Steven Levitt spoke at TED today. He told the story of the car seats, and it’s worth a quick rehash.
Turns out that car seats for kids over 2 are no more effective than seat belts. The data is unequivocal on this. (see a quick clip at Freakonomics)
So if it’s so clear, and if it means that Americans are wasting $300 million a year on car seats, what’s going on?
Why is it that in New York State it’s a crime to put a six year old in the backseat of your car with just a seatbelt? A crime!
Why is it that when I passed a motorist strapping his four year old into the back of his BMW in London yesterday, I almost stopped and yelled at him? Or at least gently pointed out the safety problem?
It goes to stories. It feels like you’re doing something smart and thoughtful and caring for your child. The effort gives the parent peace of mind and joy. The government gets to pass a law that seems cheap and caring. Everyone conspires to do the wasteful thing because of the story it allows us to tell ourselves.