More on the Cost of Regulation

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This, to me, is astonishing. (Found via Brian Cooley.)

Kids being killed, as Cooley says, is always a horrible thing. But equally so a child that falls off a step, someone being hit by a drunk driver, or any one of the numerous people who die while on the toilet.

So how bad is this problem?

A number of anecdotal reports of child deaths and injuries related to power windows have been received by NHTSA in recent years. These non-crash events are not yet included in NHTSA�s databases. But an average of three fatalities every two years have been confirmed by the agency through a recent review of death certificates.

Clearly the answer, then, is to make car manufacturers alter their designs. Why, however, don't we require Kohler make foam-rubber toilets? More people die in bathroom incidents. Why not eliminate bathubs to prevent people from downing in them?

I suppose it sounds flippant, especially considering that children are, in fact, dead because of the problem. But so are the people who fall, the people who drown, and everyone else that dies from accidental causes.

I propose that, if the regulators were to look beyond the death certificates themselves, they might find that these three deaths were also correlated with things such as the children not being restrained proper seats, parents not being in the car at the time, or any of a host of things that might mean supervision and parental control was lacking. After all, I know of few cars with electric windows that don't have some sort of locking mechanism that prevents all but the driver from manipulating the windows in the car. Did the cars in which these children were killed have such a mechanism, and if so, why wasn't it activated? My point is not to suggest that the parents of these children were necessarily negligent but rather to say that horrible accidents do, indeed, occur, and that to simply find a common element among them is not to find the real cause.

Meanwhile, you, me, and the rest of the taxpayers of the US saw tax dollars go to an agency to review the proposed problem, verify whether or not it happened, identify potential causes (wrongly, most likely), and to find solutions. The solution, then, is that car makers have to change their products to conform with these requirements. (The briefing suggests this is a "cheap" solution. I suggest they find out the hourly costs of engineers, design verification folks, and everyone who has to retool the plants to accomodate different buttons for every car maker on the road today, before they make such a claim so quickly.)

My impression is that this sounds reasonable to those folks who proposed it because it's unlikely to affect the cost of a car. That, of course, would be far too narrow a view for the cost of regulation.

2 Comments

Small children crushed in power windows = evolution in action. Who do those meddlers at the NHTSA think they are, trying to thwart the Darwinian processes?

I think the question is how many more lives could be saved with a more effective regulatory policy that costs the same or less than the NHTSA rules...

After all, if cost is not relevant, why not require all CURRENT car owners to replace the deadly switches in their vehicles?

I have it on proven authority that small children crushed in power windows = evolution in action, and the government knows best how to thwart this Lamarkian social process. Don't children of used car owners deserve the same government protections as children of new car owners? Hell, why not hst make Teresa Heinz Kerry and Bill Gates pay for all those conversions!

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This page contains a single entry by published on September 15, 2004 1:43 PM.

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