Linux, politics, and other interesting things
I have just watched an interesting lecture by Steven Levitt about car safety for children in the 2-6 age range . The evidence he presents shows that the benefits for children in that age range are at best insignificant and that in some corner cases (EG rear impacts) the child seat may give a worse result than an adult seat belt!
He advocates a 5-point harness  for children in the 2-6 age range that is based on a standard adult seat and seems to be advocating a child “booster seat” integrated into the adult seat (which approximates the booster seats offered by some recent cars such as the VW Passat). He has a picture of a child in a child-sized 5-point harness to illustrate his point. But one thing that should be considered is the benefit of a 5 point harness for adults. Race car drivers use 5 point harnesses, I wonder how the probability of a race car dying during the course of their employment compares with the probability of an average adult dying while doing regular driving. I also wonder how a 5 point harness compares to a three point harness with a pre-tensioner, it seems quite possible that a 5 point harness would be cheaper and safer than the 3 point harness with pre-tensioner that is found in all the most expensive cars manufactured in the last few years.
He believes (based on tests with crash-test dummies) that part of the problem is that the child seat will move in an accident (it’s attached to a soft seat). It seems that one potential solution to this is to have child seats that firmly attach to some solid part of a vehicle. I had previously suggested that child seats which replace existing seats as an option from the manufacturer would be a good idea .
But there is a good option for making better child seats for existing vehicles. It is becoming common in the “people mover” market segment to design vehicles with removable seats. For example the Kia Carnival has three seats in the middle row which are removable and which attach to four steel bars in the floor. It should not be difficult to design a child seat which attaches to those bars and could therefore be plugged in to a Carnival in a matter of minutes. The Carnival is designed to have the mid row seats installed or removed easily and safely by someone who is untrained, while for comparison it is recommended that a regular child seat should only be installed by a trained professional (IE your regular mechanic can’t do it).