In partnership with Surex
Car accidents are stressful no matter the circumstances, but when kids are involved, it’s especially scary. There were 9,494 serious injuries reported from motor vehicle collisions in Canada in 2018, so it pays to be prepared. If you do end up in an accident, try to take a deep breath, stay calm and follow these steps.
Check for injuries
First of all, check on yourself—are you hurt or in danger? If so, call 911 immediately. Check on your child to see if they’re hurt. If they’re still in their car or booster seat, don’t remove them unless it’s necessary for their safety. “If they show any signs of injury, call 911 so emergency medical professionals can assess your child in their seat and provide treatment if needed,” says Stephanie Cowle, director of knowledge translation for Parachute Canada, a national charity dedicated to injury prevention.
Get to safety
“Move your vehicle to a nearby driveway, parking lot or side street, if you’re able to, so you can get out safely,” says Cowle.
If you’re not able to move your car to a safer location, it’s best to stay in the vehicle and wait for help to arrive. “Turn your engine off and put your hazard lights on,” says Cowle. “If you have to leave the car, move as far away from traffic as possible to a place where you are clearly visible to drivers.” Making sure it’s safe to do so, grab your insurance card and exchange information with the other driver.
Monitor kids closely
Even if your little one seems okay after a minor accident, it’s still important to keep an eye out for red flags that might indicate an injury, like a concussion. These red flags include loss of consciousness (even for a moment), difficulty breathing, loss of vision or double vision, slurred speech or increasing confusion. And watch out for symptoms that may point to an evolving injury, such as bruising on your child’s abdomen or back, bleeding or excessive crying. Changes to a child’s eating, sleep or play patterns could also be symptoms of a concussion, says Cowle. In older children, this can present as headaches, dizziness, or just not feeling right. “You know your child best,” Cowle says. “If you’re concerned or something seems off, do not hesitate to get your child checked out by a doctor or go to the hospital.”
Children are resilient, but they may be more upset, disobedient or fearful than usual after a scary accident. Get back to a normal routine as soon as you can, and keep an open dialogue about safety with your kids if they’re nervous around cars. It helps to talk to their teachers, too, if you find they are affected by the crash.
Inspect your car—and car seat—before hitting the road
When it comes to your car, there are a few steps to take before you can get back on the road safely. Cowle says to make sure all safety features are functioning as they should. This means checking all your lights, including headlights, brake lights and indicators, and checking that there are no fluids leaking from your vehicle or any loose parts that could fly off while driving. (When in doubt, it’s not a bad idea to take your car to a mechanic to get it checked out and make sure everything is in working order.)
If you were in a more significant crash, it’s recommended that you replace your car seat or booster seat, even if your child wasn’t in it at the time—damage can occur whether the seat is occupied or not. And keep in mind that there could be internal damage to the seat that you can’t see, says Cowle. “Most manufacturers have recommendations on when to replace your seat. Be sure to consult the manual and follow the guidelines.”
Even if the collision was minor, where no one was injured and the air bags were not deployed, it’s still super important to check any car seats and booster seats for visible damage. “You should also check to see if the door closest to the seat is damaged,” Cowle says. If you see any damage to the seat or the door, then the car seat should be replaced.
It’s hard not to panic in situations like this, but staying calm and following these steps will help keep everyone safe before you hit the road again.