***WHEN I SAY GRAPHIC PICTURES, I MEAN IT***
I want you to do something for me. Pretend that your child is old enough (if they're not already) to drive. They have a job and pay for gas and oil changes, and you give them your old minivan since you've upgraded to a sedan. Since you're a nurse and used to work in the ER, you've seen what car accidents do to people so above all else, at least you know your children ALWAYS wear their seatbelts.
One day you get a call from your child saying they got in an accident but they're okay. You show up and find this:
Your child stopped at a stoplight behind a pick-up, and was immediately rear-ended by another pick-up and pushed onto the back of the one in front of her. She's okay - just a little whiplash and a sprained wrist. Everything is okay, it happens, especially with teen drivers even though this could have happened to anyone.
A month later, you are able to finance a new vehicle for your child. Accidents happen, but not too often right? Wrong. Before you've even made the first payment on your child's new (used) car, you get a phone call at 4:50am saying your child is in the hospital, they've been in a bad car accident and they're finding out the extent of the injuries with x-rays and CAT scans right now. Don't be alarmed, because they think your child's face looks worse than it really is but they're going to need surgery immediately to be able to rebuild some parts that were torn up.
You show up and find this:
After speaking with the doctor, you find out that your child is going to be okay - a broken clavicle (the same one she broke at 11 falling off her bike), broken costal cartilage that makes her scream when she coughs because it snaps back and forth, and of course, her face broke the window but they can take her for emergency surgery right now and hope that they can rebuild her nose since the cartilage is shredded. She's got hip and leg damage and possible spine damage but they won't know until tomorrow how severe or if it will cause... disabilities.
After your child can leave the hospital in a wheelchair (it'll be a few weeks before she can walk), you spend time helping her recover and giving her millions of medications she has to take to help with pain and prevent infection. She took serious head trauma and asks repeatedly what happens, and will thank you for bringing her a drink she just asked for... because she doesn't remember that she asked you for it.
Eventually, you're able to take her to the impound lot to get things out of her wreck...
Hard to look at, isn't it?
Yeah, that's my car. No, no one died. We were LUCKY. Out of the five people involved (four people in my car, and the one guy in the car that hit us), I was the SECOND worse off. The driver was taken in a helicopter and needed a ton of blood and steel rods in both legs and one arm.
But I'm not trying to get you all to pity me. What I'm TRYING to get you to do is realize this... how likely is it that you'll total two cars in one month? Very UNLIKELY. No one ever PLANS to get into a car accident. That drive you've done a million times can turn deadly in a millisecond. You NEVER get a second chance. Ever. There are NO do-overs. That picture of my face above? I can promise you my mom lost years of her life when she showed up and saw that. I have physical pain in my chest whenever someone does something in a another car even a LITTLE too fast that scares me. I will NEVER be the same again.
This is my spine:
I have a permanent limp and sometimes can't do the dishes because my hip hurts too bad to keep bending over a tiny bit and standing back up. I can't do yoga because anything on the floor hurts too bad. There was question as to whether I could vaginally deliver my kids, and an epidural was ALMOST impossible and took about half an hour, and then became useless when it kinked in my spine. I can't reach my right arm behind me or it locks my entire neck and I can't move and have awful pain for a few minutes.
When someone tells me they're going to forward-face their child before the age of one, or even at the age of one, I get mad. When someone calls someone a carseat nazi and tells them it's stupid and overkill and their children will be fine forward facing, I get furious. When someone says that a 35 pound 3 year old should be in a booster, I want to beat them over the head.
You do NOT get a second chance. EVER. You have ONE CHANCE to save your child's life. You have ONE CHANCE to not break your child's body and change their entire life forever - IF they survive.
When you do not do what is scientifically PROVEN to make your child AS SAFE AS YOU POSSIBLY CAN in the car, you are saying that you don't mind if you destroy their face and their life for the as long as they live. You, to me, are BEING a bad parent if you KNOW these things and ignore them. I can't help it. To me, it's like you're WISHING what I've gone through onto YOUR child, and I can't imagine being able to protect a child from what I've gone through and CHOOSING not to.
IS that mean? Sure. I think I have a right to be mean to people who think reality won't get them. I sure didn't think it would happen to me. I also was a teenager, who wasn't responsible for a child's life. I know I couldn't live with myself if my child was paralyzed or died and I hadn't done EVERYTHING in my power to keep them safe.
- Rear-face as long as you possibly can, even if you have to buy a new seat to do it. (The bare minimum is now TWO years.)
- Keep your child in a harness until they are a MINIMUM of 4 years old AND 40 pounds AND can sit properly in a booster (this means never putting the shoulder belt behind their back or slouching - most children are not ready until 5-6).
- Use a booster until your child fits PROPERLY in an adult seatbelt (which is generally not until children are 8-12 years old).
- Make sure your child's harness is tight enough that you can't pinch it between your fingers at their collarbone and that the chest clip is at nipple/armpit level.
Get your carseat installed and explained by a SafeKids certified car seat technician. Visit this website http://www.seatcheck.org/ or call 1-866-SEAT-CHECK to find a technician near you.