srain-- I'm with you. The numbers don't lie, and the fact is that most of us drive "too much." Personally, I drive a lot more often than I think is reasonable. Yes, this is due partially to choices that we have made, but mostly it can't be avoided. Either I have to drive an obscene distance to get my kids to the doctor, or Mike has to drive an obscene distance to get to work. He drives to work every day, and can't consolidate trips the way that I can, so it makes more sense for us to live closer to work. However, this means that the kids are in the car much more often than I'd like, and therefore that they're at much higher risk for being involved in an accident, as well as seriously injured.
I'd absolutely love to reduce the number of hours that I spend on the road, but I've really cut things back as far as I can without totally screwing us over in terms of health insurance. We can only save so much time, money, and energy getting to the doctor before we end up losing time, money and energy in medical bills from people & places who don't take our insurance.
That's just the way it is for us. So I'm totally anal about the carseats, as I said before, just because of the statistics.
It's not about how far from home you are, and it's not about how fast the vehicle is moving; it's about the amount of time, overall, that the kids are in the car. Even to drive a ridiculously short distance in a rural area, I would not allow my children to go unrestrained, because it all adds up. I don't think that anyone who drives in the USA should ever drive without a carseat, because there are so many vehicles on the road that it's inherently dangerous. That said, I think that the OP was describing a very different climate than the one in which I drive. No, you can't change the laws of physics, but you can change statistics quite drastically by looking at a different situation. Statistics don't matter much if the one in question is you or your child, but the big picture is very different in different places.
I think that we're all talking about different things.
Another thing-- it's a lot harder to get a carseat than some of you are making out. When I had my accident earlier this year, I busted ass to get new carseats for the kids. Nobody could help me. Birthright could find an infant seat (out of date, with who knows what kind of history), and that was it. I had a toddler and a preschooler who initially had to ride in the seats which had restrained them during the accident (and which were obviously unfit for that task, in my mind) and then spent a week in their cousins old seats, which had never been in an accident but were too big for *both* children. The idea that "anyone can get a free carseat anywhere in the country" is, in my experience, an incorrect one. We had to wait until Mike's next paycheck and then spend money that we really didn't have on new carseats, and hold our breath in the meantime. No, the insurance company didn't just send us a check; when I talked to them, they said that it wasn't their policy to replace carseats after accidents, because we didn't really need new ones anyway. No, the police station didn't just give us carseats; it wasn't a big deal. Nobody cared about it at all. I've been in two serious accidents in which carseats had to be replaced, and never gotten a free replacement. My nieces were in a serious crash in booster seats two and a half years ago and my sister was reimbursed by the insurance company only after my mother's lawyer gave them crap for it. It's not as easy to get a new seat as many of you seem to think it is, at least not around here.