Arabic Arabic Chinese (Simplified) Chinese (Simplified) Dutch Dutch English English French French German German Italian Italian Portuguese Portuguese Russian Russian Spanish Spanish
| (844) 627-8267

When It Comes to Child Safety, We Deserve Better Than Car Seats | #childsafety | #kids | #chldern | #parents | #schoolsafey | #hacking | #aihp

Three years ago, I learned about an absurd law that perfectly illustrates the misguided focus of transportation in America. 

My husband and I were living in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in a graduate student apartment, where we became good friends with the couple across the hall who were expecting a baby. They connected with the hospital across the street for their prenatal care and delivery. It was a great set up, considering none of us owned cars. They could just walk to their appointments and, when it was time for the baby to come, even walk across the street to the labor and delivery ward. 

Shortly before their due date, as they were preparing the usual bottles, onesies, and diapers, they learned that in order to take their new baby home from the hospital, they were legally required to prove that they had a car seat ready to put him in as soon as they departed. I guess well-intentioned, safety-minded people in the government had decided that, in order to avoid infants getting strapped into unsafe seats or held by parents as they drove home, they needed to make this a legal requirement, with the hospital staff as gatekeepers.

However you feel about this sort of regulation, it was particularly absurd in a city where many residents don’t own cars and where there are robust biking, walking, and public transit systems. (My colleague Jay Stange has two kids who were both born in New York City, and he said even there the car seat was required. Same thing for Strong Towns member Andrew Price in the very walkable city of Hoboken, New Jersey.) 

In our friends’ case, it seemed particularly preposterous to require them to have a car seat when they lived, as I’ve already mentioned, across the street from the hospital. And yet, not wanting to get into a legal fight before the birth of their child, our friends were forced to scout around for an acquaintance that could temporarily lend them an infant car seat. After the baby was born, they put him in the seat…and walked right home with him.

This is just one of myriad illustrations showing how far we will go as a society to shape our lives around cars in the name of safety, when in fact, getting people out of cars more often would actually be the much safer (and more affordable, healthier, etc.) move.

I was thinking about all this last week as I sat in the first of my birth classes at the hospital where I’ll be delivering my own son in a few months. During a two-hour session covering plenty of vital information like what to expect during the third trimester, how to know you’re in labor, and who you might want to be with you at the delivery, we also received a 10-minute lecture about the importance of safe car seats.  Which direction should they face? How do you secure them? When should the child move to a larger seat? And on and on… 

Within our packet of handouts, we were given two sheets on this topic, as well: one with a detailed diagram about what makes an appropriate infant car seat, and one with a list of local police and fire stations where we could show up and receive a 45-minute tutorial, plus inspection of our car seat to ensure it was perfectly set up to keep our little one safe. 

I’m pretty sure I got the same handout during my first prenatal appointment several months ago, too (along with handouts about what medications are safe during pregnancy, how to register at the hospital for delivery and, you know, information that would actually be important during the nine months of my pregnancy).

All of this points to the larger problem of a country built around expensive, dangerous vehicles. Chuck Marohn wrote an article several years ago, “Do We Really Care About Children?” that still feels utterly relevant today. In it, he explains that car crashes are the leading cause of death for young people ages 5 to 24. (The article was written in 2016 and today that data is still largely true, although now for the age group of 10- to 14-year-olds, suicide is the leading cause of death and motor vehicle crashes rank second.)  

With the high risk we put our children in just by strapping them into a car every day—car seat or not—Chuck asks, “If we are serious about wanting what is best for kids, shouldn’t we be doing everything we can to reduce the number of auto trips people are required to take each day? … The best thing we can do for the safety of our children is to get them out of the car by building mixed-use, walkable neighborhoods.”

If we spent a fraction of the time and money we’re spending on car seat obsession and education making our streets safer for parents and kids to walk or bike, our cities would be much better off for everyone. Instead, we’re trying to put a Band-Aid (car seats) on a problem (streets designed for high-speed car movement instead of for people). 

It’s not unlike current conversations about climate change—especially around the bill being considered in Congress right now—which focus a whole lot on things like subsidies and tax credits for electric vehicles (Band-Aid), and way less on things like making cities easier places to get around on foot or bike. This, by the way, would be a much cheaper, longer-lasting solution than investing in the electric vehicle industry and continuing to build highways forever.

To be clear, I live in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where it’s not easy to get around without a car. We do own a car and we will definitely be leaving the hospital in it, especially given that this baby is due at the end of October when there’s always the possibility of snow here in the north. And in case you’re concerned, yes, I did read through the car seat materials and have procured the appropriate infant seat for our baby (thankfully a hand-me-down from a friend, not a fancy new one we had to spend $300 on).

But as I think about my future as a parent and the desire that all parents have to keep their kids safe, I am focusing on how we can live as much of our lives as possible outside of the car. We’re on the waitlist for a daycare that’s within walking distance. We have a lovely park a few blocks away where I’m sure we’ll spend considerable time with our little one. We have some cafés and grocery stores within walking distance, and friends in the neighborhood who walk a fair amount, too. I chose my doctor’s office (and my son’s pediatrician) because they’re a short walk from our home. We won’t be able to avoid driving, of course. But the less time we all spend in our car, the safer we’ll be. Not to mention we’ll be less stressed sitting in traffic and saving money on gas and car maintenance—extra important with the added expense of having a new member in the family.

I hope every parent can have safe, affordable, easy options that allow them to transport their kids without needing a vehicle for every trip. Building our cities and towns around that goal would accomplish so much more than just obsessing about the safest car seat.

Click Here For The Original Source.