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Wife's sorrow turns into action with new driving law

Greg Stobbart, OPP sergeant, was killed by a motorist with numerous dangerous driving convictions. He is pictured here with his wife, Eleanor McMahon.

Eleanor McMahon, a woman deserving of the description spitfire, has a plaque on her office wall quoting Winston Churchill: "If you are going through hell, keep going."

Four years ago, her hell began when her 44-year-old husband, Greg Stobbart, an Ontario Provincial Police sergeant was swiped by a dump truck while cycling up a hill near Milton, Ont. Her story, told in this paper in September 2007, was heart-breaking: He lived just long enough for Ms. McMahon to hold his hand in the hospital. They'd be been married only four years.

And then, in the midst of grief came rage: the driver who hit her husband, was later convicted of careless driving, should not have even been on the road. He'd racked up a long list of traffic violations, one for his part in an accident just two months earlier.

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It seemed this fall, that there were reports of accidents between cars and cyclists nearly every day - both near-misses and tragedies. Ms. McMahon set out, after her husband's death, to do something about it. This week, a law named for her husband came into effect. Greg's Law allows police to immediately impound the vehicles of suspended drivers caught on the road, rather than churning them through an often slow-moving bureaucracy.

"It's a bittersweet feeling," Ms. McMahon said on the phone. "It feels like a high price to pay."

It takes a public citizen who is dogged and tireless to turn legislation into law, and Ms. McMahon is all those things. She lost a good man not long after finding him, and that would break anyone. But she put herself back together, and now fights to make our roads safer. Society owes a debt to everyone like her who has turned sorrow into action, however small the steps may seem.

And she is not finished. In addition to her advocacy work for bike safety, she is now lobbying for two new pieces of legislation: one requiring drivers to give cyclists a one-metre berth when passing, another that will require paved shoulders.

"You just put your head down and keep on going," she said today.

Because sometimes, as she knows so well, that is all you can do.

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About the Author

Erin Anderssen writes about mental health, social policy and family issues. More

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