Friday, October 23, 2009

Whether I like it or not, the government is getting into the risk reduction business big time

From Alphecca:

After scores of deaths, the U.S. government government is taking a closer look at off-road recreational vehicles, known as ROVs.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission voted Wednesday to write mandatory rules to regulate the four-wheel vehicles, after more than 100 deaths since 2003. Riders have suffered dozens of injuries, too — some leading to amputations.

The actual stats are:

Since 2003, CPSC says 116 people have died, including young children, and more than 150 have been injured. Injuries have involved crushing fractures to legs, feet and arms and some riders have lost limbs.

The CPSC says it cannot wait on voluntary standards and market forces:

"This is an instance where the industry has not been responding quickly and effectively enough to the well-documented hazards caused by these products," said Rachel Weintraub, director of product safety and senior counsel for the Consumer Federation of America.

Ms. Weintraub, however, is--wait for it, technical term--full of shit. Forty percent of all those deaths can be linked to a single manufacturer, who has already recalled the vehicles:

In March, Yamaha Motor Corp. USA recalled more than 100,000 of its Rhino off-highway recreational vehicles for repairs after two models were linked to 46 deaths in the past six years. In many cases, riders were not wearing seat belts, the commission said. And in a number of incidents, rollovers happened on level ground at relatively slow speeds, the agency said.

Note that the CPSC admits that in many cases the deaths and injuries occurred because the operators were not wearing their seat belts. This is known to the sane as operator error and not manufacturer's defect.

But let's be rigorous here and look at other potential safety hazards the CPSC might soon want to become involved in:

During the last six years 237 skiiers and snowboarders have died on America's slopes and 261 have suffered serious injuries.

In the same period an estimated 28,200 Americans have died in swimming incidents.

Also, 43,100 Americans have died in car crashes (not counting 5,900 pedestrians struck and killed).

Over 9,000 people died in falls from public buildings, 5,500 kicked the bucket from accidental poisoning, and just over 1,000 people assumed room temperature from bicycle accidents.

In fact, the number of people who have died in ROV accidents is substantially smaller than the combined total of Americans who have died in a tornado (81) or from being struck by lightning (45).

Skiing and snowboarding is an apropos example here of why the CPSC is more likely than not to produce a new level of bureaucracy and more expensive vehicles without materially helping the people that they intend to save.

Since around 2003 the ski industry has been pushing hard to have the young, the elderly, and the inexperienced wear helmets on the slopes, as well as encouraging the regulars to do so. There have been dramatic gains in helmet use (among enthusiasts age 18-24 such usage is up 78% in the past five years), but--curiously enough--no clear improvement in mortality stats:

There has been no significant reduction in fatalities over the past nine seasons even as the use of helmets overall has increased to more than 33 percent, and to as much as 40 percent within the population at greatest risk—experienced young adult male skiers and snowboarders. The pattern of death seems to be affected by the use of a helmet. Most fatalities are due to multiple causes or injuries. Approximately two-thirds of those who die who do not use a helmet have as the first cause of death some injury to the head. For those who die while wearing a helmet, only about one-third have a head injury as the first cause of death. It seems that while the use of a helmet may shift the distribution of the first cause of death, it is not sufficient to reduce the overall rate of death. In incidents leading to death, it appears that the severity of the incident simply overwhelms the ability of the helmet to prevent death.

If you have been on America's ski/snowboard slopes recently, you will understand why this is.

Look, humans are hard-wired to be risk-takers, and if the state goes to excessive lengths to mandate recreational risk reduction they will only find other, even stupider risks to take. It's sort of why the war on drugs has been working so smashingly well.

If you want to hold accountable the parents of minors who die while improperly operating ROVs or while not using the safety equipment, go for it.

If you want to hold accountable manufacturers who do not correct--either through production changes or recall--demonstrated safety defects, go for it.

But if this is--as a lot of libertarians, and skiiers, and snowboarders, and skateboarders, and rock climbers, and soccer players, and so on will suspect--just the opening salvo in the latest round of the State deciding how much risk is acceptable for me, and for my children with a form of regulation that is the equivalent of using prior restraint to police inappropriate speech, then....

Why not safe a lot of money and stimulate jobs by mandating bubble-wrap utility wear for all of us?


walks off muttering


Delaware Watch said...

"In March, Yamaha Motor Corp. USA recalled more than 100,000 of its Rhino off-highway recreational vehicles for repairs after two models were linked to 46 deaths in the past six years."

Wow, you insinuate this a case of an industry regulating itself? Please! It took 6 years and 46 corpses for them to notice that there was a problem. Looks like the old Invisible Hand was slow to grip in getting this company to do the right thing.

Steve Newton said...

Interesting. And exactly how do you know that it took six years? The article does not specify which 46 deaths were involved.

And you so carefully tip-toe past the CPSC saying that many of the deaths were due to operator error and not product defect.

Try to quit manufacturing facts that are not in evidence.

Anonymous said...

Yes, let's all go to the Libertarian route where children are subject to whatever life-and-limb-threatening risks their fun-loving parents choose for them.

We can't have government interference, you know.



Steve Newton said...

So, A1, you believe that the government and not me should have decided whether my son could go rock climbing or my daughter play soccer goalie in a league two years up from her age group?

I said to hold parents accountable for poor or negligent decisions.

You evidently want to take away their decision-making powers.

If that's libertarian wackiness, I'm ok with that.

Delaware Watch said...

"And exactly how do you know that it took six years? The article does not specify which 46 deaths were involved."

A reading problem?

""In March, Yamaha Motor Corp. USA recalled more than 100,000 of its Rhino off-highway recreational vehicles for repairs after two models were linked to 46 deaths in the past six years."

2 of their models were responsible for 46 deaths. Nothing could be more clear.

Sorry, but you didn't think this one through before you insinuated that the marketplace was correcting itself.

I suspect that if the the real truth were told that this company didn't take any action until the government started making inquiries and making noise. The Invisible Hand in this case was probably the fear of regulation.

Bowly said...

In the same period an estimated 28,200 Americans have died in swimming incidents.

This is the one that always gets me laughing, because the nannies ignore it. Want to save kids? Ban swimming pools. But that never occurs to the nannies. They are behaving emotionally, not rationally (as usual).

Anonymous said...

The Libertarian governing philosophy provides scant protection for children. Maybe your particular idea of libertarianism does, but then we all start playing the "who's a Libertarian?" game again.

And, yes, I do believe that the government should regulate what parents can allow their children to do and not do, like children should not drive cars or fly airplanes. If you take your child rock climbing and she is injured because she was too young, than there should be a penalty for that. Parents shouldn't risk their kid's life for cheap thrills when the kid may not have the maturity or judgement to know better.


Anonymous said...

Oh, and by the way, Steve, when you cited numbers of injuries or deaths, you only looked at the numerator.

Try doing some research to find out what the percentage is before you start comparing raw numbers. Comparison of raw numbers is meaningless in all of the examples you cite.

And it would appear that wearing helmets while skiing or snow boarding has reduced the number of severe head injuries. One can't tell from your "analysis" whether or not they have actually reduced the percentage of deaths caused from these activities because we don't know the denominators or the changes over time. If the number of skiers and snowboarders has increased faster than the number of fatalities over the last 9 years, then maybe the helmets have helped.

You post may impress innumerate Libertarians, but not me.


George Phillies said...

Let me propose that just as risk taking is normal human behavior, so also pathological fear of danger should be called what it is: unnatural human behavior. People who say "you can't be too safe" especially with respect to their children should be recognized as having mental difficulties that they can perhaps overcome.

Perhaps someone can find statistics on the number of people who drown in their bathtubs, or slip, fall, and die climbing out of the shower.

Tyler Nixon said...

Well said, George. Life would be pretty damn drab and banal in the leftist's bubble-wrapped utopia, God (please) forbid.

It comes down to their inherent cowardice (our faceless, nameless, flavorless, colorless friend A1 steaksauce a perfect example) coupled with their inherent paternalistic hubris and self-righteous monomania.

I have a FOIA request for in Fuck Off In Advance.

Michael said...

S: I can't make it tomorrow. Conference glitch in Alexandria.

Sent email, but wanted to be sure you got this msg.

Another time....