Everyone believes it won’t happen to them, and we all hope it never does, but car accidents happen even to the best drivers. The important thing is to know how to handle it during and after a crash if you have kids. And in the moment you are scared and mixed up and worried, knowing what to do next is important.
We all heard the story recently about the mom in NSW whose son was seriously injured. He was actually internally decapitated, meaning his spine moved and his head was being held in place by skin and muscles and that’s it. The scary thing that many people are missing in that story is what happened after the crash. His mom just wanting to comfort him, and of course dazed and scared from the crash, took him out of his seat and moved him. He didn’t look hurt from the outside and she didn’t even think about the danger. It’s a miracle that she didn’t kill or paralyze him in that moment of impulse. This isn’t a judgment of her, what it is, is an important reminder that just because someone doesn’t look visibly injured doesn’t mean you should move them.
So if you are in an accident what should you do?
During a crash:
1) Never take kids out of their car seats or move them in a serious accident – Call the police and wait for the ambulance. Just like an adult, kids can have spine and neck injuries and moving them can make it worse.
2)Remove the whole seat if you must move them – If you MUST move the child because they are in a car with engine on fire or some other immediate danger, remove the entire seat with the kid in it. That way you are less likely to exacerbate injuries you can’t see. In some crashes you won’t be able to unsnap the belts or ISOFIX latches, so it’s a good idea to look into getting a seat belt cutter that attaches to your key chain for emergencies like this.
After a crash:
3) Replace your car seats – Regardless if there were kids in them or not. They’ve done their job. They’ve already sustained and survived a serious impact, they may not be able to do it again. Car seats should always be replaced in a serious crash, no matter how fine they look. If the car accident was less severe, but still caused body damage to the car check your car seat manual. Each manufacturer has clear guidelines on when to replace a seat, follow them! The rules vary for each manufacturer, so don’t listen to friends or family read the manual and call customer service if you aren’t sure. The reason for this is foams and plastics compress in a crash, straps stretch and plastics can end up with tiny microscopic cracks in it that compromise the ability of the seat to do its job again.
4) Find out if your car insurance covers car seat replacement – Depending on the coverage you carry and the company you are with, it varies as to if and when they will cover replacement. Some will cover full replacement costs on each seat, some give you a set budget of x amount regardless of how many seats need replacing and some say your need a separate insurance rider to cover them as contents to get them replaced (obviously this is something to check out BEFORE you have an accident if possible). But regardless of what they will pay to replace, you NEED to follow #3 above. Do not try to work around it, if they need replacing do so. It’s not worth risking your kids’ lives on a seat that may not work a second time. Also if you have a Safe and Sound seat they offer a crash replacement program so that’s worth looking into if your insurance is being a jerk.
5) DESTROY that seat – PLEASE do not just toss a damaged seat out on the curb for collection. There are some very disreputable people who make a habit of going around on curb side collection days and collecting used car seats for resale. They have no idea if the seats are damaged, but they still go on to the various parenting Buy/Sell/Trade boards and sell them. Meaning some unsuspecting parent ends up with a very dangerous seat. If you need to bin a seat: cut ALL the straps including the tether and ISOFIX latches, then write in permanent marker all over the shell, Dangerous, Damaged and NOT Safe for use, especially near the dials/stickers. Don’t take a hammer to it, it will likely rebound and hurt you, however a saw works nicely for destroying them as well.
Hopefully all this helps so if the worst happens and you need this knowledge you have it at the ready. Drive safe out there ladies!