of the buick asleep on the road.

  • “Government mandate” is not a phrase that inspires any sense of safety in me. Vaccinations are mandated for public school attendance, yet there is little or no scientific data to prove they’re aren’t actually harmful.

    One thing about booster seats is that they in theory make the seat belts fit better around kids, so that they’re not being strangled or rope burned by the shoulder belt. I think they sell adapters for that though.

  • Yeah I read that article and found it really interesting. It definately made me think twice about car seats for older kids.