By: Patrick Brown
Recently at the request of Jared Kolb of Cycle Toronto and a news reporter, I took a look at what punishment was handed out to the drivers who hit, maimed and killed pedestrians and cyclists. When I reviewed just what was in my cabinet, I was alarmed to find that many go unpunished or only get a slap on the wrist. For those who are punished, most of the fines being paid are less than $100.00. The Coroners Review also showed a very low percentage of charges being laid after a pedestrian or cyclist is killed due to driver behaviour.
What is really sad, is that when the families I represent show up to Highway Traffic Court to read their Victim Impact Statements, the reckless driver is normally not even present to hear the devastating consequences that followed their actions. The driver sends an agent to court who usually seeks a reduced fine. The family, who spent hours putting the statement together, never gets to read the statement to the person who committed the offence.
A civil case can only bring money. It does not bring accountability. The money paid to victims in a civil case comes from insurance companies, not the perpetrator. Meanwhile those families who have lost a loved one, or those who have suffered lifelong disabilities, feel that justice was never served.
It is for this reason that eight States in the US have already passed Vulnerable Road User Laws. Efforts are underway in many other states for the same types of laws.
It is time for Ontario to lead the charge and bring stronger penalties when a careless driver crashes into a Vulnerable Road User.
How would the Vulnerable Road User Law work? Quite simply, Vulnerable Road Users (VRU) would be defined under the legislation to include pedestrians, cyclists and other at risk road users. When a Vulnerable User is struck by a reckless driver, the legislation would require the court to impose greater penalties against the driver which reflect the fact that the driver struck a vulnerable road. This legislation would provide general deterrence and require the driving public to take greater care when travelling near pedestrians, cyclists and other at risk road users. The legislation would also make it mandatory for the careless driver to attend personally in court at the time of sentencing. The penalties when a driver has seriously injured or killed a VRU would require the court to consider increased monetary fines, suspension of licences, and jail if necessary.
Let’s make this happen.