About a year ago, Elisa, a 19-month-old girl, and her parents were involved in a fateful car crash. Elisa, who was travelling in a rear-facing Axkid car seat, came out unharmed of the car while her parents suffered several injuries. Their car was fully stopped when it was suddenly rammed in the back by another car. Today Aura, Elisa’s mother, wants to share their experience to show how rear-facing car seats are just as safe in frontal impacts as in rear impacts. This is their story:
“It was December 20, 2016, it was a cold but sunny day and the whole family woke up with great joy as we had a scheduled ultrasound. It would be the day we would see our second baby for the first time. I was 3 months pregnant.
After spending the morning in the hospital and finally getting to see our baby, we went to greet the grandparents and tell them the news. From there we headed home in our car. The distance between the two houses is not more than 8 minutes by car, so it is a routine trip for us that we do almost every day.
Dad was behind the wheel waiting for Elisa to have the harness of her car seat tightened. I usually do it since I travel in the rear with her. Elisa’s seat was behind the passenger seat and I was behind the driver´s seat. We had bought the seat just a couple of months ago. The seat has the option to use it front-facing but we had never used it that way since it was not the intention when we got it.
One could wonder why we bought a seat that can be used front-facing instead of just rear-facing. Well, I’m sure it has happened to many parents in the beginning, but I thought the seat would be too small when she reached 4-5 years old. I thought that having the option to use it front-facing, she would be more comfortable when the time came. I was mistaken though because if you have noticed when children play and sit on the floor, they always do it with their legs flexed on their knees or with their legs in a kind of an “M” position. We as adults have the need to stretch our legs once in a while but not them, and traveling front-facing their legs would just be left hanging without support.
Moreover, Dad also thought that she would get car-sick when traveling rear-facing and he did not rule out the possibility of turning her around if this happened. Another mistake, since it is known that the vestibular system, that provides the sense of balance and orientation, is immature until they reach 12 years old. Thus car-sickness can happen regardless of how they sit and is a consequence of the movement of the vehicle itself.
Once we were all ready with our safety belts fastened, we set in motion and just a few minutes later my phone rang. It was from the real estate agency. A few days before, we had seen a house that we fell in love with and they called to let us know that it was available if we finally decided on it… Suddenly, my phone flew off my hands, my head hit the headrest of the front seat, my knees squeezed my waist along with the belt and I saw Dad hit the steering wheel. Meanwhile, I did not lose sight of my girl and I couldn’t understand what was going on! I could see my daughter being absorbed in her seat as her legs hanging in the air with the inertia. I asked myself, dazed and scared if this was really happening? It all happened so fast and so slowly at the same time… I can still relive it in my mind as in slow motion and I can’t erase it. I can still hear the disconsolate cries of my little Elisa, frightened, and I still hear it and I remember it every time we get in the car. That moment is going to stay with me for the rest of my life.
A car had hit us in the back. We didn’t hear the brakes, because it didn’t brake at all! The driver had not noticed that we were there, right in front of her. She got distracted, we were told. I don’t know what could be more important for her than being attentive to the road at that time, but it changed my life. Our car had stopped hers! She was driving at about 70 km per hour. We were standing just in front of a pedestrian crossing, waiting for the car in front of us to turn to the right. I can’t help but wonder, what if a pedestrian had been crossing at that same time? We would have run them over! Our car was dragged several meters and we nearly collided with the one in front of us.
Fear invaded me. Hearing my daughter cry and the dizziness I felt after the crash made me cry. I could not help it. A thousand things crossed my mind. Is she okay? Is dad okay? And the baby? I thought about everyone except myself, but I was feeling intense pain in the lower abdomen.
Just a few minutes later an ambulance arrived. They opened my door and asked me not to move while they placed a collar around my neck. I remember seeing the emergency lights reflected inside the car and I still couldn’t stop crying, everything happened so fast. Then, several policemen appeared and opened the door for my daughter and, after she was checked up by a paramedic, a policeman told me to call someone to come and pick her up.
I could not believe it but she was just fine. Her car seat had kept her from any harm. It was such a relief but I was still terrified thinking how the little one inside my belly would be. We had just met him and terrifying thoughts that I don’t even want to remember invaded my mind. Fortunately, later in the hospital, I was confirmed that he was fine too. I could not thank them enough because my two little ones were safe and sound.
My husband suffered whiplash and several bruises and had the feeling of having the steering wheel stuck in his chest for several days. I had bruises on my knees, on my head and I could see the mark of the belt near my left shoulder for a few weeks. To this date, I have not been able to drive or to get in front of the wheel again… I, who loved driving! I have been left with cervical and dorsal pain and a permanent injury in my jaw. It hurts when I chew, yawn, talk or even when I try to laugh softly.
That day changed my smile forever, but I can assure you that I will never stop smiling, even if it hurts. It may have changed my way of doing it, but I am thankful that my fantastic family and I are alive. Can there be a better reason to keep smiling?”