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America’s gone off the deep end

Marketplace Staff Jun 21, 2006


KAI RYSSDAL: School’s out. Summer’s officially here, and we’ve got a long hot couple of months to head to the pool and just relax. But commentator Steve Moore says the water’s a little chilly.

STEVE MOORE: This summer, America has really gone off the deep end.

My community pool in Falls Church Virginia just opened its doors minus our 20-year-old high diving board. The county declared that it can’t afford to pay the liability insurance anymore and so we’ve been grounded.

No 3-meter diving board means no more atomic cannonballs, can openers, jack knives, flying squirrels and other big splash creations.

No more teenagers doing double flips with hardly a ripple just like Greg Louganis.

Our swim club is outraged over summer fun lost, but we’re not alone.

Diving boards are disappearing across the American landscape. The Texas legislature this year passed a near-ban on high diving boards.

But why?

Several years ago kids injured from diving boards won million-dollar lawsuits. The insurance industry says that most pool companies won’t even construct diving boards for fear of trial lawyers.

Our swim club president says we have never had a serious accident involving the high board.

Nationwide there are about 20 spinal injury accidents a year from diving boards despite millions of dives. That’s tragic, but it’s less accidents than from football or bathtubs or even walking across the street.

Our safety culture has made America pathologically risk averse.

Parents force their toddlers to ride their bikes these days with body armor and helmets. Schools have instituted peanut butter-free zones. Parks are taking down see-saws and swings so that kids don’t get bonked in the head.

But all of this paranoia makes life, well, not really worth living. After all, we’re all thrill seekers. That’s why we bungee jump or raft down the rapids or go rock climbing.

I suggest one simple solution: Instead of outlawing thrill seeking activities, outlaw lawsuits except in cases of negligence.

Warnings should be sufficient: Dive here, play here, teeter-totter here at your own risk.

Steve Moore is a member of the Wall Street Journal’s Editorial Board.

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