Canadian Technician: The authoritative website and magazine for professional auto technicians, mechanics, automotive repair shop owners, service managers in the business of repair, maintenance in the automotive aftermarket.
It's conventional wisdom - not to mention the law in most jurisdictions - that if you plan on hitting the road with a kid in the car, then Junior better be strapped into a child car seat.
Yet, Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner appear to have compelling evidence suggesting that child car seats don't really do as much good as we've been led to believe.
Levitt and Dubner, authors of the recently-published Super Freakonomics, examined decades' worth of data and even conducted their own experiments to debunk the premise that child car seats are a safety panacea when it comes to collisions.
The duo examined data amassed by the Fatality Analysis Reporting System, a compilation of police reports from all fatal crashes in the United States since 1975. As the authors note in Super Freakonomics: "A quick look at the FARS data from nearly 30 years of crashes reveals a surprising result. For children two and older, the rate of death in crashes involving at least one fatality is almost identical for those riding in car seats and those wearing seat belts."
Indeed, Levitt and Dubner found that in certain types of crashes - rear-enders, for instance - car seats actually performed worse than seat belts.
Could it be the data is skewed by the number of child car seats that are improperly installed? Perhaps. But to address this valid concern, the authors decided to commission two crash tests: one with a three-year-old sized dummy in a child car seat versus an identical dummy in a lap and shoulder belt. The second test involved a comparison of a six-year-old sized dummy in a booster seat versus the same dummy in a lap and shoulder belt. (Of note, simply conducting these tests was problematic: almost every crash-test facility in the U.S. refused to partake in the experiment for fear of offending their biggest customer base - the manufacturers of child car seats.)
But after conducting the experiments, the authors had their smoking gun.
"The adult seat belts passed the crash test with flying colors. Based on the head- and chest-impact data, neither the children in the safety seats nor those in the seat belts would likely have been injured in this crash. So, how well did the old-fashioned seat belts work? They exceeded every requirement for how a child safety seat should perform."
Compelling food for thought for those parents thinking about investing more money into pricey devices that apparently aren't as safe as they're cracked up to be.
Dennis DesRosiers has been studying the automotive sector for 40 years, publishing his monthly Observations column for 16 years and building a national reputation as Canada's leading auto analyst.
Next up for the renowned auto industry analyst: the release of a hardcover compendium of his best Observations columns in commemoration of his four decades of providing insights into the automotive industry.
The Best of Observations, which will retail for $200 ($45 for subsequent copies), will be approximately 250 pages in length and will feature DesRosiers' most insightful and relevant articles.
As well, this compilation volume will be quite different from DesRosiers' annual yearbook in that it won't focus on data but rather on explaining the inner workings of the automotive sector.
All proceeds over and above the cost of publishing will go towards funding the DesRosiers Endowment for the Advancement of Automotive Studies which provides scholarships for students studying the automotive sector at the college and university level.
To order a copy, contact Jill McConnell at (905) 881-0400 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Stephen Martel thought he had come up with a unique way to promote his Cochrane, Ont. auto parts store. Instead, Martel was served with a cease and desist letter from Canadian Tire's lawyers.
At issue: recently, Martel decided to accept Canadian Tire currency as a form of payment at his Martel Auto Parts store. He advertised his program by putting a sign in the window of his shop stating he was happy to accept Canadian Tire money for purchases. Over the course of the program, he took in approximately $200 worth of Canadian Tire cash.
Canadian Tire was not amused. The Toronto-based company warned Martel that such a marketing initiative was akin to trademark infringement. As well, Canadian Tire alleged that Martel's actions were hurting the local Cochrane Canadian Tire store.
While Martel acquiesced to Canadian Tire's wishes - he says he doesn't have the resources for a courtroom battle - he believes he's being unfairly targeted by the retail giant.
For example, Martel notes when he Googled the phrase, "We accept Canadian Tire money," he discovered "hundreds" of retailers across Canada - including an Oakville, Ont. jewelry shop and a video rental store in Halifax - embracing the same marketing ploy he once promoted.
Says Martel: "Why is Canadian Tire just going after me and not all these other places?"
Martel has his own theory: he says he had a business dispute with the Cochrane Canadian Tire store owner, Kevin P. Smith. As a result, Smith is still upset with him.
As well, Martel claims he saw Smith take a picture of his sign, presumably to send it along to Canadian Tire's head office. Shortly thereafter, Martel says he was served with legal papers.
For his part, Smith says he has no personal grudge against Martel whatsoever. However, he notes that Martel is a direct competitor given that both Martel Auto Parts and Canadian Tire sell automotive replacement parts. And Smith says Canadian Tire money is meant to drive customer traffic to his store, not Martel's.
"I need to maintain my customer base," Smith says.
Even so, a question remains: why did Canadian Tire HQ go to the extent of sending its lawyers after Martel while hundreds of other retailers continue to openly accept Canadian Tire dough?
Canadian Tire spokesman Lisa Gibson says the company has indeed issued several cease and desist letters to other retailers accepting Canadian Tire money.
"He [Martel] is not the first; he's not the only one; and he won't be the last," she says. "This [accepting Canadian Tire money] is a trademark violation and the reality is he's a competitor."