[The One About Crashes and Car Seats]

Early yesterday evening my 2 year old son and I were in my car making our way back from a bit of shopping. We were 2 minutes away from home. I was about to cross the busy main road and was looking at oncoming traffic from the right… when Ryder just started screaming suddenly in his car seat in the back. My stomach absolutely dropped. My first thought in those seconds was that one of the guys crossing the road near our car might have done something or was about to lunge through the window in a smash and grab (this is South Africa). But then Ryder started screaming: “That car crashed, mummy! That car crashed!” He was inconsolable. I looked up to the left and sure as hell, there was a car that had just careened around a notoriously accident-prone corner in our suburb and smashed headfirst into the traffic light. The car was flat and overturned and a young man was trying to climb out of one of the windows. I thought I could see somebody else in the wreckage. It was chaos. Ryder was begging me not to go near the accident, but I had to in order to get up into the road leading home. We got home and he was beside himself, crying and only wanting to cuddle his mum and dad. I later learned that at least one person had died in the crash and there were lots of reports on Facebook of people having driven past and seen a body in a foil bag. The difference between us being safe vs in the path of that vehicle was a few seconds and a traffic light. I thank God for that. But I really wish I could un-see the whole thing on behalf of my boy.

Pic submitted by our neighbourhood watch

Being a mum has heightened my awareness of how dangerous our roads are in SA. We share them with minibus taxis constantly bobbing and weaving through traffic. There are speedsters and drunken or drugged up drivers who turn our streets into their little drag racing sites. Impatience and stupidity combine with general lawlessness and a lack of enforcement.

So if there is one thing that seriously irks me, it is our lax approach to car safety for our kids. I blame it on a lack of education, because I don’t think anybody would willingly put their child at risk if they knew the very real dangers of not having the proper restraints in place to suit a child. (This deserves its own separate blog post because it’s that important.)

Ryder is 2. Trust me, if you get into a car with him he will tell you immediately to put on your seat belt, and he becomes worse than those bloody beeping reminders if you try to ignore him. It’s a quality that is so cute and endearing to our family, but I know that it’s one that will hopefully also help keep him safe. Even if I drive off and am still snapping my belt into place while steering the car (bad habit sometimes) he gets the utter heebie-jeebies. He also hates it when I take my hand off the wheel to change gears or to relax one arm on the window. “Drive with two hands, mummy!” shouts my little car safety corporal from the back. And despite spending the first six months of his life absolutely howling whenever we put him into his car seat (those were rough times), he now knows, no car seat = danger.

On Friday night my husband and I had popped out for a quick takeaway. It was a last minute thing and we thought we’d be really fast so we didn’t bother to pack anything clever like an extra diaper and wipes. Well, the new takeaway spot we tried took reeaally long… and of course, as luck would have it Ryder had a huge diaper blow-out while we were there. Like, the kind that sounded like a machine gun and required us to stand outside because it was beginning to stink out the place. Drat! Our food arrived thereafter and we left. But Ryder, with poo squishing down his leg and up his back, did not want to get into his seat, which is unusual, but kinda understandable in those circumstances. Husband and I decided that OK, he would sit with him kneeling between his lap and I’d drive really slowly and carefully. Just typing that makes me feel terrible and a bad mum. Because these are the silly things we do as parents, always with the best intentions but sometimes with awful consequences. All 3 of us were really uncomfortable on that 5 minute drive home, and not only because of the whole poo situation. Husband wasn’t making the situation easier because he kept telling me how scared Ryder looked. I was on edge the whole time because it required us to cross a stretch of the very same busy main road on which Saturday’s accident would occur, and there are always taxis and buses flying down there. We have never ventured out of our area without a seat.

Obviously we made it home safely, and I’ve learnt a lesson. Always pack an extra friggen diaper /undies and wipes. And it’s OK to be a stuck record when it comes to car seat safety.

More on this topic later, because it’s that important.


2 thoughts on “[The One About Crashes and Car Seats]

  1. I'm sure it was hard at the time but so funny to read! I always have a bag in the car. Okay it's not nappies anymore but extra clothes because he seems to always pee or poop in them at the wrong time! I now even have spares in my handbag!
    Shame man that is awful about the accident. We went past a traffic light that was down and I explained how a car would have crashed into it. At home he played it out with a car and a container of talc! Play therapy!


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