Grandmother Tanya Bender of Central Point, Oregon took to the “Keeping Littles Safe In Carseats” Facebook group to issue an urgent warning about forward-facing car seat requirements.
Her granddaughter, Aniyah, was two years old when she was badly injured in a car accident. Bender told Love What Matters that her daughter, Aniyah’s mother, put the toddler in a forward-facing car seat and strapped her in before leaving the house.
About five miles from the house, Bender’s daughter and Aniyah got into a car accident. The car hit a brick wall and flipped.Keeping Littles Safe in Carseats/Facebook
The impact and force of the accident left Aniyah severely injured and partially paralyzed.
Bender said the injuries could have been prevented if she was seated in a rear-facing car seat.Keeping Littles Safe in Carseats/Facebook
Aniyah was internally decapitated at her C1 completely. She had several breaks between C1 and C7 and also suffered a complete tear at her C5 of her nerve root that controls her arm.
Aniyah was taken to a local hospital before being airlifted to Doernbecher Children’s Hospital. There, doctors spent eight hours fusing her neck back together. Doctors placed Aniyah in a halo and the family spent two weeks at the hospital waiting for Aniyah to recover enough to go home.
When she was well enough to return home, Bender said the family had to “teach her how to sit up again, walk again, and how to use her hand and lower arm again.”Keeping Littles Safe in Carseats/Facebook
It’s been two years since the car accident and Blender said her granddaughter is finally able to use parts of her body that were once paralyzed.
She is finally able — with constant occupational therapy — to use the lower part of her arm but will never be able to use it fully. Due to her full neck fusion she will never be able to jump on trampolines, ride horses, do cheerleading, sports that require her to be physical or even tumbling. It is too dangerous for re-injury to her neck.
She noted that while Aniyah was lucky to survive the accident at all, she thinks a rear-facing car seat would have better protected Aniyah during the crash.Keeping Littles Safe in Carseats/Facebook
According to Bender, most states require children to be two years old in order to ride in a forward-facing car seat — a requirement which Aniyah met at the time of the accident. But even though the requirement was met, and the seat was properly installed, Aniyah still managed to get severely injured. As a result, Bender has a message for parents:
I want people to understand that although the laws may say you can forward-face your child at 23-pounds or 2 years old in some states, the best thing is to always rear-face until at least 40-pounds or even 50-pounds, if you can do so. Aniyah would have not had any injuries at all if she had been rear-facing in the accident. She is learning to function very well with her disabilities and is thriving now.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), it’s best to keep a child in a rear-facing car seat for as long as possible because the harness in a crash “cradles and moves with your child to reduce the stress to the child’s fragile neck and spinal cord.”
The NHTSA website states:
Your child should remain in a rear-facing car seat until he or she reaches the top height or weight limit allowed by your car seat’s manufacturer. Once your child outgrows the rear-facing car seat, your child is ready to travel in a forward-facing car seat with a harness and tether.
As Bender wrote on Facebook, she’s blessed to still have her granddaughter, but she wants to help others take car seat safety precautions.