When babies are first born, parents go crazy trying to get every detail right. Are they developing properly? Are they eating enough? Is my car seat set up correctly? These are some of the many questions that zoom through the mind of a new parent.
While parents are extremely vigilant when it comes to a newborn, some health and safety concerns tend to fall to the wayside when a child becomes a bit older— a big one being proper vehicle safety.
In recent years, people have experienced horrendous injuries as a result of improperly wearing seatbelts or not putting their child in the proper car or booster seat— so many injuries, in fact, that professionals have even coined a new term, calling them “seat belt syndrome.”
Safe Ride 4 Kids explains, “When children are not properly restrained, meaning they are in a lap-only belt, they are in an ill-fitting lap/shoulder belt, or even if they moved the shoulder portion of the seat belt behind them or under their arm (whether in a booster seat or not) to keep it from rubbing their neck, they are at a greater risk of seat belt syndrome.”
One Virginia mother had the misfortune of experiencing the effects of seat belt syndrome firsthand after her 6-year-old daughter was nearly cut in half after their car crashed into a tree.
Six-year-old Samantha Martin had been enjoying a wonderful day at the Field Days of Past fair with her father. After the festivities, however, as the pair was driving home, Samantha’s father lost control of the car, ultimately crashing into a tree.
Samantha’s mother Shelly received a call from a deputy, informing her of the horrible circumstances. She tells NBC12, “It’s a phone call you do not want. It’s awful […] Your mind kind of thinks of all sorts of things.”
The full extent of Samantha’s injuries, however, was not revealed to Shelly until later.
Warning: the details are graphic.
Dr Charles Bagwell explains to NBC12, “Where you could see the stripe of the seat belt in an enormous bruise across her abdomen, as well as the fact that the edge, the far edge of the belt, had actually cut through her abdominal wall, and she had protruding intestines from that. She was just about cut in two. Much of which, quite frankly, couldn’t be repaired. The injury was too severe.”
Surgeons had to use a ‘binder’ on Samantha in order to keep her organs together, and the young girl spent weeks living in the pediatric acute care unit. As Dr. Bagwell mentioned, much of the damage could not be repaired.
Shelly feels extreme guilt about the crash and her daughter’s subsequent injuries— realistically, Samantha should have been in a booster seat.
Shelly tells NBC12, “A lot of people seem to think that when the children don’t fit so easily in the booster, that it’s okay to them out of the booster. That’s not the case.”
She continues, “Samantha also moved the shoulder belt behind her. So now the lap belt was carrying twice the force and, because she’s not tall enough without a booster, the lap belt went across her stomach instead of her hips. Doctors call the injury this caused ‘the seat belt syndrome.’”
Shelly’s taking the opportunity to educate parents everywhere about the devastating effects of improper car safety, because, she says, “Stuff happens so quickly, so quickly.”
She warns parents that a lifetime of guilt and telling yourself, “We should’ve done better,” is not worth the few extra minutes saved to be saved in daily transit.
No matter the age of the child or circumstances surrounding the ride, please never forget the importance of car safety— the consequences just aren’t worth it.