I am one of "those moms" who is extra concerned with car seat safety. I don't usually call people out directly because in most cases you can't tell whether the car was moving or not, or what the exact situation was. I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings, but I cringe at pictures of kids in clearly unsafe situations. I occasional share car seat safety FYIs on social media, I will never apologize for that.
When R was a baby I did plenty of things wrong. I used aftermarket strap pads, I put her seat on shopping carts, and I'm sure she her chest clip wasn't always at nipple level and that her straps were sometimes too loose. But people pointed out my mistakes and instead of getting offended, I learned from them. Because nothing concerns me more than R's safety, especially in the car.
December 21, 2007 started out as as a beautiful day. It was unusually warm for December, and the snow that was already on the ground was turning to slush and melting away. I even wore flip flops! I had the day off work but was asked to do a "hand transfer" to a mall about 45 minutes away. I drove up to the other mall, and my mom met me there to do some Christmas shopping. When we walked out of the mall's doors we were met with completely different weather. The temperature had quickly dropped below freezing and it had started to snow. I drove with my mom back to her house, and then decided to leave before the weather got any worse. I asked her if she'd drive me home because I was nervous, but she told me I lived too far away.
As I was leaving my mom's neighborhood I noticed all sorts of cars slipping and sliding all over the road. The quick and dramatic drop in temperature had caused all the slush on the road to turn to ice. I laughed at all the people who clearly couldn't drive in the snow, and felt confident in my driving abilities, and in the huge 4WD tank that I was driving. (DRAMATIC IRONY.) Back then I had a bad habit of not wearing a seat belt when I drove, but something on this day told me I should wear one. I buckled up at a stoplight I almost slid through.
The major road to my house was a sketchy one- even in good weather. There has been no shortage of deaths on it, including that of a boy I graduated high school with. It's a very busy road but it's only two lanes in most sections, and at the time the section I was driving on didn't have any shoulder before a small drop off.
I was only a few minutes from my apartment when the passenger side tires of my car slipped off the road. I don't remember the following events very clearly, but I do know that I did not overcorrect. I've never overcorrected before, it's just not my first reaction to sliding on snow/ ice. But for some reason when I brought my car back up onto the road it just kicked straight forward- straight into the other lane- head on into another car.
My dog, a tiny puppy at the time (a Pomeranian), was sitting on the passenger seat. But as the car started to slide he jumped into the driver's seat, and I scooted forward so he could be behind my back- so I could protect him. This all happened in a fraction of a second, it was some sort of miracle. After the cars collided he started yelping, but he was not hurt. I remember that my radio kept playing for a few seconds, and I kept trying to turn the car off, but there were no keys in the ignition. N would later find them in the back seat, thrown from the force of the collision. After a few seconds a large puff of steam escaped the crumpled hood and the radio turned off. My poor car had gone to car heaven.
I was in a daze (I had been concussed) but I noticed the large group of people gathered outside my car, looking at me with terrified faces. Someone was on the phone (presumably with 911) looking very nervous and distraught. I didn't think to try and get out of my car, I knew that the accident had been my fault, and I figured I should just wait in my car until the cops came to arrest me.
Suddenly someone was tugging frantically at my door, but it wouldn't open. Have you ever heard that panicked people can find the strength to flip over cars? Well whoever was trying to get me out found a similar strength and was able to pry the door behind me open. After the two company closed it we could never get it to open again- and N is very strong!
When they got the door open they called for me to climb out, and my dog happily bounded into the backseat to greet these strangers. I climbed over the seats and out and they walked me to their car. They had dogs in their car too, and my dog was over the moon. They sat me in their passenger seat and gave me a sip of water to drink. I wasn't particularly thirsty but I drank it away. There was a terrible taste in my mouth. They had just found a first aid kit when the ambulance showed up. I'll never forget the EMT saying to me, "Does your neck hurt at all? Because if your neck hurts we're going to have to cut your shirt off and put you on this backboard!" My whole body hurt but I said my neck felt fine because having my shirt cut off sounded terrible. The paramedics laid me on a stretcher and carried me into the ambulance. The last thing I saw before they closed the ambulance door was my puppy, poking his head out of the coat of a firefighter.
I never ended up finding out the names of the people who helped me. It's one of my biggest regrets.
We tried traveling back up the road to get to Littleton Hospital (the same hospital R was born at!), but because of the weather a semi had gotten high-centered on the road and was completely blocking traffic both ways. We had to turn around to go to another hospital (only slightly further away) and because of the weather and the traffic it took us 3 hours to get there. On a regular day it would have taken maybe 15 minutes. After assessing my injuries the paramedic wasn't too worried about getting the hospital ASAP. He told me that after receiving the information about the accident they were going to send a flight for life helicopter, but it had been too cold. He said he had expected to see something terrible, and that he was relieved.
I was hysterical. I couldn't stop crying and asking the paramedic if he thought my car was salvageable. It was my first car, my dream car for many years, and I had only had it a few months. The poor guy told me he wasn't sure, but maybe. It was a noble lie. I also asked about the driver of the other car. I wasn't sure if I could ever live with myself if I had hurt someone, even if it was by accident. He told me that the other driver was fine, and denied all medical treatment at the scene. Knowing this made me feel much better, but I couldn't stifle the sobs that kept coming on in involuntary fits. But the paramedic was so kind, and told me all kinds of stories to help keep me calm. He put a blanket on my cold feet and said he could never understand why some girls liked to wear flip flops all year long.
I'll never forget when the paramedic used my phone to call my mom. When he said "Hi this is such and such paramedic and I'm with your daughter, she's been in a serious car accident" I knew my mom was living a nightmare. She told me later that she could hear me crying in the background and that it made her feel better. She called N right after and he left work immediately. He told me later that he cried when he got in his car.
When I got the hospital my dad met me at the ambulance entrance. We hadn't talked to each other in more than 9 months and I was surprised to see him there. It was a major stepping stone to help mend our relationship. My dad told me my mom was in the lobby calling the vet where my dog was. I was thankful! When N got to the hospital he found my mom and they both came back to find my dad and I in the ER. The paramedic had told me in the ambulance that my face was split and that I was going to need stitches- the first stitched I'd ever get!
There was a plastic surgeon on hand and he came in to do my stitches. I will never, ever forget the pain of him injecting anesthetic into the cut open area right under my nose. It was the most intense pain I've ever felt in my life. Worse than my appendix about to rupture, worse than childbirth, and worse than tattoo removal. And the anesthetic ended up not even working! My dad had one of my hands and N had the other. I remember being shocked at how soft my dad's hands were compared to how rough N's hands were. That's a lawyer vs. a mechanic for you! I just about pulverized all the bones in their hands from squeezing them so hard. The pain of the stitches (I felt everything) was awful.
After the stitches a cop came in to right me a ticket (it was my fault after all, but I plead the careless driving charge down to a defective vehicle one.) I was discharged soon after. As N drove us home I put my head on his shoulders and closed my eyes- I was exhausted. But as soon as I closed my eyes everything started spinning and I started screaming. I thought the car was sliding, but it was just my head. I kept my head up and my eyes open for the rest of the car ride. I was so scared.
When we got home N helped me into the bath. I was covered in blood (faces bleed a LOT) and bruises had already appeared all over my body. My face also completely swelled up. It was like I was wearing a monster mask. When I fell asleep that night I had the first of many nightmares about the accident. Except in every nightmare I've had about the accident I've been in the position of the other driver. I had vivid flashbacks for a long time too, and now I still get them on occasion (and only while driving) but they are less terrifying. Living in Colorado I had to get over my fear of driving in the snow quickly, but I've never been comfortable with it again.
I got lucky in my crash. Lucky that the other driver wasn't hurt, and lucky that my injuries were only minor. A few weeks after my accident there was another accident on the same stretch of road, where the exact same thing happened. A young man crashed head-on into a police officer, and because the officer was in a sedan, both of his legs were crushed. Had my car been any smaller (I was in an SUV and hit another SUV) who knows what could have happened. The same goes for the other driver. It was a totally freak thing to happen, but it did, and it showed me that no matter how good of a driver I thought I was, I wasn't (and am not) invincible. Nobody is.
|A few weeks after the accident.|
Cars are dangerous. Even the best driver can get in a serious accident, and you can never trust other drivers.
"Here is a sobering truth: every day we lose 4 to 5 children in car crashes. They are the leading cause of death for kids in this country and yet most of us are completely untrained in the best way to keep our kids safe from them: by properly installing a car seat. 'Across the country we find a greater than 95% misuse of car seats,' says Alisa Baer, M.D., a pediatrician and nationally certified child passenger safety instructor (who’s also known as The Car Seat Lady). But, don’t beat yourself up. What looks like just another piece of shiny, plastic baby gear is actually a sophisticated and complicated piece of safety engineering, and sometimes it takes an engineering degree to use it properly." (Source)
Car seat safety is not a joke, and it shouldn't be subject to personal opinion. It's not hard to keep your child as safe as possible in a car.
Last night I posted about a company that sells dangerous car seat covers* on Instagram. Someone that I thought was a friend/ intelligent person told me it was "shady" of me to "try and ruin a company." Calling out a company that sells a product that could KILL AN INFANT is not shady. It is the right thing to do. And I will never stop doing it. Facts are facts and there's nothing wrong with making a mistake so long as you learn from it.
In a car crash your life can change in an instant. It's your responsibility as a parent to do everything you can to keep your child safe in the car. Because you never know what can happen.
*If a car seat product didn't come with your car seat, or come directly from the manufacturer for your specific seat, then you should NOT use it. It is dangerous and will almost always void your warranty. The company I called out sells covers that go over the padding a car seat comes with. These materials will compress in an accident, making it more likely your child will be ejected from their seat. They are also not flame-retardant. There is a reason car seat fabrics aren't super soft and plush. This particular company hides this information from consumers, and sells these covers under the LIE that they "protect your car seat from wear." It is hideously unethical to sell products that endanger the lives of children. Here are some car seat manufacturer's comments about aftermarket products. While it is not illegal to sell these products (and it should be!) it is illegal to use them in some states.