Tuesday, August 08, 2006

There Oughtta be a Law . . . . Against Shopping Carts?

The American Association of Pediatricians has recommended shopping cart restrictions for children. In a press release dated August 7, the AAP states that:

In 2005, more than 24,000 children were treated in U.S. hospital emergency rooms for shopping cart-related injuries. Most of these injuries occurred when a child fell from a shopping cart, the cart tipped over, the child became entrapped in the cart, or the child fell while riding on the outside of the cart.

A closer look at the technical report reveals something interesting. In more than half the incidents involving children under 5, the mechanism of injury was falling from the cart (as high as 58% of injuries in one study). Further, parental use of child restraints is remarkably low. In one study discussed in the report, an intensive PR campaign succeeded in raising the rate of shopping cart seat belt usage from 1% to 15%. Direct intervention by third parties raised the rate to 51% in one study and from 15% to 49% in another. Only 4% of the injuries required hospital admission, and the majority of those were for fractured or broken bones. The vast majority of incidents overall resulted in nothing more than bumps and bruises.

The libertarian side of me says parents should be free to be idiots. I buy that to a point, though I take a more statist approach when kids are involved. Five year olds, for example, can't help it if their parents are idiots, and they (unfortunately) bear the brunt of it.

At the same time, one can't discount that legislative mandates come with a price tag. The cost of manufacturer and retailer compliance with new standards is necessarily passed along to consumers, sooner or later. And at the end of the day, this really comes down to parents exercising common sense. If direct human intervention only results in a compliance rate of 50% for use of child restraints, then I don't see much hope for new manufacturing standards having an effect on the overall rates of injury here.

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