Home CommentaryStudent Life Snow removal machines unyielding to pedestrian safety

Snow removal machines unyielding to pedestrian safety

by Archives February 17, 2009

We may not all be drivers, but we are all certainly pedestrians. Meet someone who’s trying to help us watch our step.
The recent deaths of three elderly citizens in two separate fatal accidents involving snow dump trucks in one day has re-ignited the issue of snow removal machines and pedestrian safety in Montreal. This unprecedented tragedy has prompted citizens to press lawmakers for a solution to this crisis.
Gonzalo Nunez, speaking for the City of Montreal, revealed pedestrian safety will be a two-stage process.
“There will be a coroner’s inquest and if the coroner’s report puts forward some recommendations to improve safety of citizens and workers, the City of Montreal will then study those recommendations with great attention,” Nunez said. “At this stage it is too early to modify them.”
It is also too early for the City to comment on how they plan to restructure snow removal operations.
“As it is an ongoing police investigation, we have to wait for conclusions of the investigation before we modify the operations,” Nunez stated. “It is our intention to collaborate fully with the coroner’s inquest. We will continue to use the same sub-contractors as there are many companies we use.”
On a federal level, Transport Canada also adopted a similar resolve in taking the necessary actions to stop future snow removal related accidents from occurring.
“Transport Canada is examining those latest incidents that took place in the Province of Quebec, as well as the ones going back to 2005,” said Maryse Durette of Transport Canada. “We are currently also working with the provinces and the Transportation Association of Canada to study collisions between vulnerable road users and large commercial vehicles. The results of these studies will determine further actions,” she added.
However, for Jeanette Holman-Price, all these proposed actions could not come soon enough.
On Dec. 19, 2005, her daughter, Jessica tragically lost her life at the hands of the driver operating a snow removal dump truck. In the three years since the death of the young Concordia student, her mother has been fighting to prevent others from enduring the same fate. Jeanette Holman-Price has channelled her energies into The Jessica Campaign.
“The mandate is to improve awareness and education of pedestrians’ rights and to use this education to obliterate pedestrian fatalities through the Just Enhancement of our Security through Sideguard Implementation and Community Action (JESSICA),” said Holman-Price. “In her short time on Earth, she did a lot to help families of victims and she would have taken a cause such as this one to ensure [the safety] of Concordian students. It is for them that we continue to fight.”
The JESSICA campaign has a couple of pedestrian safety recommendations to make to the federal and provincial governments.
“My family campaigns tirelessly for the implementation of under-guards on snow removal vehicles,” said Holman-Price. “I have presented to groups of delegates from the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators to the Canadian Federation of Municipalities in Ottawa,” she stated. The ultimate goal is for Transport Canada to legislate under-guards mandatory in their upcoming meeting in Victoria next month.
The City of Westmount, where Jessica died, chose to adopt implementing snow machine guards on their vehicles. It’s one small first step in the long journey to protecting citizens from preventable snow removal tragedies.
Another recommendation is putting pedestrian priority crossing signals. It’s “another simple, albeit costly, way to protect citizens,” said Holman-Price. “A 30-second time frame where pedestrians can safely cross at an intersection during which time all traffic has a stop signal: surely we can spare 30 seconds out of our rushed schedules to save a life.”
Since then, Holman-Price has returned back to her hometown of Newfoundland. “We are no longer residents in Quebec as we are terrified to walk the streets when we visit,” she explained.
But Holman-Price has taken her fight with her to Newfoundland. “Locally we are working towards a pedestrian safety day to be held in the summer in Jessica’s memory and hope that this event will spread across the country.”
“Local junior officers will man corners throughout metropolis areas and observe four traffic violations such as the ones which culminated in Jessica’s death for a two hour period.” she said. The statistics generated from these results will be reported to the public underscoring the dangers pedestrians face with methods of overcoming them.
She has received overwhelming support from the province of Newfoundland, even though her daughter’s accident occurred on Quebec soil.
Holman-Price’s various and valiant efforts have been met with silence from Quebec, which has spoken volumes.
“Provincially, we’ve not received one word of response from the Quebec government regarding our requests for safety changes such as underguards and/or pedestrian priority lighting.”
Holman-Price referred to Article 83.57 of the Automobile Insurance Act as the main reason the law surrounding the “no-fault” stipulation which removes accountability on the part of the driver.
Article 83.57 states that “any incident arising from a motor vehicle accident in the Province of Quebec cannot be taken before any court of law in any land.”
“Regardless of the misuse, the incompetence, the harassment or the plain financial strain caused or imposed from an automobile accident, the victims must accept the meagre contribution from the police, hospital or SAAQ without any legal recourse,” Holman-Price said.
“If families like mine could force the SAAQ to cover the real costs of rehabilitation, or to hold them accountable for the driving infractions which kill and injure our pedestrians, then it would be cheaper for the government to implement life saving change,” she said. “But at the moment, with the minimal payment to injured victims and the fact that this law prohibits accountability, – the carnage will continue. It’s cheaper to hit people than to evoke the changes,” she stated.
But the battle hasn’t just been about implementing more safety measures. The Holman-Prices have fought with the province on the cost of rehabilitation.
“Three years later we still need to accommodate our grief and the effects of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder which has encompassed our family,” she explained. “At the same time, we need to care for the ongoing rehabilitation of our son and the treatment for his injuries.” Before Jessica lost her life, she saved her brother’s by sweeping him out of harm’s way. He is still suffering from mental and physical anguish.
The aid the Quebec government provides falls short of the help her family needs. They “spend countless hours per week in appeals and accounting issues with the SAAQ” over transportation costs for her son’s appointments for psychotherapy sessions. With the additional expense of physiotherapy and additional resources, it becomes a heavy burden to bear.
Holman-Price also hopes to raise awareness amongst university students who routinely travel the same roads Jessica once did.
“It is pedestrians such as those who attend the various universities, and like Jessica, spend days on St. Catherine, de Maisonneuve, Crescent Streets. These are the people The Jessica Campaign is trying to protect.”
Students, however, can also make a change. The JESSICA campaign website has a copy of letters that people can send to Prime Minister Harper advocating the use of side-guards on trucks. The postage is free.
For more information visit www.thejessicacampaign.com.

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