“The Seemingly Inexorable Transfer of Authority from Parents to the State”

Hi Readers — As you know, I am a big fan of helmets. Have been since I first started this blog, as you can see right there, on the left of this post. I also make my kids wear helmets when they ski and snowboard.

BUT I am also a big fan of this helmet veto, just signed by Gov. Brown of California, for the very reason he cited. Voila the actual letter. And here’s what it says:

To the Members of the California State Senate:

I am returning Senate Bill 105 without my signature.

This measure would impose criminal penalites on a child under the age of 18 and his or her parents if the child skis or snowboards without a helmet.

While I appreciate the value of wearing a ski helmet, I am concerned about the continuing and seemingly inexorable transfer of authority from parents to the state. Not every human problem deserves a law.

I believe parents have the ability and the responsibility to make good choices for their children.

Sincerely,

Edmund G. Brown

I applaud this because when the government gets to decide how we parent, it sometimes criminalizes things IT considers “unsafe” that a lot of US do consider safe, whether that’s allowing a child of a certain age to stay home alone, wait in the car, bike to school (yes, I’ll address that Tennessee case very soon),  operate a lemonade stand or play unsupervised outside.

I am all for child safety, but I am also for parent safety. And when parents can be criminalized for believing in their kids or community, we are all at risk. — Lenore

125 Responses

  1. This is awesome – the content AND the economy of language.

  2. I love helmets. I also love skiing. I’ve been doing it since I was 3. I personally think that I would have been severely injured several times while skiing if I had experienced even the slightest bit of impaired peripheral vision or muffling of the soft sounds made by an otherwise unseen skier in powder. When my children bike, they will wear a helmet to protect them from cars. If they become snowboarding half-pipe acrobats, they will wear a helmet to protect them from inevitably falling on their heads. But when they ski, they’ll do it helmetless, just the way I did, and learn that the greatest skiing danger is being unaware of your surroundings.

    While we’re at it, I once saw a kid learning to ski with his Dad. He was wearing a helmet, knee pads, elbow pads, and one of those kiddie leashes. I can think of about a dozen ways that Dad could easily end up harming himself, his kid and other random kids on the bunny hill by using that leash. Give them a helmet if you must, but please don’t ski with your kid on a leash.

  3. More representatives should think like this. Very well-written.

  4. Bravo to Governor Brown! As my governor, this is probably the only thing he has done that I agree with. And trust me, he criminalizes plenty of other seemingly innocent activities by residents of California. But that is another post. 🙂

    “Not every human problem deserves a law.” This written by a Democrat. Kind of unbelievable because they seem to want to regulate everything! Will wonders never cease.

  5. I like this and I think helmets can be a good idea in some activities. I don’t ski or snowboard, but criminal penalties would be too much. Parents can decide what safety equipment they think is necessary.

  6. I used to night skate on NYC streets with a large group of friends. We had a motto: “No helmet, no sympathy.” You could skate without a helmet if you chose, but we wouldn’t visit you in the hospital later, or tell the reporters how bad we felt — or cry at your grave. But the choice was always yours.

    Of course, as soon as the skates became official skating club activities, we no longer had this option. We’d be liable even if it was your stupid choice to bang your head on pavement. Oy.

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  8. That is an awesome letter!

  9. Best news I’ve heard all day.

  10. Did hell freeze over or something? Gov. Brown actually does something I agree with? Wonders never cease….

  11. Apparently CA legislature has nothing better to do than to expand state’s regulatory capacity. Like bob I can’t believe Brown actually did something I agree with.

  12. I agree with this decision, though one of the things I find interesting about this law is that only children would have been required to have a helmet. Do these activities suddenly become safe at age 18?

    On the bike path in front of our house (running alongside a main road), usually the kids have helmets while the adults do not… which I think is curious. I believe in bike helmets, so there’s my bias.

  13. I agree with this decision. I run a Snow Club at my school for skiers and snowboarders. A couple of years ago, the school board made it mandatory for students to wear helmets while participating in these sports. Because the supervision for this type of outing is proximal (meaning we need to maintain appropriate child to adult ratio of 10:1 on the property-but we do not need to be in direct sight of all children at all times), we don’t see what our students are up to at all times. One of our students did decide to take of her helmet and had an accident. Luckily it was not serious (we were not held liable) but if this law were in effect as it is now, we could be liable despite all the warnings we gave our students about the necessity of wearing a helmet. The parents were fabulous and were very upset at their daughter’s decision and offered to pull her out of the Snow Club for the rest of the season as a consequence for her actions.
    One of the reasons I love skiing/snowboarding is that you have to be free range with your kids when you hit the hills. Last winter my 6 year old was able to ski with some older friends and rode the chairlift (by accident) on his own. He knows the runs at our local hill and when separated from the group or from us, he knows what to do. The confidence it has instilled in him is amazing! We’re now waiting for my 4 year olds skiing skills to improve so she can go off on her own too.

  14. I’m glad to learn that Gov. Brown actually vetoed this legislation. The helmet issue is not as simple as some people think it is.

    http://bikepath.eftisland.com/html/helmets_-_yes_or_no_.html

  15. @ Becky – the skiing leashes are pretty handy. Some parents I have seen use a hula hoop (I used my ski poles), where the kids hold on. What I like about them is that when you are skiing with toddlers and pre-schoolers, you can control where they are going before they hit someone or something. With both my kids, we found it easier on our backs and easier for them to learn the skills, when we used a pole, hoop or leash to slow them down. Both kids were skiing advanced hills by the time they were 4 but needed a little help learning how to use their breaks (snowplowing) before that. The little guys don’t really have the muscle control to snowplow truly effectively and mom or dad holding them back prevents accidents and tears.

  16. I can’t imagine permitting my kid to snowboard without a helmet. And Gov. Brown is (shockingly) 100% right!

  17. We need more politicians like Edmund Brown. Here in Ontario, it is illegal for anyone under 18 to ride a bike without a helmet. Why? Because they couldn’t make EVERYONE wear one.

    I always wear one myself for the simple reason that it would look stupid to crack my head on someone’s windshield while my helmet rested in the garage. However, I wonder how much exercise is avoided because people are scared to death to let their children ride, even a few feet, without a helmet. The same goes for skiing. A helmet law is just one more reason NOT to exercise.

    I wish more lawmakers could admit that “Not every human problem deserves a law.” It’s like when your mechanic says that you shouldn’t have that noise in your car repaired because it’s not serious and would cost too much to fix. It’s about time that we had a politician who’s as honest as an auto mechanic.

  18. Wow, I’m surprised to see how many people are against helmet laws. I really think they fall into the same category as carseat and seat belt laws: a reasonable safety precaution. And the law in question is only aimed at children, so it’s not like the state is stopping adults from endangering themselves if they want to.

    To me, “nanny state” is forbidding activities that *aren’t* genuinely dangerous, like walking to school, or requiring all kids to eat cafeteria lunches because they don’t trust parents to pack nutritious food.

    Are y’all against carseat laws too?

  19. Well, there are certainly better things for the state of CA to spend their money on than seeing if all the kids are wearing helmets on the slopes. Besides, I imagine that the pay areas will require them anyhow for liability purposes. No actual need to mandate.

  20. Jane-fundamentally, yes. I have 4 children, and my wife and I also have our two nephews 3-4 days a week. Because of car seats we have to own one level larger of vehicle than we would normally, just because of the extra room that the seats take up. That = a couple thousand dollars lost in cost and fuel efficiency over the life of the vehicle, for negligible safety. The kids are driven in town only, in a vehicle that already has a 5 star safety rating and seatbelts. We have seats for the 2 toddlers, but all the other ones are quite able to sit in a regular seat, but NE law says we have to have them in booster or car seats until the age of 8 now, or up to a certain weight and height. It’s ridiculous, and the legislators keep raising the age limit and weight every few years, too. I am 35 and turned out just fine being driven cross country at 4 years old in a Nova with no car seat. Millions of other kids turned out just fine as well.

  21. Jane, we could have a helmet law that did not impose criminal penalties. Way too many activities are crimes.

  22. Jane, I am not against using them, and certainly the fact that they were law did help encourage a lot more people use them than otherwise would have used them. But…what exactly do we want our government to be doing? Should they be out trying to get gangs off the streets, (which certainly does save lives) or, should they be out at the ski slopes trying to enforce this would be law? Sure, had we unlimited money for government to spend, this law may help a couple of kids a year who would have not worn a helmet and crashed while at Tahoe. Most of the kids already wear helmets. If they get the gangs off the streets, well that prevents a knifing or shooting every weekend, in numerous counties and towns around the state. Or, the money could go to schools, maybe keeping the libraries open, or at least getting the kids updated school books every so often. Remember, the cost is more than just checking to see if people are doing this, it is also about the time and money spent prosecuting.

    At some point parents need to be in charge and tell the kid “You have to do this because I say so!”

  23. Jane — I think a lot of the objections come from it being made a criminal matter. Also, subjecting both children and parents to penalties for all kids under 18 is way overkill, even if you agree with the concept of a helmet law. If the child is young, punishing the child (by law rather than parental discipline) is ridiculous. If the child is a teenager, punishing the parents for what they may have no control over if the kid is not with them at the time is deeply unjust.

    Besides, making it a *crime* to allow a four year old to take his first lesson without a helmet? Is that really a matter for the cops? You can have a law that is good in principle, and deserves to be thrown into the fire because of the way it’s actually written. Gov. Brown is no libertarian, but even he saw how ridiculous that is.

  24. I love it, and I love the reasoning, but I have to be honest, I’m not a fan of helmets in most circumstances. Biking in traffic, yes, but otherwise…. They won’t protect you from breaking your neck or back and give a false sense of security. They’re one of those things that were developed for pro athletes (professional cyclists) and us regular folks adopted them because, as with so many things, “you can’t be too safe.” As soon as they were implemented, that phenomenon began to happen where every bicycle fatality averted was attributed to the helmet, whether the person would have actually sustained a severe head injury or not.

  25. I’m not really against helmets, if the person chooses to wear them, but it should be the individual’s choice. I grew up in the 80s and early 90s, just before the helmet craze started. I stopped riding my bike on the bike trails at age 20, when an all-ages helmet ordinance went into effect. The state just needs to stay out of people’s private business.

  26. Also in response to Jane: yes, I am against seat belt and carseat laws. Especially carseat laws. Do you know how many babies are completely stressed out being strapped in one of those, and how many distraught parents either avoid driving or are so anxious about driving while their beloved child is screaming that their driving actually becomes LESS safe? Would YOU want to be strapped in a harness where you couldn’t move every time you got in the car? I sure wouldn’t. Most parents are so afraid to remove their baby from a carseat, that I’ve known moms who crawled into the backseat (when someone else was driving) and leaned over the carseat to nurse the baby. That’s craziness! We are sacrificing the emotional needs of babies, small children, and parents in every single outing to protect them from the one slight chance that they’ll get in a car accident severe enough to kill or injure them. I know driving in a car is dangerous, but most of us came home from the hospital in our mother’s arms and *survived*. Using a carseat should be optional (although I believe subsidy programs should still exist for those who can’t afford them), and the amount of fear/guilt that is put on parents who choose to take their children out of them should be reduced. This all goes back to the problematic idea in our culture that (a) that being “safe” is the most important value, and other values should be subordinated to it, and (b) if a safety device is invented, especially for children, it *must* be used and *must* be mandatory. Parents should decide. (I’m against seat belt laws for adults, too, even though I’ve used a seat belt ever since I could remember).

  27. I am all for helmets and if it were to be a law as it is with seat belts, so be it. What bothers me in this case is the wording in the letter that says that ” this measure would impose criminal penalties on a child under the age of 18 and his or her parents.” As a parent, I do not have control over my child’s choices. He does. When I drop him off at the slopes for the day with friends, I know that he has his helmet with him and I remind him to wear it. But HE CHOOSES to do wear it or not. If he chooses not to and is penalized, then he has learned a difficult lesson. To penalize the parent is not right.

  28. I never wore a helmet when I biked as a kid. I biked a lot too. Just around the neighborhood but I would go flying very fast down hills and cross busyish streets. I also like helmets and have no problem with them, but I think they can also be used with discretion. If you are biking on a bike trail with no cars or no big hills and you are a proficient rider the chances of having a terrible accident in which you would need a helmet are slim. Slim enough that I think it is okay to choose not to wear one. Then in some circumstances like biking on a busy street you would absolutely need to be wearing one.

    My kids currently ride tricycles or more like big wheels with no helmets. They only ride them down our driveway which is kinda steep and has a ditch they could fall off in and down our little street with me watching out for cars for them and at parks. I will get helmets when we get bikes this Christmas and make them wear them. It is the law and I think for a bike which is higher off the ground they are good to wear. A tricycle is so low to the ground I really thought making them wear one would be stupid. Plus I have kids with abnormally large heads so I am probably going to have to custom order a helmet or something, I hope not, but we will see.

    I read a parenting magazine article that said you should wear a helmet for sledding in your yard. Umm no. Overkill. For actual skiing I could see the need for one but skiing scares me in general because I just know I would break my leg in a second. We don’t have that kind of snow here so unless we go to a ski resort this is not something we are going to encounter anyway.

  29. There’s hope for us yet! “Not every human deserves a law” should be tattooed on every serving politicians’ arm.

  30. Sorry Angie, but seatbelt laws for kids are good and I support them 100%. My kids are good in the car even on long car trips. You know why? Because for the time they were babies I trained them that if you freak out on me in the car, there will be hell to pay. I will not get your toy or cup you dropped unless I can safely reach it. I will not tolerate screaming or whining. Mine behave perfectly in the car 98% of the time and the few times they don’t I pull over and handle it.

    I have zero sympathy for adults who choose to not wear a seatbelt and then die because of that fact. Zero.

  31. Holy crap, Dolly. I pity your kids!

  32. @Jane: I’m a big believer in PERSONAL (not government) accountability. It’s MY life and MY child that is at risk, not the government’s. And criminal penalties would unfairly punish those who are less fortunate simply because they cannot afford all the “required” safety gear.

    And, as for car seats, I use one, but the rulings and safety “requirements” are getting a little ridiculous. Personally, I hate the notion that I NEED to use a child car seat until the kid is in middle school… at what point is it no longer a statistical significant increase in safety? As it is, the recommendations are rather arbitrary anyway– 4ft 9in to finally be out of a booster seat, even though some adult women are shorter than that. And 12 years to sit in the front seat… what magic transformation (aside from puberty, lol) happens at age 12 that suddenly allows the child to sit up front?

    The notion of “you can’t be too safe” is impeding on MY ability to make choices for MY family. At what point do others get to stop telling me what is “best” for my family? What happened to freedom, anyway? Let me make my choices, ill-fated as they may be, and then laugh if, or when, I fail. But please, don’t take my choices away like I’m not capable of making them for myself.

  33. Yup, bike helmets, (even in the city at slow speed on side streets) do save lives and prevent injury. So do seat belts and car seats. And certainly, helmets for skiers do the same.

    But, how many people per day drive in cars with kids. How many kids ride their bikes a day (I know, not as many as should be!) And how many kids go skiing per day? Do we really need a law for EVERYTHING? Do we need a law that says not to run with scissors and then police to enforce it? Can’t common sense come into play anywhere any more?

    I used to live in a rental where the back yard was full of glass. The rule was, in the back yard, everyone had to wear shoes. I did enforce that rule, but as I was not always outside at the same time when the kids were, sometimes they took off their shoes. And rarely, considering the amount of glass, they got a cut. I had no sympathy. Yes I would clean, disinfect and bandage, but I did not care that they hurt. I feel about the same about the skiing without a helmet. My two year old could understand about the glass, a kid old enough to ski can understand about getting hurt too.

    (Yes we cleaned up glass, but the back yard had been used as a dump for many years, and the gophers kept turning more up every day.)

  34. Jane, I 100% support the use of seatbelts and carseats (and helmets in appropriate situations). I always wear my seatbelt and my child is always in her carseat. I don’t support seatbelt LAWS and carseat LAWS. If people want to ride around without their seatbelts (carseats, helmets), sobeit. I don’t have any sympathy for you if you are injured but it should be your choice.

  35. @Dolly: at what age does that even work? My son (14 months) will cry, even with his toy, and there’s nothing I can think of that would even matter to him (we no longer use a pacifier and he never has his sippy cup in the car.) Even regular discipline (like no biting or no throwing) takes, it seems, hundreds of repetition, with him crying at every time out and scolding– you’d think we’d have ripped a limb off instead of setting him out of sight in the hallway with a stern reprimand!

  36. The extent of placing blame for accidents will never end.
    Just as some states have relaxed helmet laws for motorcycles (or organ donors, as they call them at hospitals), not all parents can be responsible for their children’s actions 24/7.
    Even with a law, if you do it wrong, your still to blame.
    Here’s one where a mom is charged for improperly installing a car seat. Stupid, but what good are criminal charges?

    http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2008706648_webvehicular04m.html

  37. […] “The Seemingly Inexorable Transfer of Authority from Parents to the State” (freerangekids.wordpress.com) […]

  38. Socalled: Well for us it is specifically for the car. Mine still have tantrums at home at least once a day. But I have always since they were babies let them know they can act up at home occasionally and we will deal with it but you are NEVER to act out in public or in the car while I am driving. It was just an attitude that I think they knew, hey rules are different here. It started probably with the passys. If they dropped a passy tough luck. This started with them being infants. I would not pull over. I would just say “Tough luck kiddo” and go on.

    I also try to do what I can to make it easier on them in the car. We listen to their music, not mine. I have a bunch of kids CDs we listen to and that keeps them calm. We don’t travel while they might be hungry for example. I don’t drag them around all day in the car doing errands. I try to take frequent breaks on long car trips for them or travel during a time they will be sleeping. That just curbs tantrums by playing it smart and safe.

    All I can suggest is start taking a more no nonsense attitude about the car and maybe try to get some CDs he will like to play in the car or get him interested in what is out the window. My boys love cars and trucks so they spend most of the time while I drive checking the other vehicles out.

  39. Lollipop: Most parents even super good ones install car seats wrong. I see it all the time on my friend’s kids and like on reality shows etc. I hardly see anyone doing it exactly right because it really is hard to do it exactly right all the time. Like the fact that no matter how cold it is, you can’t put anything more than a lightweight jacket on your kid with the car seat straps on. Otherwise you lose the effectiveness of the straps being close to the child’s body. But yet, pretty much every parent I know slaps giant coats on kids and then straps them into the car seat. The thing is most parents don’t even know all the little intricate rules of car seat safety. We do because we are anal about it, but we are not the norm in that department.

  40. Brilliant reply. Even told my husband about it.

    Jane–if you had read the article or our replies, most of us are big fans of seat belts, carseats, helmets, etc. We just like choosing for ourselves to use them–not being forced to.

  41. Angie: Holy crap I pity your kids when they get hurt in a car accident because you won’t put them in a car seat!

  42. Oh and for the record: I don’t use corporal punishment to achieve good behavior. Never spanked my kids ever.

  43. I am against seat belt laws for adults because if they want to be stupid and not wear their seatbelt that is their choice. However, kids don’t get to choose whether or not their parents buy them a car seat and hook them into it. They have no power in that decision nor do they have the maturity to make that decision even if they did have the power. So I am for child seatbelt laws but not for adult seatbelt laws.

  44. Finally, a politician that gets it. I applaud Lenore (a) for publicizing this and (b) for understanding that even though helmets & such are a good thing (Lenore’s numerous times stated she is FOR them), it is NOT the government’s business to meddle in such matters.

    This is a very big and key issue to me. Frankly, to me, it goes beyond “I disagree with the government meddling in how I parent my kids or whether we wear helmets,” I will go so far as to say they have NO authority (morally anyway) to tell me what to do where it regards how I parent my kids or whether or not I wear a helmet or compel my kids to. Those are MY choices and mine ALONE, and my wife’s–absolutely NO ONE ELSE’s.

    Moreover, this is the case NOT because someone like Gov. Brown says it, although I certainly appreciate it & applaud him thunderously for his stance, but–frankly, because I say it. I don’t answer to the government for how I parent my kids. I do what I think is right, and I don’t bother paying any attention to any laws in doing so. I am only interested in what they are only to the extent in order that I stay out of trouble, not because I think they have any right to tell me what to do regarding my parenting or whether or not I want to wear a helmet, seat belt or whatever in my OWN life. Otherwise, we’re in Cuba, North Korea, China, wherever, and we’re not the USA anymore.

    LRH

  45. @Dolly: I ignore his cries in the car. I don’t offer a pacifier or anything other than a calm reassurance and acknowledgement that he doesn’t like getting strapped in. Then we drive off and there’s no rewarding his behavior. It hasn’t helped. You’re lucky that your children’s temperment has made car rides enjoyable, but you do have to be careful assuming that your methods will work with all children (or all situations.)

    My son will throw the same fit twenties times in a day… and get reprimanded the SAME way each time, and he’ll do it again (once he’s done crying over the reprimand and time out.) Other children take once or twice and are done with it. There is NO reward to his behavior (crying in the car) but he does it anyway. If ignoring him crying in the car for the past FOUR MONTHS hasn’t changed anything, then I can’t see what would… he has a toy (changed every month) attached to his seat that can’t get thrown) and he pays no attention at all to the music. My child is an individual, and I would like to be free to raise him as I please… preferably without judgment but there are always those parents how know how it “should” be done.

    As for all the rules on coats and such, please find me PROOF that those are actually true. The same lists that say you can’t have a coat on your child (except a thin one) are the same ones that claim that any object in the car, or attached to the car seat, could kill your child, even though there is not enough force in such an object to cause serious harm or death. I’ve not found actual empirical data that supports this claim.

    Again, at what point do we accept ‘good enough?’ Car seats should NEVER go in the seats by the door, as the safest place is in the middle… except if you have more than one child, you have no choice and suddenly it’s acceptable? What infinitesimal increase in safety is necessary and at what point do we say that it’s good enough?

  46. […] Read the original here: “The Seemingly Inexorable Transfer of Authority from P… […]

  47. socalledauthor I agree with you 100%. As far as I am concerned, MORALLY speaking anyway, I think the government has zero authority to tell you how you do any of this. I am NOT telling you what to do, you understand, but frankly this is an occasion where I would totally promote civil disobedience. NOT a riot mind you, NEVER, but I would totally LOVE it for parents nationwide en masse to make these judgment calls themselves and then upon being ticketed, rather than just paying the ticket and moving in, instead I’d like to see them make a VERY major stink about how the government is meddling in one’s parenting business and it’s high time we kick their communist butts to the curb because they have no moral authority to tell us what to do where it regards how we parent our kids.

    At the same time, probably an even better response–when you have a politician make a proper decision such as this, I think it’s imperative that parents like ourselves communicate very emphatically & joyfully to this person how much we agree with their decision. One shouldn’t just protest things they don’t agree with, they should also heap praise amply whenever someone gets it right, as Gov Brown has here. They need to hear how we feel, rather than us just doing as we’re told like good little robots, because otherwise those who don’t respect parental authority will never stop harassing parents and usurping their authority. They’re only usurping our authority because we’re TOLERATING it. That has to stop.

    LRH

  48. Good for the Governor. I remember as a child when seatbelt laws were just beginning and my parents were MAD!!! They always wore seatbelts and made me wear one, but felt that was a personal decision and should not be regulated by the government. Personally I do not have my kids wear helmets. We don’t ski or snowboard, just bike ride. We live in the suburbs and in a subdivision with nice sidewalks. My father in law is an avid biker, he rides out on highways and such, he wears a helmet. For kids in subdivisions riding around with their friends I see no need. I refuse to let my kids have one, even when they were younger and thought they were cute and fun. I said if it was fine for me to ride 25 years ago without a helmet, it’s fine for you now. I actually made up my own word to describe my helmet aversion to other parents who thought I was crazy. I told them I was against the over-safetyfacation of today’s children. Of course that was about 3 years ago before I came across free range kids, now I just say my kids are free range 🙂

  49. Also socalledauthor I also agree with your breakdown of the specifics and how seemingly no amount of safety is never enough. I encountered much of that when choosing a car seat. I will not hesitate to say that my #1 priority with a child seat was CONVENIENCE, mainly how easy it is to buckle & un-buckle. I found the 3-point harness way too fiddly and annoying to deal with. Once I found a design that was easy to buckle & un-buckle, I went with that.

    But wouldn’t you know it? I had people trying to guilt-trip me for not buying the 3-point harness. When I’d tell them “it’s too hard to buckle,” and would say “I want one that’s easy to buckle & un-buckle, that’s my #1 concern,” the look on their collective faces was as if I was in Berlin Germany shouting “long live Hitler.” God forbid I accept the easier-to-buckle design as being, as you’d say, “good enough.” I mean gee whiz–it’s not like I was advocating holding my kids in my lap or having them ride on the hood of the car. They were in car seats, after all.

    But no, that’s not good enough, you have to use the safest one within that realm, even if it’s (say) only 3% safer but 345% more difficult to buckle. It’s NEVER enough.

    Thank goodness at least the government wasn’t involved in THAT decision. I detest that sort of government meddling–when they banned drop-side cribs recently, I started to go around trying to find drop-side cribs and buy them and stock-pile them anyway, just because they were telling me not to–even though my kids are out of cribs. The only reason I didn’t was because I can’t see myself taking on the aggravation of storing something that big for 25-odd years for my kids to use when they have kids then (presumably). If I had the storage space, I’d done it, just because they told me not to. Screw them, it’s my house and my grand-kids and I’ll give them whatever type of crib I freaking well please.

    I need to put the keyboard down for awhile, I’m overdoing it making up for lost time where I haven’t posted anything for awhile, ha ha.

    LRH

  50. This is the thing about all these safety laws: Most parents will choose to do the safest thing for their child. They do not need laws to tell them how to protect their child. I choose to use helmets 100% of the time with my kids; we use bike trailers a lot. They will be in a rear-facing car seat until they reach either the weight or height limit. But I don’t want the government telling me that I have to do those things. Please, I have a brain, let me use it.

  51. Bicycle: As far as I know, bicycle helmet is effective against injuries caused by normal fall down, not crash with a car. The helmet basically provides no protection in the car crash scenario.

    If you use bicycle for transport (not a sport), your main risk is a car crash and helmet is irrelevant there. If you use it for a sport, helmet makes sense.

    Skies & Bicycle & …: What I hate most about these is discussions, is that they make the activity look much more dangerous than it is. Judging from this discussion on freerangekids blog, if you take you helmet off for just 15 minutes, you are in grave and immediate danger.

    It is not true. I did a lot of skiing, all my friends and family ski a lot and no one got hurt head. There have been a broken leg. I’m not saying, that you should not wear helmet just in case. Skiing has its risks and they are real. But stop exaggerating those risks.

    The same goes for bikes. People assume protection in case where it provides none (like in a car crash). At the same time they consider bicycling a very dangerous activity. Biking with helmet is safer. But biking itself, even without helmet is not THAT dangerous.

    Isn’t it irresponsible to allow kids to bike? Do you allows your kids to go somewhere on bike? Doing sport so dangerous that it requires helmet?

  52. Wasn’t it California where it just became a law to give one’s teenage evening babysitter a break every two hours (meaning that Gov. Brown had to have signed that one into law)? Or am I confused?

  53. My great-grandmother tells me of a magical time when you had to have an overwhelmingly compelling reason to designate something a criminal activity. Oh, how I would love to see that magical time. The reality is that laws like this are the slippery slope. First it’s booster seats until age 8, then bike helmet laws, then ski helmet laws. To the average parent this seems not only reasonable but justified. However it won’t end there. Soon it will be a requirement that parents accompany their children walking/biking to or from school (Lenore said she’d touch on that TN issue, but others of us have stories), then criminal penalties for unless children are accompanied at all times outdoors.

    This doesn’t only play out with safety equipment. This plays out in all aspects of life. Most people choose to take the option deemed safe by the masses. Those that make informed decisions in favor of other options are seen as endangering themselves or their families. Statistically the safety record of both is equal if not in favor of the less popular option but a law pops up outlawing it anyway.

    If that doesn’t make the argument, how about this: How much money is the state going to waste enforcing such a law? Isn’t California broke?

  54. The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it. ~Henry David Thoreau

    As a child in the late 60s living in Virignia Beach, my brother and I would grab some leftover garbage from dinner the night before, pack a PB sandwich and an apple, get on our bikes and ride around and look for some friends who were also outside playing and head for the inlet where we could go crabbing.

    We stayed all day….Riding our bikes, crabbing, drinking water out of neighbors garden hoses when we were thirsty and heading home before Mom had supper on the table.

    We weren’t tracked all day with cell phones, we didn’t need organized sports to play with our friends, we were free…..

    Yes we were in danger at times, yes, the boogie man could have snatched us, yes we could have fallen off our bikes and hit our heads, knees and elbows…but most of the time we didn’t.

    It was the price we paid for freedom and a chance to take care of ourselves and enjoy the day. We learned to work together with our friends on days like that.

    It was marvelous. It is my greatest sorrow that I could not have provided more of that freedom for my children and that my grandson will never know it.

  55. So so so so glad there was no right time in my life to have children. I would have loved to have had children, but I never would have seen them because I would probably have been in court or jail most of the time for violating laws and regulations that provide a false sense of security for consumers and healthy profits for various companies. Hey, I’m all for creating jobs, but don’t use the law to create demand for products that I should be able to decide for myself whether I want to use them or not.

    Rant aside, basic safety is very important. Seat belts and car seats and helmets all have their place in our increasingly concentrated world in which more (and larger) vehicles are on more streets driving faster and more skiers are on more slopes and more skateboarders are in more concrete parks “pushing the envelope” because, hey, that’s our culture, right? Higher, stronger, faster, greater risks. But don’t make it seem as though we only need to require the right safety technology and we will all live to be 100.

    What about just slowing down? Creating/choosing communities where we don’t have to drive everywhere? Building neighborhoods where there is more grass than sidewalks to safely learn how to ride a bike. Choosing for ourselves, and yes, teaching our children to choose for themselves, to take the risks that we deem reasonable and then to take responsibility for our own safety.

  56. Buffy – yes, a babysitter over the age of 18 has to have workers comp and paid breaks every 2 hours. It will actually lower the average age of sitters. There’s also an exemption for family members. I think people will find out they all of a sudden have a ton of “cousins” they didn’t know about!

    We are all criminals by 10 am every day. There’s too many laws and not enough common sense. I used car seats with my ids, but when they got older and outgrew them I did not use boosters, even though NJ had just passed a law requiring them. My high schooler rode his bike to school for the first time today (finally stopped raining!) with no helmet. If I insisted he wouldn’t ride. Which is better? No helmet or no exercise? Maybe that’s why kids stay in, they’d rather do that then wear a helmet.

  57. Dolly: “We don’t travel while they might be hungry for example. I don’t drag them around all day in the car doing errands.”

    You have the luxury of a life that allows you to arrange the time your kids will be in the car around what works for them. Not everyone does. Imagine if you had to drive your husband to and from work every day, rain, shine, snow, or sickness. Or other kids that had to be taken here or there. Or your own job that required you to take them and drop them off at odd hours no matter what.

    So great, it works for you, but again, this is one of those cases where you can’t just say “if you do it right, you won’t have this problem.”

  58. “This is the thing about all these safety laws: Most parents will choose to do the safest thing for their child.”

    I agree. For example, there is no law requiring parents to put their infants to sleep on their backs and yet most do so. Those of us who did not, know the risks and generally have a good reason for departing from suggested practice.

    And are parents who would not put a child in a car seat regardless of the very clear, compelling evidence that it is HUGELY safer going to be deterred from not using one by a fine? A few maybe. While there are many people who think the car seat laws go too far, I’ve met extremely few parents of kids under 6 who have said “I wouldn’t use a car seat if it wasn’t required by law.”

  59. Hooray!!!

  60. Donna, in fairness, I wouldn’t have had my youngest in a car seat from 4-7 if it hadn’t been required by the law changing after he turned 4. I took all my other kids out as soon as they turned 4. And there are probably some people who would take a toddler out early if it enabled them to put off buying a whole new vehicle when a new baby came along (as happened to us, although I don’t think we would have gone without a car seat for the oldest even without the law. But it’s honestly hard to say, as it wasn’t the case at the time.)

    But infants and toddlers, sure. I think you’re right, if you lower the age to 4 or so.

  61. Thank you for posting this letter, Lenore. I agree with Gov. Brown and applaud the language used to defend his position.

  62. @Becky “When my children bike, they will wear a helmet to protect them from cars.”

    Becky, I just had to point out that helmets are not designed to protect cyclists from cars. They are designed for impacts up to approximately 12mph. They are great for protecting cyclists when they fall because of things like pot holes, wet leaves, loose gravel, or just plain inattention. These things are what cause the majority of accidents and where helmets are most effective.

    The only way for cyclists to protect themselves from cars is to practice good defensive cycling. This is a great site: http://bicyclesafe.com

  63. I wear a helmet when I board and bike and I expect my children to do the same. I do not need a politician to make a law for it I figured that one out on my own when I was 6 and cracked my head open on the sidewalk. I’ve also given myself concussions boarding so now I wear a helmet there as well and it does help. I think vetoing the law was correct. Sometimes you just have to let Darwin have his day to take care of the stupid.

  64. Thank you for pointing this out and thank goodness it failed. I live in CA and my kids and I can choose for ourselves if they want to wear helmets on the slopes and while scootering and skateboarding and rollerblading (except when my sweet 9 yo wants to do tricks – then all the safety equipment goes on).

    We will chose what is best, thank you very much.

  65. Socalled: No argument from me sweetie. You are right each kid is different and I am not saying you have not done right by your son. It just stinks for you and him that he is so upset in the car. I hate it for you guys. I was just trying to give you some suggestions on what worked for us. I don’t think not strapping him in a carseat is the solution though. Have you thought about ear plugs for yourself. The Gosselins used them because they could not concentrate on driving with the 8 kids in the back even just talking there is just so much noise.

    Here is a link to the coat thing. We live in the US South so it does not get super super cold down here but I have followed the guidelines and don’t put my kids in the car seats with the giant coats on. They hardly fit that way even if I tried because the coats are so big! I just put a small jacket on them and cover them with blankets on top of the straps. Then we either run into the building as fast as possible to keep them from freezing or I put coats on them when we get out. I do concede on the loose items in the car-I got wayy too many of them in my car and yeah, its not good but at least I do have them strapped in properly and that counts for something.

    http://babyproducts.about.com/od/carseats/a/carseatcoat.htm

    The actual car seat instructions usually have the coat thing in them too. You can’t argue they do recommend not doing it. They do, but again I agree with you it is kinda a really crazy thing to ask of people especially people that live in REALLY cold climates. I was just making the point that almost every parent makes mistakes with car seats even by accident so if they prosecute one parent for a mistake then they are going to have to prosecute all parents! As long as you try to do it right, that is probably the best you can do.

  66. @Andy “If you use bicycle for transport (not a sport), your main risk is a car crash and helmet is irrelevant there. If you use it for a sport, helmet makes sense.”

    Andy, while I agree with your prior statement, I have to disagree that a helmet is irrelevant when commuting. Even though the helmet is not likely to protect a cyclist if hit by a car, the cyclist is still just as likely to crash on his own when commuting as he is riding for sport.

  67. Socalled: and you are right about the middle of the car as the best place to put the car seat. If I had ONE child I would put it in the middle. I have twins so yeah……I either pick one kid to try to keep the safest and let one be on the side or I put them both on the side. I choose to put one on each side because I am not picking favorites nor can my back really handle climbing across the seats to hook the straps. So yeah, I admit even I don’t follow all the rules to a tee 100% of the time. But I do put them in a car seat everytime we go anywhere and that will not change.

    I also think it sucks that you can’t put more than about 2 kids in a car nowadays without getting a van or SUV because of the car seat laws and how big the car seats are. I don’t know a solution to it but maybe they need to either make car seats smaller or make car seating area larger. Something!

  68. Dolly: are you sure you’re a free ranger? Because you sure are seeing things in extremes and are pretty hard-hearted about those who make different decisions (and you’re catty as well).

    First of all, I was arguing against carseat *laws* not carseat use, although I do think there are times when keeping a child in a carseat is not in the best interests of everyone, including the child. The parent should make that call. As a matter of fact, my son is always strapped in his carseat, because he’s never made a huge fuss about it.

    Second, you seem to think that the instant you don’t use a safety device, disaster will follow. That’s the “it only takes a second!” way of thinking and it’s not free range.

    Third, you seem to be under the arrogant assumption that your children’s easygoing acceptance of carseats is the result of your parenting, which to me sounds harsh and unsympathetic to the needs of your children. I would remind you that every child’s temperament is different, and some have higher needs than others. I know some children who needed to be worn in a sling by their mothers for pretty much the first year of their lives. They’re now very well adjusted, I’m sure in part because their mothers met their needs during that crucial time. For such a child, being strapped in a carseat where they can’t see mom and she’s inaccessible to them would be terrifying, and they would scream. Some babies perhaps are overwhelmed by the noise, vibration, and movement of the car and being held in someone’s arms would help. And, lastly, as I already said, *I* wouldn’t want to be immobilized in a harness in the car, would you? Carseats restrict movement a lot more than seatbelts do.

    There is room for difference of opinion on this blog, and I don’t see why you have such a problem with people not thinking carseats should be mandatory or even used as much as they are. I certainly don’t have a problem with you using carseats every time if you want to. Make your own choices, let other people make theirs.

  69. As a future CA resident I have to say I was happy to read this. CA government doesn’t have much of a “common sense” reputation, so this is a golden ray of sunshine in dark, imposing, debt-ridden sky.

    For a different perspective on bicycle helmets, here’s a TED talk: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=07o-TASvIxY

  70. The booster/child seat laws in CA are stupid, at least when it comes to older vehicles. Unlike others here who seem to have to ability to buy a new car when they outgrow the other, we did not. We had an older Suburban which, although Canada had shoulder belts stock in the back, the dealer refused to put them in mine in the US due to HIS liability. The vast majority of booster seats can ONLY be used with shoulder belt, and are unsafe with just a lap belt.

    So, I had two who were supposed to be in booster seats. I called the police station to ask what I should do. “Put the kid in the booster up front.” Said the officer. “But what about the other? And what about the fact that it is against the law for kids under 13 to be in the front seat?” “Just tell them Officer Jones said it was OK!” (No actual idea what I was supposed to do with kid number 2.)

    Yes, if we REALLY scrabbled, I probably could have bought two $250 car seats which would have worked for PART of the time. Considering the seats were half the price of what we paid for the vehicle, we had them use lap belts in the back. And we drove defensively. Had we been involved in an accident, no doubt we would have been charged, but I figured a lap belt was better than improperly installed booster or no belt at all. It really was a Catch 22. I really resented the fact that I could not decide for my kids what was safest for them.

    At least here in WA, the law is better – there is specific exemption for people with older vehicles with no shoulder belts. The kids just need the lap belt. I like the fact that now that we have a little extra money, I don’t feel inclined to have to use it for car payments and instead can use it for camping and making fun memories with my kids. (And a little for retirement.) Parental choice is a good thing in this case. The law just makes things harder, and not necessarily much safer for my kids who would be wearing the lap belts regardless. This other law just makes it harder too, with much lower return in safety.

  71. I will say that while I’m glad this law was repealed & I do indeed sympathize with “socalledauthor” whose child screams bloody murder, I will say–on a side note–I’m glad that’s not me. I can’t STAND screaming, I remember my nephew when he was little making a fit over a car seat and I remember saying “if one of my kids makes a fit over that, he’s going to be sorry.” I just don’t have much tolerance for screaming for any reason besides, say, bumping your head on the corner of a table. But what can you do? They’re too young to discipline when they’re infants (toddlers from age 2 & on up I’d say you can). I guess I’d used earplugs, like I did for OTHER screaming situations.

    I for one, besides thinking carseats are safer, I like how it keeps a child “grounded” so you can drive in peace. I can’t imagine driving with a child wondering all over the car like that. In a practical sense, I like it that way.

    Even so, we live in the boonies & there is a dumpster at the end of the dirt path where I can dump off my trash, it’s on private land. When I take the trash off, commonly it’s in the daytime when I’m home with the kids. Guess what–the rear of the vehicle is full of trash bags, the driver’s front passenger seat is where the 2 kids sit, not buckled or anything, totally “loose.” We’re on a private dirt path, it’s private property, no other vehicles to worry about–and since it’s not the public government roads, as far as I know the government has no jurisdiction–or even if they did, it’s not like they’re going to see anything back here anyway.

    Further, in the past my brother-in-law would bring his 4-wheeler ATV back here and ride it, and would often-times have our nieces-nephews (ages 5-8) ride with him, totally unrestricted. We’re on private land, not a freaking thing anyone can do about it, as it should be anywhere anyway. I take it where I can get it.

    The main point is this–private or public roads, it should be the PARENT’S call. Period. I remember growing being about age 9-10 and riding with my 3 cousins & older sister (5 of us aged 9-11) in the back of my aunt’s pickup truck, with a camper shell on top. We had the time of our LIVES back there, and meanwhile the adults were in the cabin more separate, not as noisy. No one thought of my mother & aunt as being negligent for doing that, versus the modern way of having us all in a large van having to keep quiet and be strapped in like a mental patient in a straight jacket.

    How DARE the government interfere in that, it isn’t any of their business if I want to do the same thing in a couple of years now that I’m the parent. If I don’t do it, it would ONLY be for a “CYA” type of thinking, because otherwise, as far as what the LAW thinks of it, I couldn’t give a damn. That’s MY judgment call to make. Anything else is communism.

    LRH

  72. I would be for a helmet law on the slopes if it could be demonstrated that the fuss, bother, and expense were offset by reduction in mortality in the same way that the fuss, bother, and expense of putting children in car seats reduces mortality in car accidents. So far, it can’t. Specifically, would police really start the anti-child-endangerment wheels turning in every.single.case where a little kid was on the bunny slopes helmetless? And also: AFAIK the overwhelming majority of injuries sustained on ski slopes are to limbs. Head injuries make headlines. Typically the victim is an adult who bit off more than he or she could chew. Putting helmets on little kids is just another case of being seen Doing Something whether that Thing actually helps or not. If it isn’t self-serving on the part of some politician, it’s just plain superstitious: helmets prevent injury, so put a helmet on somebody on the slope.

  73. I totally agree with Cheryl W about the unseen cost of these laws. They generally do discriminate against those less fortunate– though I can’t tell you how many people will make the asshole remark that those without “enough” money should just not have kids. Years ago, my husband and I bought a 2 door Cavalier– peppy little car, good on gas mileage and a good car for his commute to work. We always figured we’d be able to trade it in and buy a bigger car when the time came. Though at the time, we grossly underestimated the ginormous size of modern car seats!! Then, my car died prematurely (with several compounding factors) and we had to buy me a new car. Shortly after that, I basically lost my job (though a few days later, they offered me a pittance of 5 hours a week, which I can’t afford to turn down.) It’s a miracle that one rear-facing convertible car seat fits in the backseat of this car– once it’s forward facing, we may be able to get another car seat in there. I can afford a baby OR a new car, but not both–and the government’s overzealous laws are impeding my ability to have the life I would like to have, in the name “safety.”

    LRH: the good news is that my son is generally good in the car. Some days he screams bloody murder, but the rest of the time he just chatters to himself. Most of the distress seems entirely related to being immobilized– this is a kid who has a FIT when I have to hold him down to clip his razor sharp finger nails. I suspect that if I was allowed to turn him around and use a lap belt, he’d be fine. He has no problems with his stroller, which has a 5 point harness, but we only use the lap belt to secure him.

  74. Ummm, have you seen this? http://www.parents.com/blogs/parents-news-now/2011/09/09/safety/chicago-outlaws-crib-bumper-pads-citing-safety-concerns/

    talk about transfer of authority! Ridiculous!! Will they be stopping in on every newborn discharged from city hospitals every few weeks to be sure no one is in violation?? UGH!

  75. Angie: Pot calling the kettle black eh? So I am catty when you were the one who personally insulted me first by saying you felt sorry for my kids? yeah right……. I don’t personally attack on this board, but you did first so darn right I will return in kind.

    It has nothing to do with free range to think kids need to be in car seats. This blog always talks about how your child is way more likely to get killed in a car accident than abducted by a pedophile. Well?! There you go! Kids belong in car seats or seatbelts!

  76. Angie: ps I know all about how different children have different temperments considering I used to work in the childcare industry and well also because I have a special needs child. So yeah…that kinda blows your “I don’t know how kids can be different approach” out of the water. I told socalled in her situation she did the best she could so then I suggested ear plugs and another suggestion is a DVD player. I don’t normally think kids need to be having a movie in the car except for long car trips but in extreme situations you do what you gotta do. I gave her tips about ways to maybe fix it. Nowhere did I say it was her fault or assign blame.

    I am also with Larry that I would not be able to drive with kids crawling all over the dang car either any better than I could drive with them screaming at me. I need them in the backseat still and quiet. If that means I have to listen to “Old Macdonald” and other various kid songs for 3 hours, so be it!

  77. I would think that there are kids with sensory issues would object more to car seats than kids who are more within the “normal” range of things. I do have a young friend who particularly when younger could not stand t-shirts or shoes that were tight on him (at all.) We got some nice hand-me downs because of this. Long trips in car seat were not something that he enjoyed. And he was on the mild end of the sensitive to tightness spectrum.

    It is kind of like how bright light bothers some people more than others. It is NOT a parenting issue, or something that a kid can control their reaction, no more than they can control how their pupils dilate or not. I feel for those parents, as I had easy kids. I was lucky. My kid with sensory issues LIKED being held tight, so the car seat was comforting to him.

    Perhaps though, the parent with the child who hates the 5 point harness, would actually be able to get the kid to sit with a shoulder lap belt or just a lap belt if that was an option. According to the law though, that is NOT an option, even though it would be safer to not have a distracted driver, but still have the kid restrained from flying through the sun roof should a deer jump out in front of the car.

  78. What would make a child “safer” in any situation is not equipment, but the ability to use his or her brain and show good judgement. Parents need to teach this to their kids (when biking assume the cars don’t see you, look and listen at intersections, etc.)
    Unfortunately, you can slap a helmet on anyone. It doesn’t magically teach them bike laws and good riding practices. Nor does it keep beginner skiers off the black diamond/expert trails.
    Besides, saying something is “safer” is arbitrary.
    Our school district told it’s students they were not allowed to bike to school two years ago. Why? They said it was an unsafe route and too dangerous(it’s on a major highway) and no one was even allowed (no bike racks).
    But faced with budget cuts, they chose transportation cuts and eliminated bus service to my neighborhood.
    Guess what is safe to do now?
    Biking and walking to school!
    Try explaining that one to your kids…

  79. And then today Chicago announces a ban on crib bumpers, “to send a message to the federal government and the states”. 1 step forward, 3 steps back.

  80. Ahh the FRK community is at again .. wanting it both ways. They lecture me how the most dangerous activity in the world is having the kiddies in the vehicle with me (and they site many studies proving this) .. however when it comes to child safety seats and harnesses to keep our little ones safe.. it’s “too much bother” and how mean it is to strap our kids in safely.

    So which is it? If vehicles are so dangerous (I don’t think they are – just dangerous people operating them), why the outrage in very sensible child seats to keep them safe?

    Thank you ‘socalledauthor’ for proving my point on the outright hypocrisy in this movement.

  81. @socalledauthor so, who pays the medical bill for a person who wasn’t wearing a helmet or other safety devise that could have prevented or lowered injury?

    I always like “It is my choice to wear a helmet” or whatever until an accident. Then they are the first person to sue regardless of whose fault it is.

    Here’s my deal for you. No helmet? OK. Show up at a hospital/ER with a preventable head injury? No admittance unless you have a bucket of cash as well.

  82. LOL Brad. Well I am a moderate free ranger I kinda noticed the hypocrisy behind that too and mentioned it further up.

    As far as crib bumpers, I did not use them and I encourage others not to use them or waste their money on them. I feel they serve no real purpose and can be dangerous by causing SIDS and kids can use them to climb out of the crib easier. However, in the end people are going to do what they are going to do and that sometimes means worrying more about how pretty the crib looks over their child’s safety. I am not knocking anyone that used or uses crib bumpers especially since they were not known to be a SIDS contributor until recently, but I just think they are stupid and a waste. We don’t need a law though. As long as everyone KNOWS the potential danger of them then if you still insist on using them, that is their choice. The problem is many parents don’t know about all these potential hazards and then cry foul when it ends badly saying “NO ONE TOLD ME!!!” So then the government thinks they have to make laws about it.

  83. And yes I do know that socalledauthor isn’t representative of the whole community – however I still stand by the belief that “Free Range” has encouraged people to shrug their shoulders when it comes to responsible parenting and infer anything bad that were to happen to our kids as a “No fault” or “blameless” occurence. NOT SO I’d say in most cases.

  84. The outrage lies not in the sensibility of the mountain of child-safety equipment – auto or otherwise, it’s the government’s (or almost, in this case) daily intrusion into a parents choice, along with, of course the horrified response directed (guessin by folks in YOUR community) at any parent with the temerity to choose perhaps NOT to use the triple-buckled-titanium-NASA approved-Big Brother sanctioned, car seat.

    I think I’ll design a helmet for use by children who must negotiate stairs (home, school, mall etc) on a daily basis. Don’t know the figures on the injuries caused by such hazards, but i would imagine it would only take one accident to create outright panic. Prob get the gov to ban stairs while we’re at it. Can’t think of any legislator who wouldn’t jump start that one into law. Elections are on the horizon.

  85. Exaggerate much?

  86. Um brad, no, this isn’t about shirking of responsibility, which I don’t think anyone here advocates to start with. It’s about the understanding that this isn’t the former USSR or Cuba and that how a parent does their parenting is their own business. The only governmental meddling should be for things like, say, molestation, sodomy, hideous physical abuse, starving to the point they look like Ally McBeal participating in a fast, etc. Anything short of that should be total parental prerogative, no government interference whatsoever.

    Either you feel the same or, frankly, you’re a communist if you ask me. I’m all for respecting differences of opinion for the most part, but on this there is no compromise–either you believe in parental authority being recognized short of the REAL extreme situations, or you believe in a “nanny state” where we are nothing more than unpaid robots of the state marching to the beat of a dictatorship style of government, and that we have no right to any say at all about our children in the least.

    VinceL I sort of agree with you, except for this: it won’t stop there. Someone who was, say, climbing a tree and broke their leg could be told “sorry, your fault, no admittance.” Someone hang-gliding, someone hurt while swimming at anywhere other than a public city pool with lifeguards who won’t let you go in water over your ankles unless you practically complete a boat-safety certification course–all of them told “tough, that’s what you get for engaging in ‘risky’ behavior.”

    To me, except for REALLY extreme situations, it should be a “grace” type of situation, a no-fault type of deal. Someone’s hurt, let’s come together as a group and get them back on their feet. Whatever activity they’re doing–so be it, at least they were out living and enjoying life rather than living in a sterile passionateless type of way. Save the “your fault, pay up or leave” situations for EXTREME situations–and no, skiing or snowboarding without a helmet wouldn’t qualify. Yes it costs more, but to complain about that is, to me, to imply that your freedom is for sale. To me, it’s priceless.

    I mean, really. Were we cheering “ha ha, that’s what you get you dumb bitch” when Natasha Richardson died from head injuries sustained while skiing for the first time, without a helmet? Did we yell “you got what you deserved” at Christopher Reeve for his injuries he sustained while riding a horse in polo activity? I am sure glad that when I was a child around age 8-9 and got an injury that just missed my eyeball, from running in the woods in the DARK and it had a bobbed-wire fence I didn’t know about (even though I had been in that woods before during daylight), I am sure glad I was on the receiving end of sympathy, vs “ha ha, you got what you deserved, with that type of stupid behavior.”

    So yes, I think (say) a motorcyclist should be able to ride without a helmet and STILL get the same sort of coverage you do for your typical activities. If, say, their insurance is higher to help allow for this, much as what happens with cigarette smokers, that’s fine, but I’m not in favor of a system where we sell our freedom because not offending the cost of healthcare, as crazy as it ceratinly is, is all we care about. To do this sounds too much like the instances where, say, the city removes their merry-go-rounds because the insurance won’t cover the liability, or the city pool doesn’t have a diving board because their insurance won’t allow it. It’s fine WITHIN REASON to try & prevent costs from spiraling out of control, but when that’s the only concern and it becomes a detriment to people actually being able to have some adventure, then it’s getting ridiculous.

    LRH

  87. “I always like “It is my choice to wear a helmet” or whatever until an accident. Then they are the first person to sue regardless of whose fault it is.”

    And your data as to veracity of that statement, VinceL, is where exactly? In your own mind, I assume?

    “So which is it? If vehicles are so dangerous (I don’t think they are – just dangerous people operating them), why the outrage in very sensible child seats to keep them safe?”

    Actually, I haven’t seen any OUTRAGE over car seats. 99.9% of free rangers agree with and use seat belts and car seats, regardless of laws. As a matter of fact, I see many on this list that go over and above that which is required by keeping kids rear-facing and in car seats for longer than required by law. However, many of us disagree with laws mandating their use. I universally disagree with ANY law governing what an individual can do with his/her own body and, short of abuse, what they can do with their own children.

  88. @brad as I see it, cars are used for a comparison. Much safer activities are banned and regulated. E.g. if driving car with kids is OK, then the safer activity should be OK too.

    And those bans are often based on somebody’s guesses and emotional reactions. They do not make us substantially safer.

  89. @E. Simms When I drive bike for sport, I go to the limit. When I drive bike for commute, I go slow. I do not want to sweat myself. Plus, I need my hair in remotely reasonable state. Chance of fall and speed are radically different. Then again, helmet is tested against 24 hm/h speed, which I sometimes exceed even during commute.

    Anyway, how often do you fall from bike? I did once in last 10 years and I had an easy land.

    I read somewhere, that statistically biking (without helmet) per miles is safer than driving car per mile (sorry Brad – could not resist).

  90. @brad- I don’t see it both ways. I insist on helmets for my kids on bikes because it’s the law in our state, and for obvious protection. Same thing with car seats.
    But I’m not going to get into my car with the kids buckled in their car seats and talk on my cell phone while applying lipstick. I still drive defensively, as my father taught me, and try to limit distractions.

    My kids wear their helmets because, unliike a broken arm or leg that can be fixed with a cast, there is no simple cast for a brain injury.

  91. “If vehicles are so dangerous (I don’t think they are – just dangerous people operating them)”

    Hmmm, do you actually think that anyone here is arguing that cars are somehow inherently dangerous as they sit in a car lot? Of course it is the people operating them who make them dangerous.

  92. “No admittance unless you have a bucket of cash as well.”

    Why? My insurance is paid up, and insurance rates are based on the likelihood of my incurring such a cost. The insurance company doesn’t inspect my actions (or anyone else’s) to determine whether helmets are used — they set rates based on the actual annual usage of health care costs, regardless of source. IOW, accidents are figured in no matter whose “fault” it is. You’re paying for the drunks, too, the knife wounds, everything, if your fellow insurance buyers are showing up with drunk driving injuries and knife wounds. It’s what you agree to when you buy insurance.

    Mind you, I believe in helmets for stuff like this. But unless you’re talking about people whose healthcare is publicly funded, it’s not “costing” anyone anything they haven’t already paid for.

  93. @ Krista – So much for being a visionary. That is scary – and not because its an infant with a crawling helmet; because of what comes next.

    @ Brad – Exaggerating? Really. Take off them blinders, son. Anything that can be viewed as dangerous will soon find its way to the State house floor. The bar gets lower and lower. Think there is no correlation between banning sliding boards, jungle gyms, cutting down branches AND trees to avoid risk, and this move to force every parent to adhere to gov safety initiatives i.e. helmets? Politicos need to look tough and caring. This plays into the “OMG, it could happen” mindset of the fearful. You may not mind the seemingly benign erosion of personal liberties (which transcend the fact that we all want to keep our loved ones safe) but many of us do. And the stairs??? You really don’t believe something so innocent can be the subject of a law…and massive litigation? Guess we’ll see.

    And while we’re on the subject of strapping everyone in a Pep Boys binding, why is it that all our school buses that carry the kids are not equipped with shoulder harnesses for each child? Can you say lobby? I don’t have the figures on the sheer numbers of injuries and death as a result of school bus accidents over the past decade but I would imagine there are a good many. Where’s THAT outrage? Oh, but the poor moms that don’t sport a Land Cruiser kid carrier are the ones who need to worry bout that.

    And to all the closet Helicopters? We ALL want to keep people safe; just some of us see real problems having the gov tell us how to be good parents.

    Watch those stairs y”all…there will soon be a high profile case involving an accidental fatal tumble…and the mom WILL be blamed…and there WILL be such clamour for a new law regulating stair use replete with warnings and mandated upgrades.

    Chuckle if you will, B, but it’s a comin.’

  94. Some great points people are making above. I’d like to second what was said about cars being used as a comparison. When we say you are *more likely* to die in a car than be abducted, it doesn’t mean you are actually *likely* to die in a car accident. And it is still possible to die even when strapped in a carseat or while wearing a seat belt. Using those simply *reduce* the risk. Acknowledging that is not hypocrisy, it’s seeing shades of gray where others see only black and white.

    The fact is that life itself is dangerous. Last I checked, death rates are holding steady at 100% (I admit, I stole that from The Onion). We as a society seem to have collectively decided that being “safe” is the highest value, one that we will sacrifice most anything else for, including compassion (“you get what you deserved!”). I disagree. Hence my argument that protecting your child from injury in the remote chance of a car accident may sometimes be superseded by other concerns, such as the emotional needs of the child (or family). Most people who swear that carseats are of utmost importance have never done the research themselves into how they have reduced mortality rates, they are simply absorbing the cultural attitudes or relying on what “experts” have told them. I think we need to do better than that. I think we need to question what we have been fed, and we need to remember the millions of children who spent their childhoods riding in the backward-facing seat of the family station wagon or played in the back of vans or otherwise had freedom to move in cars (the backseat is inherently safer anyway), and who lived to tell about it.

    Here’s the great thing: if you disagree with me, you don’t have to stop putting your kid in a carseat. You can still visit Free Range kids and count yourself among them even if you don’t share the same opinions as some other people. There is a range of opinions here.

  95. “Most people who swear that carseats are of utmost importance have never done the research themselves into how they have reduced mortality rates, they are simply absorbing the cultural attitudes or relying on what “experts” have told them. I think we need to do better than that”

    I’ll file this comment under “you try it first”. And I would be the first to recommend serious charges if someone failed to properly strap their child in using a proper seat for their age/weight. Study up on the research out there – in a high speed accident that seatbelt can cause serious injury or death if notsecured around the hips and shoulders. I think you’re fighting a losing cause re: child seats – it seems like a no-brainer to me

  96. Of course in that scenario I described, the parent should be held “blameless” as it was *only* an accident. (common theme here)

  97. I just don’t think you’re getting it, Brad. If you are eager to prosecute parents for not going to every length possible to “protect” their kids, why are you here? What issue do you *actually* agree with? It’s one thing to be pro-carseat use. It’s another to want to jail people for not doing something *you* think is in their best interest. Be careful; those kind of attitudes tend to come back and bite you in the behind. Next time it will be them knocking on YOUR door.

    As for your challenge that I “do the research”… I issue the same challenge to you.

    ONE MORE TIME — everybody join in here: it’s not about the virtue of various safety devices. It’s about CRIMINALIZING parenting choices.

  98. Do as Brad does and you are a good parent. must be a nice view from such a perch.

    Lesson: take EVERY possible precaution or else. And to those reckless and dangerous parents who don’t heed the warning? Knock knock…CPS, a spot on Nancy Grace, and a well publicized jail sentence.

  99. OH C’MON PEOPLE, STOP THE BICKERING. So stupid.
    The article is great, the response was great and yay for giving parents their God given right to raise their kids their way!!

  100. Well, I have done the research in the past about seat belts and car seats. And yes, they do prevent injury. And, after it was made law, many more people did use them because of it. (My husband being one of them, after he got a ticket for a hundred dollars. Good for the kids to see him wearing it, in my opinion.)

    But, a safe aware driver, is going to have a lot less accidents than a distracted driver – be it distraction via cell phone or distraction because of screaming sensitive kid who can’t stand to have things tight. Having an option of doing things differently because of different needs should be allowed. I am not talking about not strapping in your normal kid when you go for ice cream – that is lazy.

    And sometimes, our safety stuff makes more problems. Like front seat airbags that mean that you can’t put an infant seat in the front and if you have two other kids, there is no room in the back. Like the woman in WA being charged with the death of her baby because she had 3 kids and not enough seat room in the back, so the infant went up front. 30 years ago, that would not have been an issue because most cars did not have air bags. 30 years ago had the mom rear ended someone else, either she would be dead too, or she and the baby would be mostly fine. The mom faced a hard choice and lost out. But in the same situation, wouldn’t most of us do something about the same?

  101. Tracie,

    These are serious debates…the kind not likely to take place on the floor of the Congress. You may not have that “God given” right to raise your kids your way much longer. None of us may.

  102. Tracy. be helpful if I spelled your name correctly. Sorry.

  103. This is fantastic. Kuuuuuuudos.

    As an aside: Just today I saw a kid and his mother in the store. Boy seemed to be 9-ish, being followed to the mens’ restroom with his mother, and he turns to her and says, “Mom, when are you going to trust me?” When that is coming out of your pre-teen’s mouth, I think you need to admit you might have a problem. Still – she ignored him and his sigh and stood sentinel RIGHT OUTSIDE of the men’s restroom door. It burns me up inside. *sigh*

  104. Dolly and Socalledauthor – A bit off topic, but I recently managed to fit three carseats (two forward facing, one rear) across the backseat of my ’07 Yaris hatchback. My husband and I are thrilled to not have to buy a huge gas guzzler just to transport three little kids. I blogged it recently, and you’re welcome to come view the pictures of how we managed it, but the gist of it is that if you have carseats that are shaped very differently (one sits low, the other has a base that makes it sit higher and farther forward) you can jigsaw them together to fit. http://sweetcrunchyjewy.wordpress.com/2011/07/21/whoda-thought-persistence-would-pay-off/

  105. Decemberbaby, good for you. But a rear facing seat does not fit in the back seat of all cars. My husband’s ’68 Pontiac is one of them. The infant seat HAD to go up front to be installed properly because it hit the front seat and was at an improper angle. Had I gone to the State Police for a seat check, they would have failed it. (I used to do those checks, I know what I am talking about.)

    When we HAD to ride in that car (fortunately not often,) the baby went up front, and I sat in the 6 inches between the other two seats. Not comfortable, and probably not really safe.

  106. Cheryl, that is truly sucktastic. Our passenger seat has to be pretty much as far up as it will go in order to accommodate the rear-facing seat, which is probably a bit unsafe for my very tall husband whose legs, I’m sure, would break against the dashboard if we were in a serious head-on collision. You having to sit in between the other two seats sounds painful – at least it was when I tried doing something similar.

    I had just hoped to point out that sometimes it can be achieved, even though most people do seem to think they need an SUV or a minivan as soon as kid #2 arrives. But for sure, there must be some cars, like your husband’s, that just won’t allow for it. You have my sympathies.

  107. Oh, and also: for us the problem was the width of the backseat, but I know that sometimes it’s just the sheer length (depth?) of the rearfacing seat that can do a car in. And the rearfacing seats seem to be getting bigger (or “safer”?) as far as I can tell…

  108. Lee, I am berating people who use the floor to bitch at one another about being crappy parents. look further up the posts to see what I mean. I AM serious on the content of the article and as I said, it was great, a breathe of relief in a an area getting out of hand. I abhor it when people on this site say mean things to one another/.;

  109. While I’m all for personal choice, I’m a firm believer that anyone who rides a bicycle without a helmet should be required to sign organ donor cards.

    I’m one of those Lance-types. I have my zoomy road bike and I cruise along at 15-20 MPH. I’m no world-class competitor, obviously (pro riders do 35 MPH on a long flat), but I have hit things at 20 MPH and been thrown from my bike. And, yes, I was very glad to be wearing my helmet.

    Years ago, back in Vermont, I got to ride something called “The Convincer.” Basically, they had a car seat that would accelerate to 5 MPH and suddenly stop. Your job was to stay in the seat without a seatbelt. Even when you knew it was coming, there was no way you could manage to stay in your seat.

    So for those who say, “Yeah, but I’m no Lance. I don’t ride my bike very fast,” even 5 MPH can send you on a flying trip. Look up the physics. Personally, I figure I can get by without an arm or a leg or an eye. But I use my brain. A lot. A little protection for the ol’ noodle is just a smart idea.

  110. Here’s a comment from another angle: lots of what folks are writing here is about (1) fixing situations that can be fixed often, but not always (preventing injury and death with safety equipment); (2) the responsibility and concomitant guilt associated with not knowing about or not using the equipment, i.e. blame; and (3) thinking that we can change others’ behavior either by talking about an issue or legislating it, and believing that we should be in the business of changing others’ behavior. Some ideas re: (1) Sometimes people are hurt and die; we cannot prevent every instance of this; (2) if an accident happens, it is tragic and it must be dealt with emotionally, but guilt (felt by the persons involved with the accident) and blame (from those external to the event) do not help the victim(s) nor do they prevent further accidents; (3) because total prevention is impossible and pain is inevitable (see 1), why are we acting out of fear, guilt and blame to tell others what to do?

    Not only does “Not every human problem deserve a law”, but no amount of laws will solve any human problem. Neither will finger pointing and “I know better”, or worse, “I am better” posturing. My heart goes out to anyone hurt in an accident, but let’s agree not to tell each other what to do because that “solution” doesn’t work either.

  111. @Peter, you’re missing the point. Yes, we all agree that helmets are great. But should we be CRIMINALLY CHARGED if we or our children forget the helmet one time?

  112. Yes Beth!! that is the point. Incidentally the road bike users who whizz around at speeds of the local traffic probably should wear helmets and frankly keep off our trails I’d like to say!. If you go to Europe, bike users are the getting around town type, no-one wears a helmet.
    Over there, they all smoke and will likely die of those effects, while here, everyone’s dying of obesity…
    I digress, but boy, I’ve had people yelling at me to wear a helmet on my mountain bike pootling along at 10miles an hour. I’m 45 years old!! That’s the problem here, EVERYONE wants to tell you how to live all the time.

  113. epapalaup, very well said and absolutely the best response yet!

  114. Thanks decemberbaby. The biggest problem we have in the Cavalier is the distance between the backseat and the back of the front seats. To put a rear facing seat in any position but the middle means that the front seat is pushed all the way up and unusable by an adult passenger. Luckily, our son will soon be forward facing (I’m following the extended recommendation, but am glad it’s not law as I’m going to turn our son around before winter hits in force, saving me the difficulty of trying to get it tight enough with frozen fingers… and because it’s a PAIN to crawl into the back seat to get him into his car seat.) With one forward facing seat, we MAY be able to get both a rear facing seat and a front facing seat back there.

    I love the slippery slopes and reading comprehension fails. I’m happy to use a car seat. I wish I had more choices in car seat models that would fit with my lower-income lifestyle (a choice one has to make when they go into teaching at a non-union position.) I wish it wasn’t so SCANDALOUS to make a parenting decision that is not inline with the so-called SAFEST. And I will always continue to questions, what is safe enough? When is it good enough? Are the new car seat laws really THAT much safer that they’re worth the extra hundred(s) of dollars spent on car seats? These things are really hard to prove because most studies only cite the rate of injury, which only happens if your in a crash– which is still not a relatively unlikely event.

    If increase in safety are THAT crucial, then all small cars should be outlaws, since, as we all known (especially if you drive a small car) the bumpers of trucks and SUVS are at window height on a small car, and that makes small cars “more dangerous” than larger ones. At some point we have to get the governement to stop “saving” us from our selves (especially when their efforts pad the pockets of corporations, imho. That suggests to me that perhaps they’re more interested in, say, the car seat industry, than in my child’s safety, but the latter reason sounds much better.)

  115. I started to reply to this post, twice. As often, Lenore, you raise an issue which has such complex underpinnings. So, here is my second attempt – trying to keep it simple.
    Firstly, hear, hear, for the governor. Criminalisation, exile, imprisonment etc, is a socially aggressive act against ourselves, and until we recognise this, we fail to apply it as it should be, as a powerful poison being used as medicine, to be applied in very discrete quantities by knowledgeable and wise people.
    Secondly, the collective (government) in empathy, must apply law that constrains us to behaviour that allows the greatest opportunities for the progress of all. That is the complex issue. The balance of all constraints and permissions must be striving to strike the balance between physical, emotional, spiritual, social and environmental progress for all people. This is not cliche-esque. This implies serious effort in discussion among the body politic of the democracy. It cannot occur without equity among all people, allowing access to that discussion. However, the rewards and punishments guiding most laws should be simple ‘nudges’ supported by a vigorous engagement in the democracy and a robust education process (and these are conjunctive processes).
    Thirdly, while we continue to be socially dysfunctional and therefore, continually aggressive against ourselves, nationally and globally, through inequitable conduct, war, believing in weaponry, theft, fraud, projecting our guilt onto the wild children so we can imprison and beat up on them, we will never, never, protect our children, no matter how many laws we introduce.
    Eastern societies stagnated and died long ago. Western societies have run down a cul-de-sac. The herd is trampling itself to death as it tries to back out of it. There is no safety until the herd stops panicking, and realises that the guidance to safety is already there through all the Great Educators the world has already heard. To the absolute extent of our efforts we must ignore the whip of those figures who would just love to see their power in the world sustained, and pour our efforts into love for everyone in our community and across the planet.

  116. @peter Your comment shows the major fail of helmet campaignes. Mandatory helmet laws failed to make us safer. There are multiple theories on why and no definite coclusion.

    However, they are quite effective on reducing number of cycllists as everybody now considers cycling dangerous life threatening sport. Life expectancy of bikers is bigger than those of non-bikers. Even without helmets. Biking is not that dangerous, statisticks shows it is pretty safe.

    And trust of some people on helmets is almost religous. They feel safe and expect protection where is none. They continue to use helmet after first fall (it does not work anymore, you must buy a new one). They think it will help them in the case of car crash. Or, in the case of high speed downhill sprint. It will not (pro-downhillers use different helmets, ones that actually protects them).

  117. “Parent safety”—I like that, Lenore. That is a GREAT term.

  118. […] = '';} } Program Allows Parents To Recycle Child Safety Seats“The Seemingly Inexorable Transfer of Authority from Parents to the State”Program Allows Parents To Recycle Child Safety Seats“The Seemingly Inexorable […]

  119. Bicycle helmets don’t protect your children from cars. Having recently done extensive reading on this topic it’s not clear bicycle helmets provide any overall protection. Worst case they actually increase the risk of certain serious injuries. Both the design and testing methodology of bicycle helmets are seriously flawed. Studies showing their effectiveness are invariably extremely poorly designed. I’d certainly never again put a bicycle helmet on my child’s head knowing what I know now.

    Another thing, there is what appears to be a common misconception that if your bicycle helmet broke it means it did it’s job. Just the opposite. If it broke it means it failed.

  120. Thanks, Dan. Do you have any links so the rest of us can do some further reading on this too?

    Also, did my lengthy email showing my research into carseat and automobile safety ever post?

  121. With a few years of ski patrol behind me … if you want to prevent lots of injuries, mandating wrist guards on all snow-boarders would do more than helmets.

    Helmets would have prevented some scalp, face, and ear lacerations, but I have my doubts whether helmets have enough impact absorbing characteristics to have prevented some of the brain-bashing injuries we saw.

  122. “The Seemingly Inexorable Transfer of Authority from Parents to the State”

    *****
    I’ve been worried about this for a long time. I remember a while back writing a piece about Student Drug testing and reading something along the lines that schools consider themselves as having “temporary custody” of your children during school hours.

    This is very disturbing because public schools, and by the same turn the government, are claiming a legal right over your child while they’re at school that, in some cases, surpasses that of the parents.

    I believe that there’s a difference between “entrusting” your children to someone and granting them legal custody, even if that custody is supposedly “temporary”.

  123. […] #split {}#single {}#splitalign {margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;}#singlealign {margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;}#splittitlebox {text-align: center;}#singletitlebox {text-align: center;}.linkboxtext {line-height: 1.4em;}.linkboxcontainer {padding: 7px 7px 7px 7px;background-color:#eeeeee;border-color:#000000;border-width:0px; border-style:solid;}.linkboxdisplay {padding: 7px 7px 7px 7px;}.linkboxdisplay td {text-align: center;}.linkboxdisplay a:link {text-decoration: none;}.linkboxdisplay a:hover {text-decoration: underline;} function opensingledropdown() { document.getElementById('singletablelinks').style.display = ''; document.getElementById('singlemouse').style.display = 'none'; } function closesingledropdown() { document.getElementById('singletablelinks').style.display = 'none'; document.getElementById('singlemouse').style.display = ''; } “The Seemingly Inexorable Transfer of Authority from Parents to the State” […]

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