This is an article I wrote after my daughter and I survived a multi-rollover accident in 2009. This Memorial Day weekend, as you prepare to travel, I urge you to read it. Car seats save children’s lives, even in rollovers. There is info here on how to safety check your child’s seat. It is invaluable information that could save your child’s life.
(8/09) One gray morning last week my daughter and I were in a terrible car accident. My beautiful four year old and I careened off the road at between 60 and 70 miles an hour. We launched through a guardrail and began to roll. I don’t know how many times.
Then, in a quiet field in rural Texas, motion stopped.
Most of this I know because it has been told to me. I have been told that my car and another collided along the highway. We were traveling the speed limit, but that was fast. I lost control of my SUV.
I lost control.
My baby was in the car.
My baby was in the car.
I remember snapshots. Frozen images on which I fixate. I can’t remember what came before. I can’t remember what came after. So I loop what I remember until I realize my heart is racing, I’m drenched in sweat and I’ve lost my breath.
I see a guardrail. I think of my baby. I see an airbag. The fabric has a pattern on it. I think of my baby. I smell something acrid like gunpowder. I think of my baby. The world is spinning. I think of my baby.
The car rests. There is a shower of blood.
I think of my baby.
“Baby, are you okay?” (Please God, please let my baby be okay)
“I’m okay, mommy!”
I turn to see the eager face of my saucer-eyed child. It looks…it looks like she might really be okay!
She didn’t have a single scratch on her. Not one. Her perfect pink skin remains unbroken. Unblemished. Unbruised.
The blood was all mine. Thank God. I am recovering from a head and hip wound after being taken by helicopter to the hospital, but I, too, am okay.
How is it even possible that my daughter was unhurt?
She was firmly strapped into her car seat with its five point harness. That car seat was tightly connected to the “latches” embedded in the rear seat of the car. It was positioned in the center.*
I am not one to advertise for a particular brand of car seat (unless they’re paying me obscene amounts of money lol. Not the case here). The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says “all car seats rated by NHTSA meet Federal Safety Standards & strict crash performance standards.” You can evaluate the safety of the car seat you’ve chosen for your child here. I don’t think you have to go deeply into debt to get a safe car seat for your baby.
That said, my child was protected by her Britax Marathon. Her head does not yet reach the top of this particular child safety seat, and the sides seem to surround her. I think that may have shielded her from the variety of things that were flying around as we were rolling.
But I believe the most important contributing factor to my daughter’s survival of this devastating crash was the proper installation of the seat, and the fact that she was properly strapped in. In fact, a police officer has told me as much. But this is not as simple as it seems.
The good folks at SeatCheck.org tell us 7 out of 10 kids in child safety seats are not buckled in properly. The NHTSA tells us motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for children between 2 and 14 years old. I think that is reason enough to check your car seat. Make sure it’s properly installed. Make sure you know how to buckle your baby in correctly.
You don’t have to figure this out on your own.
The NHTSA knows who the experts in child safety seat installation and use are where you live, and they have a searchable database. It wouldn’t hurt to stop by and let the experts help you out.
Also, the NHTSA recommends you keep your infant rear facing in their car seat for as long as possible, but at least until they are two. There is much more information, including an interview with NHTSA Adminitrator David Strickland here.
Please, take another look at the picture at the top of this blog post. The newspaper photo.
That’s my car.
That’s my baby.
*Several smart parents have informed me that many cars do not have “latches” for center positioning, so please check your owner’s manual before latching your car seat in the center.