Zoe ten Broek, Mum to 1-year-old Jax, has warned parents and carers of the dangers of graduating children from their rear-facing child car restraint too early, after a serious car accident left Jax fighting for life.
In early July, Zoe strapped Jax into his rearward facing child car restraint in preparation for the 20 minute trip to visit her parents in Mt Evelyn for an early dinner.
Prior to setting off, she performed the pinch test*, on Jax’s harness straps, as she routinely does prior to every trip, before making the familiar trip to her parents house.
Though this time, as she shared with Kidsafe, they never made it there.
Like a scene from a parent’s worst nightmare, the next thing Zoe remembers was
“Men putting me in an ambulance and telling me that I had been in an accident. Jax was nowhere to be seen, and all they told me was that he was airlifted to the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne”, she said.
Whilst Zoe was lucky to not receive any life threatening injuries, one of the cars t-boned into Jax’s side of the car, leaving him unconscious and experiencing multiple seizures.
“He suffered severe injuries that required four different operations. He experienced pressure on his brain, a fractured skull, torn ligaments in his neck, bruising around his eyes and head trauma. It was difficult for anyone to predict if he would make it and if so, what his quality of life would be with any permanent injuries”, said Zoe.
After having spent the night in the hospital, Zoe was finally able see Jax.
“Nothing could have prepared me for seeing my little man in that massive bed, with so many tubes and wires everywhere”, she said.
Four surgeries, four weeks in hospital and many tears later, Zoe was able to take Jax home without any permanent issues.
“Doctors said that if Jax wasn’t rearward facing, then he wouldn’t be with us. I’m so grateful to have known that information before this happened”, said Zoe.
She hopes that by sharing her story, she can encourage every parent to keep their child in a rearward facing car restraint as long as possible.
“If you have already started forward facing your young child, please check that they are the right size to do so. It is safest to keep your child rearward facing until they outgrow the rearward facing size limits of your child car restraint
“So many parents and carers are not aware of the dangers of graduating children to a forward facing child car restraint before they are the right size to do so. The impact to their body, and especially their head, neck and spine, is so much greater”, she said.
Jax initially received ongoing follow ups with specialists and extensive rehabilitation to relearn his cognitive functions due to his brain injury.
A relieved Zoe shared, “the fact that Jax is alive and is so so good now, that’s enough for me to move on. It makes me feel good that something good can come out of sharing this story.
“Not a day goes by where I don’t think about what life would be like if we weren’t so lucky”, said Zoe.
*The Pinch Test
This test is a handy way to check whether the harness in your child’s car restraint is adjusted to fit them correctly.
After placing your child in their restraint and adjusting the harness, attempt to pinch the harness webbing around your child’s upper chest or shoulder. If you can pinch the strap, it’s too loose and you will need to adjust it. When you are unable to pinch the strap, the harness is fitted correctly.
Kidsafe Victoria Recommends
That parents and carers follow the best practice recommendations, including keeping their children in their rear-facing child car restraint until they reach the maximum size limit, rather than graduating them to forward facing just because they turn a certain age. Rear facing child car restraints provide the required head and neck support that a child needs in the result of a crash.
‘Safe Seats, Safe Kids’ is a free program providing child car restraint fittings and safety checks for Victorian parents and carers, run in partnership with Neighbourhood Houses Victoria, with support from the Victorian State Government. To register your interest or to find out more about the free program please visit the website.
For more information on child car restraints, including the best practice guidelines, please visit https://www.kidsafevic.com.au/road-safety/child-restraints/
We acknowledge the Traditional Owners of country throughout Australia and recognise their continuing connection to land, waters and culture. We pay our respects to their Elders past, present and emerging.