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Saved by seatbelts: Saskatchewan mother shares survival story as SGI urges public to buckle up

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WATCH: Milissa Gavel and her then three-month-old son survived a highway rollover in December 2005. Now, they're speaking out on the importance of proper seatbelt and child seat use. – Mar 2, 2020

Milissa Gavel has had 14 years of driving her son Kai to activities, appointments and all the other occasions life has to offer.

It’s a seemingly ordinary accomplishment, save for the fact the pair survived a highway rollover shortly after Kai was born.

“I feel very fortunate,” Gavel said Monday.

“I get to have my son and my daughter gets to have her brother and that’s because we were wearing our seatbelts.”

READ MORE: ‘I just am grateful that I’m alive’: Regina man highlights importance of seatbelts

In December 2005, Gavel and a friend were driving from Melville to Regina while Kai, then three months old, was secured in his rear-facing child seat.

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Gavel said she tried to pass a vehicle on the highway, but hit black ice. She over-corrected to avoid the other vehicle before veering off the road, hitting the ditch and rolling her jeep multiple times.

Milissa Gavel and her then three-month-old son were travelling from Melville to Regina in December 2005, when the jeep they were in hit black ice and veered off the road.
Milissa Gavel and her then three-month-old son were travelling from Melville to Regina in December 2005, when the jeep they were in hit black ice and veered off the road. Milissa Gavel / Submitted

“We had stuff strewn everywhere. There was coffee on the roof, our cellphones had flown out the window, Kai had been sleeping so he didn’t make a peep,” she recalled.

“We were all wearing seatbelts, and the first thing I remember my [friend] saying is, ‘I’m okay, I’m okay.'”

With help from a stranger driving not far behind them, Kai — still secure in his child seat — was removed safely from the vehicle.

All three walked away from the crash unscathed.

“Every time we pass that particular spot on the highway, we are grateful that we are having a conversation about our safety and how fortunate we were as opposed to being a cross in a ditch on that highway,” Gavel said.

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SGI shines spotlight on seatbelt, child seat safety

Gavel shared her story Monday to help kick off the Saskatchewan Government Insurance spotlight on seatbelt and child seat safety for the month of March.

According to SGI, police agencies report anywhere between 300 to 600 offences a month related to seatbelts and car seats in Saskatchewan.

READ MORE: Humboldt crash coroner’s report calls for mandatory bus seatbelts, improved victim ID system

“Most people do wear their seatbelts. The small minority of people who don’t are highly over-represented in our fatality statistics,” said Tyler McMurchy, SGI media relations manager.

Over the last decade, an average of 34 people died each year on Saskatchewan roads due to non-use or improper use of restraints.

Acting Cpl. Adele Breen sees the consequences of those decisions as a member of the RCMP collision reconstruction program.

“We are seeing more severe injuries if they do survive. If they had been wearing their seatbelt, those injuries would have been not life-threatening,” Breen said.

Milissa Gavel pictured with baby son Kai after the pair survived a highway rollover in December 2005.
Milissa Gavel pictured with baby son Kai after the pair survived a highway rollover in December 2005. Milissa Gavel / Submitted

Breen said police still see a “surprising” number of people either not wearing seatbelts, or wearing them improperly.

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“People aren’t wearing their seatbelts, both in town and driving highway speeds,” she said, adding people also struggle with the correct installation of child seats.

“Out of the car seats we usually check, about 90 per cent of them are not installed properly. There’s small fixes.”

READ MORE: Manitoba man faces big fines after driving with baby seat balanced on car’s console

It’s a fact not lost on Kai, who is now nearing an age where he can get behind the wheel.

“My mom, she got me the proper carseat and made me safe when I couldn’t control that,” he said.

“I will always wear my seatbelt because I know that it’s very important and it saved my life and I’m hoping if I ever get in an accident that maybe it can do it again.”

SGI has online resources and provides car seat clinics to show proper installation across the province.

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