This post is very hard for me to type. It’s not been long ago; therefore, it brings back strong emotions. I still do drive with my kids in the car. But I am 100 times more cautious than before. I hope mothers who drive with their kids can take tips and advice from this blog.
It was a haze for a second or two, fluttering eyelids, jolted out of the empty darkness. I noticed the inflated airbags and cries coming from the back seat. I saw blood on my hand, but all I could think was to get my girls out of the car. I tumbled out of the car; I opened the car door, unbuckled Teesta’s car seat belt and held her in my arms. I saw a lady in a red t-shirt run towards me. I yelled at her to help my other daughter, Torsha, to get her out of the car, which she did. I took them both and held them, examined them up and down, relieved that they were safe and not a scratch.
It was an everyday afternoon; I have taken the same route multiple times at 4:40 p.m. when I pick my girls up from day care. I barely take the 280 highway, mostly the inner roads, which takes me about seven minutes to reach home. As per usual, they were hungry and tired and wanted some snacks at that very minute. The accident happened right at the turn to enter my apartment complex. I did not see the car coming at full speed from the other way, and I suddenly took the left turn without stopping.
My Three Huge Mistakes
My mistake: I turned the rear-view mirror so I could see them and try to pacify them.
Please do not: Yes, I understand, if you look at them and reason with them, they may stop screaming for a while. but that few minutes of peace is not worth repositioning the mirrors and risking an accident. Talk to them at home, not in the car. Never reposition the mirrors to anything other than the side traffic and the back traffic. Follow the rules and the logic first.
My mistake: In all that screaming and confusion, I was in a hurry to reach home to give my girls something to eat and do something to stop their whining. I was in a rush and did not stop at the left turn.
Please do not: Seconds, minutes . . . does not matter how long it takes to reach home, safety first. Ten minutes of screaming in the back seat will not do any harm to the kid(s). Try to distance yourself from that situation and carefully drive yourself home and deal with the kid(s) in a safe environment.
My mistake: My attention was divided.
Please do not: I understand as a mother it is hard to concentrate on anything while the kids are screaming in the background. Emotions run high, sometimes we even get irritable. But while driving, emotions need to be kept aside, even for that seven minutes on a repetitive route. Undivided attention on the road and traffic should be the highest priority while driving, with kids or no kids.
The Importance of a Properly Installed Car Seat
I am incredibly grateful and thankful that all three of us are okay. And the number one reason for that is that they were buckled up in a well-equipped, professionally installed car seat. I cannot stress enough the importance of a car seat, and also the right way to install it.
Location: Center seating is the safest location to install it. But in my case, I have my twins on either side of the center seat.
Direction: My kids are three years old. They are front facing now, but I did manage to keep them back facing for the longest time. It’s just the safest position, as it absorbs most of the crash force and keeps the kid’s head, neck, and spine protected.
Installation: My husband is in charge of that, but whoever installs the car seat must read the manual thoroughly. The anchor latch should be tight and secure so that the seat is steady and does not move.
Car seat belt: My kids are very fussy and sometimes refuse to buckle the belt. Well, then I guess we will not be having ice cream at the store today. Buckling the car seat belt is a must. Please make sure to do the “pinch test.” The straps should be snug and tight.
A thorough checkup of the child by a professional: If you do get into a car accident, call 911 and the paramedics. Do not hesitate, even if you think the child is not hurt. Let them have a look. As a parent, we just look at their happy faces and think they are okay and miss the small signs of discomfort. Let a professional examine them thoroughly and give their expertise if the child needs to go a hospital for further checkup.
Car seat replacement: Another particularly important thing to consider. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) used to recommend replacing a child restraint whenever it was in a crash, no matter the severity of the crash. That is a past recommendation. The most recent recommendation by the NHTSA says that child safety seats do not automatically need to be replaced following a minor crash. But from a mother to another mother — just do it anyway. Go ahead and replace it; do not leave it to chance.
I am glad I was able to share my experience and what I learnt from it. Please be careful on the road, with or without a kid in the back seat.