City, Zalzal to be cited for initiating ‘Jessica’ truck safety

Dec 1, 2015 | Articles

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By Laureen Sweeney

The city and its retired Public Works director Marianne Zalzal are to receive certificates of appreciation for their leadership in developing and installing city trucks with side guards and blind-spot cameras to increase pedestrian safety. They are to be recognized at the council meeting December 7.

In announcing the citations last week, Councillor Cynthia Lulham said the certificates would be presented by Jeanette Holman-Price on behalf of the Jessica Campaign.

Jessica Holman-Price, her 21-year-old daughter, was killed by a contractor’s truck involved in snow removal operations December 19, 2005 at Strathcona and Sherbrooke. Jessica slid under the wheels while saving her brother, aged 10 at the time, for which she was posthumously awarded Canada’s Medal of Bravery.

Championed by Lulham and the city, truck safety became a mission for Zalzal, who initiated the development of a prototype yellow safe-guard for the Westmount trucks. It soon became a model for use in some other Montreal municipalities (see story, November 17, 2009, p. 3).

Three years later, the first city trucks were outfitted with cameras allowing the driver to view blind spots behind and to the side (see stories December 4, 2012, p. 8) By the time Zalzal had retired, the city had equipped almost its entire fleet of large Public Works and Hydro Westmount trucks with safeguards and cameras.

It was one of her proudest “legacies,” she told the Independent in a retirement interview earlier this year (see story April 21, p. 5).

“For an engineer, anything you can do for safety makes you feel good,” she said. Meanwhile Lulham worked at the level of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, which has been lobbying Transport Canada to mandate the obligatory use of safe-guards.

In introducing a resolution to this effect at the February 2 city council meeting in 2009, Lulham stated that Westmount was the first municipality in Quebec to do so. At the same time, she said council had asked the city staff to look into retrofitting its current larger trucks with the devices.

“A simple thing like this can save lives,” she stated of the local initiative. “I’m proud of our Public Works and happy we’re setting an example.”

Through the years, Lulham has kept in touch with Jessica’s mother, who now lives in Newfoundland.

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