Toddler’s life may have been saved if car seat was properly fitted
A two-year-old girl who died when the car her mother was driving collided with a street sweeper may have survived if her car seat was properly installed.
Layal Tahan, 2, and her grandmother Imtissal Alahmad, 57, were killed on December 21, 2011, when the Toyota Prado four-wheel-drive being driven by Hana Tahan crashed into the back of the sweeper on Wallgrove Road, Eastern Creek.
The family was on their way home from celebrating Ms Tahan’s 28th birthday at Mrs Alahmad’s Rooty Hill house.
Ms Tahan, a mother of five, was badly injured in the crash and her four-year-old daughter, known as AT for legal reasons, has been left with severe and permanent injuries.
On Thursday, Deputy Coroner Hugh Dillon handed down findings following an inquest into the deaths of Layal and Mrs Alahmad held at the Coroner’s Court in Glebe in July and earlier this month.
Mr Dillon said the crash probably occurred because Ms Tahan and a driver travelling alongside her at much the same speed, Taelase Aukuso, were not paying adequate attention.
The sweeper straddled the breakdown lane and lane one, moving at very slow speed as it collected rubbish from gutters. An escort car lit up with orange safety signs directing traffic out of lane one followed about 70 or 80 metres behind.
As she approached the sweeper, Ms Tahan manouevred from lane one into the adjacent lane without looking right.
She collided with Mr Aukuso’s red Ford Falcon and careered back into the sweeper.
Mr Aukuso was not hurt in the crash
During the inquest, road safety engineer Michael Griffiths said Layal’s death might have been prevented if her forward-facing child restraint seat was installed in line with Australian road rules.
Mr Griffiths said the seat was designed to be tethered at the top and secured with a seatbelt at its base.
However, only the seatbelt was attached to the Layal’s seat, and not the top tether, and when the crash occurred, the seat pitched forward, causing her to hit her head and resulting in a fatal brain injury.
Mr Griffiths also found that the shoulder straps of the in-built harness had been incorrectly adjusted for Layal.
The inquest heard road safety experts have repeatedly reported that parents and carers have trouble correctly installing and fitting child restraint seats.
The state government has established a network of about 300 fitting stations, an initiative that has been copied in other states and overseas.
Mr Dillon accepted the evidence of both Ms Tahan and Mr Aukuso that they were unaware of each other until they collided.
“Accident statistics demonstrate that far more collisions come about as a result of inattention or lack of situational awareness than from deliberate violation of the rules against dangerous driving,” Mr Dillon said.
“It is terribly tragic that such a small mistake has had such grave consequences.”
The coroner did not refer the matter to the Director of Public Prosecutions for consideration