WATCH ABOVE: A new vulnerable roads law would mean stiffer penalties for drivers charged in the injury and deaths of pedestrians and cyclists. Marianne Dimain has the story.
TORONTO – David Stark, a single father of three boys, is still left enduring the pain of losing his wife Erica after she was struck and killed last year by a motorist whose minivan mounted a curb in east-end Toronto.
“It’s been a very difficult last 10 months having to explain to my children, trying to make sense out of what was a senseless and preventable collision,” said Stark during a press conference in Toronto Thursday morning.
Stark is now part of a coalition group demanding action from the Ontario government to implement a vulnerable road user law that would see harsher penalties for motorists who injure or kill a pedestrian or cyclist.
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The coalition, which includes the United Senior Citizens of Ontario, Cycle Toronto, Walk Toronto, and Kids at Play, is being represented by personal injury lawyer Patrick Brown.
“In certain cases, the police charge for careless driving is reduced to a lower offense,” said Brown.
“At the end of the day it’s a bit of a mentality that when pedestrians and cyclists are hit, is it just an accident. Unfortunately for the victim, that isn’t appropriate.”
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The group says 78 cyclists and pedestrians have been killed on Toronto roads the past two years, many of them senior citizens.
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The new penalties proposed would include licence suspensions, road safety training requirements, and community service. Motorists would also be required to attend court for sentencing to listen to victim impact statements.
“My children ask me, ‘When is the driver going to apologize?’ and I don’t know if she will,” said Stark.
“Dylan is 12, Gavin is 10, and Matthew is 6 and I’ve taught them and Erica taught them that when you hurt someone you say that you are sorry. I hope that that day will come.”
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In a statement to Global News, the Ministry of Transportation said it is looking forward to hearing from the coalition but referenced the province’s own actions taken recently to amend the Roads Safer Act to protect pedestrians and cyclists with increased fines and penalties for distracted driving.
The bill also requires that drivers wait until pedestrians completely cross the road at school crossings and at crosswalks with pedestrian-operated crossing lights.
“We’re preparing for an educational awareness campaign aimed at informing the public of the new changes in the Highway Safety Act (HTA), including those specifically targeted at increasing safety for the vulnerable users of our roads,” said the ministry.