‘Who put this car seat in?’ – Serious wreck tests mom’s skill at installing car seat

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Amber Bermudez and her son, Luis

As the mom of a 2 year old, Amber Bermudez is the first to admit that when it came to installing her son’s car seat, she would always have somebody else do it. “I would have other people do it for me because I didn’t want to mess up on something that important,” she said. Then one evening this past summer, she was watching KVOA News 4 Tucson when she saw a Kristi’s Kid’s segment – a car seat call-in event. The program was simple. Call in, schedule a class to attend that weekend and then receive a free seat that’s appropriate for your child. Bermudez figured it was education she needed. “I thought it would be important for me to learn how to install his car seat properly in case something ever happened.”

The program, funded by the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, is a partnership between Tucson Police and Tucson Medical Center, in which certified child passenger safety technicians teach the classes and provide age- and weight-appropriate car seats. That weekend, she attended the class, which was taught by TPD Officer Danny Peralta. “I remember Amber. She was taking tons of notes in the back of the class and I told her she really didn’t have to do that,” he laughed. “She insisted that she did.”

One of the biggest things she learned? It’s considered a misuse to use both the seat belt and the LATCH system to install a car seat. It’s considered best practice to use either one or the other – but not both, as it’s never been tested.

She also learned that although her son was approaching his third birthday, it was best to keep him rear-facing if he didn’t exceed the height and weight limit for the seat. Keeping a child rear-facing as long as possible helps protect the child’s head, neck and spine in a crash as they cocoon into their seat, as demonstrated in this video.

Well educated and now confident in her installation skills, Bermudez went home and installed her son’s new car seat.

Fast forward a few months, and the unthinkable happened.

FB_IMG_1448998998538On Dec. 1, Bermudez was driving her car with her mom in the passenger seat, her husband in the back seat on the passenger side, and her son, Luis, snug in his car seat in the middle of the back seat. A pick-up truck ran a red light at 29th and Wilmot causing a T-bone collision. “The impact was so hard, it broke the drive shaft off the truck,” said Bermudez. “The back tires from the truck ran over the front of my car.”

Bermudez and her husband were seriously injured, as was her mom who was trapped against the dash.

Tucson Fire crews responded immediately. “Everything happened so fast and was so surreal, but I do remember the medic asking, ‘who put this car seat in?’ I was scared at first thinking, ‘did I do something wrong?’ Then he told me that it was installed perfectly. He said that when, as first responders, they get called to car accidents where children are involved, the car seat is usually not installed properly, which leads to children being injured. He told me that my son’s car seat took all the impact of the crash. When he told me Luis was OK and that it was only because his car seat was installed properly, I broke down in tears. I was so relieved,” she said.

Luis didn’t even have to go to the hospital for observation. Bermudez, her husband and mom were all transported to the hospital via ambulance while her dad picked up little Luis from the scene.

Bermudez is still nursing an arm injury that may require surgery. Her husband is undergoing surgery for his arm injury and grandma is still suffering from a serious knee injury. But while the physical injuries will take time to heal, and mentally she’s still shaken, Bermudez’s emotional state is solid.

Tucson Police Officer Danny Peralta

Tucson Police Officer Danny Peralta

“I was so relieved that I took the time to get the education and do everything right,” she said, adding that as a mother, she was proud of herself for doing everything she possibly could to protect her baby in a crash. “If I hadn’t taken that class, I’m not sure that my son would be OK today. What Officer Peralta taught me really stuck. And he gave me the confidence to install my son’s car seat for the first time ever. If I hadn’t taken his class, it scares me to think of what may have happened to my son that day.”

TMC offers an assortment of programs for child passenger safety including a car seat loaner program and Children Are Priceless Passengers (CAPP) class, which is held every month in English and Spanish. For just $35, parents can receive life-saving education and an appropriate car seat for their child. TMC also provides free booster seats as part of the Boost Your Booty program.

Additionally, Geico funds a TMC child passenger program, Ride Safe Kids. Classes are held once a month, in English only, where parents can receive education and an appropriate car seat for free. Please call (520) 546-7340 for more information.

Please click here to see KVOA News 4 Tucson’s coverage of the story.

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Tucson Medical Center | 5301 E. Grant Rd. | Tucson, AZ 85712 | (520) 327-5461
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