$2,000 for two lives
Two thousand dollars. That’s the price tag the law put on the lives of Bob and Irene Booth – the Kirk Hill couple who were cycling near Nipigon, Ont. in July 2013 when they were hit and killed by an American motorist.
That driver, 66- year- old Jason Maxwell of Austin, Texas, was found guilty of careless driving in Thunder Bay court in late February and assessed one of the harshest penalties – believe it or not – for that crime. According to Section 130 of the provincial
(HTA), “on conviction for careless driving the driver is liable to a fine of not less than $200 and not more than $1,000, or to imprisonment for a term of not more than six months, or to both.”
And, “in addition, his or her licence or permit may be suspended for a period of not more than two years.” In other words, for “driving carelessly on a highway without due care and attention, or without reasonable consideration for other persons using the highway” – and taking someone’s life in the process – you could possibly pay your penance by forking over a couple of C-notes.
To put that in perspective, the Ottawa Senators website lists the cost of one club seat ticket for the March 21 game at the Canadian Tire Centre against the Toronto Maple Leafs at $281.61.
Of course, Mr. Maxwell has to live out the rest of his days with the burden of having taken two lives – an act the law, and circumstances, dictate was not intentional.
And a momentary lapse of reason or judgment – apparently Mr. Maxwell’s plight – does not make someone a criminal.
Still, under the the more serious, yet practically identical, offence of dangerous driving, which falls under two categories – that causing bodily harm, and that causing death – carries a much stiffer penalty, with one found guilty of the latter facing up to 14 years in prison. Another look at the law is definitely called for.
Brian Patterson, president of the Ontario Safety League, told the in July 2011 that there had been ongoing discussions among safety advocates who felt it was high time the HTA separated the careless driving charge into three categories, whereby escalating penalties would distinguish careless driving from that which causes bodily harm or death.
This past October, Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca re-introduced a previous bill that had died on the legislature floor when the provincial election was called last spring which proposed a long list of amendments to the HTA. “If passed, our legislation will help keep pedestrians, drivers and cyclists safe on Ontario’s roads,” Mr. Del Duca said in a press release.