In 1987, I became a proud father, the first of my two children. Proud, was an understatement and before too long we decided to travel from Belfast to show our pride and joy to my family and friends in England.
In those days, a trip to England was hard work when coming from Belfast. Flights were expensive, so we resolved to travel by boat. This included roughly 6 hours by car to our destination. That is a long time for a baby in a car. Today, it is recommended that baby spend no more than a maximum of two hours in a car seat over a 24-hour period.
We owned a Britax Baby-Sure infant carrier, but because we wanted our baby to sleep comfortably during the journey, we elected to use a carrycot placed on the back seat. A carrycot could, in those days, be ‘secured’ using a strapping system, bolted to your parcel shelf! The baby way held in place using the rain cover or a 3-point harness (purchased separately). However, I neglected to do this and proceeded on with our journey.
After a 2-week tour around England and Wales, we set off back to Belfast which took us through the Northern Irish town of Newry. As we approached a roundabout a car cut across mine and we had a relatively low-speed, side-on collision.
What exactly happened to our daughter in the back of the vehicle is hard to say. What we do know is that she came out of the carrycot and landed on the floor behind my seat. We quickly and carefully inspected her limb by limb and, by some miracle, there were no visible signs of injury.
After we exchanged details with the other driver and composed ourselves, we drove home in deafening silence.
Back then, there was less information. Less awareness. But that’s no excuse. It was irresponsible and reckless. I don’t think I would not have forgiven myself if something had happened and count my blessings every day. I try not to think of the many horrific ways that the situation could have played out had we been going just a little faster or had a head-on collision.
Through our work at the In-Car Safety Centre, we see far too many parents suffering because they have either lost children or are helping them recover with life-changing injuries caused by accidents.
On a more positive note, we hear of many children that have survived unscathed after serious accidents when secured in suitable and correctly fitted children’s car seats.
Our recent car seat customer survey showed that many parents still do not have access to the best, most up-to-date information and we pledge to do everything we can to change this. In future blogs, we will examine various factors surrounding car seat safety in a bid to raise awareness and share the life-saving knowledge our team has at their disposal.
If you would like to help us, please share our content with your family and friends.
In the meantime, do not underestimate the forces directed at your baby in an accident. Secure your child in a car seat because you want them to be as safe as possible and not simply because the law says you should.
And remember, I got lucky, you or your loved ones may not.