Car Seat Safety: Slow-Motion Memories of Our Car Wreck

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It was a Saturday night. We had just finished a lovely dinner outside at the Ivywild School and were headed home to put our baby girl to bed. Our little family was emerging from a hard season and our evening had been the best and most relaxing family time we had had in months. The Colorado summer air was perfect on our drive home. Our windows were down, our toddler was chattering excitedly in her car seat and I had just commented on how gorgeous the sunset was.

My husband was driving. I was handing things to my toddler, adjusting the radio and catching up on texts to friends. But for some God-driven reason on this night, I glanced up as we were entering a downtown intersection on a green light. At that exact moment, another driver entered the intersection through a red light. 

Words and a point at the other car somehow escaped me. This was enough to get my husband’s attention, and he quickly turned our car in an attempt to somewhat deflect the other car’s momentum. The other car went up and over our hood, then hit us again, as we spun out and came to a stop.

In a Single Moment

The loudest noise I have ever heard—the crash—was followed by the best noise I have ever heard up until this point in my life—the sound of my daughter’s cry. “Praise the Lord, she’s alive!” I thought as I glanced over at my husband, and saw he was (relatively) okay, too.

Later in the ER, they determined my elbow and my husband’s wrist were broken. But thankfully we were okay. Shaken up and a bit broken, but physically okay. Our daughter? Miraculously unscratched.

I’m so thankful our car accident was not worse, and my heart aches for those who have lost family and friends this way. Life truly can change in an instant. It can go from the best night you’ve had in ages to one of the scariest in 30 seconds flat. I know I’ll be processing this and the effect it has had on our family for a long time, but for now, I feel compelled to share few takeaways.

Put Down Your Phone & Pay Attention 

I don’t know if the other driver was texting, talking, or distracted by their phone in any way when they ran the red light and hit us. What I do know is that we have all done stupid things while we are driving (with or without a phone).

Sometimes you run a stop sign because you were lost in thought or tired from being up countless nights beforehand. Or you swerve into the other lane while handing that pouch to your toddler. Maybe that time, no one was in the intersection or in the other lane. But someday, someone will be in that intersection or lane.

So.. Phone down. Eyes up. Wait until you are stopped to hand something back to your kid. No text or Instagram “like” is worth impacting a life.

Toddlers are Adaptable 

Say what now?

You’re probably sitting there, thinking, “Did she really just say toddlers are adaptable?” Yes. Yes I did, folks.

If this car accident and life after has taught me anything, it’s that toddlers are adaptable, understanding and compassionate. My heart broke for my baby girl when I heard her cry in fear as our car came spiraling to stop. Her heart broke for us as we navigated life as temporarily one-armed parents. I saw it in her eyes—she knew something wasn’t right and extended us grace and understanding. She kissed mom’s and dad’s owies. And she was okay with being “flung” over the crib rail and placed in her bed standing up rather than being rocked and gently laid into her crib. 

Kids adapt. They’re amazing at understanding, even when you think they won’t. Kids can be incredibly compassionate. Even in some of the hardest times of life, they will amaze you.

Community Matters 

I don’t think we would have been able to navigate life from the moment of the accident to now, if it weren’t for the amazing help and support of our family and friends.

My brother-in-law picked us up at the accident site (while his wife was in early labor, I might add). Friends picked up baby pouches and a pacifier and sat at the ER with us. My in-laws took our baby girl home from the hospital at 10:30 pm to put her to bed while her parents had to stay. We had countless meal deliveries. On-call, best-friend babysitters arrived when one-armed life was too much for me at the moment. My mom came to stay with us for weeks.

We are endlessly grateful for each of you.

It might not be a car accident that gets you down. But something sometime will pull you down or set you back. And let me just tell you, you will need others around you when this time hits. Find your people now and hold on to them tight in good times and hard times.

Car Seats Work, but Only when They are Installed Correctly

You’re probably sitting there thinking, “Yeah yeah, Laura, we all have them. Of course, they are made to protect babies.”

Trust me. You don’t truly understand the importance of car seat safety until you’ve been in an accident. Until you have experienced the weight of the unknown seconds between the realization you have been in a crash to the panic that sinks in as you question if your child is breathing.

I will be forever grateful for our Britax seat. But it doesn’t matter what brand car seat you have. What matters is that you have one and you know how to use your brand of car seat. Take the time to read the manual. Or watch the YouTube video from installation to buckling your child in. Even better? Meet with a local car seat safety technician. It’s free. My husband and I did this when we first became parents and it was well worth the time. We walked away empowered and knowledgeable about the buckles and restraints.

The fact that I install my daughter in her seat correctly is a habit I don’t even think about now. But it may have helped saved her life that summer night. Check out a local resource of people who can provide car seat safety checks and education services HERE.

Install It Properly Every Time

Fellow parents and guardians reading this… Please pay attention while you’re driving. Find your people and create that community. Tell your kids they are amazing.

Then, take the time to install those amazing kids into their car seats correctly. Every. Single. Time. (Even when you’re 15 minutes late to that appointment because you couldn’t find their shoes or they had a blowout on the way out the door.) It’s worth it. I promise. And most importantly, don’t forget to hug those loved ones every time you’re around them.

Child Passenger Safety Week is September 23-29, 2018. National Seat Check Saturday is September 29, 2018. Car crashes are a leading cause of death for children ages 1 to 13. Many times, deaths and injuries can be prevented by proper use of car seats, boosters and seat belts. On average, two children under 13 were killed per day in 2016 while riding in cars, SUVs, pickups or vans.
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Laura is the Instagram Director for Co Springs Mom Collective. She has a heart for local businesses and exploring (and introducing people to) new fun spots around COS. Laura was born and raised in Minnesota, but headed for the mountains for college at the University of Denver, and has stayed in Colorado since 2009. She currently lives in a 1920’s home downtown with her husband, daughter (2016), and massive Labradoodle. When she isn’t hanging out with family or friends, she can be found in her art studio downtown, managing the COS Moms Blog Instagram account, or walking to a neighborhood coffee shop. Laura is passionate about seeing Colorado Springs thrive, and loves the opportunity her team has to create connections and experiences that truly promote the growth of community in our city.