It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Risk me not

“Mary, my hood!”

Tyler struggles to pull his hood back up over his head. It’s a blustery day, and though the sun is warm, the wind is not. He needs his hood up.

Only it won’t stay up. Over and over again we pull it up over his wind-tossed blond mop, and over and over it’s quickly blown back off again. On a windy, blustery day, when the warmth and protection of a hood would be greatly appreciated, it won’t stay up. It can’t. It has no drawstring.

There are few things more pointless than a hood without a drawstring. Why bother? Really? Why tantalize us with the possibility of a hood? Because that’s all a hood without a drawstring is — a theoretical hood. A virtual hood. Looks like you have one, but really? You don’t.

I know why hoods for toddlers no longer have drawstrings. It’s a strangulation hazard, particularly on slides. Now there’s an unpleasant image: your poor little guy/girl halfway down the slide, with the toggle of the string wedged somehow at the top.


Not something we want to happen!

So the solution is to ban drawstrings altogether? Not to take the hoodie off, wear a different sweater, tuck the strings inside? No, none of that! We just WON’T HAVE THEM AT ALL!!!

And so Tyler is chilly and uncomfortable, because his parents naively thought that his hood was, well, functional.

If there’s anyone reading this whose child has died tragically because of a drawstring, you have my heartfelt sympathy. My complaints are not intended to diminish anyone’s loss, nor to put blame where it doesn’t belong. Any parent who has lost a child in such a way is probably putting all the blame required, and then some, on themselves anyway. I can’t imagine the devastation. When you balance the inconvenience Tyler is experiencing against true tragedy… well, there’s no comparison, is there?

“If it would save even one child’s life, it’s worth it!” we declare. And who can argue with that sentiment? Well, the sentiment is sound, but…

But what are the risks, really? In 2004 in the US, six children died, and 673 were injured in cars EVERY DAY. I don’t see anyone banning children from cars. Whyever not? It would save far more than ONE child’s life; we could be saving hundreds. Thousands, over time. But, every day, we keep putting children into cars. Every time you put your child in a car, you are putting him/her at risk.

And do we give it a second’s thought? Nope. Do we hesitate in the driveway, pause before we pop the child in, feel that frisson of worry, of unease? Do we take a second to consider if this trip really is worth the risk? Nope. We pop the child in the carseat and drive off in complete expectation of arriving at our destination without incident.

We don’t think about it, and we don’t ban kids from cars. Instead we have rules. Rules against drunk driving, rules about car seats, airbags, and where children can sit in a car. In short, we manage the risk. The not inconsiderable risk.

But those DRAWSTRINGS???? Do away with them! Totally and forthwith! Far too risky!!!

Methinks we are not being entirely rational or consistent here…

There have been approximately 22 deaths by drawstring in the US… since 1985. I’m not sure when that stat was published but that’s probably in the order of one a year… vs six per day for cars.


I am not saying we should ban children from cars. (Though you might consider walking anyplace less than a mile from home. Just a thought. Good for you, good for the environment!) Cars are not just a fact of life, they’re very often essential. So we do what is sensible, and manage the risk.

Why not let us manage the risk — the far, far, faaaaar lower risk — of drawstrings?

Tyler would be very grateful.

I’m curious. This is a pet peeve of mine. Are there any risk-avoidance strategies that drive you crazy?

June 6, 2011 Posted by | controversy, health and safety | , , , , | 18 Comments