I’m a cautious driver. Sam would say I’m too cautious. I don’t take chances, I don’t overtake, I don’t pull out into a road when I think I’ve got enough time between cars.
You can be as careful a driver as possible, but you can’t control other drivers.
Last week, on the way to keep my mum’s dog company whilst she was in hospital, I learnt the hard way that you can’t stop a man in a Ford Transit van from taking his eyes off the road long enough to miss that the cars in front of him had stopped. You can’t prevent his van from slamming into the back of your car, shooting you forwards and into the back of a people carrier.
There were three big hits. The first was when he went into the back of me, the second when I hit the car in front, and the third was the van catching up and slamming into me again before coming to a halt. I had my seat belt on but still I was thrown forward on impact and then slammed back into my seat. This was only a minor crash, but it was just enough force to give me neck and back pain for a day, and soreness on my stomach where the seat belt had dug in. It was also just enough force to fling my usually stiff sunroof door wide open, and knock the rearview mirror off the windscreen.
Rear facing car seats are safer.
Once my car came to a stop, I could only think about Arlo, who had been asleep and was now screaming. I left my car in the middle of the road and jumped out to get Arlo out of his car seat. At this point, there were a few very helpful drivers who wound their windows down to say, ‘You can move your car to the side of the road, you know’. Impatient twats. Obviously couldn’t wait for me to check my screaming baby was OK before I put him back in the car seat and move out of the way so they could pass.
Judging by how forcefully I was thrown forward, I was initially really worried that he may have some bruising or sprain injuries. It was only an hour or so later that I reasoned that he had been rearfacing, and so the impact would have pushed him into his seat rather than flung him forward. He stopped crying soon after I picked him up, so I don’t think he could have been in too much pain. He was probably just shocked as the crash was loud and had woken him up. But I think the fact that he was in his infant rearfacing carrier may have helped a lot, and it’s definitely made Sam and me very keen to go for an extended rearfacing seat once he’s outgrown the Cabriofix. I have heard a lot of talk about rearfacing being safer but hadn’t looked into it yet. This crash has spelled it out for me.
User manuals state that it is safer for children to be kept rearfacing for as long as the weight limit of the seat allows. And car seat manufacturers have said that rearward facing for as long as possible is safest. But yet, in the UK, there are very few stockists of extended rearfacing seats.
Loose objects in the car are dangerous.
This sounds so obvious in hindsight, but I just didn’t think about it before. A couple of weeks ago, Sam cleared out our car. We had a few water bottles lying on the floor, some other bits and pieces that really didn’t need to be there, the parcel shelf wasn’t on and we had loads of loose stuff, including the pushchair, in the boot. Had we not put the parcel shelf back up and removed all the junk before my crash, some of those loose items would no doubt have gone flying. It is this same thought that has had me meticulously checking nothing has been left on top of the parcel shelf before I set off in the car.
I don’t have one of those ‘Baby on board’ signs. Call me cynical, but I reckon that if someone is driving carelessly enough to not notice when the traffic in front of them has stopped, they probably wouldn’t notice a ‘baby on board’ sign. After our bump last week, I see it as another item in the rear of the car that could potentially come loose on impact (as my sunroof and rearview mirror did) and fly straight into Arlo’s face.
Here’s one unfortunate experience of projectiles in the car. It’s well worth making sure everything is secured in the car.
Insurance companies are a pain in the neck.
The accident was not my fault, so my no claims bonus stays (whoopee), and van man’s insurers will pick up the bill for my car’s repairs (and hopefully also for the lady in the car in front of me). My premium, however, will go up for the next 3-5 years, which outweighs my pitiful no claims bonus by a bank breaking mile. Brilliant.
We have had to go out and buy a new car seat for Arlo, as his old one is deemed unsafe after a crash. We have no guarantee when or if the insurance company will reimburse us for this. All they could tell us is that it is ‘likely but not definite’. So that’s another hit to the credit card and another sentimental hit for me – I no longer have the car seat that we brought Arlo home from hospital in (I know, I need to get a grip).
We now have an unusable car seat, which we cannot hand down or dump (in case someone picks it up and uses it). We have to dismantle it and recycle the separate parts. Although we understand why this has to be done, and we don’t really see any alternatives, as Sam pointed out, this is an uneasy thought when you are reminded that in some parts of the world, this car seat might be better than no car seat at all.
It wasn’t a serious crash. The van took the brunt of the damage. All drivers and passengers were fine and everyone drove away afterwards. It did leave me in shock for a few hours, but I know it could have been so much worse. One good thing to come out of it all is that it has made more aware of car safety and making sure I’ve made all precautions so that my car is as safe as possible if another crash were to occur.
One last thing…
You can move your car out of the way if no one has been seriously injured and your car is driveable. Thank you impatient twats.