There’s no question that in today’s connected world, we rely on our cell phones—most of us have trouble putting them down. But driving and using a cell phone can be a deadly combination—a fact that Claudie Landry will live with for the rest of her life.
On June 21, 2014, Landry’s 18-year-old daughter, Laura Tardif, was killed when the car she was driving was hit by a train at a railway crossing in L’Isle-Verte, Que. Laura didn’t see the train coming because she was using her cell phone to text a friend.
Laura’s tragic story is another example of how railway crossing and trespassing incidents tear families, friendships, and even entire communities apart. It is the subject a new video produced as part of Operation Lifesaver’s #STOPTrackTragedies campaign. Four new #STOPTrackTragedies videos are being unveiled during Rail Safety Week, from September 19th to 25th.
In the video, Laura’s mother Claudie, talks about her daughter’s incident and what her death took away from their family. Here is some of her conversation with Operation Lifesaver.
How would you describe Laura?
Laura was an active girl. She was social—a beautiful, smiling young woman. Then, when she learned to drive, it was a party. She was often away, visiting her friends; she had several groups of friends. I often saw her playing her music loudly. Then, unfortunately, the cell phone also started to take up a lot of space in her life. I used to joke, “Laura, is that your vital organ?” In the collision, the vital organ survived, but Laura did not. Unfortunately, she did not get a second chance.
When did she start driving?
Laura got her driver’s licence at 17. Then, from the age of 17 to 18, I can say that she did a lot of mileage. She really liked it. She would take my car, then go see her friends. It was really important to have her licence, to feel free, and to do more of the things she wanted to do without depending on mom and dad. That was something that I was a little concerned about.
Did you ever talk about rail safety with her?
No, I didn’t really talk to Laura about the dangers that might exist near railways. There aren’t really any trains that go by our house. So, we cross the railway tracks and we don’t pay attention, really, because we figure there won’t be a train. But you really have to pay attention all the time, even if there is no train when you pass. Trains can arrive at any time. That’s what happened to Laura.
What happened on the day of her accident?
She went to her new boyfriend’s place, and then she was coming home on a country road. It was a beautiful day—the sun was setting. There was a railway there; there were no gates, but there were flashing lights. There were trees on the right side of Laura’s vehicle, so it was a little difficult to see if a train was coming. Laura was driving down the road, and a westbound train came through the intersection at the same time. The conductors heard what sounded like a “bang”, and at that moment, they applied the brakes. But it was too late. Laura passed by, she really didn’t see or hear the train.
When did you realize that this was a case of distracted driving?
The police told us it was the cell phone. It was open, and there was a text message that had been sent at the time of the collision—so she was responding to a friend. It didn’t surprise me, because I knew that Laura sometimes texted while driving. I warned her, but she didn’t really follow my advice. And we can’t always be with our kids in the car. But it didn’t surprise me that it was distracted driving, given Laura’s personality. She was very easily distracted—her head was in the clouds.
How has her death affected your family?
We are a family of four. So, when one person passes away, it’s a lot. At night, I used to take out four plates for dinner—now I only take out three. Laura used to go out a lot, so I’d turn on the light for when she came back. Now I lock the door. Our family misses her a lot, even to this day. Sure, we saw her less because she was often with her friends. But we really feel it—because she doesn’t come home at night anymore. We have to adapt, and develop other points of reference with a new model: a family of three.