The fear of being in a car accident is often even greater if you’re a mom, particularly of a baby. What happens if you’re in a car accident with your baby?
It’s a terrifying thought, but it’s also a situation that all-too-commonly happens.
In fact, as the mom of a baby, you may be even more likely to get in an accident in some cases because of factors like sleep deprivation and distracted driving.
So what should moms know about being in a car accident with your baby?
Steps to Take Right After an Accident
If you have a baby in the car and you’re in an accident, even one that’s seemingly minor, you need to contact authorities right away.
You need to assess your child and yourself for injuries, and if you can, move your car out of traffic or put of flares to let other drivers know there’s an accident.
When responders come, you should make sure they examine both you and your child, even if there aren’t any apparent injuries.
Babies can be especially vulnerable to injuries from car accidents, and they aren’t able to tell you if something hurts.
Don’t take your child out of your car accident if you can avoid it. A first responder should ideally remove your child from their car seat rather than you doing it.
Beyond having first responders assess your child, make sure that you get all the necessary contact information from the other driver, take pictures of the scene and also get contact information from anyone who witnesses the accident.
Even if responders at the scene give your baby the all-clear, it’s almost always advisable to take them to an ER or to their doctor to be checked out anyway. This can be important for insurance purposes and also to make sure that no injuries have gone undetected.
What to Watch for After An Accident
Your child may seem like they’re fine right after an accident, but you should watch for signs of injuries later on. Some of these red flags can include:
- Excessive crying
- Being inconsolable
- Loss of appetite
- Abnormal breathing
- Bleeding from the ears, mouth or nose
- Problems with vision
- Weakness or loss of strength
- Bruising on the back or abdomen
Moms tend to have good instincts about their children, so if you even sense something is wrong, seek medical attention.
Whether or not you notice any symptoms, you should schedule a follow-up with your child’s doctor a few days after the accident.
Again, the doctor can check for signs of injuries you might not see, and you may need records of the visit for an insurance claim.
Following an accident, let any of your baby’s caretakers know what happened. This might include daycare workers or babysitters. You want them to look out for signs of possible injury as well.
Determine If You Need a New Car Seat
If you’re in a car accident that’s moderate or serious, it’s recommended by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) that you get a new safety seat for your baby. If you have a minor collision, you may be able to keep using the same seat, but the NHTSA outlines criteria for determining that the accident is indeed minor.
If you can drive the vehicle away and the airbags didn’t deploy, the accident was likely minor. If there’s no visible damage on the car seat and the door closest to the car seat wasn’t damaged you may also be able to keep the same seat.
You may decide just for your own peace of mind that even if the accident was minor, you should still get a new car seat.
One of the most important things moms can do to keep their babies safe in the car, aside from monitoring their own driving behavior, is ensuring they have a high-quality car seat and that it’s installed and used properly.
Research indicates around 85% of car seats aren’t installed properly, which is a scary statistic. One of the most frequent issues is that the car seat doesn’t fit snugly in the vehicle. Your child’s car seat should not be able to move side-to-side or in any direction for more than an inch.
Another mistake occurs with harnesses that are twisted or too loose or chest clips that are too low. Chest clips should be at your child’s armpit level. You should also keep your baby rear-facing until he or she is at least two-years-old.