Car Seats as Contraception (HT: Aaron Renn)

Since 1977, U.S. states have passed laws steadily raising the age for which a child must ride in a car safety seat. These laws significantly raise the cost of having a third child, as many regular-sized cars cannot fit three child seats in the back… We estimate that these laws prevented only 57 car crash fatalities of children nationwide in 2017. Simultaneously, they led to a permanent reduction of approximately 8,000 births in the same year, and 145,000 fewer births since 1980, with 90% of this decline being since 2000.

The median age for seat belts in U.S. states is now eight, and every single law change has been to increase the age, not reduce it. Enthusiasm for these laws has not been curbed by studies showing that child car seats are generally no more effective than seat belts in preventing death or serious injury for children above age two (e.g. Levitt 2008, Doyle and Levitt 2010). Part of this may be due to the perception that such mandates are virtually costless, beyond that of the car seats themselves (though for many families, even these may be burdensome).

Regarding the potential lives saved by car seats:

In the vast majority of specifications, we are unable to reject a null hypothesis of zero lives saved.

They controlled for tons of variables. Somebody asked me whether I think this is true. Having looked at the paper, and judging from personal experience, yes. Absolutely.

Edited to add: You can also add into the mix the EPA rules making it impossible to get the affordable 9 seat minibuses that are common throughout most of the rest of the world.


I’m assuming the title of the post is tongue in cheek. As a pastor, has anyone told you they don’t want to have any more children because of car seats?

Nope. That’s the title of the paper.

I’ve had plenty of people tell me that they can’t afford to have more kids, and government-mandated vehicle replacements are often one of the central up-front costs on people’s minds.


I will not deny that car seats are a burden. The hurdle people have to get over (it’s what I had to get over) is that we obey God cheerfully even when it costs us. But I sympathize with people for whom that is hard to hear.

I know I am crossing into bad territory here, but this is why I chafe at Christians in our circles who want to bang the drum very hard on education and educational choices. I think the biggest hurdle for most of us out here in the cheap seats is just having the faith to have children to begin with. Call me irrational for saying this, but I think if you have faith to have children, God will arrange the means for you to educate them. Because God’s commands are not burdensome and He is Our Father. He does not leave us hanging when we have faith.

That last paragraph was triggered by reading one of Doug Wilson’s latest blogs.


From Baylyblog back in 2006 (sorry to find the links are dead):

Bloomington is not child-safe: booster seats and abortions…

by Tim Bayly on July 21, 2006 - 9:01am

My friend David Talcott points out that Bloomington is not child-safe. Monroe County (Bloomington’s home) has the lowest fertility rate of any county in Indiana. By a lot. A lot. In 2003, there were 1,229 live births in Monroe County but 784 abortions. For every three babies born in Monroe County, two more are murdered in their mothers’ wombs.

Let it be carefully noted, though, that Bloomington is also the home of state legislator, Peggy Welch, who sponsored a child booster seat law that saves, arguably, one child’s life on Indiana highways each year…

Welch’s law requires all children 4 to 8 years old to be placed in a child booster seat when riding in a car. Safety belts aren’t enough; you’ll be ticketed if your child weighing under eighty pounds is belted in but not boosted.

According to the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration, an average of 476 children 4 to 8 years of age die in traffic accidents across the U.S. each year. If all of those children who died and were unrestrained (neither seat belt nor booster seat) had been buckled in, 150 lives could have been saved. If they had been in a booster seat as well, an additional 19 lives may have been saved.

Break down the stats from national to state level and you’ll see how I came up with one life (or less) being saved by our booster seat law.

Now I’m not writing this to oppose booster seats, but to expose our hypocrisy in passing a law that saves at best the life of one child each year, while each day we drive past the building on South College Avenue where 784 children are murdered by our neighbors every year and we make no effort to save their lives. (And that’s just the count in Bloomington.)

Of course, we have our justifications: “Well, it’s the law of the land, you know.”

Tell that to the Hebrew midwives who disobeyed Pharaoh’s law and saved the lives of little Jewish newborn boys.

Strip away God’s big laws and you don’t get freedom, but an endless succession of trivial laws that are quite successful at making us all feel self-righteous.


This also from 2010 (download and read the linked articles):

Booster seats as babies are slaughtered…

by Tim Bayly on May 28, 2010 - 7:43am

(Tim, w/thanks to Ben Crum) Speaking of the Western World’s repudiation of God’s Moral Law, replacing it with an infinite number of trivial laws passed by nanny-state legislators: here are two good articles (one and two) on child booster seats demonstrating that the laws requiring them that are in vogue and have recently been passed across the country do nothing to protect our children. “Nothing” as in nothing.

It’s utter hypocrisy for legislators to pass these meaningless laws while regularly driving past abortuaries in their own communities where many hundreds of babies are slaughtered by United Way’s Planned Parenthood each year. We’re all ignoring the real bloodshed of innocents while making a big show of opposing the bloodshed of innocents. But one’s a joke while the other’s nauseatingly real. “Real” as in real.


In response to your edit: I learned this week that Nissan is discontinuing their big cargo/passenger van line.

I’ve not heard many positive things about that line, but it’s sad to see the competition dry up. Still, I don’t think large families drive the segment at all. Hotel airport transport, rentals for group trips, church/jail/group transport add up to a lot more, I expect.

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Can’t say it often enough: buy salvage title cars. Find a salvage dealer you can trust. We have one and he can ship. We’ve bought well over 100 cars from him in our church. Hail damaged ones are the best. Let me know if you want to contact him abt a specific vehicle, but here is Brad’s web site. Sadly, he rarely has large passenger vans, although Lucas Weeks got one.


When we started having kids (18 years ago) I remember talking with a friend about a new WI law requiring such and such child-restrain until whatever age. I haven’t forgotten his comment, he said that all that the new law will do is require families to buy bigger vehicles and will cause many to reconsidering have child number _____.

Two children can fit nicely in a sedan. 3-4 children in an SUV. Beyond 3-4, because of these laws, one has to buy a passenger van (we found a steal on a corporate, 12-passenger van from a dealer in the Chicago area with low miles a few years back after we had our 5th and could no longer fit in our Suburban because of the car seat restrictions).

But, we live in a day when the safety-first ethic dominates. I guess it isn’t too far a step from being consistently freaked out over the safety of our children that pets are seen to be a better option.


Worth remembering that the people making car seat regulations are the managerial technocrats, the ubiquitous “experts,” who also spread the gospel of contraception and, as you say, the gospel of “safety.” Many of these people honestly do not know what it’s like to have many children. Their culture is alien from the one the commenters on this website live in. And if you tend to be skeptical of experts, as many of us are, you tend to be a Trump man. It’s funny how these things go together.

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I actually doubt there are any “experts” pushing this. I suspect it is just regular people in government hearing an “Oh the horror of it!” story and saying “something must be done. This is something. I’ll do it.”

Their position of privilege, and lack of understanding of people like us, leads them to make rules that promote systemic anti-childrenism laws.


I remember a time when my wife and I said, “We’re never driving one of those boxy old things.” To think that we were without shame in saying yea or nay to an eternal soul based on whether it would mean we had to drive “one of those boxy old things”… Thank God that wasn’t the end of the story. We have an awful lot of fun driving the crew around in that boxy old thing.


On a completely different note…I don’t remember which of our children it was but after his/her birth we brought in the car seat to take our baby home. The nurse proceeded to inspect the seat. It was expired!

We weren’t allowed to take our baby home in an expired car seat, she explained. This made me a bit angry but my wife, ever the voice of reason, thinking this all ridiculous but only wanting to take our child home, asked me to drive the few blocks to Walmart and purchase a new car, unexpired car seat.

I’m not sure what would have happened if we had attempted to take our child home in an expired car seat. But that nurse was very serious about it!

I assume, though I could be wrong, that there must be some sort of car seat lobby that encourages pushing up the age requiring car seats and got legislation past that attaches an expiration to them. Crazy!


There’s no law against using expired car seats, though you cannot sell them. But who knows what CPS would have thought if the busybody nurse called them?

Agreed about the car seat lobby.


It won’t do for a really large family - but look for Dodge Caravans. We considered them when we were hunting for a minivan and they can be found used for pretty cheap. Just check to make sure that your particular year model does not have major problems - I’ve heard from my acquaintances who know something about cars that many of them have a great deal of transmission trouble. But hey - I’m pretty sure you can fit up to five kids in the 2nd and 3rd row!


Indiana law has the manufacturer’s instructions right there in the law though–as to whether:

…the child is…properly fastened and restrained according to the child restraint system manufacturer’s instructions…
Indiana Code 9-19-11-3.6


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My wife loves her Toyota Sienna so much that to extend its usefulness we added an aftermarket 12" console seat between the front seats. It’s been helpful to have that. (Also fun to drill through the floor of your minivan.)


I once had a fun afternoon making eight fit in a Chevy minivan by searching for a compatible row of three middle seats. That bought us a couple years. We’re now enjoying the large church van life. :slight_smile:

Sorry to hear about the Nissans. They are the most popular in our circles. (We’re making do with an E-350, hopefully for some time.)

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I’m not a lawyer (of course), but I think that would have to be interpreted narrowly as to the specifics mentioned — how the fastening and restraining are done.