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A letter the NY Times chose not to print

Thomas Bzik sent us this interesting letter, which he also submitted to NY Times magazine, but they did not publish. We have no idea about the accuracy of the factual claims made in his letter, but I see no reason why he would make them up:


Subject: Child Safety Seats


My first professional job as a statistician was with the Center for the Environment and Man. They were contracted to analyze accident data for NHTSA to retrospectively estimate the benefits obtained from the FMVSS rules (mostly the 1973 rules). The analyses were being performed in the 1978-1980 time window (mostly 1979). One of the items for evaluation was child safety seats. We evaluated child seat performance based on the child seats implicit to usage in that era and found that car seat belts were more effective for children and infants. NHTSA was incensed by this conclusion and we had to reanalyze the data numerous times and ways eliminating parts of the data they decided they did not like for, in our opinion, questionable reasons. No matter how the data was sliced and diced we found that car seat belts were more effective for children and infants (highly statistically significant effects). NHTSA did not like this conclusion and obviously never went public with it (did not want to discourage child seat usage despite the relative ineffectiveness compared to existing seat belt systems). In fact they verbally indicated that they were not even going to take the results to the child seat manufacturers of the day to foster future improvement. NHTSA felt that the manufacturers would be “upset” by the conclusions. We felt that the child seat manufacturers richly deserved to be upset! Ever so slightly to NHTSA’s credit is that subsequently got around to revising the child safely seat standards in 1982.