Thursday, December 08, 2005

Switzerland of the South

When we were in Spain a few years ago, we started to realise what a risk-averse society Australia had become. It became a bit of a standing joke on the trip - "that would never be allowed in the Switzerland of the South".

I forget, not having been overseas for a few years, but remember again, whenever my english neighbours (my suburb is full of english expats out here on a corporate gig for a few years) express polite astonishment at my unwillingness to let my children in their car without a proper car seat.

Australia is full of rules and regulations about safety these days. Car seats, seatbelts, no smoking indoors, playgrounds with softfall everywhere, enforced drink driving laws, signs warning you about cliffs, signs warning you about hot coffee, trains that won't let the doors open between stations in case you accidentally jump out...

I'm generally in favour of all of them - I like living in a safe country, and I like not having to breathe other people's smoke - until occasionally I stop myself and wonder how much real difference all the regulation actually makes to the chances of accidents. But then what should the trade off be? If you save one life (say someone who won't fall off a cliff because the sign stops them) is that worth the annoyance to everyone else at the beautiful mountain retreat who can't look at the view without a sign?

3 Comments:

At 11:04 am, Anonymous elsewhere said...

Erghhh...I have had endless conversations about this one & the whole public liability thing, sometimes inspired by local diving accidents and the lack of signage at waterholes of the 'who's fault was it' kind. It's a tricky one...I say this as an ex-patient who made a complaint to the HCCC about an emergency dept not providing adequate communication/instructions which had -ve consequences for me (and my GP, to some extent).

Anyway, regarding seat belts -- I'm with you on that one but really dislike the whole stranger-danger climate around kids these days. One of the good thing about Alice and other rural centres, I suspect, is that kids aren't seen and not heard (or not seen and not heard) and seem to enjoy a greater run of public space and less overprotectiveness.

 
At 1:04 pm, Blogger Susoz said...

I think it was the Good Weekend or Australian magzaine had an article on children and danger a couple of years ago and they had a graph showing the incidence of deaths from accidents, car accidents, murder etc, for the past few decades. Although the article's main focus was on 'are we over-cossetting children?", the graphs in fact showed a steep decline in accidental deaths in the home and in car accidents (both in cars and as pedestrians). I think drowning was the exception, but even there, I think there was a decline in drownings in public (ie not private swimming pools). I'm very sympathetic to the 'we are over-protecting children' position but like most parents, I wouldn't want my child to be the one who died...
On the other hand, I've been really surprised at how cavalier a lot of other parents are about children in cars - they let six year olds sit in the front and most other 6-7 year olds we know haven't used a booster for years, even though they are necessary until around age 8.

 
At 8:51 pm, Blogger Tjilpi said...

Our religion is public health. Its priests are lawyers.

They do good works. But do they know where they are taking us?

 

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