Do you know the facts?
In late February 2013, my children and I were driving home on the interstate during a snowstorm. During our drive the snow increasingly covered the left lane of the 3 lane interstate. Eventually during our 35 minute drive all of the traffic was driving in the center lane and using the right lane for just entering and exiting the interstate. Because of this the center lane that I was driving in was kept free of any snow, while the left lane was covered due to blowing and the right lane had some snow coverage.
As I approached the last exit before the one we would take I started a conversation with my 10yo daughter, whom was seated in the rear passenger side seat, about the semi trucks that were beginning to move from the center to the right lane. My son was seated behind me on the drivers side, rearfacing in his carseat. After the exit we were approaching it would be approximately 2 miles until there was a large rest area. Three miles beyond that would be our exit. I told my daughter to notice how the semi trucks were beginning to move over and that they would be pulling into the rest area to park for the night. The snow was steady, the travel was slow (40-45mph) and the night was getting late.
After we passed the exit the semi truck that had been a distance in front of me seemed to slow. It was then that I noticed a small car in the right lane going much slower than the 40mph I was going. The semi truck then moved over to the right lane and was behind the car. I kept my speed steady as we were now approaching the rest area exit. I told my daughter that soon many trucks would be getting off and the interstate would be less congested with semi's. I also said to her that more trucks would get off at our exit and go to the large truck stop, and a few more would continue on. We were listening to our Christian music station during the drive, 'Blessed be the Name was the song playing at the time..
Just as I was passing the semi truck and small car on the right I saw in my side mirror that a semi truck was fast approaching on my left side. I remember thinking 'Good grief, what is their rush?'. I kept my eyes on the road ahead of me and waited out the seconds it would take for this semi to pass me at the fast rate of speed they were going compared to the other traffic. As the semi passed by and we were near the rear axle I felt a bump and a loud thud, I realized that the trailer of the semi had veered over, that was followed by a loud scraping noise as I tried to maintain control of the car which was now swerving. I saw the car and semi that I had passed approaching on the right side again, heard my daughter crying and was telling her 'It's all going to be okay, we are going to be alright.' as we skidded around the road. In those moments God gave me the clarity to do exactly what I needed to to keep us from hitting the other vehicles and get us off the road.
At some point the front end on the drivers side was smashed in. I don't recall that. We ended up in the large median, facing the same direction of travel but sideways on the hill of the median. I had my foot pressed on the brake and quickly realized that we would keep sliding down if I took my foot off. I checked on my children and then called 911. Then we sat there for over 25 minutes with no help at all. The semi driver did not even attempt to stop. I thought I saw the truck get off at the rest area exit which was visible to me from my location. Elliot had been playing on my Kindle tablet before the accident and was still playing afterwards.
When the EMS came and started checking us out and wanted us out I told them to not remove Elliot from his car seat so that his spine is protected. Then we had to let the car slide down the hill before we could get out. I gave the EMS instructions on how to undo the LATCH straps but they were not able to so I did that. I don't know how they carried Elliot up the hill in his carseat, it was so hard for anyone to get up the hill. My children were taken to the ambulance while I talked with the officer and rescue workers. They checked out okay but it was decided that I needed further evaluation. I hit my head on my side window at least 2 times. I don't know how much we spun around in the car. It is scary to think that I could have possibly lost consciousness during those critical moments following impact.
Emily was very upset during and after the accident, she is such a strong girl and such a trooper. Elliot has started talking about the semi hitting us. We weren't even sure he understood what happened, but he does. He now shows me a clenched fist and says that he was shaking when the semi hit us.
Emily and I have whiplash from the crash. I also have a mild concussion and inner bruising on my stomach from the seat belt. Thank you God for protecting us and allowing us to walk away from this nearly tragic accident with our lives and health. No injuries have been found on Elliot. We all went to our Chiropractor within 12 hours of the accident. Although Emily and I remain sore, Elliot is just bouncing around the house : ) I am so glad that I make the carseat decisions for my children that I do. Although Emily now passes the 5-step test and is able to safely not use a booster seat any longer, I have chosen to keep Elliot rear facing as long as possible. If Elliot had been forward facing, as most 3.5yo's are, he would likely have severe neck injuries and would not be enjoying his carefree 3yo life. I have been a car seat safety advocate for many years and have spent thousands of hours doing research, and am so grateful that I did the best I could to protect my children.
My prayer is that this 'happy-ending' rather than a serious or tragic ending will help others see the benefits of keeping children rearfacing until at least 2yo, but hopefully until 4yo+. In Sweden they have a nearly 0 fatality rate for children dying as a result of car accidents. In America it is the #1 cause of death for 1yo-34yo. We need to change that and the carseat industry is helping! We now have carseats that will rearface a child up until 45lbs! We are catching up to Swedes who regularly keep their children rearfacing until 4-5yo. They have carseats that will hold a child rearfacing until 55lbs!
Photos from that night
My sweet Emily Rae at the hospital. She is such an angel and strong spirit. I am so very blessed to call her my daughter.
Pictures of the car
The first bump by the semi. I wasn't aware that the front end was also damaged until I got out of the car.
Lastly the front end was smashed up.