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When it comes to protecting kids, we have it all backward

March 28, 2011

Finally figured out what is wrong with America.

Took awhile. Went through a lot of false starts and theories that led nowhere. But you know how, when the right answer presents itself, it clicks into place with such force that there can be no doubt of its veracity. That’s what happened yesterday, when I discovered, by accident really, the source of all of America’s troubles: Rear-facing car seats.

Yup, you see it now, too, don’t you? Now that it’s been pointed out, it’s obvious. A whole generation of kids in this nation started out backward, with no view, and they’ve never bothered to turn around for a look at the real world since.

Admittedly, this theory would work better if it included people in the 39 to 64 demographic — who, believe me, are no bowl of well-adjusted cherries — but the whole automotive confinement-origami thing was their idea, so I believe it applies by extension.

The whole thing came to my attention, of course, after the American Academy of Pediatricians recommended this week that children ride backward until the age of 2.

So at a time when, in my view, a child should be looking around and seeing what the score is, he’s going to be sentenced to hours on hours of monotony, staring at a blank seatback while he’s being transported from one destination to another like he was a bag of potting soil or something.

I don’t have any kids, so I’m a bit out of the loop. But I saw a baby being wedged into a vehicle the other day, and if the Japanese nuclear plants had been fitted with that much protection, no one today would be talking about radioactive spinach.

And it will certainly strike those of us who are Of a Certain Age that had today’s laws been in place 40 years ago, all of our parents would be in jail because they would sit us up on the dashboard as a general thing. That’s if they were letting us ride INSIDE the car.

We would stand on the seats because we wanted to see. We would crawl all over the length of the car, usually settling in the way-back of the wagon, where we would make faces at the driver behind us.

Today, being a child is like being a hostage; the first two years of your life are spent blindfolded and tied to a chair. Great. Along with being safer, it also prepares the tyke for future airline travel.

But we wonder why the real world seems too much of a challenge to the young people of today. Is it really that hard to figure? “What do you mean I have to get a job on my own? Aren’t you going to wrap me in straps and blankets and transport me to a hardened-plastic workplace?”

You know, on reflection, maybe a car seat isn’t safe enough, either. Maybe we should just leave them in the hospital until they’re ready to start first grade.

As you can tell, I have conflicting feelings about safety. You can’t have too much of it — except that you can. You can protect against every contingency — except that you can’t.

I know of one economist who believes that we would be safer if, instead of an airbag in the steering wheel, cars were equipped with a spear pointing at the driver’s chest. So, perhaps he thinks that toddlers would be safer if we used them as hood ornaments, I don’t know. But two years staring at the back of a bench seat? Sometimes I’m glad I’m old.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 6997, or via email at timr@herald-mail.com. Tune in to the Rowland Rant at www.herald-mail.com, on antpod.com or on Antietam Cable’s WCL-TV Channel 30 at 6:30 p.m. New episodes are released every Wednesday.

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