B.C. coroner urges safer road design to protect child pedestrians, cyclist

By The Canadian Press
June 15, 2016 - 1:49pm Updated: June 15, 2016 - 4:29pm

VANCOUVER — One winter afternoon, a student and a friend were dropped off by a transit bus along a British Columbia highway. Traffic was heavy, and there was no controlled crossing for pedestrians nearby.

The teens walked in front of the bus and ran to cross the road. Witnesses said neither youth looked for oncoming traffic, and they could not be seen by a driver in a car that was passing the bus.

“The vehicle driving past the bus narrowly missed the first youth but tragically fatally struck the second,” says a new report issued by the provincial coroners’ service.

“The friend stated, ‘I thought the transit bus was like a school bus and that vehicles would stop.'”

The case provides a tragic example of preventable child and youth traffic fatalities, the BC Coroners Service says in its report. After reviewing the deaths of 81 young pedestrians, skateboarders and cyclists between 2005 and 2014, it’s calling for safer street design and better traffic-safety education.

The report released Wednesday reveals a portrait of the young people who died on B.C.’s roads. It says 15 to 18-year-olds were most likely to die in these incidents, and 23 of 29 in that age range tested positive for alcohol or marijuana.

More than one-third of the 81 youth had involvement with the Children’s Ministry within 12 months of their deaths, which the coroner’s service says is consistent with research findings in other jurisdictions.

Seventeen per cent were identified as aboriginal, twice what would be expected based on the proportion of B.C. children who are aboriginal, which is eight per cent.

The service also found nearly half of the children aged one to four died in driveway incidents. The report cites a horrific example where a young child suddenly ran behind a parent’s SUV as it was backing up.

“The child could not be seen as the height of the vehicle and a fence obstructed the driver’s view,” the report says. “The parent was not aware of the injuries until after the vehicle was stopped and had been exited.”

The report also reveals that most young pedestrian fatalities occurred at non-intersection locations, and that more pedestrians died than cyclists or boarders, including skateboarders, longboarders and tobogganers.

The service makes a number of recommendations, including that B.C. approach road design with a focus on safety and that traffic safety education for children and youth by increased.

It calls for improvements to crosswalk safety, such as giving pedestrians at high-incident locations a head start of a few seconds before vehicle traffic is allowed to move in an intersection. 

The report also calls for Transport Canada to enact regulations that require all new vehicles in Canada to have rear-facing technology to alert drivers to the presence of pedestrians when backing up.

— Follow @ellekane on Twitter.

Laura Kane, The Canadian Press

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