Safety first, fun a distant second

"Safety First, Fun a Distant Second" by Amy Willard Cross is an essay highlighting the differences between today's safety obsessed culture, with yesterdays lawless, free spirited world. Over the years, society has evolved to uphold safety, to protect life and limb for all. Cross develops her essay though deduction, a general principal, specific case, and conclusion can all be found within the paper. Everyone has an innate ability to dare and take risks, some of which are potentially hazardous to one's health. People take these dangerous risks because they are fun to experience. Pushing the boundary of safety by participating in activities such as skydiving or bungee jumping are a thrill for some; however, groups such as lawmakers and parents work to limit these freedoms. Under the presumption of safety, these groups have passed laws and implemented measures to "child-proof" the world for everyone, including adults. These groups attempt to minimize and mitigate risks. For example, "You can't drink champagne on afternoon canoe rides anymore - it's against the law." Although drinking champagne on a leisurely boat ride under the hot summer sun is fun, lawmakers prohibit doing so because it is a possible danger. Ultimately, one can no longer enjoy the pleasure of experiencing danger; laws and rules have been enacted to enforce safety. Cross believes safety in the modern world has gone too far, "Dangervision has robbed us of the pleasure of surviving." Now that there is such a large emphasis on safety, life is no longer fun.

Although Cross utilizes a deductive syllogism to develop her essay, several argumentation related problems can be observed. The first is overgeneralization; the second is a lack of support. Cross's essay is based on overgeneralization; she observes one specific case from her personal perspective, and makes a general conclusion assuming all cases must be similar. Cross assumes that because her sister is taking measures to ensure the safety of her child, all parents must be doing the same. Likewise, Cross assumes that European countries do not subscribe the safety culture because, "the attitude is probably a form of population control for a very crowded content." Observing a few instances where safety is protected though foresight does not make it the conventional normal. In effect, a hidden assumption is made. Cross also fails to mention the other motives for a safe and secure society. People who posses "Dangervision" are not looking to reduce freedom; there are other reasons why safety is priority. For example, accidents cost money. In Canada, the burden is on society to cover an injured person's medical bills. Companies post warnings to reduce liability, a single lawsuit can force a company into bankruptcy. In makes economic sense to ensure safety. Another fundamental problem with the essay is a lack of support. No external resources are used to lend support to Cross's claims. Cross claims, "during the past decade accidental deaths have plummeted." However, statistical data is not provided. "Plummeted" is a relative word left to the readers' interpretation. Without a specific numerical value, the claim provides little support to the conclusion. The over reliance on analogies and unsubstantiated evidence detracts from the credibility of the paper. Cross is not an expert in safety, her personal observations are not definitive evidence. The sweeping overgeneralization, coupled with the lack of statistical evidence result in poor augmentation and ambiguous conclusions.

Throughout the essay, Cross states that today's safety conscious society is limiting freedom, preventing one from having fun. While today's society is more safety orientated than in the past, this paradigm shift is justified as technology creates new risks and dangers. People today are exposed to many hazards not found many years ago. International trade allows goods to enter North America from countries such as China. These products may not meet North American safety guidelines, putting people at risk. For example, "Both Chinese and American concerns over the safety of food, toys and other products had deepened since earlier this year, with the disclosure of tainted toys and food from China" (Weisman). Without strict safety laws, Canadian and American children may have suffered the ill effects of toxic chemicals in their toys and milk. Domestic danger is also problematic. Ontario recently banned the use of cell phones in moving vehicles, citing safety concerns, "The Ministry of Transport said the ban is needed because driver distraction is a factor in 20 per cent of all road accidents. Bradley said one U.S. study found texting boosted the risk of a collision 23 times" (CBC News). The prevalence of new technology creates new vulnerabilities that necessitate protection. New laws/rules minimize the risks created by these advancements.

Ultimately, safety is designed to protect life, not damper it. Life is fragile and must be preserved through the enforcement of laws and rules. A safer society benefits all, people live longer, medical expenses are reduced, and fewer tragic accidents are experienced.

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