An interview with Jeannette Holman-Price of The Jessica Campaign. The Jessica Campaign (“TJC”) is a public advocacy for long overdue upgrades to motor vehicle safety standards and legislation across North America. Started in Canada following the preventable and needless death of 21-year-old Jessica Holman-Price, M.B., TJC continues to strive to become a leading force behind Canada’s Vision Zero Goals. Since her daughter’s death, Jeannette Holman-Price, has lobbied tirelessly across North America for our legislators to use the tools that they  readily have at their fingertips.

What is The Jessica Campaign?

At 6:07 p.m. December 19th, 2005, our world was put into shock, our two youngest children were struck by a truck, Jessica pushing her younger brother out but unable to save herself. Sideguards would have undoubtedly saved her life. When asked that night what we wanted, the reply “a glowing neon pink sign saying My Name is Jessica – Can you see me now?”. Although neither neon nor pink, we have achieved a virtual sign throughout North America  Jessica is seen not only as the young woman who saved her brother’s life, but as the conduit for countless lives saved. That day there wasn’t one sideguard in North America, in Jessica’s memory her supporters are proud to say that The Jessica Campaign has been instrumental in the development and delivery of tens of thousands of sideguards across the continent.  We will continue to advocate until sideguards are federally mandated and every heavy equipment vehicle built or imported to North America is sporting a federally approved sideguard. Even before legislation private owners, municipalities and companies are fitting their fleets with sideguards, knowing they can save lives.

What is the most important evidence for sideguards?

Evidence for life saving sideguards is boundless. The countries of the EEC legislated sideguards nearly 30 years ago and decades before they were law in countries who came to form the EEC. There are libraries of research and statistics to support the EEC Directive demanding sideguards. A literature review in the early years of our advocacy says it best. Citing that In jurisdictions where sideguards have been introduced, there has been a proven 20% reduction in fatalities and over 25% reduction in the severity of injuries.  The ongoing evidence continues to support this intervention. With updates to sideguards available through today’s technology the chances to mitigate injuries and loss of life continues to improve.  The most indisputable fact is that despite decades of detractors – the converse cannot be proven.  Sideguards are proven, they save lives!

Are all sideguards the same?  What is the difference with side skirts?

All sideguards have the same basic principle, designed so as to prevent a pedestrian, a cyclist or a motorcyclist from being dragged under the vehicles and crushed by it’s wheels. The designs can change for improved aerodynamics, aesthetics and material preference. The major similarity is that they are each designed with particular features i.e. distance from the ground, edge design, proximity to axles and engineered elasticity, so as to stop someone from breaking through the sideguard. Side skirts are easily mistaken as a safety design, while they are close they lack the structural integrity of a sideguard. Side skirts are designed for fuel efficiency – they are just a few dollars away from doing double duty as an energy efficient skirt that also saves lives. A simple design change and a cost of just a a few hundred dollars could turn skirts into livesaving guards.

What do I say to those who say sideguards don’t make a meaningful impact on preventing injuries?

That is the easiest of answers. To them I say, SHOW ME THE SCIENCE. The science does not exist.  Sideguards have been proven for decades and they continue to be improved with new materials and technology. Sideguards and all underrun protection devices can continue to evolve. The cost continues to be lowered with mass production and emerging ideas. New technologies and improved design and materials increase aerodynamic savings. The aesthetics, and opportunities to use sideguards for advertising are constantly being updated. The science of sideguards is not being challenged, the proof is the reality and over 30 years existence. Those that imply there is no positive impact are not presenting proof. One can phrase a question in such a way that a result will give you a negative. Make the question simple. Do sideguards save lives? There is only one answer, YES.

If the product saves money and lives, why are they not on every truck in Canada?

That question could be best answered by our legislators. There is NO evidence saying sideguards are ineffective, sideguards (sideskirts with the appropriate engineered supports) not only save lives but they save money. In testing for aerodynamics, sideskirts have been proven to pay for themselves in months, with the necessary structural changes to make them save lives they would still be cost efficient and saving fuel costs in under two years. Those who are in opposition are not allowing the truth to be known.  Truckers across North America have seen the proof and communities are taking the lead in sideguard implementation. My thought is that the legislation has to be forgiving to the smaller operators. Not everyone can simply pay $800 – $1800 per truck to update their fleet today, that is why The Jessica Campaign is asking for legislation to be grandfathered for the smaller operators. In NY City, there are grants available smaller operators wanting to install sideguards 

How does that relate to the implementation of Vision Zero in Canada?

Lessons learned and public policy process for implementing change are a very complex problem and in many ways the process needed for change stands in the way of progress and certainly inhibits our path towards our Vision Zero Goals. For sideguards, the proof is decades old. The problems with implementation come to light with the process and the finance. When we began The Jessica Campaign, we were promised various research into our Vision and with the finances, cost cuts and opposition from the ill informed the process became stalled and is stalled today. The proof that sideguards save lives is in the archives of the UK, Australia and all EEC countries, the proof is on microfiche, we need not reinvent the wheel.  Simply open our minds to the proof offered by our compatriots, work together instead of silos and push towards Vision Zero. 

Anything else you would wish the network to know?  What’s next for The Jessica Campaign?

Our network needs to know the good news. On that fatal day 11 years ago there wasn’t ONE sideguard in North America. Today there are thousands, maybe tens of thousands across North America. City by city, our decision makers are seeing the truth. Once mandated by federal legislation the cost savings will continue to rise. Of course, once fatality rates lower so will insurance premiums, with mass production the cost of sideguards will also be lowered and the costs to our health care networks reduced as people stop falling pray to out of date technology and legislation. Next for TJC is a partnership. We now call ourselves TJC & Friends.  Sadly thousands more have joined the ranks since Jessica and we look to a way to have all our families connect.  With the human face to this loss – legislation will be imminent.

The Jessica Campaign, its gift giving (thousand of helmets, prizes and donations) have all been privately funded by Jessica’s family. Going forward TJC hopes to be able to have an interactive map, where anyone can choose their mile and to “walk’ that mile, physically or virtually to show their support across North America for sideguards. Ideally, as you choose your virtual mile, you can dedicate that mile to a loved one and your reason to want to see sideguards legislated. For that mile, we hope you will gather 50 signatures on our petitions asking the governments of North America to act now, the legislate sideguards without further delay.  On the anniversary (December 19th, 2016) I walked 21 miles, from my home near St. John’s, to Jessica’s place of birth, to the shore where her ashes were scattered and then on to City Hall.  My hope is over the coming year to walk the remainder of the 21,000 miles from St. John’s to Washington DC with 50 signatures per mile to show our legislators that North Americans want this change and we want it now. In conversations with other families I have met along this journey we speak about how we come together to share sad news, it is our unified hope that one day we will come together for a celebration of us all working together for One Vision Zero.