Joanna Dentskevich has been campaigning for a change to the law following what she has called a ‘horrific hit-and-run collision’ and urged the authorities to better protect vulnerable road users. No charges were brought against a driver who hit 14-year-old Freddie Dentskevich in March last year while he was cycling in St Martin.
Mrs Dentskevich’s campaign prompted St Martin Constable Karen Shenton-Stone to bring forward a proposal dubbed ‘Freddie’s Law’ to the Assembly.
Mrs Shenton-Stone’s original proposal called for the Infrastructure Minister Kevin Lewis to amend the Island’s Highway Code to create a ‘hierarchy of responsibility for road users’ that is ‘based on the level of risk presented to road users in the event of a collision’.
She accepted an amendment by Deputy Kevin Lewis following discussions with him and officers, which will see the minister carry out a structural review of road safety in the Island ‘in order to identify ways of improving road safety’, focusing on the needs of vulnerable road users.
‘This is a holistic approach that will benefit us all,’ said Mrs Shenton-Stone.
The ‘catalyst’ for bringing the proposal had been Freddie and his family, Mrs Shenton-Stone said, who ‘felt and still feel miserably failed by the system’. The Constable called Mrs Dentskevich a ‘principled and resilient campaigner’ and said that a petition brought by her had received 3,700 signatures by the day of the debate.
The amended proposition would ‘provide constructive, proactive and lasting improvement to road safety in Jersey,’ said Mrs Shenton-Stone. ‘This is not about a presumption of guilt.’
Deputy Carolyn Labey said she had been ‘appalled’ by the account of injuries sustained by Freddie.
‘Road safety really matters, and that’s the lesson we should put today,’ said Deputy John Young, while Deputy Lindsay Ash called it a ‘laudable’ proposal.
Deputy Lewis said as Infrastructure Minister he was committed to ‘making roads safer for all users’. He told Members he had a grandson the same age as Freddie who was ‘also a keen cyclist’.
An amendment from Senator Sarah Ferguson was voted down by 26 votes to 19. She wanted the Infrastructure Minister to study the Direct Vision Standard – introduced in London in October 2019 – and introduce a similar standard in Jersey ‘in order that pedestrians, cyclists and motorbikes are made more visible to the drivers of heavy-goods vehicles and other commercial vehicles’.
Initial findings from the review will be published by the end of 2021, with strategic-policy recommendations. Mrs Shenton-Stone said she thought the review would be ‘wide-ranging’. The amended proposition was approved unanimously with the support of 47 Members.