DIGBY COUNTY, N.S. – As she was slowing down with her turn signal on to make the turn, Diane Saulnier was checking her rearview and side mirrors for the traffic behind her, making sure everyone was coming to a stop.
She then made the non-eventful left turn into her mother’s driveway.
At least it was supposed to be non-eventful.
You can only imagine her shock and horror when she felt the sudden impact of another vehicle hitting the driver’s side of her vehicle – sending it onto its roof in a ditch on Route 1 in a stretch that makes up part of Highway 101 in Gilbert’s Cove, Digby County.
Were it not for the fact that she was wearing her seatbelt and her children – Gwendolyn, 3, and Gracelynn, 6 months old – were properly fastened into their car seats, she doubts they all would have come away from the collision with only scratches.
“I was halfway in the driveway. But farther down the line of cars behind me (this driver) had started passing the cars and he hit me,” Saulnier says. “My first thought was, ‘What just happened? Oh my God, somebody hit me.’”
She felt instant heat on her body. It was the hot coffee that had been in her cup holder.
She also felt as if her face was wet. “I put my hands over my face, I thought, ‘Oh my God, is my face is full of blood?’ And then the car must have stopped at that point. I passed out, I believe.”
She says she came to, looked around and listened for her kids who were strapped in their car seats in the back. She was relieved to hear them both cry but was scared for them and felt helpless.
“Somebody poked their head in the car to check on me . . . I yelled, ‘Get the kids!’ over and over.”
The June 4 collision happened at 8:25 a.m.
“It came out of nowhere,” she says, she says about the vehicle that hit her.
The RCMP say the vehicle was passing others that had slowed down for Saulnier’s vehicle to make the turn. The driver has been ticketed under the Motor Vehicle Act for failing to Yield to a Vehicle Making a Lawful Left Turn and Passing in the Face of Oncoming Traffic. There is an Aug. 9 court date for both tickets.
Saulnier and her oldest daughter both had seatbelt marks on their chests following the collision. Her youngest didn’t have any marks but because she inhaled dust during the aftermath of the accident when protective safety features inside the car were activated she required a puffer.
The RCMP said the driver of the other vehicle was also treated for minor injury.
Although it is the law not everyone wears their seatbelts, but Saulnier always does and she is urging others to always wear them too. She says it is frightening to consider what could have happened otherwise.
“I could have been flung outside the windshield. The car could have landed on top of me, for all I know. It could have been a lot worse,” she says. “The way the cops are thinking it happened is, he hit my six-month-old daughter’s door and the trunk, so I think it made it spin and my car hit the ditch on an angle and flipped on the roof and then flipped again and landed on its roof again.”
Saulnier also always makes sure her kids’ car seats are properly installed and that safety recommendations are followed.
“A lot of people take their kids out of their car seats way before they’re supposed to. My three-year-old, she’s tall enough to not even be in a five-point harness but she’s still only three so she was in a seat with a five-point harness.”
This was one of two collisions in a short span of distance of time on the stretch of road. An hour later in Ashmore, about 1.7 kilometres away, a tractor trailer failed to stop for the line of vehicles that was stopped because of the first collision and caused a chain reaction collision involving three vehicles. A Yarmouth woman was airlifted to hospital in Halifax with serious but non-life-threatening injuries.
The RCMP ticketed the truck’s driver for following too closely with a court date of Aug. 9.
The road was closed for several hours with traffic rerouted as emergency crews examined the scenes and cleared damaged vehicles from the roadway. Several fire departments assisted.
RCMP Corporal Jennifer Clarke also reiterates the importance of wearing seatbelts and ensuring car seats are properly installed.
“The proper use of occupant restraints plays a huge part in the likelihood that a vehicle occupant will survive a collision,” she says. “Seatbelts and child seats are designed to keep occupants in place within the vehicle and ensure that the technology that is built into the vehicle can do its job to protect everyone inside.”
Saulnier wants this safety message to be something that comes out of the ordeal she and her daughters experienced.
“If those car seats weren’t hooked in properly or they weren’t tight enough, my kids could be gone,” she says. “I really want to stress how important they are.”
Transport Canada info on car seats:
There are four stages of child car seat usage including seat-belt use for children. Each stage is designed to keep a child as safe as possible, given their particular age, height and weight.
• Stage 1: rear-facing: Infants and young children ride facing the rear in an infant seat. This helps protect their head, neck and back throughout the journey, during sudden stops or in a crash. Keep a child seated rear-facing until he or she reaches the child car seat’s weight or height limits.
• Stage 2: forward-facing: Children who have outgrown their rear-facing seat and weigh at least 10 kg (22 lb) may ride facing the front in a car seat. These child car seats have a built-in harness. Use a forward-facing seat until your child reaches the maximum weight or height limits. Some forward-facing seats are made for children who weigh up to 30 kg (65 lb).
• Stage 3: booster seats: Booster seats are designed for children who have outgrown their forward-facing seat and weigh at least 18 kg (40 lb). A booster seat helps children sit comfortably by raising them up so they can sit with their knees bent over the edge of the booster or vehicle seat.
• Stage 4: seat-belts: The vehicle seat-belt should only be used alone when children have outgrown their booster seats. Before you transition to this stage make sure the seat-belt fits your child. The minimum age, weight and height limits vary from one province to another.