My Car Was Totaled With My Newborn & Toddler in It -- & This Is What I Need You to Know

Jenna Rabberman

Jenna Rabberman

As told to Lauren Levy by Jenna Rabberman.

It was one of those gorgeous sunny fall days where it still feels a bit like summer. I remember thinking it was my favorite kind of day. I was still trying to get used to leaving the house with two kids as my infant son was just 6 weeks old. I had just picked up my older son, who was just weeks shy of his third birthday, from preschool and we stopped for milk on the way home. Both boys were tired/hungry/cranky. I was stressing and just wanted to get home. 

  • It was a struggle to get them buckled in safely. I think all of us were near tears by the time I climbed in the drivers seat.

    We had to wait at a red light to leave the shopping center. We were minutes from home. My light turned green, and as I eased into the intersection, I saw a red van speeding through the red signal directly at me. Before I had a moment to react, they had already slammed into me. You never think it will happen to you. Several airbags deployed, making it impossible to see out my windows.

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  • I just remember screaming and screaming for someone to help me when I realized the back seat was silent. 

    Jenna Rabberman

    The boys were both rear facing. I couldn't see them and I couldn't get my door open to get out. Every nightmare you can imagine flew through my brain while I managed to climb out the passenger side and got a back door open. The boys were sitting quietly in their seats with huge saucer eyes but had no visible injuries. At that point I stopped scrambling and started crying, mostly because I was so thankful that they appeared safe.

    Several witnesses had come to help us at that point, and 911 was called. A kind woman helped unbuckle and hold the baby because my hands were shaking too bad. A volunteer firefighter saw the whole thing and pulled up to block traffic;somehow I called my husband, although I don't have much memory of that.

  • The paramedics and police arrived and it wasn't until they said "the children are fine but I think you need to go to the hospital" that I realized I was hurt.

    Jenna Rabberman

    My boys escaped without a scratch, but the paramedics told me it could have been very different had I not taken the extra two minutes to be sure they were buckled correctly. 

    I had a neck and shoulder injury that I'm still dealing with a year later along with cuts, burns, and bruises from the airbags.

    I have always been a stickler for car seat safety, but it was more of a formality for me, not something that I ever expected to really NEED. My husband would roll his eyes when I made my son take off his winter coat or when I double checked the straps or tightened them just a bit more. For me, I felt it was such a basic thing to do to ensure that my kids were safer.

    The kids do still occasionally give me a hard time about buckling correctly, but I just tell them that they don't have to like it but it's not an option: It's what we do to keep them safe. Luckily my older boy has very little memory of the accident and the little one has none.

  • THIS is why you buckle your kids into their car seats correctly every SINGLE time.

    Jenna Rabberman

    Even when they scream because the straps are tight. Even when they complain about the chest clip or being rear facing.

    I took the picture of the carseats the day after the accident at the tow yard. My husband and I went to clean our belongings out of the totaled vehicle, and I was struck by seeing those seats next to my mangled car. After it was shared on Facebook, people said it was a fake photo, which is annoying but I get why they think that. It doesn't look like those seats should have come out of that car, yet they did. I really posted the picture for friends and family, a lot of who have small children, and I figured it would be a good reminder to always buckle correctly. Hopefully it will save a life by making someone think twice about buckling their child in.

    My car was a 2015 Honda CRV, (his name was Yoshi, may he rest in peace), the seats are a Chicco Keyfit 30 (infant seat) and Graco Children's Products 4ever. Both were rear facing and were immediately replaced.

    I will be fine, my kids are fine, and everything else can be replaced. Sending thanks to God for keeping us safe (along with Honda, Graco, and Chicco).