2 years after their son's death, Quebec couple say roads still aren't safe

·2 min read
Pierre Boutin and Catherine Ricard's son Jules died after being struck by a school bus in 2019. They hope Quebec will implement the recommendations listed in a coroner's report that looked into Jules' death and are calling for a public inquiry into pedestrian safety.  (Submitted by Piétons Québec - image credit)
Pierre Boutin and Catherine Ricard's son Jules died after being struck by a school bus in 2019. They hope Quebec will implement the recommendations listed in a coroner's report that looked into Jules' death and are calling for a public inquiry into pedestrian safety. (Submitted by Piétons Québec - image credit)

Ever since Pierre Boutin and Catherine Ricard lost their 13 year old son Jules, they've been fighting to get 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's time for the province to act.

"It's very hard," said Ricard, "but at the same time it's an opportunity.… One of the problems that caused Jules' death is we don't take action to protect pedestrians' lives."

In September of 2019, Jules Boutin was struck by a school bus that was turning left onto a street he was crossing, just steps away from his high school in Saint-Agathe-des-Monts.

On Thursday, coroner Julie Blondin released her report on his death.

She found that the teenager had the right of way but also noted the testimony of the bus driver and three nearby motorists, who all said they didn't see Boutin crossing the street. The report says the bus driver may have been distracted but also observes that police who investigated the incident did not find grounds for criminal charges.

Blondin laid out 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.

Boutin's parents and road safety group Piétons Québec welcomed the recommendations but said they want the coroner's office to go a step further.

"We ask that the recommendations that were made by the coroner are applied and that the coroner in chief order a public inquiry," said the group's director, Sandrine Cabana-Degani.

Submitted by Piétons Québec
Submitted by Piétons Québec

Vision zero

Cabana-Degani says the report raises important questions about pedestrian deaths often being brushed off as accidents — even when the victims are following the rules — and why drivers who are distracted or fail to yield the right of way to someone on foot don't face legal consequences unless they're deemed to be intoxicated or driving recklessly.

Cabana-Degani says she'd like Quebec to implement the vision zero approach — a global movement to end traffic-related deaths and injuries — and build new infrastructure like raised intersections, pedestrian islands and extended curbs.

"We need to put responsibility on the person who has the power to change things," said Ricard. "When you think about the design of the street, as a mother, I cannot change that."

"Jules won't come back," said Pierre Boutin. "But if we can avoid other accidents in the future, I think that will be our small contribution to a better understanding of the rights of pedestrians and the responsibilities of drivers."

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