An Edmonton mother is speaking out against what she calls “ridiculous” laws around pedestrians in marked crosswalks being struck by vehicles.
Jennifer Miguel vividly remembers Feb. 23, 2016. Her boys had been walking to school together, just a few blocks from their home in Delton.
She knew something was wrong the moment her oldest son, Alex, came home.
“He ran through the door and said, ‘Mom, a car just ran over Ethan.'”
Ethan is Miquel’s youngest son. He was eight at the time. She raced out the door and arrived at the scene at the same time as first responders.
The scene was a marked crosswalk, complete with amber lights. The boys say they pushed the button to turn them on and started crossing. A van had already stopped for them. What happened next, Ethan doesn’t recall.
“I just blacked out and I woke up and I was screaming and it hurt,” he said.
Witnesses told Miguel her son was hit by a red car and dragged 15 feet as it kept going. Ethan’s injuries were extensive.
“Broken femur, a lot of wound care, a lot of orthodontist surgeries, skin grafting his face,” Miguel said.
Three and a half years later, Ethan is still recovering. He’s currently having a lot of problems with his knee. For months he was in a wheelchair, then crutches, eating only soft foods because eight of his teeth needed to be pulled.
“He sat here in a wheelchair and faced the window as the spring weather came in. He was just depressed and very, very sad. He heard kids playing outside and he was in a wheelchair,” Miguel said.
To this day, he cannot run more than a block, or play dodge ball in gym class.
“It’s hard to walk up stairs, and I’m hurting most of the time,” Ethan said Thursday.
On Wednesday night, the unthinkable happened. Ethan’s older brother, Alex, was struck by a vehicle. He was also in a marked crosswalk.
The intersection had full traffic lights and Alex said he waited for the walk symbol to cross. He was in the middle of the intersection when he was struck by a truck turning left at 97 Street and 122 Avenue.
“He comes, he hits me. I stumble around and fall on my knuckles. I have scrapes on my wrists and everything,” Alex explained, showing his wounds.
After getting X-rays at the Stollery Children’s Hospital, it was determined he had no broken bones. His injuries aren’t as severe as his little brother’s, but the 17-year-old is sore and angry.
At the scene, Alex said the driver of the truck blamed him for the crash — saying he should have been wearing reflective clothing.
“Follow the rules of the road and don’t be an idiot. Try not to run people over. That really sucks,” he said.
In Alberta, the consequence for failing to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk is $776 and four demerit points. It’s not enough, Miguel said.
“I’m extremely upset. It’s a slap on the wrist. They should at least lose their licence, at least for a period,” she said.
She cannot believe that at-fault drivers are allowed to get back in their vehicles and drive away.
“Immediately, you should lose your licence. You hit somebody, you’re at fault,” Miguel said. “So those laws have to be changed. There has to be more consequences to actions.”
The penalties fall under the purview of the province. Alberta Transportation responded to Global News’ questions in a statement from Minister Rick McIver on Friday.
“I am very sorry to hear about these incidents and offer my sympathy to the family affected. What happened the other night is a serious reminder for all road users to be cautious and to look out for each other to help keep everyone safe,” he said.
“Penalties and sanctions are one part of promoting traffic safety, and department staff review incidents like this when considering potential future changes to traffic legislation and regulations. Additionally, police have the authority to use their discretion to levy a more serious charge after a collision causing injury.
“However, no amount of legislation will be more effective at preventing accidents than road users treating each other with care and respect.”
Back in 2016, when Ethan was hit, Alex had pushed the City of Edmonton to place more speed bumps at school zone crosswalks.
He’s not alone in that mission.
Steve Finkelman and Jane Cardillo’s 27-year-old son was killed five and a half years ago while crossing the street at a crosswalk on Whyte Avenue.
The woman who hit and killed David Finkelman was charged with failing to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk and careless driving. Her licence was suspended for two months and she was fined $2,000.
Steve Finkelman said drivers are often at fault in pedestrian collisions.
“I mean, it’s almost always the drivers. I know the drivers are always complaining about pedestrians but the pedestrians aren’t driving one tonne of steel. If you’re a driver, you should be driving carefully no matter what the speed is. If there are people around, you should be paying attention,” he said.
The parents have been pushing the city to improve infrastructure at crosswalks throughout Edmonton.
“Not every crosswalk has lights. To me, that’s number one. That’s a priority,” Cardillo said.
According to the Capital Region Intersection Safety Partnership, approximately 60 per cent of pedestrian collisions happen in crosswalks.
Now 11 years old, with scars still very visible on his right knee, Ethan also thinks drivers are the key player when it comes to pedestrian safety.
“If they get close to an intersection in general, just look,” he said.