All It Takes Is Getting Spooked….

… for you to become a freaked out ball of anxiety. 

Okay, maybe that’s just me.  I’m not sure.  What I do know is that now I suddenly find myself even unable to sleep.

Last week I was in my Buick, headed towards Mora (and ultimately the metro) with my kiddos in the back seat.  I was cruising down a county road at 55 mph, and came around a curve.  About 3/4 of a mile ahead is a small dead-end dirt road that a few houses sit on.  Very little traffic on that road.  But I immediately noticed a red car going ridiculously fast down the road.  And I instantly knew, looking at angles, that we were going to get hit if they didn’t stop.

I began to slow down a little, sure that the speeder would start braking for the stop sign, but he quickly passed a reasonable point to begin braking without even slowing.  I began to get concerned.

Now this is Minnesota.  His road was sheer ice.  My road was slick.  I began to brake harder, but not much was happening…. my anti-lock brakes were trying to grip, yet they just couldn’t catch.  Just as he hit the stop sign, he began to brake.  He shot out in the road, and I came to a stop just before hitting his car.

What is the natural reaction?  Up until that point it was sheer terror, and then I instantly slid into a moment of fury.  I glared – and seriously considered getting out of the car.  I looked into the car and there sat 5 boys, I’m guessing around 16 or 17 years old, in a Dodge sedan, all staring back at me like I was the one in the wrong.  How dare I be cruising down the road right now?  How dare I expect them to stop at their stop sign?  HOW DARE I GLARE AT THEM.

I honestly can’t tell you why I didn’t get out of the car to at least chew some butt.  Instead, they backed up, and I passed, glaring, but passed.  The whole way into town they were a ways behind me, but I could see them, and I thought about following them, but I didn’t.  I was suddenly overwhelmed with the first thought when I thought that an impact was certain.

“They’re going to hit Emmie.  They are going to hit Emmie’s side… my little baby.  Is my baby going to be okay when a car rams into her side of the car?”

I know my next thoughts were just every possible option I had to avoid them hitting me.  It’s amazing how fast those neurons can fire when they need to.  Maybe I should take the ditch because then we will avoid impact but I think the ditch might flip us with the amount of snow it has but if I go in at this angle we should be okay if I go into the other lane it would be a head on collision and that might be safer or I could take the ditch on the other side into the field because it has less of an incline and fewer drifts and we’re more likely to then stay upright and if I….”

You become a giant run on sentence.  Yet after it was all said and done, all I could think of was “what would have happened if they hit Emmie’s door?  Would she have been okay in her car seat?”

I struggled with the car seat issue the whole time I was pregnant.  I knew that you should always try to put infants in the center, and I did that with Ollie.  However, I had very little luck with getting two seats side by side in my Oldsmobile.  When we bought the Buick, the seats we had didn’t sit side by side, so Ollie is behind the passenger seat and Emmie is behind my seat.  I have just realized that Emmie was approaching the weight limit on her car seat, so I knew I was going to have to move her into something else.  And now I was spooked.  I began to worry that my choices in car seats weren’t good enough.  So the research began.

The very week Target had a stellar deal on the Graco Nautilus – a forward facing seat that harnesses to 65 pounds, then can become a belt positioning booster and then a backless booster up to 100 pounds.  I bought two – the pink one and the gray and black.  I figured at that price, I could store the pink one for a while.  I know my husband had a hard time with the idea of spending money on a car seat right now that we didn’t need (and might not, which I hope to figure out soon so I can return it!), and wasn’t sure what my sudden obsession was with car seats.  We went home and I chucked my kid into the seat in the living room, and was disappointed at how my little giant fit.  (By the way, the Nautilus is at Target for $130 until this Saturday, and there is a great review here if you are thinking about this seat.)

He looked crammed in at the shoulders.  I posted on facebook, and got a lot of recommendations.  Some people suggested a booster for him, since he is 44 pounds.  While he does meet the weight limit, he is only 2 and a half.  This story is why I’m not ready to de-harness him yet.  (Moms, be ready – you will probably cry.  And don’t do like I did and read it before bed.  I couldn’t get it out of my head to fall asleep.)

Now, to be fair and completely honest, my son stayed rear facing until just before his first birthday.  Yet we didn’t have much of a choice – he was weighing in at 36 pounds – too heavy to be rear facing in his car seat anymore.  So I hadn’t put a ton of thought into how long I would rear face Emmie.  I know Ollie was so much calmer once I did – he could see me, and was happy to smile (or glare!) at me whenever he pleased. Emmie is a totally different story.  She doesn’t care that she’s rear facing.  She can see her brother, and that makes her happy.  (Unless he has a snack and she doesn’t, and then she just screams.)  And she’s always in the 50th percentile for height and weight.  Right now she’s just a hair over 20 pounds according to our scale at home, at 11 months old.  Perfectly on track.

So I hadn’t really put a lot of thought into extended rear facing.  I did have a nice new fancy car seat for kids 20 pounds and up, but in reading their manual, even they don’t recommend moving your child to front facing at the minimum weight the car seat allows.

I began to realize there are a lot of common misconceptions and some facts that really weren’t known about seating.  And that’s why I decided to write this blog.  I wanted to share the information I found with you.  So here we go.

  • Did you know that the American Academy of Pediatricians actually recommends that you keep your child rear facing until they are at least 2 years old and 30 pounds, but prefer until they are too big for their seat to rear face – which for some newer seats can be as high as 45 pounds?  Many people believe that it is just 1 year old and 20 pounds, but that is the minimum that most states require.  In other words, your child’s doctor should be recommending to you to keep your little one rear facing for longer than one year.
  • Also, even though boosters are available and legal for kids over 40 pounds, the AAP says that “Although boosters with shields may meet current Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards for use by children who weigh 30 to 40 lb, on the basis of current published peer-reviewed literature, the AAP does not recommend their use.”  They add, “Significant injuries to the head, spine, abdomen, and extremities of children in shield boosters have been documents in crash investigations resulting from ejection, excessive head excursion, and shield contact.”  (Kyle David Miller is a prime example) (http://aappolicy.aappublications.org/cgi/content/full/pediatrics;109/3/550)  
  • The leading cause of death for children ages 1-21 in the United States is motor vehicle crashes.
  •  Did you know that in Sweden kids are rear facing in their car seats until they are four or five? And did you know that death due to motor vehicle crashes in Sweden for children are barely existent at all?  There are some stunning articles at www.carseat.se where all the family members in the crash died except the rear facing 3, 4, and 5 year olds.  My heart aches for those children that lost their family members, but the fact that they lived with virtually no injuries should tell us something!  Plus, they’ve been doing this since 1965!  They add, “Significant injuries to the head, spine, abdoment, and extremities of children in shield boosters have been documents in crash investigations resulting from ejection, excessive head excursion, and shield contact.”  (Kyle David Miller is a prime example) 
  • Also, I had absolutely no clue that it was illegal to use a car seat from another country.  Sweden’s car seats have higher weight limits – higher than what we can get here.  I found a few forums where parents were complaining about that.  I guess the thought had never crossed my mind.  Random fact of the day.
  • I read multiple places that head on collisions make up 70-76% of all car collisions.  I was a bit skeptical on that number (still am), but an important fact remains – if you are in a head-on collision, chances are you’re going a pretty good speed.  If you get rear-ended, however, most of those collisions are at low speeds – less risk of harm.
  • In situations like mine, where you have a rear facing infant (almost toddler) and a forward facing 2.5 year old, who should be in the center?  I believed that the infant should.  After all, she’s smaller, so more at risk, right?  Nope.  All of the literature I’ve read says that your forward facing kid should be in the center if you have to choose, as they are much more likely to suffer injuries. 
  • Did you know that once your kiddo hits 48 pounds (this may vary depending on your seat and your car), you need to stop using the LATCH system and use the regular belts to hold down the seat?  (Not to get confusing – they can still use a harness seat, it just needs to be fastened into the car using the seat belts, not the LATCH system.)  They do recommend, however, that you keep the top tether connected.  (Read your car seat manual for more information on this, and check your car manual, too.  Some LATCH systems may have different guidelines.)
  • Also, my Oldsmobile was made the year before LATCH came out, and at my car seat safety class I took before Ollie was born, it was implied that the LATCH system was so much safer than using the regular car belts to secure the seat.  However, that’s not true – it was just a standard way to “idiot-proof” car seat installation.  (I read that exact term – idiot-proof – somewhere, just don’t remember where.)  So if you have a car without LATCH, please don’t beat yourself up over it!
  • Please, please PLEASE don’t buckle your kid into their car seat with a jacket on.  I read a general rule of thumb somewhere that you should not have to adjust the harness straps on a regular basis – only because your child has grown. If you have to pull the harness out to get your kid fastened in, chances are you’re not getting it as tight as it would normally be, leaving a lot of “fluff” room between the belt and your kid.  This video does a great job of demonstrating the danger with even a relatively thin coat.    I read another recommendation to keep kid Snuggies in the car – love the idea!  I always preheat the car, de-coat the kids before strapping them in, and re-coat them before getting them out.  Sometimes I will put Ollie in a light fleece and just bring his coat with, just in case we were to break down or something.  Emmie is easy – I can throw a bunch of blankets over her seat and she’s okay until we get into the store or house, but those days are ending!

So my plan?  Keep Emmie rear facing for a while still.  While the facts were interesting and helpful in my decision, the videos are what really convinced me.  These are my three favorite.

These are the ones that really blew my mind, though.  Looks what happens in a crash forward facing.

Now look at the difference when the child is rear facing!

I know kids don’t have the ability to reason like we do, and there’s no easy way to explain to your kid that they are safer rear facing, but that video makes ME  want to rear face in my car!  (And I have read that even adults would be a lot safer rear facing in the car, but hey, it’s hard to drive like that.)

I could keep bombarding you with facts, but I’ve given you the basics – now you can do more research if you want.  There are great resources out there.  Look at www.babycenter.com, www.car-seat.org, www.aap.org, and the Kyle David Miller Foundation blog, http://kdmf.blogspot.com (their website appears to have been hacked, and I did contact them about it, but the blog is safe, and I’ve  read the whole thing.)  Find a car seat technician and talk to them.  Ask questions.  Challenge the “basic rules”.  But MOST IMPORTANTLY, do what is right for YOU AND YOUR FAMILY.  Because while I might think that this is the ideal situation, I know that every single situation is different (just like both of my kids – very different), and only you can decide what is right for you to do!  My goal in this blog was not to verbally smack you over the head with facts and say “YOU MUST DO THIS”, but to share what I found, what helped me, give some references for some information (because many blogs don’t have references to their facts), and hopefully ease a little bit of the fear that I’ve had since last week with the near-accident.  Maybe now I can sleep a little better?  I hope so.

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Rebecca
    Feb 05, 2011 @ 04:56:34

    This makes me think that all seats in a car (except the driver, of course) should be rear-facing. The video is abundantly clear. We’re to used to the way it is, though. I doubt it’ll ever happen. Reminds me of how we ended up using the QWERTY keyboard. It’s a nearly useless story, but somehow I remember it.

    Reply

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