$2,000 for two lives

The Glengarry News - - The Opinion Page - High­way Traf­fic Act SCOTT CARMICHAEL Crim­i­nal Code, Toronto Star

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.

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