The thing I found hardest about our car crash last week was that I wasn’t able to protect my children.
It’s such an instinct as a parent, to want to keep our offspring safe and away from harm.
There was a split second when I could see the car wasn’t stopping at the junction – and that awful realisation that there was nothing I could do. If I’d swerved I would have hit the car on the other side of the road, and the car probably would have hit me anyway. If I’d hit the brakes, the car behind would have slammed into me and again we would have been hit from two directions.
Thankfully I was only driving at around 20 miles an hour and the car that crashed into us was emerging from a junction so he also wasn’t going very fast, which minimised the impact. But there was still an almighty thudding sound and the scrape of metal. I shrieked because I knew it was happening. My children were surprisingly calm. I got out of the car, shaking and trembling, unable to hold back the tears as I opened the back door to check if my little ones were okay. The other driver looked shocked and upset. He asked if we were all okay, he apologised and gave me a hug. I’d half been expecting animosity, but the other driver’s dignity and compassion was comforting.
I keep reliving the moment, wondering what I could have done differently. I keep on thinking what if I’d driven a different way, or left a minute earlier or later. Could it have been prevented? The what ifs fill my mind, even though deep down I know I couldn’t have stopped it.
The day it happened I was an emotional mess and although my children had been upset they quickly bounced back. Physically, we all felt fine after the crash, but the following day, the aches and pains started emerging for me and my two eldest children, aged 9 and 7, and we headed to A&E after school. The three of us were diagnosed with whiplash and given a few exercises to do to help keep the body mobile. My youngest helpfully told the doctor that we were in a car crash but it was okay because we weren’t dead.
It’s likely we’ll need physio sessions, which will be organised through our insurance company. I feel awful that my children need to go through this. My daughter in particular is struggling. I would absorb all their pain if I could.
We also have the hassle of working out what to do with our car. Although it’s still driveable it’s likely the insurance company will tell us it’s not economical to repair the car due to its age and deem it a write-off. Replacing our car wasn’t really in our family budget this year and so we’re wondering how best to navigate that.
As someone who rarely goes ‘out out’, it was typical that the accident happened right before a weekend where I had two nights out in a row. I missed my friend’s 40th birthday on the Friday night and I also missed a night away with a different group of friends on the Saturday night because I just didn’t feel physically or emotionally well enough to go.
It hasn’t been a great few days but I’m grateful that it wasn’t any worse. Especially for my children.
I put a lot of this down to the high back booster seats they were sat in. (However as an aside I also feel angry that as a 5ft 0 woman, my safety is routinely compromised by a car manufacturing industry where seats are designed for the average male driver and safety crash test dummies don’t adequately reflect female bodies. Have a read of this great Guardian article on how women are disadvantaged in so many areas of life.)
My seven year old said to me that he felt his head go from side to side and that it was good they had their booster seats otherwise he and his sister and brother may have bumped heads.
They now understand why I’ve been so insistent about high back boosters when they’ve asked about having backless booster cushions. The difference in protection they offer is huge. But I think a lot of people don’t realise that. Likewise with rear facing baby and toddler car seats, which weren’t really a thing when my children were babies, but are so much safer.
This is the current law on car seat safety. Please read it. Please ensure your children are as safe as they can be. Please understand why some seats are safer than others. Please look at the Which? reports and see which seats score highest in safety tests. Please, buy the best that you can afford. And please, get the seats fitted correctly. Please, when your children tell you all their friends have booster cushions, and that high backs are for babies, stand your ground. Tell them about our experience, if you need to.
We were ‘only’ driving at 20mph. It was ‘only’ a five minute journey from our house. A journey we have made hundreds of times with no problems. It wasn’t on a motorway. We didn’t have to navigate any busy roundabouts or junctions. It was in day light. It was the kind of journey you think will always be fine. Except this time we weren’t fine.
But my children were better than they might have been had they not been sat in their high back booster seats.
Please learn from our experience and make sure your children are safe too.