Tuesday, June 16, 2009

How to Lower the Infant Mortality Rate

The World Health Organization released a report this week about the world's ninth-leading cause of death, which you may be surprised to learn is not swine flu, but traffic accidents. We expected Mexico to be named the worst country in the world for this, but it's not even close (Mexico might consider sending most of Africa a thank-you note). Still, it's given us an excuse to write about something we've mentioned before: that this is a country full of people who seem pretty smart, love their children, but drive like maniacs and yet for some reason have an aversion to child car seats that we think can only be ascribed to superstition.

Seriously, amigos, we love you, but failure to use a child seat in this day and age is proof that you're a horrible, unfit parent and your children should be taken away from you and put up for adoption.

The report gives Mexico points for actually having a nationwide child seat law (something even the US doesn't have), but goes on to give the country a 1, on a scale of 0-to-10, for enforcement. We see this every single day, babies on the passenger's lap. Babies on the driver's lap. Small children standing up on the back seat. Leaning between the front bucket seats. Sticking their heads out the sunroof. Never have we seen anyone pulled over for this. We have no idea what a country has to do to earn a zero, but it probably involves deliberately smashing children's skulls against the dashboard.

Given how common this insanely bad parenting is here, it's actually pretty hard to document with a camera. (There's a reason they're called moving violations.) But we're going to start making more of an effort, and we'll be posting the results periodically. Is this because we're a bunch of self-righteous assholes looking to shame people out of behavior we disapprove of? Yeah, sure, that's part of it (duh!) But we're also going to put our money where these kids' fractured mandibles and maxillas are: If any parent of any child whose picture we publish writes us a letter acknowledging the error of their ways, Burro Hall Enterprises will buy that family a child car seat and help them to install it.

So let the shaming begin. This one's from Querétaro Centro just a few moments ago:


Lovely girl - be a shame if she went through the windshield, no? She seems healthy and well-cared for, and the folks are driving a Ford minivan, so they can probably scrape up a hundred bucks or so for a car seat. They just choose not to, for some reason. But notice there's a rosary hanging from the rearview mirror. Memo to Mexican parents: a set of rosary beads is not a child safety device - it's a choking hazard!

12 comments:

ckg said...

this may be of interest to you:

http://ted.org/talks/lang/eng/steven_levitt_on_child_carseats.html

Not that the kids you are mentioning are restrained by seatbelt.

chris

Burro Hall said...

Well, exactly. I'd settle for tying them to the backseat with a rope. Sitting on an adult's lap in the front seat, it's like they want the child to act as an airbag - crushed to death between the dashboard and the mother's ribcage but, because their heads are still soft, they'll protecting the mother's heart so she can live to raise her other children. It' selfless, in a way. but only if the child makes the choice himself.

On Mexican Time said...

There's just something about the way you put things....frank, and I love it!

I'm afraid to apply for my Q.Roo licence, as I may fail due to road etiquette and common sense... int'l licence may be renewed for years to come!

Burro Hall said...

Aw, shucks, thanks. But do you even need a QR license? I drive on my New York license without any problems. But if you really need a Mexican license, they give them out in the DF without a test. (Amazingly, they do this to reduce corruption in the testing process. Viva!)

Fledermaus said...

On the license discussion here, my wife who grew up in D.F. just told me her dad tried to teach her to drive, things didn't go well so she just went out on her own after that. Having driven there several times now, I can say there's a really steep learning curve...makes QTO seem like a cruise in the countryside.

My all-time best for child safety there was the family of 4 managing to cling to a small motorcycle. The little one made a nice gas tank ornament....hopefully not someone's hood ornament by now.

gringo expat MexFiles said...

Do child-safety seats really save lives (see NYTimes Magazines 10-July 2005: http://www.nytimes.com/2005/07/10/magazine/10FREAK.html?_r=1&pagewanted=print)?

And, in the U.S., with its "carceral-industrial complex" (i.e. prisons as profit centers), there's a tendency to criminalize NOT using safety seats, several states making it a FELONY to not do so.

The question is whether the cure is worse than the disease, if it exists. Yeah, children are killed in auto accidents, but how many -- overall -- would be saved by car seats, vis a vis how many families can afford them, use them, and who is going to pay for them... gringo ex-pats?

Burro Hall said...

Your Modest Proposal is duly noted.

Anonymous said...

well, thus far, it seems that only 1 gringo ex-pat will be buying however million car seats (with - what is it? - a 20% increase in live births annually?)
man, that's a deal too good to pass up! thanks, Burro!

ps - how do you like all the kids who ride in the open back of a pickup and sit along the edges? wheee!

Anonymous said...

I think those are actually anal beads.

Anonymous said...

You have never been to Cairo, right? People need to jump in front of the cars in order to cross a street. They don't respect traffic lights. Also, they honk every 10 seconds.

bob cox said...

Safety belts???
1.- an excuse to ask for a mordida (bribe) if you`re not using them or give you a hefty fine.
2.- An idea originated by Insurance companies because they dont want to pay out money.
3.- driving sensibly , safely and responsibly is worth a hundred safety belts.

Burro Hall said...

I love a good, robust debate and all, but I have to say I'm a little surprised how many people are taking the "let the infants roam free in a moving vehicle" side of the argument here.