They say there is no greater loss than losing a child, and it’s a pain that a Fredericton mother knows all too well.
In March of 2013, Eran Pelletier’s life changed forever during a trip from Slave Lake, Alta., to Edmonton.
Pelletier, her sister-in-law and three children were on a family outing when the car they were travelling in collided head-on with a truck on Highway 44, about 85 km north of Westlock.
“My son, I heard him breathe, I heard him take his last breaths. It was muffled so I knew something was wrong,” Pelletier said from her Fredericton home. “I didn’t know the extent of his injuries.”
The collision claimed the lives of her four-year-old daughter, 17-month-old son and sister-in-law. Pelletier and her eldest son were the only survivors of the crash.
“Nothing is as great as having your child ripped away from you in such a horrible way,” Pelletier said, “and, you know, my best friend — my sister-in-law was my best friend.”
Following a police investigation and trial, the driver of the vehicle who collided head-on with the family pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 30 months behind bars for the dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death and bodily harm.
Following the tragedy, Pelletier moved back to New Brunswick to pick up the pieces of her broken heart, finding solace doing what she could to give back.
“Just saving one life would mean the world. Just one person,” Pelletier said.
Pelletier is leading a crusade to change car and booster seat legislation across the country that would see all children and infants remain rear-facing until they’re two years old and 22 pounds.
It’s a move that’s supported by Child Safety Link out of Halifax, an injury prevention program at the IWK Health Centre dedicated to reducing the incidence and severity of unintentional injury to children and youth in the Maritimes.
“We know kids are safest that are rear facing for as long as they fit,” explains Katherine Hutka, a health promotions specialist with the organization.
It’s evidence supported by Transport Canada. The federal agency suggests leaving children rear-facing until at least two years-old and at 22 pounds. In fact, this same legislation has already been passed in eight U.S. states.
“I think that can be really confusing when you have to follow the car seats guidelines, but when the laws don’t reflect it in the legal language of the laws then it’s harder for enforcement and it’s harder for parents to know what they need to do,” explains Hutka.
Right now, parents must follow regulations directly on the seat.
Pelletier says she will lobby all levels of government until changes to the laws are made. She’s holding a fundraiser in Fredericton on Saturday to raise funds for legal applications as she expects the process to be a lengthy one.
Those with questions about car or booster seat installation can learn more by contacting Child Safety Link 1-866-288-1388, or online at www.childsafetylink.ca