WINNIPEG — Five years after a tragic car crash on Dugald Road, the victim’s family is not resting.
53-year-old Mark Derry was killed in a head-on collision on Sept. 6, 2011. The other driver was 19-year-old Vann Hansell, who was found to be driving over the legal drinking limit and had been texting while driving just moments before the crash.
Hansell was sentenced and convicted to two years and two months for the offences in 2015. He has since been released and is banned from driving for 18 months.
His wife, Cheryl Derry, has advocated against distracted driving ever since but said she notices texting and driving remains commonplace in Winnipeg. She said simply glancing down at your phone can change lives forever.
“Those couple seconds can mean life and death. My kids now don’t have a father,” Derry said.
Statistics back up Derry’s claim – according to Manitoba Public Insurance (MPI) – the number of distracted driving convictions across Manitoba has remained virtually unchanged over the past five years. The following is a list of convictions from 2011 to 2015:
- 2011: 4,130
- 2012: 5,517
- 2013: 5,231
- 2014: 5,585
- 2015: 4,473
In 2015, Manitoba enacted among the strictest distracted driving laws in Canada; drivers now face five demerit points and a $200 fine, if caught using an electronic device while driving. Those who already have demerit points on their driving record could be forced to pay up to $3,200 if found guilty.
Winnipeg Police’s traffic division said curbing the use of cell phones on the roads remains a top priority and that the offence is regularly ticketed on the road, despite common knowledge that it is illegal.
“When you’re driving around town, you see a number of people looking down between their legs or holding the phone blatantly and it’s still obviously a huge problem,” said Sargeant Nick Paulet of Winnipeg Police’s traffic division.
Paulet added that drivers won’t simply be deterred via punishment and need to understand that distracted driving can be just as deadly as drunk driving.
“How do you get people to do the math that it’s not the $200 fine, it’s not the five demerit points – it’s the reality that one leads to the other,” Paulet said.
Derry said her husband’s death was easily preventable; its effects have been far-reaching, changing the lives of everyone involved. She’s urging others to avoid making the same mistake.
“A 20 year-old went to jail because of what he did. He has to live with the consequences of killing somebody. Mark’s mom lost a son, his brothers lost him, all his friends – everybody,” Derry said.
“It doesn’t just impact you as the person texting. It impacts everybody.”