Car Guy

Roasting Kids

Pretending it's a national epidemic.

By 8.6.14

If you’ve been watching the news lately, you already know all about it. And you know what’s coming on account of it. Homer’s car — you know — the one designed by Homer Simpson, with every Rube Goldberg-esque gewgaw imaginable by the mind of a cartoon TV show idiot — is becoming a reality, courtesy of unfortunately all-too-real-idiots who get to dictate car design such that it assuages their overwrought emotions.

At other people’s expense, of course.

The latest affectation aborning is a mechanism to prevent children inadvertently left in the backseat by their negligent parents from being roasted to death. It is the latest cause célèbre. You’d think — if you watched the news — that kids roasting to death in cars was a national epidemic. Like kids being crushed underneath the tires of backing up cars (which prompted mandatory in-car back-up cameras, whether you’ve got a kid or not).

But — as was (as is) the case with kids being crushed by backing up cars, the “problem” of kids roasting to death in the backs of cars is a non-problem. Or rather, it is a manufactured problem. The latest excuse to impose the latest “safety” gewgaw on the driving public, on cars already festooned with so much “safety” equipment they groan under the load of it all. Or rather, the pocketbooks of their prospective buyers have been emptied on account of it all.

How many “children” (that word is becoming an alarm call — but not in the way intended by those who screech it) have been roasted to death in mom and dad’s car so far this year? Sadly, about 30. Out of a nation of 310 million. This is of a piece with the child deaths attributed to inadvertent crushing by car.

For the families involved it is a tragedy. But how is it that the addled, negligent — the deliberately criminal (as in the case of the sex-texting Georgia dad who left his kid in situ for seven hours; read about that cretin here if you haven’t already) conduct of a minuscule handful of people becomes a legally enforceable pretext for imposing obligation and expense on people — millions of people — who had nothing to do with it, don’t need it and don’t want it?

Yet here we are — again — with “concerned moms” thumping the tub for “technologies” to “prevent” such occurrences in the future. And, of course, it’s not enough to ask that some clever person invent a technology to assist the addled, to prompt the negligent — such as an app for the sail fawn-addled that beeps or chirps or whatever it ends up doing to remind Moo and Duh that — whoopsie! — Baby Kaylee is still strapped in back there. Better go back and get her before she gets a tan that never fades.


That’s never enough, of course. Because the addled and negligent — the Homers out there — can’t be expected to go and buy the equipment they need. After all, they are addled and negligent.

So, everyone must be presumed a Homer, addled and negligent — whether they are or are not being entirely beside the point. Cast the net wide. And make everyone pay for it. At least this way — courtesy of economies of scale — the individual cost of the latest “safety” technology will be cheaper.

But that doesn’t mean it’ll be free.

How much have mandatory back-up cameras added to the bottom line cost of a new car? The government admits it’s at least $140. This is up front. The cost to engineer the system, the parts and installation — plus (of course) a profit for the rent-seeking car companies that are now very eager to force-feed “safety” to the buying public.

It does not take into account the down-the-road costs. That is, what it will cost you to replace the LCD display when it stops working, or the little cameras. Don’t forget. Once a “safety” technology is mandated by the government, you are required to keep it in working condition.

At your expense.

The cost issue, though, is a bogey. Or rather, it is incidental. What’s at issue here is whether “concerned moms” — or any other party — has the right to forcibly impose their “concerns” on other people who may not be concerned. Not everyone has kids. In fact, most people do not have them. Singles who’ve not yet bred; child-free couples; empty-nesters. Older people. They need another electronic gewgaw to prevent a child from roasting to death in the back seat of their vehicle as much as a fish needs a bicycle. Of course, no one thinks of passing a mandate that fish purchase bicycles. Lucky creatures, they are beyond the grasp of government — and far more critically, of “concerned moms.”

How about this, “moms”:

Concern yourself with the welfare of your children. Remember where you left them. Try not to back up over them. Avoid leaving them to roast to death in the back of your S Moo Vee. They are your responsibility — and your irresponsibility ought not to impose an obligation enforceable at gunpoint on other people.

Just once, I wish one of the mainstream media talking heads would say something along those lines. Instead, they nod their bobble heads in vacuous affirmation whenever a “mom” insists that her “concerns” become law — and add yet another line item to the hassle and expense of living for everyone else.

Like this Article

Print this Article

Print Article
About the Author

Eric Peters is an automotive columnist and author of Automotive Atrocities: The Cars You Love to Hate (Motor Books International) and a new book, Road Hogs.