By Faiza Wasim, Canwest News Service April 15, 2010 6:02 PM
OTTAWA — Standing next to a mother who lost her daughter in a horrific traffic accident, a Newfoundland MP on Thursday introduced a private member’s bill meant to make heavy trucks safer.
Liberal Siobhan Coady’s Bill C-512 would amend the Motor Vehicle Safety Act to ensure that all vehicles in higher weight categories that are manufactured or imported to Canada would be equipped with side guards to keep people from slipping beneath them.
The bill has a deeply personal meaning for the parents of Jessica Holman-Price, 21, who was killed more than four years ago in Montreal.
“On Dec. 19, 2005, our lives changed forever when our kids were standing on a snowbank at a busy intersection waiting to cross the street,” said Jeanette Holman-Price, Jessica’s mother, told a news conference on Parliament Hill.
That day, when the light turned green, a snow-removal truck came around the corner and caught the edge of the mound, causing Jessica’s 10-year-old brother, Peter-Luc, to slide under the vehicle.
Jessica reached for him but she too lost her footing and slid under the wheels of the truck. In a split second, she managed to push her brother out of harm’s way before the truck killed her. Jessica was posthumously awarded the Governor General’s Medal of Bravery.
The Jessica Campaign was started by the family, with the goal of improving road safety by fitting side guards — also known as under-run protection devices — to large vehicles.
It’s hoped that requiring side guards will prevent pedestrians and cyclists from falling under such vehicles.
Coady said she has met with Jessica’s mother a number of times to learn more about the issue and to develop solutions.
“Our campaign began the moment we saw the truck which killed our daughter didn’t have side-guard protection,” said Holman-Price.
“If side guards were on that truck, we wouldn’t be here today. Having lived and travelled through Europe and Australia, we assumed side guards were standard equipment in Canada. Today, we are grateful for the support of the Canadian public and understanding from across political parties and jurisdictions. The inevitability of safer roads, through Jessica’s memory and this Bill introduced by Siobhan Coady, will save other families from sharing our family’s tragedy.”
A study by the Transportation Safety Association of Canada found that improved frontal and side truck design cuts pedestrian fatalities the 20 per cent. As well, the severity of injuries is decreased by 25 per cent.
Legislation mandates under-run protection devices in the European Union and Australia, among others, but no such laws exist at the national level in Canada.
At the provincial level, Newfoundland and Labrador is installing side guards on its new fleet of snow-removal equipment.
Also speaking at the news conference was Shirley Johnson of the Brain Injury Association of Canada, whose son suffered a brain injury in a similar accident.
“Brain injuries are forever,” said Johnson. “Any bill that could save lives is worth promoting.”
Talking about her son, Holman-Price said he has a Mensa-level IQ and can speak three languages English, French and Norwegian but that he is now failing junior high school because his learning abilities have been severely affected as a result of a brain injury he sustained during the accident.