Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Confessions of a Carseat Advocate in a Crash

Story published with permission from Felicia Barr. 

“August the 9th, 2010 is a date that I will never forget and one that I hope my children will forget. My husband, our two sons, and myself were driving back home to Fort Walton Beach from Tampa. We had gone down for my high school reunion and to visit friends and family. My husband was driving, as he always opts to do on road trips, and I had just woken up from a nap.

Aedan, a few weeks shy of 4 years, was watching a movie and his little brother, Adric, 18 months, was napping. We were headed north on I-75 just a few miles from I-10 and traveling at about 75-80 miles per hour in the left lane. All of a sudden we heard a loud thump thump thumping sound coming from one of the front tires. Steve immediately began slowing down while moving over to the right lane in order to pull over.

Unfortunately, that is when he lost control of the van and we began to plummet into the ditch. At that point I saw the writing on the wall and my mind knew I couldn't emotionally handle it. I lost consciousness. When I came to we were on our side in a ditch. The only thing I remembered from the fogginess of the plummet was the sound of glass shattering, something that still makes me jumpy.

Once we stopped moving, however, the adrenaline took over my body and mind. It really is an intense and primal feeling. I slid out of my window and ran up to the road, waving my arms frantically for help. I was still waving my arms before I realized several people had stopped including a witness who was directly behind us during our collision.

I ran back to the van and began screaming to help my children. Several women tried to comfort me and get me to sit down but I refused until my kids were in my arms. I have never felt so protective as I did in that moment and I have a new respect for mama bears. Once my kids were in my arms and I saw they were physically okay I sat down and the tears started pouring. The women were very kind and brought us towels, blankets, a pillow, water, and juice for the kids.

A man who had stopped at the scene had medical training and started checking out my arm that was bleeding. My head, neck, back, and right arm were aching and I slowly realized ants were biting me. Steve’s hand was bleeding but he was otherwise okay. While I was getting help and panicking over my kids he had been in the van getting the children out of their carseats.

Aedan's carseat was on top since the van was on its side and Steve by sheer adrenaline had forced Aedan's seat back in order to release him from his carseat. Adric was on the bottom, rearfacing, and had the roof caved in over him so it was a tight squeeze to get him out. Once the paramedics arrived and assessed the scene I was placed on a stretcher and immobilized because of the back and neck pain. The carseats were removed and placed in the ambulance.

I was extremely disappointed by the paramedic's lack of knowledge on how to install their seats in the ambulance, so I was directing him from the stretcher. I wasn't taking any more chances after what had just happened. By this point we had pieced together what the witness and Steve had seen happen. When we began to tumble into the ditch we rolled three times, slammed into a tree front end first, then tipped over onto the passenger side and slid around in a half circle before stopping.

Steve remembers going straight for the tree and thinking "this is it." I am thankful I don't have that memory. After a couple tests at the hospital we were released that afternoon and we walked the quarter mile to a hotel with the kids, their carseats, my purse, one of the kid's bags, and the clothes on our back. Once back home we immediately began seeing chiropractors. I also began taking Aedan to a child psychologist because of the immediate mental trauma he experienced.

I had spent the entire five hours we had to drive home in a rental holding his hand and reassuring him at every turn, bump, and stop. He literally screamed in extreme fear at every motion but I wouldn't trade that for what the alternative outcome could have been in that collision. Fast forward to the present and we are all doing great and Aedan is fine in a vehicle and can calmly talk about the accident now. 

His birthday on August 26 and just recently Adric's on February 4 were extremely special to me. I know with certainty the way we were tossed around that the carseats I had always been so particular to install correctly and use correctly had saved their lives. I even bought the same models after we destroyed the used ones. Children only get one chance given by their parents so PLEASE strap them in safely and securely despite any whining or inconveniences! If you don't protect them then who will?”

This is Felicia's Kia Sedona after the collision.

For a quick review with photos of common American carseats on the market:

A certified carseat technician clarifies rearfacing research:

"I didn't follow all this carseat advice and I was FINE"


  1. Wow, mama. I'm so glad you're ok.

  2. Oh my gosh, glad you and your family are okay. What brand of carseats were they in?

  3. Thank you for sharing this extremely emotional story! It really drives home the importance of properly installed car seats and their proper use. So many parents think "it won't happen to me" and don't use car seats properly because they don't want to fuss with their children's protests. I hope this will convince more parents that their children's lives are more important than their satisfaction!

  4. I was literally crying reading this. Thank you for posting this.

  5. Wow, so scary!! I am so glad that none of you were seriously injured and are healing well! I am also adamant about proper car seat installation and usage. Thank you for sharing your story!

  6. Glad everyone is OK and everyone was in car seats/seatbelts. BUT...PLEASE obey the speed limit!!!

  7. Wow. Thank you for sharing this. I'm glad you and your sweet fam are all well. I can't imagine the trauma you all felt. I'll be more aware of my kid's car seat safety after reading your story. xxxx

  8. The speed limit there is 75! They weren't speeding...