Alberta fatality report recommends strict rules for extreme driving events

Tougher rules needed for extreme driving events

EDMONTON — A judge says unregulated extreme driving stunts such as the one that led to the death of an Edmonton university student should be banned.

The recommendation is in a fatality report into the May 18, 2013, death of Melinda Green.

Green was watching a “Jeeps Go Topless” charity fundraiser in a strip mall parking lot in which one vehicle drove on top of the front wheel of another one.

For some reason, the top Jeep lurched forward into the crowd, injuring the 20-year-old. She died later that afternoon.

In the report released Thursday, provincial court Judge Jody Moher notes the event had no safety plan, no safety precautions and no insurance. There were also no barriers between the demonstration area and spectators.

Moher said gaps in provincial and municipal rules allowed the “inherently dangerous” driving demonstration to take place.

“Extreme driving demonstrations/driving stunts such as the one that killed Melinda Green should be prohibited whether on private property, public property or ‘off highway,’ ” Moher wrote.

“The definition of ‘highway’ in the (Alberta) Traffic Safety Act should be clarified to expressly include public and privately owned parking lots.”

Moher recommends that extreme driving events not be allowed in public unless there are safety marshals present and barriers between vehicles and spectators.

The report also recommends that all municipalities have bylaws to regulate special events involving motor vehicles and that they set out clear rules to follow.

Those rules should require an event safety plan, insurance coverage and the attendance of police and emergency medical services staff, the report says.

Moher said a bylaw would allow a municipality to prohibit an event if any of the rules weren’t followed.

Mira Green, Melinda’s mother, said she is satisfied with the recommendations and hopes governments take action.

She and her husband John attended the fatality inquiry.

She said extreme driving demonstrations are OK if safety rules are followed.

“We believe that had there been concrete barriers when that demonstration went wrong and the stunt went badly, it might have saved Melinda’s life.”

It is also important that all municipalities have rules, she said.

While heartened by the recommendations and grateful for the work of the judge, Green said the report does not provide her and her husband with much solace.

“It doesn’t change anything for us. We will still wake up every day without Melinda,” she said.

“But there is some comfort in knowing that maybe we have made a difference that somebody else doesn’t have to experience this and suffer like this if these recommendations are implemented.” 

Transportation Minister Brian Mason said his department is reviewing the recommendations to come up with possible policy options.

Mason said protecting public safety is the top priority.

“Either prohibiting these kind of things in areas like parking lots or providing for adequate barriers to protect spectators is quite doable and we are just reviewing what the implications would be of introducing that,” he said.

Fatality inquiries investigate the circumstances of deaths and can make recommendations to avoid similar ones, but they do not lay blame.

 

John Cotter, The Canadian Press