Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Five Nines and Dead Children

As someone who puts his dog in a doggie seatbelt (albeit probably a useless
one), I'm clearly rather risk-averse.  And the current parenting information overload is contradictory to a degree almost beyond parody.  But I do want to highlight one phrase that I'm hearing, pretty much exactly as described in
this article about child car seats:

Have you ever reminisced about riding around in the “way back” without any seatbelts much less any child seats? Perhaps you even followed that line of thinking with a statement similar to “and we made it.”

I just want to ask you to make one little emendment.  If you are a Boomer or GenXer in the US, please say instead:
99.99% of us made it.*

And Generation Z will in turn be able to say (if they can manage to speak through their safety restraints):

99.9975% of us made it.

And there will be about 4500 more of them per year around to say it.

* That is, in 1970, 99.99% of American children 0-15 did not die in a car crash. In 2011, 99.9975% of American children aged 0-15 did not die in a car crash.  Or, in 1970, about 6000 children died in car crashes, and in 2011, only 1400 did (interestingly, the US population under 15 was about the same both years, 58 million vs 61 million).

† To be more accurate, since a child passenger would have to survive that 99.99% odds fifteen years in a row, 99.8% of us made it long enough to get our drivers' license.  The crash mortality rate in 2011 for ages 15-19 was about six times that for ages 0-14 (13 per 100,000 vs 2), which is presumably because all those kids start driving themselves or riding in cars driven by their friends.  In 1970, the ratio was four times higher (43 vs 10).  Driving in the US is sufficiently safer now that being a teen driver in 2011 was only slightly more dangerous than being a child passenger in 1970.

Data from http://wonder.cdc.gov/cmf-icd8.html and http://wonder.cdc.gov/cmf-icd10.html.  Key simplifying assumption: everyone under 15 is a passenger; everyone 15 and over is a driver.

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