"Gavyn has always been wild and crazy," mom Aimee Wilkens said. "[He's] your average, every day kid, full of life, ready to take on any adventure."
But the life of this 3-year-old changed in a heartbeat after he unbuckled a restraint on his child seat. Wilkens was on her way home from work and daycare July 2 of this year. She says she wasn't on the phone and she wasn't distracted by music but something took her attention away from the road.
"We're not exactly sure what happened," she said, "We ran into the back of an RTD bus. It was a bad accident. We both got hurt."
The unbuckled toddler received the brunt of the injuries. Gavyn is paralyzed from the neck down.
"It could've been a different street. It would've been different," she said. "It's hard because I was finishing my bachelors' degree, and it was my very last day of class. I was trying to get home to finish my last assignment. Then we were going to have the rest of the summer to just play."
Wilkens received a careless driving citation from police. She admits to speeding.
"The police officer and my husband think I was probably looking in my mirror trying to get Gavyn back in his seat belt," she said. "I just glanced in the back. It took my attention away."
Wilkens said Gavyn figured out how to undo one of his restraints on his child seat.
"[The child seat has] a five point harness," Wilkens said. "There is piece that goes around your waist. There is another one that straps over the arms. There is a clip that goes on the chest. He was able to undo the clip on the chest. He's been able to do that for well over a year."
Selena Silva, an injury prevention education coordinator with Children's Hospital Colorado, said children are often able to undo the straps on car seats.
"In the state of Colorado, over 90 percent of car seats are installed inappropriately or being used inappropriately," Silva said. "Unbuckling the chest clip harness is incredibly common. It's an appropriate behavior for a 3-year-old. We need to address that. It's one of those battles that we have to choose as parents since we are often faced with which battle we pick."
Silva said in Europe, the standards for child car seats are more stringent. They have fewer deaths and injuries. But the use of European car seats is prohibited in the United States.
According to Silva, parents can go above the minimum rules in the state to protect their children.
Colorado's Child Restraint Law
The Wilkens say they were told their car seat was installed correctly. They just had it inspected last winter. It's the unbuckling of the harness that was the problem, Wilkens said.
"We did everything that we thought that we could do to keep him safe," Wilkens said. "There is nothing that can protect them against them, against everything."
Wilkens and her husband Bryan are with Gavyn every day. They say there are signs of progress, and they're hopeful for much more.
"He's strong. He's a tough kid. He's going to amaze a lot of people, he already has," she said.
Children's Hospital Colorado and most police departments offer free help on how to install and use the car seats correctly.
To find a certified technician or for information on the right car seat for your child go to Find a Fit Station.
For more information about helping the family visit: http://www.friendsforgavyn.com/
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