Oxfordshire MP Boris Johnson has come under fire from a woman who lost her son in a road accident after he described a new law on child booster seats as "crack-brained.â€
The Henley MP, who was criticised last month for allowing his two sons to sit together in the front seat of a sports car, condemned the Government for forcing families to install safety seats for children aged up to 12.
This is my response:
Whilst it's always tragic that a misadventure ends in a death, that does NOT imply that any and all steps are taken to avoid those circumstances.
To use a different example:
Should eleven year olds be banned from crossing the road 'just in case'?
If such a law were introduced, would it be described as 'hair brained'?
Should someone whose child died whilst crossing the road be listened to when they 'slam' whoever describes it thus?
Risk is part of life, the issue is, is the cost involved proportional to the risk taken?
If one in a billion is affected, a 1 pound per person cost of offset the risk is too much. If 1 in ten is affected, a 1 pound per person cost to offset is a bargain.
I don't know how many children are involved in car crashes, but there is a cost in supplying all the child seats. At some level the cost outweighs the benefit (a tough call if it's your child - but nothing was stopping the use of a seat before). This is hard-nosed reasoning, but it's true nonetheless.
A thirty pound expenditure in every family to prevent one death is a lot... to prevent a thousand is probably reasonably. But where is the dividing line?
It remains true that for the individual concerned, any price is worth paying, but like it or not, that's not the basis of sound policy when making laws for a large population.
Reading Boris' article, he makes the exact same point:
OK folks: you do the maths. You think how many millions of car journeys are there involving children every day. You might decide that it is still worth installing booster seats for all under 135cm. But with odds like that it should surely be a matter for individual choice and not international coercion.
There are some really nice comments, such as this:
If an MP has to explain why he fought against the legislation then surely the parent who did not put the child in a booster seat, but then blames the lack of booster seat for the childs death has even more explaining to do.
.. and this one
I was standing in the bakery, waiting to buy a cornish pasty the other day. In front of me in the queue was a woman who was probably about 40 years old, but less than 135cm (4'5'' and a bit).
.... she will still be allowed to sit in the front seat, and will not have to sit on a booster. So basically [they've] decided that we don't know how to look after our kids until they are 12.