Charla Huber: All drivers owe it to Leila Bui to do better

Leila Bui has been in my thoughts for the past few weeks. I just can’t stop thinking about her and her family. Every article I read on the trial of the driver who struck Leila makes me stop and really think about all the ways this could have been preventable. Leila, who was 11 at the time, was struck in a crosswalk by a car two years ago.

Witnesses testified watching Leila look both ways before stepping onto the road on Dec. 20, 2017. She did what she was taught and followed safety precautions, including crossing the road in a marked crosswalk.

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As a parent I find this absolutely terrifying. I know I am approaching a time where my daughter will want to walk by herself to places and gain that first bit of independence and freedom. This story is a sad reminder to all of us, that no matter how well we inform our children and drill safety into their heads, it is not enough.

Parents also need to trust everyone else in the community, especially those on the roads, to follow the rules as well. It’s those rules that keep people safe, and as drivers, we need to remember that.

A date for the judge’s decision on the case will be scheduled on Tuesday. The decision is expected in the new year. There is evidence and witness testimony that the driver was speeding and texting while driving. The defence said the driver couldn’t see Leila because another vehicle was blocking her view.

Nothing will change that Leila received catastrophic brain injuries, including brain damage to both hemispheres, a fractured neck and a lacerated spleen. The result for Leila is living with severe brain damage and she has been in a near-comatose state.

I was horrified to read in the Times Colonist that an expert video analyst testified that the SUV that struck Leila accelerated to between 95-100 kilometres an hour on Ash Road just prior to approaching the crosswalk. I was in disbelief hearing of testimony that the driver, who is in her early 20s, didn’t slow down when approaching the crosswalk that Leila was in. A witness testified he honked his horn to get the driver’s attention.

Leila was struck at the crosswalk at Ash Road and Torquay Drive in Saanich. The road was cold and icy that day. Evidence was presented the driver accelerated to get up a slippery hill before approaching the crosswalk.

Phone records have shown that the driver sent 11 text messages that morning between 8 a.m. and 8:20 a.m. Leila was struck at 8:15 a.m.

I was late to get a driver’s licence; I was 24. In my years of driving I have never received a speeding ticket or any other ticket for my driving. I consider myself to be a safe driver, but I know I am far from perfect, and this story is a reminder to me about the responsibility we have as drivers.

Lately, every time I get behind the wheel and drive to drop off my daughter or to head to work, I think of Leila. Every time I drive through a crosswalk, I think of Leila.

This story has really affected me, and that’s why I chose to write about it this week. Even as a safe driver, I know I can always do better. I hope that if any good can come out of this tragedy, it is the fact that we acknowledge these types of things are preventable, more often than not.

Leila and her family are suffering more than we could ever imagine, and there is nothing that can fix it.

We can all drive more carefully, and this includes driving the speed limit, not texting and driving, and remaining diligently aware that as drivers we share the roads with other drivers, cyclists and pedestrians — and especially little children who are proud to be able to walk by themselves to school.

Charla Huber is the director of communications and Indigenous relations for M’akola Housing Society.

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