Today I witnessed an incredibly horrific car accident, which opened my eyes to something I am already so passionate about... car seat safety. I was just going to write a facebook post about it, but this topic is SO important, but literally not taught enough. Most parents are just misinformed, or merely NOT informed on just how literally having your child in their carseat correctly can save their life.
Here's what happened: I was walking into the gated nature play area for an ECFE (Early Childhood Family Education) class with my 21 month old son Caleb, and my daycare kiddo Braham. Right as we walked in, I heard the LOUDEST crash, lifted up my head to see the rest of this terrible accident unfold right in front of us. It happened on a street right in front of the elementary school (30mph speed limit, a two way street). A white mini van was driving northbound, and a silver suv driving southbound. The white van honked repeatedly at the suv, as it was slowly veering into their lane, and before you knew it smash, the suv drove HEAD ON into the white van, then come to a stop about 10 yards later on the side of the road in the ditch. Immediately people were calling 911, something was seriously wrong. Sure enough, the dad on the passenger side gets out of the van (walking and clearly in shock), to check on the driver of the suv... as soon as he opened the door of the suv we could all see the older man driving was lifeless with the airbag in his face. The dad talking to responders, and clearly taking a pulse and shaking his head... not good. The responders got there within 3 minutes... and we saw them immediately pull this lifeless body out of the drivers seat in the suv and begin performing CPR... which they continued for which was probably a good 20 mins and from the best of our knowledge the man was then announced dead on the scene from cardiac arrest. After watching this awful scene, I switch my glance over to the mini van... realizing the dad was NOT the only one in the car. One of the teachers in our ECFE class had hurried over to the van... 2 mins later we see her take out an INFANT from the car (which I immediately noted was in a rear facing carseat... thank GOD). At this time we continued watching, but assumed those were the only two passengers until the fire department got there and hurriedly worked on the driver side of the van. 20 mins later we see them remove another carseat WITH a preschool aged kid (probably 3) from the vehicle (again i noted, it was a 5 pt harness restraint system... thank GOD.) Once the kids were safely out of the car and being tended to by paramedics, we see the final passenger which was the mother... who was the most injured, but just some broken bones. After initial assessment the family was rushed to the hospital... the two adults had the most severe injuries (most likely broken bones, whiplash, and glass cuts), but the absolute best outcome happened... these two sweet kiddos were (severe) injury free. They had cuts from glass shards... but they were put into their van with the proper carseats, installed correctly... which potentially saved their life. Adults can walk away with injuries from car accidents at 30mph... but little kids without proper restraints... cannot. Their necks are not strong enough, their bodies are so light. It is IMPERATIVE to keep them safe and in carseats up until they reach max weight and age. And here's the kicker...come to find out, this family was just a few blocks from home. I've heard ALL the time, that most car accidents occur within a mile of your home... so even on short trips, BUCKLE UP YOUR KIDS! This was a first hand example of why that is so important.
Now its' been a few hours since this happened this morning, and it sure shook me up. I took a carseat safety course a couple years ago with my sister-in-law when we were doing licensed daycare together. And ever since I've been such an advocate for practicing car seat safety, but I have NOT done a good enough job of spreading the word. How many people (even better, how many PARENTS), have taken a course on car seat safety. Probably very few. Heck I didn't even know they existed until I did daycare. I don't blame parents... we are just not informed and think, "Here's a good car seat... looks like you install it like this... pull this, snap this... my kid is safe". But there is SO much more to it than that. So I did some more research and wanted to share some basic tips when it comes to carseats for your children ages infancy-13 yrs.
*Your child should go through 3 stages of carseats throughout their childhood (infant rear facing 5 pt harness, forward facing 5 pt harness, to a booster seat).
*Rear face your child as LONG as you can up until the age of 2. If your child exceeds the weight limit, find a convertible carseat that does both forward and rear facing. Legally, your child needs to be at least 1 yr and 20 lbs to forward face. (we held off on turning Caleb around until a month ago, at 20 months. If it were up to me, I'd keep him rear-facing for LIFE, but my husband and child think otherwise) ;)
*Once your child is forward facing, keep them in a 5 pt harness carseat as long as you can (usually recommended until around age 4, or weight limits (40-60 lbs) on carseat). 5 pt harnesses protect MUCH more of a small child's body than just a shoulder strap seat belt.
*In a 5 pt harness make sure the straps are secure and tight! You should not be able to pinch any of the strap fabric. Also make sure the clip is at armpit level.
*One safety fact for us who live in colder states... carseats are not intended for children with jackets on. Remove jackets and heavy sweatshirts when buckling kids in 5 pt harness.
*Once your child graduates to a booster seat, I highly recommend the backseat booster for better support on back, neck and head. You may also buy just the bottom no-back booster. Your child should remain in a booster until AT LEAST 8 yrs, or longer and 4 ft 9 in tall.
*No child should ever sit in the front seat until at least age 13.
*Keep in mind your child's weight. Small children should not be rushed into the next stage
of carseat, just because they have reached the correct age or height. Safety first. YOU are the boss.
*Carseats expire! Most within 5 years. the material wears, making them not as effective or safe. Check your manufacture date.
Check out https://dps.mn.gov/divisions/ots/educational-materials/Documents/CPS-DontSkip-English-Brochure.pdf
for more information. or buckleupkids.mn.gov
STAY INFORMED PARENTS. This family could NOT have prevented this accident at all. The driver of the other car was unconscious when he hit the family. They couldn't swerve out of the way or stop. They were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time, and it can happen to anyone, anywhere. So drive safe, undistracted, and informed to protect your children.