2 years after the death of their son, a Quebec couple say the roads are still not safe
Since Pierre Boutin and Catherine Ricard lost their 13-year-old son Jules, they have been fighting for Quebec to see its blind spots when it comes to pedestrian safety.
Now that a coroner’s report has described their son’s death as “violent and preventable,” they say it is time for the province to act.
“It’s very hard,” Ricard said, “but at the same time it’s an opportunity… One of the problems that caused Jules to die is that we are not taking any action to protect the lives of pedestrians. . “
In September 2019, Jules Boutin was struck by a school bus that turned left in a street he was crossing, a few steps from his high school in Saint-Agathe-des-Monts.
Coroner Julie Blondin released her report on her death on Thursday.
She found that the teenager had right of way but also noted the testimony of the bus driver and three nearby motorists, all of whom said they did not see Boutin crossing the street. The report says the bus driver may have been distracted, but also observes that the police who investigated the incident could not find grounds for criminal charges.
Blondin made a series of recommendations, including mandatory training for bus drivers every three years and better safety equipment on school buses, such as 360-degree cameras and emergency braking systems.
Parents of Boutin and the pedestrian Quebec road safety group welcomed the recommendations, but said they wanted the coroner’s office to go further.
“We ask that the recommendations made by the coroner be implemented and that the chief coroner order a public inquiry,” said the group’s director, Sandrine Cabana-Degani.
Cabana-Degani says the report raises important questions about pedestrian deaths often swept up as crashes – even when victims follow the rules – and why drivers who are distracted or don’t give way to someone on foot don’t do not face legal consequences unless they are found to be intoxicated or driving recklessly.
Cabana-Degani says she would like Quebec to implement the vision zero approach – a global movement to end traffic deaths and injuries – and build new infrastructure like elevated intersections, pedestrian islands and extended borders.
“You have to empower the person who has the power to change things,” said Ricard. “When you think of the street design, as a mother, I can’t change that.”
“Jules is not coming back,” said Pierre Boutin. “But if we can prevent more accidents in the future, I think that will be our small contribution to a better understanding of pedestrian rights and drivers’ responsibilities.”