Mom is a booster of child safety seats |

Mom is a booster of child safety seats

Adam Jensen / Tahoe Daily TribuneFinn, left, and Johnny Sanders show off their booster seats outside the Tahoe Daily Tribune office earlier this month.

It’s the phone call no mom wants to get.

But, “your kids have been injured in an accident and are being taken to the hospital” was just the message South Lake Tahoe resident Jill Sanders received after her children – Finn, 8, and Johnny, 9 – were involved in a car crash on Pioneer Trail on May 17.

Sanders still gets shook up speaking about the message.

“I can’t explain it,” Sanders said. “It will stick with you forever.”

Around 6 p.m. that evening, Sanders’ husband Graham apparently fell asleep at the wheel of the family’s 2005 Toyota Sienna while driving on Pioneer Trail and struck a tree while going about 55 mph.

All three passengers were wearing seat belts, but Finn suffered five broken ribs, a fractured vertebra, contusions on both lungs and nerve damage to her right vocal cord. Johnny initially appeared fine, but had internal bleeding from a pierced colon – an injury that needed immediate surgery and would later result in a bout with sepsis.

Both children’s injuries resulted in extended hospital stays and numerous doctors visits.

The kids’ memories of the event are foggy, but they’ve largely recovered and returned to their enthusiastic, well-spoken selves.

“It was just really scary,” Finn said, her gravelly voice a reminder of her still-healing vocal cord.

Despite the serious injuries the children received, Graham Sanders suffered only a sprained ankle in the accident.

Jill Sanders attributes the disparity in injuries between her husband and her kids to a simple, yet easily overlooked, device – a booster seat.

The seats, which range from $20 to more than $200, raise a child up so a vehicle’s lap and shoulder belts fit properly across their body.

While a child safety seat is an obvious necessity for infants and toddlers, Sanders – like many parents – thought her kids had outgrown any sort of safety seat.

But California law requires children younger than 6 or less than 60 pounds to use a booster seat. Similar laws exist in Nevada. The California Highway Patrol also recommends kids use a booster seat until they weigh more than 80 pounds and are taller than 4 foot 9 inches tall, because seat belts won’t fit properly.

That’s a lesson Sanders learned when it was almost too late.

“The main thing is to think how serious this really is,” Sanders said.

It’s common for Sanders to see parents with improperly restrained kids, and she hopes Finn and Johnny can become an example to other parents to not dismiss what could be a little-heralded life-saving device.

“It is what it is,” Sanders said. “It’s just safety.”

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