Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Cars and Projectiles

Upon deciding that Thoughts from Momland needed a theme and some consistency, I decided to keep all my "advocacy and informed consent" babblings to another blog, which I've already created: Eclectic Advocacy.  The goal of Eclectic Advocacy is merely to inform and provide information on various parenting subjects, rather than advocating for a particular decision in most cases.  Topics already discussed there are Circumcision and Birth choices.  I'm advocating for informed consent on the part of parents.  Whichever action you choose, make sure it is an informed decision, and that's really all I care about.  If you want an epidural or if you think they're evil, that's cool.  Just make sure you know what an epidural is, the potential risks and side effects, so that you can weight those against the benefits and decide for yourself what chances you are willing to take.

All that said, I'm still a car seat Nazi, so I think car seat stuff will end up being posted on both blogs.  This isn't a carseat post, but it IS about car safety.  Car seats are all about keeping our kids safe from harm and death, and so is this blog post on unsecured projectiles.  So here goes.

I read this article today, and my desire to make sure there is nothing potentially harmful in my car was renewed. 
http://www.used-car.com.au/for_sale/car-safety.html  I spend hours ensuring my children are properly restrained in car seats that are properly installed, and it makes little sense to not finish the job.  After all, they are safe in their seats this way, until something hits them in the face.

The gist of the article (which is Australian, by the way, so the numbers pertain only to Australia) is that unsecured items in the car can become lethal, and everything cargo related should be in the trunk or under a well-secured net.  I know it's considered a freak accident to be killed by a projectile rather than the crash forces, but it's a not a freak occurrence to be injured by one. I looked up Mythbusters to see if they've ever tried to bust a projectile myth (that have, for the record, with a box of tissues), and according to them 13,000 people were injured by unsecured projectiles in 2001.  They don't list a source, so I don't know for sure how accurate that is.  Either way, I can't help but think, "why risk it?"

The article I linked already details a few incidents of people being killed by their stuff: a tyre, holiday (vacation) luggage, and in a bizarre incident, 936 bricks (Yeah "WTF?" is what I thought, too).  But they also talk about pets.

We go through enormous effort to make sure our 50 pounds children are secured in the car.  We don't want them to become a projectile for their safety as well as our own.  But the family pet is often neglected in this aspect.  People somehow fail to realize that, just like your child needs to be restrained, so does your dog.  a 40 pound dog IS a deadly projectile, both for the dog and for a person that may be in it's path.

They make car restraints for pets, and they are cheaper than car seats.  If you wouldn't put your kid in the car without a car seat or a safety belt, you shouldn't do it to your pets either!

And finally, the very end of that article details the story of a Ford Laser, two small kids, and 26 kilos (57 pounds) of computer parts.
This is a Ford laser:

This is 57 pounds (give or take)

In the story, the computer parts actually forced the folding seat to unlatch, sending the items into the passenger area of the car (I'm not sure how this works with the kids in the seat.. maybe it makes more sense to someone else).  So even if your cargo is secured in the trunk, or behind the second or third row of seats, it may be best to invest in a net just the same.

What happened to these children?

One afternoon in April 1993, South Australian couple Paul and Michelle Wood buckled their three-year-old daughter, Sheena, into her booster seat and  five-year-old son, Tristan, into the car seat alongside in the rear of their Ford Laser hatchback. Second-hand computer equipment weighing 26 kilos was in the luggage compartment.
Just east of Millicent on the Princes Highway, they ran into the back of a tip-truck. Paul sustained a broken nose, Michelle a fractured hip. But the children, correctly seated and appropriately restrained, fared much worse. The computer equipment shot through the latched split back seat, knocking Sheena’s booster seat from under her, causing whiplash that fractured her spine and made her a mild quadriplegic.
Tristan cannoned forward against his seatbelt, causing abdominal injuries so severe that he died seven weeks later.
This is incredibly tragic, and probably a freak accident, but still on the realm of possibility.  Honestly, I'm not convinced the computer parts in the hatchback really had anything to do with the kids' injuries (maybe a little, but not the root cause of them).  I hate to take a scenario like this and apply what ifs, especially when it involves tragedy and grieving parents who are probably still beating themselves up with the what-ifs all on their own.

However, I would argue that if the children were PROPERLY restrained, they may have survived/had less severe injuries.  I know they were legally restrained, and restrained as per Australian recommendations, but the 3-year-old was in a low back booster, and the five year old was in nothing at all, when they both should have been harnessed (while I would harness my five year old if I could, I know it's okay to put some of them in booster seats.  This child was in neither).

Had either or both of them been in harnessed car seats, the little girl's restraint would not have been pushed out from under her, and the plastic shell of the seat would have absorbed a lot of the force from the cargo.

The little boy would have either been in a safety belt that fit across his hips or thighs, rather than his stomach, and the seatbelt would have hit his bones rather than his delicate belly.  He may have broken his hips or pelvis, but that's a whole lot better than what actually happened.  And had he been in a harness, the force of the crash / the weight hitting the back of his seat would have been distributed better.

Would either of these children have walked away unharmed? It's unlikely.  Would they have been LESS harmed? Would the little boy have lived? *I* think so, but of course I can't prove it.  It just goes to show how important it is to make sure our children are restrained in a way that fits their height, weight, and development.

What it really boils down to is, once again, probability.  I like to weigh the probability of something happening against the convenience of avoiding it.  Is it THAT inconvenient to stick stuff under a nylon net, JUST IN CASE you get in an accident where it matters? Guess that's up to you.

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