Editor’s Note: To mark national Child Passenger Safety Week, we asked our dads for a story about how a car seat saved their child from harm in a car accident. What follows is Chicago (and former NYC) Dads Group member Adam Gertsacov’s tale.
My son is now 7, and much to his chagrin, he’s still in a car seat, not a booster. We do have a booster, but it’s for guests or travel mostly. Whenever it is convenient (and many times when it’s not) we put him in the car seat because of the 5-point harness. He’s going to be in that car seat until he physically doesn’t fit into it or he starts driving, whichever comes last. Here’s why.
During the spring of 2013, we were driving home from one of our sojourns. We were on a busy road in Yonkers, N.Y., in my wife’s Toyota Matrix. My then 4 1/2 year old was in the back (in the car seat, of course) and I was driving alone. We had come to a complete stop right in front of a patch of hospital/medical buildings, waiting for the guy in front of me to make a left into one of the doctor’s offices.
I was intent on the guy in front of me, waiting for him to move so I could move, so I wasn’t expecting the sudden jolt from behind. I also wasn’t expecting to be pushed about 4 feet forward directly into that guy’s car.
A van had struck us from the rear. I’m not sure exactly why, but it seems the guy had taken his eye off the road (we think he was looking at his cellphone) and when he looked up he realized that he was moving a lot faster than he thought he was. He rammed right into us.
5-point harness saves the day
My first thought was of my kid, who looked up and said brightly, “What happened, Dad?”
“I’m not sure, are you OK?”
“Yeah!” he said.
I then got out to explore the damage and figure out what the heck had happened.
It didn’t seem too bad at first (our airbags didn’t go off) and I thought we were going to escape with a mild fender-bender until I realized that our car’s whole frame had been crunched, moving the rear end in toward the tire. When I tried to move it, the frame of the car was impinging on the rear tire. The entire back, including the trunk would have to be straightened. The insurance company declared it a complete loss.
I had a minor bruise where my seatbelt had held me in place, but no serious whiplash or lasting consequences. My son — absolutely no injury at all. He barely knew anything had happened. His car seat had kept him safe. And he was excited because we got to ride in the tow truck (and without a car seat, I have to add).
After that harrowing experience, my wife and I agreed that he would be in the 5-point booster as long as was feasible. And that’s where he’s been ever since.
If you still need convincing of the power of the 5-point harness, take a look at this harrowing safety test video. This shows a test between the booster and the 5 point harness, which the harness wins hands down.
So stay safe out there! (And 5-point harnessed!)