Those without kids avert your eyes; this is the kind of talk that’ll make you think that the act of childbirth turns us all into blubbering, precious, drama queens. BUT… I’m sure most of you parents have read Consumer Reports’ test of baby car seats: ten of the top twelve sellers failed catastrophically at speeds over 30 mph. Crash test dummies were violently thrashed, and one flew thirty feet through the window. These seats include, no doubt, yours, and certainly the one we used, the every-yuppie-has-one Peg Perego Primo Viaggio.
Remember, these are crashes at less than 40 mph, far slower than many you’ve seen on the freeway. One of the main culprits was the LATCH system that comes standard on almost all new cars. It’s those little metal closed hooks that are buried in the fold of the back seat (along with four french fries, a packet of used ketchup and eleven cents in loose change). I was so psyched to snap in li’l baby Peanut Lucy into her LATCH, thinking that crappy car seats were a thing of the past. Instead, the LATCH system – and all of these baby seats – became an industry-wide fuckup that is Corvair or lawn darts or tobacco in scale.
Except that only four people ever died playing Jarts, and they were drinking. This is the kind of corporate suck-my-dick move that means someone in Accounting did the math and calculated the cost of your child’s life in litigation fees, and projected it against future profit. Worse, you’ve got government agencies like the apparently useless NHTSA barely bothering to tell us that “LATCH is confusing” and exhorting us not to worry about it.
Well, actually, I am going to worry about it. Look, I am not some ninny parent who keeps their kid in a hyperbaric chamber and feeds them nothing but organic flax. We lead pretty big lives and we schlep the Buglet from one continent to the other, despite the fact she won’t remember any of it.
But I spent my early years in Cedar Rapids, IA during the 1970s, when it seemed like nary a season would pass without some family being visited by some motorcrash horror or another. Simple trips to the Hy-Vee would become gruesome accidents with memorial services; kids would have their faces disfigured; innocuous jaunts to Shakey’s Pizza would become cautionary tales for generations. There were seven of us in that household and I’m still blessedly thankful we all made it out intact.
If this LATCH system is actually worse than just hooking the seat belt through the car seat base, then it’s a massive failure of initiative and imagination, an unconscionable breach of trust, and an unnatural rewinding of the technological clock. We should treat car seat makers Evenflo and Britax – as well as government oar-draggers like the NHTSA – with the same respect we give Halliburton and Philip Morris.
In the meantime, I guess the only solution for newborns is to ditch the expensive seat you got at the baby shower for the only two seats CR could recommend. We should also demand two more belts: one attaching to the floor in front of the baby seat, and another that stretches behind, like the toddler seats we use now.
Oh, and duct-tape mattresses around your car, fill your back seat with styrofoam peanuts, and don’t drive over 15 mph. That oughta do it.