15 07/2014

Surviving a crash test

The choice of type of your baby's car seat seriously reduces your baby's injury risk

I am a Civil Engineer (BEng) and Project Manager (MSc), specialised in Risk Management and Child Safety, founder of the one and only Babyproofing Company in Greece, Safebebe.

Last Friday, i decided to escape my office early (for a change), and head home to go with my little baby boy (20 months old) to the playground. Truth is, i feel great regret everyday that I work extra hours at the office to provide for him during our country's economic crisis, but today, the weather is great, and i could not resist giving my boy the love he deserves.

I arrive home, we gather around the entrance, pack our stuff in the car and i put my boy in his seat. Due to the nature of my work, i am extra scholastic about the safety procedure i need to follow, so i tighten the car seat straps, i check the rigidity of the baby's car seat against the seat of the car, I give him a big kiss, he rewards me with his giggle, I sit at the co-drivers seat and off we go.

After about 2kms (1,5mi) at the Highway approach, i was writing something down on a paper on my knee, while i hear my wife gasp. I start to lift my head. Something smacks me in the face, hear the deaf sound of cars colliding. A freaky silence takes over the car. I reach for the belt release. I hear my baby cry. I am relieved that he is alive. I open the door, I call my wife. I open his door. She replies. My heart is holding stopped until I take him in my arms.  He's crying desperately. I take a breath. He looks confused and raises his arms. I touch his neck and hope nothing will change in his cry. Nothing changes. I check his spine. Same, i release him. I can feel my heart racing.

I have him in my arms, I see my wife walking out of the car. I know hear her scream to me for not replying if our boy is OK. Yes he is, yes he is, he is fine, he's ok. I start walking away, and i push my body to resist the tremble and the tears of joy, that we are all alive. He is still crying. I start singing the ABC song, with which i put him to sleep every night. It was the song i came up with when during his first night, he wouldn't sleep, after singing that he calmed down, and slept on my chest. The same reaction now, he looked at me, crying, he toned it down, swallowed a couple of times, and hid his head in my chest. I held him for a while and his mommy took over. 

I turned around, I close my eyes and my tears go. My body gets numb, and then i get it together again. I see our car (Seat ALTEA XL) smashed into by a BMW M5. The two cars are connected. You can't say for sure, where our car ends and I check the road and i see drifting skid marks. The driver of the other car is with a teenager (probably his son) they appear ok, i ask them, they are ok. 

Now I wonder what saved my boy's life:

  • Was it the rearfacing car seat? - It reduced the force applied to his neck and spine approximately 6 times
  • Was it the fact that i had very tightened the straps in his seat? - This minimised the momentum he gained during the collision, minimising the force required to bring him to a stop again.
  • Was it the fact that the Car Seat was installed using the ISOFIX system? - This eliminated the risk of installing the car seat in a wrong (non effective) way
  • Was it the fact that i was scholastic and made all of the above right choices?

Well, I realise, that if 1 of the above choices was not made, my boy, my little boy, may have had a serious injury (to say the least). And that would be unbearable. I would never forgiven myself. I would carry the burden my whole life.

I go to my wife and boy, she is still crying, he is now looking confused, but at least not crying. I hug them both. I tell her: "We live, we are lucky baby, we live" And I wonder, was it really luck? When it comes to me and my wife, yes, luck might have played her role in this. When it come to our boy, I say certainly not! We had bought a very safe and large car, we had installed the car seat in the position with the least probability of a serious accident (behind the co-driver), we chose a rear facing car seat, we chose an ISOFIX car seat, we tightened the straps. And we drove calmly. We did all the right choices.

Yet, in this world, anyone from 18 to 65 is allowed to operate a potential 1,5tn lethal weapon. As proved by his own testimony, the BMW M5 driver was drifting around corners to show his teen boy how good a driver he is. Until he rammed us right on the exit apex, on our side of the road. His speed must have been somewhere between 70-90kmh. While our speed was somewhere close to 50kmh. I know for fact that there was nothing that could be done on our side to avoid this collision, simply because there was no time to react.

This leaves us as parents only with 1 tool in our hands, which is called prevention. We try to prevent serious injury, by minimising the risk of serious injury, through restraint systems, and policies, that really, saved our lives.

As a parent, i feel I have 1 single obligation. To do the maximum in my power to keep my child healthy. I know for a fact, that the colour, the style and all other fancy bits of the car seat play no role in maximising the survival chance of such a collision. I know that the direction of the car seat relative to the direction of the car does play the most important role. And for this I owe to thank the manufacturers of the car seat (BeSAFE) that saved my child's life, because they have dedicated limitless hours in researching and perfecting what my family now calls the car seat due to which we are still called a family.

Accident Data

  • Seat Altea XL vs BMW M5
  • 50km/hr vs 90km/hr
  • BeSafe izi Combi X3 ISOFIX
  • Clear weather - 28oC 
  • Good Tarmac conditions
  • Highway approach - Uphill Chicane leading to flat straight (direction of travel of BMW, accident happened at the exit of the second turn)
  • Injuries: Driver (SEAT) - Busted knee - sprained ankle - Bruised limbs and chest - bruised collar bone. CoDriver: Bruised lips - Minor Elbow fraction. Driver (BMW): Busted elbow. CoDriver (BMW): No injury. Passenger: No injury


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Rear facing child car seat

The Car seat that saved our son's life