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Riding on Derange

The human brain is a thing of mystery. It can get us to the moon, cure diseases, and solve equations of enormous complexity. Yet all you need is one loose mental connection to qualify as a slack-witted, dim-sighted, dead-from-the-neck-up and dead-from-the-neck-down simpleton.

Take me for an example: I'm a smoker. I know the potential consequences. I know all the ugly statistics. Even so, my first thought upon viewing a blackened slab of lung tissue is, "Geez, that's depressing. I need a smoke!" Pretty stupid, eh? But at least I'm aware of this gaping hole in my reasoning. Unlike the following people who are, from all appearances, oblivious to the fact that their skull-pudding is failing them. People who wind up as newspaper-space filler every day. People who adore their children, but who, for one dumbfounding reason or another, never use seat belts, car seats or other child-restraining devices. Even as a certifiable idiot of another kind, I can't help but wonder: What are these parents thinking? The correct answer is, probably, "not a damn thing." But here are some other guesses. If the shoe fits, whack yourself over the head with it until you wise up.

"My mother and father didn't make me wear seat belts."
I see. In other words, if your children didn't inherit your family's stupidity, then you're going to force it on them.

"We're only going to the supermarket."
It is true that one rarely drives faster than 45 mph during a trip to the neighborhood grocery store, as opposed to the 55 to 80 mph one averages on an interstate highway. Therefore, in all likelihood, a head-on collision during such a jaunt wouldn't be as bad as a head-on collision during, say, a cross-country trek. In fact, your family's remains might even be recognizable!

"It'll never happen to me." What's amazing is that, when it does happen to people who say such things, the first two words out of their mouths (should they survive) are, "Why me?" And when you explain it to them, they rarely thank you.

"I am immortal, my spouse is immortal, and my children are immortal."
This is not impossible. There's a first time for everything. But considering the odds, I don't know that you should be betting on it.

"I'm an excellent driver."
Yeah. Just like the late Natalie Wood was "an excellent swimmer," the late Karl Wallenda was "an excellent aerialist," and the late Bruce Lee was in "excellent health."

"Most car accidents are not fatal." That is a happy fact. Here's another happy fact: Many car-accident survivors learn to get by without one or more of their favorite body parts. And another: Scientists have very nearly perfected a wide variety of prosthetic devices.

"Whatever will be will be."
Great. Your child's life and safety are at stake, and you're quoting Doris Day. Well, allow me to quote John Phillip Law, star of the motion-picture classic, Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger: "Trust in Allah, but tie up your camel."

"Seat belts are an uncomfortable nuisance." No. Body casts are an uncomfortable nuisance.

"I've heard stories about how drunks and babies survive car crashes because they're so `relaxed.'|" Right. And if those drunks and babies are really lucky, they're pulled from the burning wreckage by Elvis Presley.

"If I hold my child on my lap, I'll be able to protect him/her with my arms as I careen into the dashboard, fly through the windshield, soar for 50 or 100 feet and land in the path of an oncoming semi." Maybe so. But only if Elvis is driving the semi.

"I'm psychic, and if I were going to be in a car wreck, I'd know it."
I hate to be the one to tell you this, pal, but you're confusing the word "psychic" with the title of the Norman Bates story.

"I don't have the time to buckle and adjust my children's seat belts."
True, the three minutes it takes for each round trip does add up. One excursion a day during the first six years of a child's life would add up to a total loss of 109.5 hours. On the other hand, that same child's funeral would only take about 45 minutes. So hard-core time-management types do have an airtight argument here.

"My baby cries when he's in the car seat."
Oh. Then never mind. We certainly don't want to make your child unhappy.
Normally, this column is not where anyone would turn for a public-service announcement, rude or otherwise. But even a slack-witted, dim-sighted simpleton like me is smart enough to buckle up his kid. I don't know about you, but I think kids are a lot more fun to play with when they're alive. Great. Your child's life and safety are at stake, and you're quoting Doris Day.

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Michael Burkett