‘Cars are not toys’: Parents of Vaughan siblings killed in crash call for change in driving culture

‘Do you understand how quickly everything can go wrong in seconds? My kids lost their lives because of a few moments of selfish stupidity,’ father says after teen convicted of dangerous driving causing death

The parents of the two children killed in a collision in Vaughan last year are sharing their stories in the hope of creating a culture of safe driving in Ontario.

The family have spoken out following the conviction of the 17-year-old who pleaded guilty to two counts of dangerous driving causing death and one count of dangerous driving causing bodily harm in December 2021. He appeared at the court Newmarket Court on April 4 where he was convicted. to 12 months in an open youth facility, six months of community supervision, a six-year driving ban and one year of probation.

The collision on May 16, 2021 claimed the lives of 10-year-old Anaya and 4-year-old Jax Chaudhari who were struck, along with a neighbor, while playing at the end of their driveway. The Richmond Hill driver was 16 at the time.

“There were five of us in our comfort zone, in our front yard. We were comfortable, we felt safe and we did not expect the horror that was going to unfold before our eyes. We heard a car speeding up and immediately saw it swoop down on our two children and our neighbor. A few seconds – just a few seconds – transformed this day, shattered our family and changed our entire existence,” said their mother, Binta Patel.

After sentencing, she told media outside the courthouse that they knew they would never feel a sense of justice.

“We have lost faith in the systems that are supposed to keep us safe. We don’t know if a punishment would have been enough, all we know is that it doesn’t change anything for our family,” she said.

Patel said they were still traumatized every time they drove down their street or entered their driveway and their surviving child who witnessed the crash was deeply affected.

“Our surviving daughter who witnessed this trauma also lost her older brother, younger brother and her sense of innocence,” she said. “It’s worse than any fear or nightmare I’ve ever imagined. How could this be real, how could this happen? But it is and we are left with broken pieces to deal with.”

Ketan Chaudhari, the children’s father, said he was filled with “what ifs” ever since.

“We were completely helpless and vulnerable to (the) recklessness of a stranger,” he said.

Now the family have said they hope by sharing their story they can bring change to others.

“We want to honor the lives of our children Anaya and Jax by bringing attention to the issues of dangerous and reckless driving,” Patel said in tears.

They are calling for changes to the systems that prepare young drivers for the road, for parents to take more responsibility for their children’s actions, and for the community as a whole to create a culture of safe driving.

“We are victims of a much more serious problem. Who should we hold responsible, a 17-year-old kid? said Chaudhari.

He said if a child is too young and immature to understand the consequences of their actions and is therefore protected by the youth criminal justice system, then those children should not have access to a vehicle which can cause serious harm. .

“How is it different from giving a gun license to teenagers and then protecting them from shooting people?” he said.

Chaudhari’s message to all young drivers is simple: “Cars are not toys.”

“Cars can be deadly weapons. Speed ​​limits and laws are there to be obeyed and not being able to obey them is a sign that you are not ready to drive. Do you understand how quickly everything can go wrong in just a few seconds? may seem fun, cool or thrilling can destroy innocent lives and yours. My children lost their lives because of a few moments of selfish stupidity,” he said.

He also said parents must take responsibility for ensuring their children are ready for the road and responsible enough to handle a vehicle before allowing them access.

Patel called on everyone in the community to do their part, slow down and drive safer.

“Our message is that all of us collectively have to do better because it’s not OK and it’s not acceptable,” she said. “We ask that you, as a community, do your part to not only honor the lives of our children, but all those who have lost their lives due to reckless driving.”

Priti Patel, a relative of the family, shared a statement on behalf of King-Vaughan MP Stephen Lecce, who represents the constituency where this incident occurred. She said he was working with the family to make changes following the collision.

“I will continue to work directly with Binta and Ketan, their friends and the entire Athabasca (Drive) community to help save lives, which is why the government has just unveiled a new campaign and partnership with MADD to address the reckless and impaired driving targeting young people,” the statement said. “It’s also why we’re working to strengthen learning and targeted advertising to students, focused on promoting responsible driving, personal responsibility and an emphasis on the long-term impact of their decisions. We are also working to improve mandatory learning that addresses reckless driving within Ontario’s driver education program was designed to prevent these types of tragedies from happening again. »

Patel and Chaudhari were surrounded by loved ones as they made their tearful statements to the media following the sentencing.