Friday, December 4, 2009

Random Facts

According to the state of Minnesota, it costs taxpayers and charities:

  • $363 for a person to spend a night in jail
  • $192 for a person to spend a night at the Hennepin County detox unit
  • $32 to finance a night in a shelter
  • $20 a night for a $600-per-month apartment.
(Source: Dan Olson, Minnesota Public Radio, January 22, 2008, via Open Your Heart to the Hungry and Homeless).

1 in 4 U.S. households has a gaming console of some type. These appliances are generally left plugged in in standby mode. If they were all unplugged or turned off on a power strip, homeowners would save a billion dollars a year in energy costs. (According to Diana McKeown of the Green Institute in Minneapolis, at the workshop I attended last night on home energy conservation.)

"For children two years old and older, the rate of death in car crashes involving at least one fatality is almost identical for those riding in car seats and those wearing a seat belt" (just over 18%). "In certain kinds of crashes -- rear-enders, for instance -- car seats actually perform slightly worse." (Quoting Super Freakonomics by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner, pages 152-153, who in turn were citing data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's database known as Fatality Analysis Reporting Systems.)

To determine if this might be caused by incorrect installation of the seats, Levitt and Dubner commissioned a child crash-test-dummy study comparing seat belts to properly installed car seats. Believe it or not, this had never been done before, because everyone had assumed car seats are safer. Levitt and Dubner found that seat belts performed equally well as car seats for the dummies.

So parents spend hundreds of dollars on car seats that don't increase their child's safety, and which may in fact give them a misplaced sense of security. And no one thinks to solve the actual problem, which is how do we make children safer in cars? As Levitt and Dubner put it,
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: considering that half of all passengers who ride in the backseat of cards are children, what if seat belts were designed to fit them in the first place? (page 157)
Cost of a seat belt: About $25.

1 comment:

Blissed-Out Grandma said...

Wow, I didn't know that. Since the profit motive won't come into play, perhaps a child safety group will fund research and development of a safe system of safety belts for kids. Some day.