Last week we were taking a last minute trip to visit the Arboretum with friends. I threw my kids in their car seats without any concern and hit the road. Just a mile from the main entrance, the car in front of me slammed on its breaks. I in turn slammed on mine, but watched the car behind me careen toward my back bumper. Miraculously and by literally one inch, the car did not hit me. But I was shaken: had that car hit me, I would have definitely hit the car in front of me. Wheels started turning in my head and I realized I had no idea what to do in a car accident with kids. Other than knowing that my car seats would need to be replaced, I literally had no idea of what to do in the minutes and hours after a car accident. Since then, I have talked to family and friends who have been in car accidents, researched online and thought practically (with a calm mind!) about what I would do if the worst happened. I hope these tips can help you, should you ever find yourself in this situation.
Eight Tips for Managing a Car Accident With Kids On Board
- Call 911. Don’t assume that someone else has already called! It’s called the bystander effect: we always assume someone else has called 911. Don’t risk wasting precious seconds in getting emergency help, call 911 or specifically ask that someone else call 911, if they have stopped to help.
- Find the safest place to wait for help. If possible, move your car out of traffic. If not, get your kids as far away from the road as possible. Look for anything: a gas station, near by store or even just a spot on the grass far back from the road.
- Make sure you grab your cell phone when you grab your kids. If you end up waiting across the street from your car, you will want to have some way to contact your loved ones and/or call the police again.
- Do my kids need to go to the doctor? Trust the EMT’s on this. From other moms I have talked to, you are not thinking clearly in the moments after the crash. If the EMT’s professional opinion would be an ER visit, then do the ER visit. A few hours of a perceived inconvenience is worth the piece of mind. I also plan on talking to my pediatrician next time we are in for a check up to see what she recommends.
- Make sure to grab your house key off your key chain before the tow truck heads away, if for some reason your keys must stay with your car.
- Trust the loving kindness of strangers. You will be overwhelmed and stressed; the people that stop to help truly want to help.
- Figure out of your car seats need to be replaced. The National Highway Traffic Transportation Association recommends that car seats be replaced after an accident if the incident was a major crash. In the case of a minor crash, car seats do not need to be replaced. A minor crash means that all of the below are true: (note that car seat would still need to be replaced even if your child was not in the car when it crashed)
- the door nearest the car seat was not impacted
- there were no injuries
- the vehicle was able to be driven from the crash site
- the airbags did not deploy
- there is no visible damage to the car seat
- Car manufacturers also have recommendations regarding the replacement of car seats, which you can find here: Car Seat Manufacturers’ Requirements After a Crash – Updated 10_14.
- Get your kids the help they need and counseling if necessary. You know your kids best. My three year old talks about every single thing that happens for at least a week after the fact, if not longer. I know that I don’t handle stress and fear well, and that I would benefit from counseling after an accident. My kids probably would as well if for no other reason, my nerves wouldn’t know how to talk to him about it all the time.
I will say I had one lingering question about car accidents that I could not find a solution: How do I get home? What if my husband is out of town? Or across town, an hour away? I know I could call a friend, but there’s no guarantee they have the space in their car to take us all home. Would the police give me a ride home (I reached out to the Dallas Police Department to ask this question, but was unable to get a response)? I honestly don’t know the answer!