Car seats for kids are not proven to help

In More evidence on car seats vs. seat belts, S. Levitt (author of Freakonomics : A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything) mentions his new paper Evidence that Child Safety Seats are No More Effective than Seat Belts in Reducing Fatalities for Children aged Two and Up*, in which the title seems to sum it up — if you have kids at least 2 then car seats are not proven to help, at least according to his reading of the stats. He does mention however:

When I compare my findings to the existing NHTSA estimates on fatalities, I can see how our approaches differ and why we get different answers. What is more puzzling to me is why my results and Heaton’s both suggest very little injury benefit of car seats, but the medical literature often finds 70% (!!) reductions of injuries with car seats relative to seat belts. We find reductions that are an order of magnitude smaller. They use very different methods — surveying people in the weeks after crashes for instance — but still it is really a puzzle. Which is why, when you read my paper, I am extremely cautious in interpreting the injury findings.

I hope that the medical researchers, Heaton, and I can all work together to try to make some sense of the conflicting results being generated by these different methodologies to resolve this important question.

Nice to see academics acknowledge the tricky issues with trying to prove something and trying to reconcile differing results.

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