Metro News – Tougher penalties needed for drivers who fail to remain at the scene

Patrick Brown spoke with Metro News on the need for tougher penalties for drivers who leave people injured or dying on the road.

Pedestrian advocates believe that if the penalty was equivalent to or more severe than impaired driving, maybe it would discourage drivers from leaving the scene.

Unfortunately, the current penalty for failing to remain at the scene of an accident isn’t enough to prevent this from happening.

Fatal hit-and-run in Toronto ‘shows the flaw in the law,’ pedestrian advocates say

Pedestrian advocates are renewing their calls for tougher penalties for drivers who leave people injured or dying on the road in the wake of a fatal hit-and-run in Scarborough.

“It’s a heinous and repulsive act,” said lawyer and pedestrian champion Patrick Brown. “But unless the law reflects a penalty that’s equivalent to or more severe than impaired driving, people will continue to take off.”

Saeed Maravvej Torbati, 25, turned himself in to police Monday after being identified as the driver in a Thursday crash that killed a 56-year-old woman near Markham and Nashdene roads. It’s believed to be the city’s first fatal pedestrian hit-and-run this year.

Torbati has been charged with failure to stop at the scene of a fatal accident and more charges could be added as the investigation continues. The vehicle involved in the crash, a black Mercedes Benz, is still being sought by police.

Uri Samson is among the advocates who say the current penalty for failing to remain at the scene of an accident – a maximum penalty of six months in jail and a $2,000 fine – isn’t enough to deter drivers from fleeing.

Samson’s son, Tom, was killed in a hit-and-run in 2012. The driver, Miguel Oliveira, pleaded guilty to failing to remain and was allowed to serve his six-month sentence on weekends.

“It shows the flaw in the law,” Samson said. “If someone kills someone and then hides away for days, the only charge they can slap on him is that he failed to remain.”

Samson said Torbati’s case has stirred up difficult memories of his son’s death. 

“I almost threw up when I heard the news on the radio. I imagined what this poor woman’s family is going to go through, especially if what happened to us is repeated,” he said.

Samson and Brown are part of a growing chorus demanding the province increase penalties for drivers who don’t stop at the scene.

They would like Ontario to follow Florida’s lead. The state has imposed mandatory minimums in such cases, meaning fleeing the scene of a fatal crash is punishable by at least four years in prison.

Who is Saeed Torbati?

A friend of Saeed Maravvej Torbati is struggling to come to terms with how the “honest, straight-up and caring” young man allegedly left a woman dying on the side of the road after hitting her with his Mercedes.

“It’s not something I would have expected from him,” said Bhanu Vadhera, a friend of Torbati’s in Ottawa. “He’s really a stand-up guy.”

According to his LinkedIn page, Torbati is the founder of Ontario Stars, a direct marketing company that sells “eco-friendly” home products like heaters and air filters. He hails from Ottawa, but Vadhera said he spends a lot of time in Toronto on business.

Torbati immigrated to Canada about five years ago and has since brought his mother and sister to the country, Vadhera said.

“He wanted a better life for his family,” he said. “So he brought his mom over and worked hard to build a company.”

Vadhera believes his friend must have been “startled” by the alleged accident and “took the time to process” what happened before turning himself in.

“I just feel awful,” he said. “Especially for the woman’s family. She was the victim here.”

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