Recently, there have been posts popping up about having your kids buckled into their car seats while wearing winter coats and how it is a safety hazard. There's a great post about it here that shows and explains exactly why it's so dangerous.
But I'm not going to write about that. What I'm going to write about is what happened to my family on Mother's Day 2008. It was 3:45 in the afternoon and we got into our van to drive my in-laws' house to celebrate Mother's Day—my boys were six and two-and-a-half at the time. Not two minutes later, in a residential area, we were hit head-on by a drunk driver. This was followed immediately by getting hit by a vehicle from behind because the driver couldn't avoid the accident. The collision happened so quickly, there wasn't time for my husband to even attempt to swerve away from the car coming at us. One second we were on our way to dinner, the next we were in our van turned completely in the opposite direction, air bags deployed, the back windows of our van imploded because of the pressure created by both vehicles hitting us. I turned around to see my older son's face covered in blood.
That's when survival instinct kicked in. I didn't even so much as glance at my husband as I tried to maneuver to get out of my seatbelt (that's okay because he didn't look at me either). All I knew was that I needed to get to my boys.
There's a happy ending to this story. My husband and I were injured (but not 'catastrophically' as the insurance agency so delicately puts it). We both suffered whiplash and went to physiotherapy for months, my husband had abrasions on his face from the air bag, and I had a broken pinkie finger. I was the lone person who saw the car coming directly at us and had put my hand up to my mouth as I gasped when the collision occurred and the air bag deployed—snap goes the pinkie.
My boys though? Perfectly fine. My son's face was bleeding because he had been carrying a birdhouse he was going to give to my mother-in-law for Mother's Day. The force of the impact had snapped his head forward, he hit his face on it, giving him a bleeding lip.
The police officer at the scene (the accident required three police cars, two fire trucks, and two ambulances) said that had the accident taken place fifteen years ago, our family would have suffered greatly. Stringent seatbelt and car seat regulations have reduced injuries.
That car accident changed me. Turning to see my son's face covered in blood changed me. We think there will be time to avoid a collision but sometimes there isn't. In less time than it takes to blink an eye, a drunk driver in the opposite flow of traffic hit the meridian, flew over to our side of the street, and smashed into us in the middle of a Sunday afternoon across from a park where parents were pushing their kids on swings.
An accident can happen anywhere at anytime.
You have the power to help ensure your children are as safe as possible.
I get that it's a pain to take your kids' winter jackets off when it's cold. But I also get how life can change in less than a second. Have your kids wear sweaters, keep blankets in your vehicle, warm up your vehicle before you go out.
But DON'T assume because you're running errands only a few minutes from home nothing will happen or your children will be okay if they are wearing bulky winter coats.
As someone who's been through it, it's a chance you don't want to take.