Dangerous Driving Mistakes Even Careful Parents Make

"A toolbox in the car injured my child."

On a spring evening last year, Jacob Tobias buckled his 16-month-old daughter, Kennedy, into her car seat, and the two headed home to Pahrump, Nevada. They'd been in Las Vegas visiting Jacob's father. "About 15 minutes from home, Jacob lost control of his car, which rolled off the highway and into the desert," says his wife, Pam. Tragically, Jacob was killed.

Little Kennedy was found still strapped into her car seat. But a standard-size toolbox kept on the floor of the backseat had wreaked havoc. "In the collision, it became a projectile and slammed into her head, fracturing her skull in two places," her mother says. "Seventy-two hours passed before the doctors could even say whether she would survive or not."

Now recovering, Kennedy must relearn how to speak, struggles to use her right arm and hand, and walks with a slight limp. When Tobias was informed several days after the crash that the toolbox was what had injured her daughter, she was stunned. "I had no idea the box posed such a danger," she says.

Scary Facts:

Most people don't understand the violence of a crash, says Karen DiCapua, director of child passenger safety at the National Safe Kids Campaign. "If you're going 35 miles per hour and get in a crash, everything in your car is still going 35 miles per hour until it hits something. That something could be you or your child."

The Philadelphia-based research project Partners for Child Passenger Safety says that 15 percent of kids in a collision come into contact with things inside the car. These include loose objects, other occupants, even dogs.

Smart Safety Steps:

  • If you have a trunk, use it, even for groceries and clothes.
  • If you drive a minivan, an SUV, or a station wagon, consider installing a cargo divider or a net in the back to protect passengers and to transport pets. Don't let your dog sit in the backseat with your children. And always make sure things in the car are tied down securely -- most vehicles have anchors for this purpose.
  • Be wary of baby accessories. For example, rearview mirrors that attach with a suction cup so you can see your rear-facing infant are likely to become projectiles in a crash.

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