Authors Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner are making the media rounds again. They have a new book, SuperFreakonomics. Yes, ironically, you can buy it through our Amazon affiliate program link and we make some money advocating child passenger safety if you buy their book! Aint capitalism great? Anyway, as you may or may not remember, these authors had some interesting research over the last few years that claimed to show a seatbelt is just about as effective as a booster or other child safety seat in preventing child passenger fatalities for toddlers and older kids. In a New York Times article from 2005, they even suggested parents might spend their money on a DVD player instead of a carseat or booster seat and get the same result for kids 2 and over.
That was a very controversial finding, because they used the very same government FARS database often used by expert researchers in the area of injury prevention. The insinuation was that the government and child safety seat manufacturers conspired to foist these expensive devices upon parents, even though they offer minimal benefit. Critics spoke up quickly, touting that the authors didn’t consider crashes with injuries, that their crash testing didn’t measure abdominal injury or that their conclusions were flawed due to various other factors. Later, studies were finally published that showed child safety seats and boosters did show significant improvements in safety for both fatalities and injuries, using the same government statistics as Freakonomics used. The authors then countered with new data of their own. The differences? Each set of researchers apparently used the different sets of data or used the same statistics in a different way. They controlled variables in a different manner, perhaps over a different period of years or by omitting various factors they considered to skew the data inappropriately for one reason or another. So, it is still very difficult for me to tell you who is right or even who to trust on this issue.