One of the first things I learned in my intro economics class was that good intentions do not always equal good outcomes. I found this idea fascinating, especially when my professor presented an example of how some safety regulations can actually result in the deaths of more people than it saves.
Take the recent example of some consumer groups advocating the FAA require parents to use an infant seat for children under two aboard commercial flights. One argument in support states that during turbulence it is possible for infants to be injured or killed if the parents are unable to maintain a proper grip. When initially presented with this scenario, the requirement seems like a great idea that will save lives … right? The catch is that many will not stop to think about the consequences this might lead to in the long run, so let’s dig a little deeper.
If parents had to buy an extra plane ticket in order to follow the infant seat requirement, many would choose to drive instead of fly, hoping to save money. Unfortunately for them, data shows that flying on a commercial airliner is far safer than driving in an automobile. Therefore, if the FAA required the use of infant seats, not only would it lead to more deaths, but it would also put the entire family at a higher risk, doing quite the opposite of saving lives, which it was trying to accomplish in the first place.