We have been sold a bill of goods in this country and it is only getting worse. Last week the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration posted new guidelines for child restraint systems (car seats) in cars. It did not do this because of a rash of child injuries that could have been prevented. It did not do this because more kids died in crashes last year. It did it for the same reason that car seats were first legally required—the same reason that car insurance was made a legal requirement—the industry lobbied for it.
The new standards recommend that kids now remain in car seats not up to a certain age as previously required, but rather that they remain in the seat until they outgrow them. Doing this will ensure that a family buys at least one more car seat than they previously purchased. If a car seat becomes unserviceable (or even overly soiled), parents usually use that as an excuse to stop using them. Now that same parent will have to buy a replacement if the child has not yet outgrown it.
They also now recommend that kids up to eight year olds use a booster seat. What is the purpose of this? Do eight-year-olds actually benefit from being two inches higher off the seat? Somehow I doubt it. The only beneficiary of these new recommendations and the new uses for the seats are the manufacturers and retailers who sell the seats.
This is not the first time an industry has tried to convince the public to buy something it doesn’t need. In fact, most consumer goods are not necessities. I’m not decrying consumerism—quite the opposite, I love buying stuff I want—I am railing against an industry forcing me to buy their product whether I need it or not. I want to make my own purchasing decisions.
I’m not saying that car seats are unnecessary. I fully support their use for newborns and toddlers up to 35 pounds. The shoulder belt is useless on kids that size and may even cause further injury in an accident. So definitely buy a car seat…put it in the back seat facing the rear to protect the newborn. Turn it around when the child can sit up. The original recommendations are fine. There is no need to revise them and no need to make them law. We don’t need more regulations and we don’t need bigger government.