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  1. #1
    CPS Technician crunchierthanthou's Avatar
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    US Secretary of Transportation responds to Freakonomics/GMA

    First things first, and let there be no mistake about it: in a motor vehicle crash, a seat belt alone does not deliver the same level of protection as a child safety seat or booster seat.

    ----

    Now, if you want to slice up the data to be provocative, have at it. As a grandfather and as Secretary of an agency whose number one mission is safety, I don't have that luxury.

    I prefer to help parents make the kind of choices that can keep their kids not just alive, but safe.

    It won't raise any eyebrows, but if advocating child safety seats and booster seats can reduce the number of deaths and injuries among children from motor vehicle crashes, I'm okay with that.
    full post on fastlane.dot.gov.


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    CPST and ketchup snob ketchupqueen's Avatar
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    Re: US Secretary of Transportation responds to Freakonomics/GMA

    Posted on Facebook! Thanks!
    CPST and Mom to Emma, 15, Bridget, 13, Maggie, 11, Katie Sue, 6, Jimmy, born May 2019,
    and Becky, waiting for us as part of our eternal family.
    Our '02 Odyssey, car seats, and seatbelts saved our lives. Now riding in a '13 Odyssey!

  4. #3
    CPS Fanatic vonfirmath's Avatar
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    Re: US Secretary of Transportation responds to Freakonomics/GMA

    Okay, what is that facebook group cause I'm not seeing it at car-seat.org or Carseatblog!

    --Sarah & D.J. (3-20-04)
    DS (08/07) ~ 8 ~ 52 pound ~ Graco Highback Turbobooster -- 3rd Grade!
    DD (08/11) ~ 4 yr ~ 32 lb ~ Britax Roundabout 50, Maestro -- Pre-K!

  5. #4
    Senior Community Member tjham's Avatar
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    Re: US Secretary of Transportation responds to Freakonomics/GMA

    Good for him!

    Now if the state of Arizona would just pay attention...

  6. #5
    CPST and ketchup snob ketchupqueen's Avatar
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    Re: US Secretary of Transportation responds to Freakonomics/GMA

    Quote Originally Posted by vonfirmath View Post
    Okay, what is that facebook group cause I'm not seeing it at car-seat.org or Carseatblog!
    Huh? What do you mean?
    CPST and Mom to Emma, 15, Bridget, 13, Maggie, 11, Katie Sue, 6, Jimmy, born May 2019,
    and Becky, waiting for us as part of our eternal family.
    Our '02 Odyssey, car seats, and seatbelts saved our lives. Now riding in a '13 Odyssey!

  7. #6
    CPS Technician crunchierthanthou's Avatar
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    Re: US Secretary of Transportation responds to Freakonomics/GMA

    Quote Originally Posted by vonfirmath View Post
    Okay, what is that facebook group cause I'm not seeing it at car-seat.org or Carseatblog!
    here's the carseatblog fb page, but I believe KQ meant she shared the link on her own page. I think there's a car-seat.org group too.

  8. #7
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    Re: US Secretary of Transportation responds to Freakonomics/GMA

    Quote Originally Posted by crunchierthanthou View Post
    full post on fastlane.dot.gov.
    I was reading about this Freakonomics controversy recently and I thought that the best place to find rebuttals would be here. I searched this site and found that the standard response to Levitt here is the CHOP study. Levitt also replies to the trans-sec here:

    http://freakonomics.blogs.nytimes.co...seat-research/

    I don't want to paste the whole thing but basically this is what he thinks the secretary should do:


    Take a close look at the data sets we collect here in my agency, which are the basis for Levitt’s work. Is it really the case that in these data there is little or no evidence that car seats outperform adult seat belts in protecting children ages 2 and up? Our benchmark for measuring the effectiveness of car seats has always been versus children who are unrestrained. Maybe we need to rethink this going forward?

    Demand that the physicians at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, who have repeatedly found that car seats work, make their data publicly available. It is my understanding that these physicians have refused to share their data with Levitt, but in the interest of getting to the truth, other researchers should have the chance to review what they have done.

    Carry out a series of tests using crash-test dummies to determine whether adult seat belts do indeed pass all government crash-test requirements. In SuperFreakonomics, Levitt and Dubner report on their findings with a very small sample of tests; we need much more evidence on the data.

    Try to understand why, even after 30 years, the great majority of car seats are still not properly installed. After all this time, can we really blame it on the parents, or should the blame be put elsewhere?

    After exploring all these issues, let’s figure out the truth, and let’s use it to guide public policy.
    All that sounds reasonable to me. Is it truly the case that the people doing the CHOP study refused to release their data? I know the report itself was pay-for and all we saw on this forum was part of an abstract. If so, then having that as the ONLY rebuttal since 2006 seems kind of fishy to me... Why doesn't anyone carry out these crash tests using seat belts only? That sounds perfectly reasonable too, given an adequate sample it would put the whole issue to rest.

  9. #8
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    Re: US Secretary of Transportation responds to Freakonomics/GMA

    We all ready know children get severely injured and killed by seat belts alone. There's an entire sordid history spanning decades with a plethora of real-life data. There's no need to conduct a study to satisfy a whiny, inflammatory economist who has no interest in child safety.

  10. #9
    Senior Community Member Jennifer mom to my 7's Avatar
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    Re: US Secretary of Transportation responds to Freakonomics/GMA

    Okay, we really need more people to have seen this, and make a comment on the secretaries page. They bring up "surviving" a crash, with no injury data. I forget the injury data the guys had on the shows, but didn't they NOT have internal injury data? I would want to ask them about all the children who suffered severe abdominal injuries due to seat belt syndrome, and the ones who are paralyzed do to not wearing their belts correctly. And the person who commented about large families (with only 4) has no clue what is available...
    Whatever Wendy said

    "No one else will ever know the strength of my love for you, after all, you're the only one who knows what my heart sounds like from the inside." -Unknown

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    Re: US Secretary of Transportation responds to Freakonomics/GMA

    Quote Originally Posted by Maedze View Post
    We all ready know children get severely injured and killed by seat belts alone. There's an entire sordid history spanning decades with a plethora of real-life data.
    Well where's that data then, let's put it up there in the same places where Levitt's data is for people to compare. So far it's just the CHOP study that no one here even paid to be able to actually see, and that allegedly doesn't make its source data publicly available. I'm afraid that "I know it's safer because I feel it's safer" comments aren't worth that much compared to cold hard peer-reviewed statistics.

  12. #11
    Admin - Webmaster Admin's Avatar
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    Re: US Secretary of Transportation responds to Freakonomics/GMA

    http://carseatblog.com/?p=4857

    There are now at least 3 studies (published in peer reviewed journals) that claim to refute all or part of the Freakonomics authors. They are all linked in the blog above. Each twists the data in their own way, much like Freakonomics did.
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  13. #12
    CPSDarren - Admin SafeDad's Avatar
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    Re: US Secretary of Transportation responds to Freakonomics/GMA

    In the original Freakonomics research, there were a couple flaws still unresolved to my knowledge. The first is that their world of vehicles includes much older models, including those lacking lower anchors, top tethers and lockable seatbelts. Second, they ignore the issue of misuse. Presumably for parents seriously concerned enough to research the topic, misuse would be much lower and this could be an advantage for child seats and boosters. What would the results look like using only vehicles in the last 10 years and eliminating the variable of misuse, a situation that applies to many of our readers? That's a very good question, and one which you would want to know before ditching that booster.

    Another key issue is with their crash test comparisons. To appropriately compare a booster to a seatbelt, you would want a dummy that could measure abdominal injury. You would also want to compare typical seatbelt fit in both cases, not ideal fit. Without isolating those variables, crash tests don't give you much useful data at all.

    The Freakonomics authors have some real statistics. The question is did they control the necessary variables to give a fair comparison to safety-conscious parents like our readers, or even the typical parent?

    Most studies contain at least a grain of truth. It's sad that you really have to nit pick to see if the essence of the conclusions apply well to your situation, or really only apply to some subset of the population that might not include you. Did the researchers follow scientific method, or did they allow some bias (like greed or job security) to affect their conclusions? Sometimes, it is difficult to tell who's really on your side as a parent.

  14. #13
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    Re: US Secretary of Transportation responds to Freakonomics/GMA

    Quote Originally Posted by Marionetteworks View Post
    Well where's that data then, let's put it up there in the same places where Levitt's data is for people to compare. So far it's just the CHOP study that no one here even paid to be able to actually see, and that allegedly doesn't make its source data publicly available. I'm afraid that "I know it's safer because I feel it's safer" comments aren't worth that much compared to cold hard peer-reviewed statistics.


    Please do read the data Darren provided. Also, feel free to google for information about the number of children killed and otherwise severely injured in cars who weren't correctly restrained.

    There are a number of videos available showing what a seatbelt does to an older unboostered child.

    I'm curious what lead you to this forum?

  15. #14
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    Re: US Secretary of Transportation responds to Freakonomics/GMA

    Quote Originally Posted by CPSDarren View Post
    In the original Freakonomics research, there were a couple flaws still unresolved to my knowledge. The first is that their world of vehicles includes much older models, including those lacking lower anchors, top tethers and lockable seatbelts. Second, they ignore the issue of misuse. Presumably for parents seriously concerned enough to research the topic, misuse would be much lower and this could be an advantage for child seats and boosters. What would the results look like using only vehicles in the last 10 years and eliminating the variable of misuse, a situation that applies to many of our readers? That's a very good question, and one which you would want to know before ditching that booster.
    Thank you Darren. Just to clarify, from what I recall the "Freaks" didn't tell people to ditch boosters, I believe their issue was with complex harnesses. From an engineering standpoint, it does seem a bit silly to strap someone to something, and then strap that something to a seat.

    I agree that a truly useful study needs to look at injuries, and I believe that is a flaw of their initial study, they only looked at deaths. I haven't read the new book so I don't know if they looked at injuries since. As you probably know, they were able to do a single test of a car seat vs. seat belt and using that test the results were comparable. What really worries me is it was very difficult for them to commission that test and no testing company would agree to do that test for them, unless they kept the name of the company a secret, in order not to upset the car seat manufacturers. If these companies trust their product so much there shouldn't be an issue with testing against the lowest common-denominator.

    I'm also curious where all this seat-belt vs car seat data comes from. As far as I know car seats are mandatory for small kids across North America. Who are these people who are putting their kids in seat belts? Are all these people breaking the law? Do these stats come from jurisdictions where seat belts are allowed for kids 2 years and older (with a booster of course)?

    I would really like to see data that compares the two devices fairly. What I REALLY don't want to see is policy mandating the use of expensive devices that is based on emotion, especially saying stuff like "how much is the life of your kids worth to you".

    The Freakonomics authors have some real statistics. The question is did they control the necessary variables to give a fair comparison to safety-conscious parents like our readers, or even the typical parent?

    Most studies contain at least a grain of truth. It's sad that you really have to nit pick to see if the essence of the conclusions apply well to your situation, or really only apply to some subset of the population that might not include you. Did the researchers follow scientific method, or did they allow some bias (like greed or job security) to affect their conclusions? Sometimes, it is difficult to tell who's really on your side as a parent.
    I agree completely. Since I started looking at this I find that there's a compelling case to rethink this whole "must use a 5-point-harness" thing. As a parent, I would like to know that I'm not being suckered into buying a device that doesn't really do what I'm told it does. I'd rather spend the money on something I KNOW will improve the safety, and I'd like to be able to know how much safety my money is really buying. And as a concerned citizen I'd really like to know that millions of dollars are being spent in the right place. For example, if instead of mandating more complex harnesses we could mandate seat belts that actually fit kids, or more rear air bags etc. and that would save more lives, wouldn't that make sense? It would be so much more convenient if my car came with a seat that can safely strap both a child and an adult without having to install an inconvenient device. I understand that some cars already do have that.

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    Re: US Secretary of Transportation responds to Freakonomics/GMA

    Quote Originally Posted by Maedze View Post
    Please do read the data Darren provided. Also, feel free to google for information about the number of children killed and otherwise severely injured in cars who weren't correctly restrained.
    That's the issue isn't it, what is the "correct restraint" and it depends what study you look at. Based on what everyone posted here the answer is inconclusive, the law says "thou shall use a child seat" and most people do it because it's what everyone says.

    There are a number of videos available showing what a seatbelt does to an older unboostered child.
    I haven't heard anyone argue that children or other people who are too short for a seat belt should not be boosted. The seat belt has to go over the occupant's chest and can't go over the neck, and the lap belt must be tight.

    I'm curious what lead you to this forum?
    My wife always checks this forum for new seat recommendations (we're looking for some sort of booster right now), and since I was browsing here I thought this would be a great place to get the other side of the story on the Freakonomics issue.

    I was particularly looking for rebuttals like Darren's and the Admin's, I think these are highly valuable. I'm much more skeptical of anecdotal arguments and appeals to emotion, and think the number of these kinds of responses and their intensity only validates the need to take a good hard look at the data and figure out why it's so easy for a statistician to make seat belts look so good...

  17. #16
    Admin - CPS Technician LISmama810's Avatar
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    Re: US Secretary of Transportation responds to Freakonomics/GMA

    If a booster seat could position the seatbelt properly (low on the hips, across the shoulder) on a 2-year-old, AND that 2-year-old was
    able to sit PROPERLY the entire time, I would agree that there would be little use for harnessed seats.

    However, almost no 2-year-old (and very few 3-year-olds, and not a many 4-year-olds, and even some older kids) have the maturity to sit properly like that. A dummy doesn't move, nor does a dummy suffer abdominal injuries, which DO happen to young children (and even adults) in improperly fitted seatbelts. Sometimes it's so severe as to cause SPINAL injuries when the seatbelt slices through the body. (That's not meant to be an emotional plea, but I'm posting from a mobile device and can't look up links right now.)

    Couple that with RESEARCH (someone link, please) showing that children are 5 times safer rear-facing. That's something you can't do in most cars.

  18. #17
    CPSDarren - Admin SafeDad's Avatar
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    Re: US Secretary of Transportation responds to Freakonomics/GMA

    Quote Originally Posted by Marionetteworks View Post
    Thank you Darren. Just to clarify, from what I recall the "Freaks" didn't tell people to ditch boosters, I believe their issue was with complex harnesses.
    A matter of semantics, I guess. No, they didn't say to ditch their boosters. At the very least, they admit that carseats and boosters are no worse than seatbelts for kids 2 and over. On the other hand, the conclusion of their NYT article was that a DVD player may be just as effective as a car seat or booster, for about the same price. How do studies and statements like this get interpreted by the masses? You might as well tell them to ditch their boosters, but it's not as easy to CYA that way, of course.

    From an engineering standpoint, it does seem a bit silly to strap someone to something, and then strap that something to a seat.
    From a "Keep it Simple" perspective, it does seem silly. One more component with a possibility to fail or be misused. The issue is one of ejection and energy absorption, though. You want more points of restraint to couple the passenger to the vehicle to maximize the ride down time afforded by the crushing frame of the vehicle.

    Seatbelts are compromised because they are designed for adults and for comfort. Fewer points of restraint that do not fit to the strongest points of a child's body do not make for a great restraint system. Ideally, there would be an easy to use, built-in restraint in new vehicles, but people don't buy them so manufacturers dont make them. So, we are stuck with an adapter of sorts.

    I agree that a truly useful study needs to look at injuries, and I believe that is a flaw of their initial study, they only looked at deaths. I haven't read the new book so I don't know if they looked at injuries since.
    And there is the issue as to what you omit from your data. Each study includes or omits various data for one reason or another.

    As you probably know, they were able to do a single test of a car seat vs. seat belt and using that test the results were comparable.
    As I said- if you do this test, the important factors are the fit to the child and the abdominal injury measurements from a lap belt. Did their tests consider typical fit of seatbelts, )(or only) ideal fit? Did they have abdominal injury sensors of some type? I suspect not.


    What really worries me is it was very difficult for them to commission that test and no testing company would agree to do that test for them, unless they kept the name of the company a secret, in order not to upset the car seat manufacturers. If these companies trust their product so much there shouldn't be an issue with testing against the lowest common-denominator.
    Assuming the test is done with proper controls and done without bias. If I was an engineer at a testing lab and thought a test was being done improperly or with questionable intention, I might have second thoughts, too. After all, a laboratory's reputation would be at stake.

    I'm also curious where all this seat-belt vs car seat data comes from. As far as I know car seats are mandatory for small kids across North America. Who are these people who are putting their kids in seat belts? Are all these people breaking the law? Do these stats come from jurisdictions where seat belts are allowed for kids 2 years and older (with a booster of course)?
    As with any law, many people ignore it, if they know about it at all. Some come from cultures where it simply isn't even considered. Kids ride on an adult's lap. There is also poverty. Many families simply don't buy one or they use those that are obsolte or broken. Heck, many adults still don't wear seatbelts, despite primary moving violations that have been in effect for years.


    I would really like to see data that compares the two devices fairly. What I REALLY don't want to see is policy mandating the use of expensive devices that is based on emotion, especially saying stuff like "how much is the life of your kids worth to you".
    Motor vehicle crashes remain the #1 cause of death. Finding what works well to reduce these risks at minimal cost is apparently not an easy task. Many laws like this are backed by statistics when written and when discussed in legislatures. Others are started by grass roots campaigns with one parent or family who lost a child. They can be repealed the same way. The Freakonomics authors could make a nice lobby of their own to do this. I wonder if they have?


    I agree completely. Since I started looking at this I find that there's a compelling case to rethink this whole "must use a 5-point-harness" thing. As a parent, I would like to know that I'm not being suckered into buying a device that doesn't really do what I'm told it does. I'd rather spend the money on something I KNOW will improve the safety, and I'd like to be able to know how much safety my money is really buying. And as a concerned citizen I'd really like to know that millions of dollars are being spent in the right place. For example, if instead of mandating more complex harnesses we could mandate seat belts that actually fit kids, or more rear air bags etc. and that would save more lives, wouldn't that make sense? It would be so much more convenient if my car came with a seat that can safely strap both a child and an adult without having to install an inconvenient device. I understand that some cars already do have that.

    I have a squirmy 4-year old. By the time he's done moving around for 5 minutes antagonizing (or being antagonized by) his siblings, his lap and shoulder belts are loose and the shoulder belt is hanging off his arm. You know, it's definitely possible to fit a 3-year dummy in a seatbelt, keeping it tight and having it minimize head excursion and head/torso injury measures for a crash test on a test bench. What about with a real kid in a real car, where seatbelts vary a lot? If you have a young child that sits as still as a dummy from the time you belt it to the time it crashes, that's great. Watching my son, I see him being ejected or having that loose lap belt going into his abdomen, where crash dummies have no measure of injury criteria. Now if I put him into a 5-point harness, he stays restrained at more points and cant wiggle them loose. That is why you need to address the typical fit of a belt in a seatbelt vs. a booster, and not all boosters are created equal, either.

    Again, in an ideal situation, a seatbelt can theoretically provide as much frontal crash protection as a booster or 5-point harness. The difference appears to be the potential for misuse of a booster or harness, vs. the potential for poor fit or a squirmy kid that might make a seatbelt unsafe. The advantage I have is that I can make sure a 5-point harness is installed correctly and is used correctly. I can also make sure a booster is fit correctly initially, too. That moves me well out of the data set used by Freakonomics, as would be true for any parent with a modest education on the topic or concern about the risks of misuse. With a seatbelt, the belts may not fit well at all to start, and with seatbelt or booster, the child has more ability to negate their efficacy while my attention is on the road.

    As with all such studies that seem to contradict each other, there are two sides to the story. You won't hear them both from the Freakonomics authors. Going with the status quo doesn't sell books. You won't hear them both from the government or insurance/medical research teams either. That's not what their grants or funding pay them to do, after all. It's too bad both sides won't get together to sort it all out. You'd think that all these PhD's who should have a grasp of scientific method could figure out the real story.


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    Re: US Secretary of Transportation responds to Freakonomics/GMA

    Quote Originally Posted by LISmama810 View Post
    If a booster seat could position the seatbelt properly (low on the hips, across the shoulder) on a 2-year-old, AND that 2-year-old was
    able to sit PROPERLY the entire time, I would agree that there would be little use for harnessed seats.

    However, almost no 2-year-old (and very few 3-year-olds, and not a many 4-year-olds, and even some older kids) have the maturity to sit properly like that. A dummy doesn't move, nor does a dummy suffer abdominal injuries, which DO happen to young children (and even adults) in improperly fitted seatbelts. Sometimes it's so severe as to cause SPINAL injuries when the seatbelt slices through the body. (That's not meant to be an emotional plea, but I'm posting from a mobile device and can't look up links right now.)

    Couple that with RESEARCH (someone link, please) showing that children are 5 times safer rear-facing. That's something you can't do in most cars.

    I agree, except that I'd amend it to say, 4 years, because children under four years should be in a rear facing seats.

    If all vehicles were designed to accomodate rear facing convertibles a la the Multi-Tech, that children could stay in for 4-6 years, and then we saw more of Ford's innovation (forward of the bight seat belts, shoulder positioners, rear side impact air bags, shoulder belt air bags and possibly in-board seat boosters) there would be little need for child restraints beyond the sixth birthday.

  20. #19
    CPSDarren - Admin SafeDad's Avatar
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    Re: US Secretary of Transportation responds to Freakonomics/GMA

    Quote Originally Posted by LISmama810 View Post
    A dummy doesn't move, nor does a dummy suffer abdominal injuries, which DO happen to young children (and even adults) in improperly fitted seatbelts. Sometimes it's so severe as to cause SPINAL injuries when the seatbelt slices through the body. (That's not meant to be an emotional plea, but I'm posting from a mobile device and can't look up links right now.)
    Just as important are the less severe crashes that can cause soft tissue injury in the abdomen from seatbelt syndrome. Lacerations of the intestines are not uncommon, for example. The septic shock that can result is extremely serious and very life threatening to kids. Clearly, we need better crash test dummies for this type of measurement in order to provide parents with the information they need to make an informed choice.

  21. #20
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    Re: US Secretary of Transportation responds to Freakonomics/GMA

    I found the video by the Freaks on Youtube. They have a lot to learn!

    [ame="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=um5gMZcZWm0"]YouTube- Steven Levitt: Are children's carseats necessary?[/ame]

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