Today was our first full day here in Pasadena and it will remain in my mind as the most memorable first days ever in a new city. On the way to Costco, with the girls, I was involved in an auto accident.
First of all: We are all OK. The airbags did not deploy and the girls were giggling afterward with the Bear saying how “fun” it was. I wish the same thing could have been said for me. With adrenaline rushing through my veins, I did what most people would have done… I cried and then called my husband. A pair of witnesses called the Police and they arrived within 10 minutes to file the report. I was able to drive the van back home and now we wait.
I’ve had a couple hours to process what happened… after all, I have been driving for 15 years and this is my FIRST accident (I’ve never even received a speeding ticket!) and let me tell you, this was the scariest thing that I have been though… especially when I imagine it could have been that much worse. Sure, my Swagger Wagon is damaged and looking very sad and not drivable for any sort of distance. Until we get a rental car, I have no way of getting around Pasadena on my terms (short of walking.) Our auto insurance will go up and I no longer have the luxury of bragging about my spotless driving record (but I still have the no tickets thing going for me.) But: WE ARE ALL OK.
Both girls were in 5-pt harnesses and The Dragonfly was still rear-facing, even though she is over 20 lbs and over the age of 2. I have been a stickler about keeping her RF-ing as long as possible, despite my husband’s (and others’) protestations/ questioning. Keeping your child rear-facing adds a level of protection that is unsurpassed and it all has to do with anatomy and physics. I wish The Bear was still RFing but her beast of a CRS is FF-only (Britax Regent. It’s 50 lbs without a child in it.)
Before the age of 3-4, it has been found that the vertebral column in humans is more on the flexible side (if it helps, we are born with more with over 300 bones which fuse over time to make the 206 in the average human.) This makes sense when you consider that during birth, the neck has to flex to make it through the birth canal. But because of that, the necks of infants and toddlers remain very flexible:
If the infant is facing forward in a frontal crash–which is the most common and most severe type–the body is held back by the car seat’s straps, but the head is not, explains Kathleen Weber, director of the Child Passenger Protection Research Program at the University of Michigan Medical School. While older children and adults wearing safety belts may end up with temporary neck injuries, a baby’s immature neck bones and pliable ligaments can allow the spine to separate and the spinal cord to rip, says Weber.
Basically, she’s saying that a child can internally be decapitated because the vertebrae and ligaments will stretch but the spinal cord will not. Some of you out there may be thinking to yourselves: Well, we (have car seats/ weren’t rear facing/ didn’t wear seat belts/ sat in the front seat, etc, etc) when we were growing up and we turned out just fine.” To that I have to ask: Were you involved in an accident in which those safety measures would have been employed? Most people will answer “no” which affectively renders their argument moot. If you haven’t been in an accident, what you grew up doing has no matter.
Another concern I often hear is one that I used with our first. She was rear-facing only until about 18 months, because I felt that her legs were getting too cramped in that position. (We were driving a car that didn’t allow the seat back to recline.) The way I look at it now, I’d rather risk broken legs than a dead child.
When all is said in done, the Swagger Wagon will be repaired, we will have two new 5-pt. harness car seats (after an auto accident, seats must be replaced and the old ones rendered inoperable,) and I will struggle with the guilt of what I could have done differently. My mind has been filled with “what-ifs” all day: What if I’d just stayed home? What if I’d waited until after rush hour to venture out? What if I had just gone to the market by our house rather than trying for Costco in Burbank? But at least the one “what-if” I don’t have to deal with is “What if I had left her Rear-Facing?”
For more information here is some light reading.
To my friends and family: I am sorry that you are reading about this on the blog rather than my calling you, but I feel that this is a message that needs to get out ASAP. We’ll talk soon.