Queen’s Park Looking At Increasing Penalties for Motorists Hitting Cyclists

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"Cyclists

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A Liberal MPP whose husband, a police officer, was killed by a truck while he was cycling 10 years ago this week is pushing for tougher penalties against drivers who hit cyclists.

A Liberal MPP whose police officer husband was killed by a truck while cycling 10 years ago this week is pushing for tougher penalties against drivers who hit cyclists.

Eleanor McMahon (Burlington) moved an amendment to the Highway Traffic Act on Thursday that would increase jail time and fines for careless driving causing death or bodily harm.

“My life and the lives of so many people dear to me changed forever when a careless driver struck and killed my husband, OPP Sergeant Greg Stobbart,” said McMahon, who founded the Share the Road cycling coalition after his death in June 2006.

“Greg was killed while in a training ride in Milton on his bicycle. He was 44 years old. Greg’s death and his life’s work as an OPP officer have been the impetus for the direction I’ve taken in my life over the past decade,” she said.

Cyclists on road. photo by fightyourtickets.ca
Cyclists on road. photo by fightyourtickets.ca

Michael Dougan, the Grimsby trucker who hit Stobbart, was spared a jail sentence even though he already had five previous convictions for driving while suspended and four for driving without insurance.

Dougan was sentenced to a two-year probation term and lost his driver’s licence for a year. He had also previously served two jail sentences for criminal offences.

McMahon, first elected in June 2014 and touted to be elevated to Premier Kathleen Wynne’s cabinet in a shuffle expected next week, worked with MPPs from the opposition parties to build support for her proposal.

It passed second reading on a unanimous voice vote Thursday, just before the house broke for the summer recess, and will be examined by the standing committee on the legislative assembly this fall.

Cyclists in bike lane. photo by fightyourtickets.ca
Cyclists in bike lane. photo by fightyourtickets.ca

Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca praised McMahon’s efforts.

“It’s important to stress that Eleanor McMahon has done extraordinary work on this bill. She’s worked with all the stakeholders. Obviously, she has a profound sense of why it’s important to continually move towards making sure our roads and highways remain safe at all times,” said Del Duca.

“The Ministry of Transportation is always open to the conversation about how we can improve the situation,” he said.

Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown said his party takes road safety seriously and is open to McMahon’s amendment.

“We do need to do more to combat reckless driving. Obviously, her story is a very personal one that speaks to why we should be looking in this area,” said Brown.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said “there’s no doubt that we need to do everything we can to try to protect the cyclists on the road from the devastation that occurs when there’s an accident that involves a motor vehicle.”

Horwath noted stiffer sentences could create “a heightened level of awareness” among drivers.

“They really do need to look out for cyclists as well as pedestrians, frankly,” she said.

Cyclist waiting for passengers to unload and load into a TTC streetcar. photo by fightyourtickets.ca
Cyclist waiting for passengers to unload and load into a TTC streetcar. photo by fightyourtickets.ca

To that end, McMahon’s bill would increase careless driving fines to up to $50,000, jail sentences to the provincial offence maximum of two years, and licence suspensions of up to five years.

Those convicted could also be ordered to complete a road-safety or driver-training course.

Her changes would extend the statute of limitations from six months to years in order to give police officers more time to investigate before charges are laid.

And it would make it easier for police to lay serious provincial charges.

“In order to charge a driver under the Criminal Code, there would need to be established intent to kill, or the motorist in question would have to be so outrageously dangerous that the driver would have known that killing someone was a likely possibility,” noted McMahon.

Toronto police Constable Hugh Smith, who works on traffic safety, said it is difficult to prove criminal intent when dealing with auto crashes.

“A lot of times with careless (driving), it was unintentional, so there was no intention for that person to have done it,” said Smith,

“So, by sheer fact of their environment or not paying attention — distraction — somebody got killed or seriously injured, but they are responsible for that.”

Bill 213, Highway Traffic Amendment Act (Careless Driving), 2016

Bill 213                                                                                                     2016

An Act to amend the Highway Traffic Act with respect to careless driving causing death or bodily harm

Her Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Ontario, enacts as follows:

   1.  (1)  Section 130 of the Highway Traffic Act is amended by adding “Subject to subsection (2)” at the beginning.

   (2)  Section 130 of the Act is amended by adding the following subsections:

Penalty for careless driving causing death or bodily harm

   (2)  If the commission of an offence under subsection (1) results in the death of or bodily harm to any person, the convicted person is liable instead to a fine of not less than $2,000 and not more than $50,000 or to imprisonment for a term of not more than two years, or to both, and in addition,

  (a)  his or her licence or permit may be suspended for a period of not more than five years; and

  (b)  he or she may be ordered to complete a road safety course or driver training course.

Limitation period is two years

   (3)  Despite section 76 of the Provincial Offences Act, a proceeding in respect of an offence described in subsection (2) may be commenced on or before the expiry of two years after the date on which the offence was, or is alleged to have been, committed.

   2.  Subsection 214.1 (7) of the Act is repealed and the following substituted:

Penalty for careless driving or racing in community safety zone

   (7)  Every person who commits an offence under section 130 or section 172 in a community safety zone when it is in effect is liable, on conviction, not to the fine set out in the provision, but to a fine of not less than double the minimum fine and not more than the maximum fine set out in the provision, in addition to any other liability set out in the provision.

Commencement

   3.  This Act comes into force on the day it receives Royal Assent.

Short title

   4.  The short title of this Act is the Highway Traffic Amendment Act (Careless Driving), 2016.

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