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Westmount asks for mandatory side guards

by Archives February 10, 2009

Westmount City Council passed a resolution last Monday requesting Transport Canada make the installation of side guards on snow removal trucks mandatory, in an effort to protect pedestrians and cyclists.
In an ironic twist of fate, the next morning, two pedestrians were run over and killed by a dump truck in Montreal’s Ville-Marie borough.
And within hours, a second snow removal truck accident claimed the life of a third pedestrian in Ahuntsic.
The two-day span of events was an emotional roller coaster for Jeanette Holman-Price.
Her daughter Jessica, a 21-year-old Concordia student, suffered a similar fate on Dec. 19, 2005.
She was waiting to cross a busy Westmount intersection with her 10-year-old brother, Peter Luc. When the light turned green, a truck cut the corner too tight and Peter Luc slipped and fell under the vehicle.
Within a split second, Jessica pushed her brother out of danger. But by doing so, she too slipped and fell under the truck, but couldn’t move out of the way in time.
Since then, the victim’s family has started the Jessica Campaign, aimed at making changes that, they say, could have prevented the fatal accident.
Westmount City Councillor Cynthia Lulham met Holman-Price and learned about the Jessica Campaign at a Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) meeting in Ottawa in November.
“It saves many lives, it costs very little. Most new trucks come with it. So it’s a matter of adopting it,” Lulham told council on Monday.
European countries have had similar legislation for the past two decades.
“I think it’s one way we can also pay tribute to a young woman who lost her life in our community, to be among the first to really try to do something about this,” said Westmount mayor Karin Marks.
Lulham e-mailed the mother moments after the resolution passed and Holman-Price, who now lives in Newfoundland, says she was overjoyed.
The happiness subsided the next day however, with the news of the three pedestrian deaths. She felt like her “family was hit by truck” when she heard the news, she said.
Given the circumstances, Holman-Price says she is glad council took the decision when it did. “I’m happy they didn’t wait for another death,” she said.
“When I heard the news about the deaths on Tuesday, I felt like I was losing my time [with the Jessica Campaign],” she said. “But then I took a deep breath and saw it as incentive to push harder.”
The family’s initial goal was to have 20,000 letters sent to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, requesting changes including the mandatory side guards on all heavy equipment in city streets, updates to Montreal’s traffic signals and amendments to Quebec’s no-fault insurance laws.
The blame in the accident is not the family’s main concern. “I don’t think the trucker killed my daughter,” said Mrs. Holman-Price. “The rules and regulations did.”
Holman-Price says she has received positive responses from everyone she has spoken to across the country, since beginning the Jessica Campaign.
Everyone but the federal government.
Transport Canada, Holman-Price says, has its eyes set on its Road Safety Vision 2010 program, which strives to make Canada’s roads the safest in the world by next year.
Fundamentally, the Jessica Campaign and Vision 2010 both aim to make roads safer. But Holman-Price says Transport Canada hasn’t been willing to modify its actions to get to that goal.
Now, she says, she is changing the way the Campaign operates, shifting the focus away from letter writing. Over 10,000 letters have already been sent.
Holman-Price hopes she will gain more support and freedom to “to lobby Ottawa” from resolutions like the one past in Westmount last week. The FCM is set to vote on more sweeping resolutions next month.
“Unfortunately letters aren’t getting [the government’s] attention,” she said. “Hopefully, deaths do.”

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