Friday, January 07, 2005

A Tip of the Thudguard to Michelle Malkin

Michelle Malkin had an interesting post this morning about Thudguard, a product that's supposed to protect toddlers from the hazards of walking (or, rather, falling down while walking). This brings to mind something I have frequently mentioned to my wife: How is it that any of us are still here? After all, when we were young in the not all so distant past, we didn't:
  • wear seat belts
  • ride in the back seat of the car, or
  • wear bike helmets
and we didn't have:
  • electrical outlet covers
  • padded foam corners on brick fireplace surrounds
  • safety latches on cupboard doors
  • child safety seats, or
  • stove-switch protectors
and yet we are still here (and yes, I recognize that there is a technical logical flaw in that argument, since those of us who are not here are not reading this, but...).

My point, of course, is this: The everyday physical risks facing children today are no different than the risks facing those of us in our 30s, 40s and 50s when we were children. The stunning casualty rate (serious injury and death) amongst the hundreds of kids I knew or knew of growing up? Almost zero (and I say "almost" just in case I forgot one and I am nearly 100% sure I did not; the lawyer in me simply will not allow me to get away without qualifying an otherwise absolute statement). Not one kid in my neighborhood that I know of suffered a traumatic head or spinal cord injury as a result of an everyday activity, including the appallingly dangerous act (to believe present day activists and personal injury attorneys) of riding in a car. And, I might add, I watched kids flip over bike handlebars, collide with fire hydrants, fall out of trees and tumble off a garage roof -- you name it, I'm pretty sure I saw it or did it myself. Oh, there was the occasional (and I do mean occasional) broken arm or leg -- but not a single serious head or spinal cord injury.

I believe we have become a nation (or I guess planet, since the Thudguard hails from Scotland) of worrywarts when it comes to our children. We are constantly protecting them against the negligible risks associated with living (sure, the risks are there, but the likelihood of occurrence is, at best, remote; kind of like the risk of the Earth being hit by an asteroid -- the result would be pretty bad, to put it mildly, but the risk of it happening? Pretty darn remote). At the same time, we are conveying the message, however subconsciously, to our children that the world can be made free of fortuitous (as opposed to intentional) hazards. That attitude, in turn, has helped foster the current nightmare we call our tort jurisprudence: "Accidents don't happen; its all really SOMEONE'S fault (someone else's fault, to be precise, because WE protected ourselves)."

Accidents, of course, do happen. The critical part on the car or airplane can fail at the most inopportune time. Its not because someone wasn't careful in designing the part or building it or installing or maintaining it. It happened ... just because. Just because that's the nature of things on this imperfect planet in an imperfect universe. This is a concept that has become so foreign in our culture in recent years, quite possibly because the tremendous advances we have made since WWII in our ability to measure and discern the physical universe has led us to believe that we have a similar power to control the physical universe. That this is not so, though, could not have been made plainer than by the Sumatran earthquake and tsunami event of December 26, 2004. Closer to home (and ready comprehension), even though we may possess the means to discern microscopic evidence of metal fatigue in the case of our hypothetical part under controlled lab conditions, that doesn't mean that it is viable, economically or otherwise, to do so in every case in everyday life. To assume otherwise is hubris on our collective part. We cannot legislate or wish away risk; it is as much a part of our world as we are.

Let's turn back the clock here and let kids be kids. A few bumps never hurt anyone, did they? Plaintiff's Exhibit A?:

Just look in the mirror.

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