On our way to Phoenix, just a few miles away, my husband (driving our 2002 Odyssey) hit an obstacle in the road. We don't know what it is, but we all felt the bump, then were airborne, and onto a gravel shoulder. We skidded on the gravel. The van hit a barrier (right at the rear driver's side, where my 4 year old daughter was seated.) It then flipped across the highway. My husband was braking the whole way. (He had just had the tires rotated and pressure checked, and the brakes replaced.) It slowed us considerably. We went into a ditch at an angle and became airborne. We went down on the passenger side of the vehicle, nose first, and then flipped over upside down.
My daughters (the 4 year old, almost 5, and her 2 sisters, 6 almost 7 and 2 almost 3) were screaming. This meant they were alive and I was glad. My husband and I were suspended by our (properly worn) seatbelts. I had significant neck pain. My husband was able to exit the vehicle fairly easily, but I was trapped; I had to be extracted with the Jaws of Life (after fending off a bystander who wanted to cut my belt with a pen knife and pull me out, yelling at him, "Do not cut my seatbelt! Wait until the EMTs arrive to hold c-spine! If you want to do something, get me a jacket and treat me for shock!")
My 4 and 6 year olds were harnessed properly in properly installed and used, tethered seats. (The 6 year old is usually boostered, but because it was a late night trip I didn't want to risk her falling asleep and falling out of position.) My 2 year old was rear-facing. The heavy cargo in the van was all packed tightly down in the bottom of the trunk, compartmentalized behind and under the seat as much as possible before we left. My husband and I had our seatbelts and headrests properly fastened and adjusted and were seated in proper position.
My husband has a mild lung contusion and abrasions from his seatbelt and "road burn." I have a lot of stitches in my arm (which dragged along the ground outside the car-- the trauma surgeon says that the braking slowed us enough to save me from having it ripped off) and on my face and bruising all over. My 6 year old has minor abrasions (more road burn) and bruises. My 4 year old, with the most severe injuries, suffered a severe cut to her foot (aptly and completely repaired by great surgeons) and a broken leg (remember, she was AT the first point of impact, a side impact.) My 2 year old, who was in the rear-facing seat, was completely unharmed. Not a mark on her. Nothing. Despite the fact that we landed on the side of the car she was on (she was behind me, I was in the second row passenger seat, and the forward-facers were second and third row driver's side.)
Anne said aside from the dirt, the carseats looked perfectly fine. THIS is why you can't buy used carseats, you won't know if it's been in a crash. Even though they look fine, they have done their job and must be replaced.
I was asked to add to this blog post. It is doing it's job and spreading information. However, some people are turning it into an "anti-booster" message. Anne's 6 year old is usually in a booster, except on a trip where she might fall asleep (and lean out of position). Anne was asked if she would reconsider the booster, and put her daughter into a 5 point harness for all car rides. This is her response:
My view on boosters has not changed. The reason that she was in a harness, was that she was likely to fall asleep, and she sometimes slumps when she does. She will still be boostered for normal use.
My view has always been that boosters are safe for a child who can stay seated properly 100% of the time, and that was not E (6, almost 7) on a long trip, and B (4, almost 5) is no where near it. So they were harnessed. If this same crash had happened and E was in a booster but asleep and slumped, she'd have been more hurt.
I think by 6 most but not all kids are booster ready for most trips, but most are NOT before 5. I think moving from harness to booster is ideally a process where you use the harness less and booster more as the kid gets more ready, until they're ready 100% of the time (even when asleep.)
Here is a link to a photobucket account that has more pictures of the van and carseats.
One more addition to this post. Anne wants everyone to know that proper seatbelt fit matters. With her help, I have posted information on seabelt fit here.