In February, a bill was introduced in the U.S. Congress to make the use of child safety seats mandatory on all airline flights. The law is clearly intended to make airline travel safer for the flying public. Currently, children under the age of two can fly for free if they sit on the laps of fare paying passengers. The requirement that all children under two most be placed in child safety seats means that these children must now occupy their own airline seats. The seats can either be sold to the families with small children or the increased cost can be passed on to all fare paying passengers with the seats given away to the families with small children. Thus, one of the consequences of mandatory child safety seats is to raise the average airline fare. This fare increase will cause some travellers to switch from flying to driving. Since automobile travel is more likely to result in fatalities than airline travel, the resulting diversion of passengers will actually contribute to an increase in travel deaths on the highway. Unless the lives saved due to the mandatory child safety seats exceeds the additional lives lost due to traffic diversion, there will be a net increase in lives lost due to the policy. This paper uses existing information on travel elasticities and fatality rates to determine the net effect of mandatory child safety seats. It is shown that under almost any assumptions regarding elasticities and fatality rates that mandatory child safety seats will result in an increase in lives lost among the travelling public. It is important to note that this paper, unlike previous work on this subject, did not attempt to weigh the costs of mandating child safety seats against the benefits of such a policy. This type of analysis was not necessary since, as the paper has demonstrated, there are no benefits. There are, however, costs to such a policy, including an increase in lives lost and the inconvenience to travellers diverted from the air system to the highways.

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Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 00610186
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Report/Paper Numbers: HS-041 177
  • Files: HSL, TRIS
  • Created Date: Jun 30 1991 12:00AM