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New legislation to crack down on Careless and Distracted Driving in Ontario

The Liberal Government of Ontario plans to introduce new tougher penalties to crack down on careless and distracted driving, this fall.

The Honourable Minister of Transportation Steven Del Duca, along with some other MPPs, announced the new measures today in Toronto.

The legislation, if passed, is supposed to protect pedestrians and cyclists and reduce the number of fatality claims involving people killed or injured by drunk, distracted, impaired and/or dangerous drivers.

The proposed measures include, but aren’t limited to:

  • A new offense for careless driving causing death or bodily harm with penalties that includes fines, license suspension and imprisonment (beyond the offense for careless driving and penalties we already have????)
  • Tougher penalties for distracted driving, such as using a cellphone while operating a motor vehicle, including higher fines, more demerit points and license suspension (why wasn’t the penalty tough to begin with? One free pass to kill or seriously hurt someone?)
  • Increased penalties for drivers who fail to yield to pedestrians and escalating fines for drivers who are convicted of multiple pedestrian-related offenses within a five-year window
  • Expanding the use of rear flashing blue lights for enforcement and emergency vehicles (Not sure how this impacts road safety, but I’m sure there’s a reasonable explanation)

Our personal injury lawyers have NOT seen a copy of the proposed legislation.

Ontario is also consulting on the use of cameras on school buses that capture the offence of illegally passing a school bus, so that this evidence can be admitted in to Court without a witness.

With the greatest respect to the Ontario Government, this sort of technology ought to have been implemented a decade ago.

The glacial pace at which safety legislation gets passed is remarkable in comparison at the rapid pace at which accident benefit reduction legislation gets passed.

When money is involved (ie slashing accident benefits), legislation gets formulated and passed quickly because there is financial incentive at play (lobbying and giving the impression of reducing premiums).

When safety legislation is getting formulated and passed, it not only gets created much slower, but is also passes much slower because there is no money which any private interest group has to gain.

With the greatest respect, harsher penalties for careless driving should have been introduced 10+ years ago after it became apparent that the penalty for accidentally maiming a person with one’s car amounted to a fine of around $750, along with a few demerit points.

Compare the past fine for careless driving vs. the impact of being involved in a catastrophic accident where the accident victim losses an arm, leg, or sustains a brain injury.

The penalty still doesn’t it the crime.  To this day, some of our most seriously injured clients are still upset that the person who caused their accident got off with what appeared to be a slap on the wrist. They never had to live with any significant consequences other than perhaps the inconvenience of being involved in a car accident and perhaps even having to attend at Court to fight the charges. This pales in comparison to the plight of a catastrophically injured accident victim who has to live the rest of their life with pain, suffering, an inability to work/earn an income, an inability to participate in the day to day activities which they used to pre-accident. Their only crime was being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

What’s even worse is the application of an ever increasing $39,920 deductible which gets applied to the pain and suffering claim hurts the accident victim twice.

I found the Honourable Minister De Duca’s quote from the Ontario Government news release rather insincere:

These measures will help keep some of our most vulnerable road users safe and help us drive home the message that dangerous driving, impaired and distracted driving is unacceptable, and will not be toleratedGoldfinger-logo-icon-300x300

I had some questions/thoughts from the Honourable Minister’s quote:

  1. Since when was impaired driving, distracted driving and distracted driving acceptable and tolerated? Why wasn’t this message driving home strong enough before?
  2. Before the proposed legislation gets passed, are you telling us that the current legislative frame work isn’t tough enough? If so, then why wasn’t something done earlier to drive home the message that dangerous driving, impaired driving and distracted driving is unacceptable and won’t be tolerated? The Liberals have held power in government for a rather long time. Yet measures to change the Insurance Act to benefit deep pocketed insurers at the expense of accident victims get passed time and time again much faster, and sometimes with limited or NO PUBLIC CONSULTATION!!!!
  3. If the Honourable Minister of Transport recognizes Ontario has “vulnerable road users“, and keeping those “vulnerable road users safe“, then why is his government constantly stripping away at their benefits instead of providing them with the benefits they need to keep these “vulnerable road users” safe and foster their wellness and rehabilitation post accident?

On average, one person is killed on Ontario’s roads every 17 hours. In 2014, pedestrians and cyclists made up approximately 25% of Ontario’s road fatalities.

Ontario’s most recent roadside survey found that drivers who tested positive for DRUGS were more than twice the number who tested positive for alcohol (yet we are taking steps to legalize recreational marijuana, which will likely only trigger a further increase in these figures regarding drugged driving…go figure).

Plain and simple, the law is not fair. There is no magic pill which will ever make a catastrophically injured accident victim feel better, or forget the memory of their accident all together. No amount of money will ever be enough to compensate them for their pain and suffering.

What we would like to see from our Government is a better understanding of the plight of accident victims, along with greater pro-activeness when it comes to road safety and road penalties. Reactive legislating looks bad especially when we see a level of pro-activeness and aggressive legislative action when it comes to designing and passing policies aimed at saving insurers money at the expense of innocent accident victims.  When there’s money on the table to save insures money, this government jumps and jumps fast. But when it’s the safety of it’s electorate at stake on rather simple issues like drunk driving or distracted driving, we get laws in 2017 (which have yet to pass), which should have been passed back in 2007, if not earlier.

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