Kitchener-Waterloo NDP MPP Catherine Fife says she is re-tabling legislation aimed at protecting vulnerable road users in Ontario after the provincial legislature was prorogued last month, which killed the bill.
“This bill is designed to save lives,” Fife said during a press conference at Queen’s Park on Tuesday.
“When the Liberal government prorogued, they put politics ahead of the people in this province and it’s more than unfortunate how they casually cast aside the progress that families and advocates have made to improve the safety of our most vulnerable road users.”
The bill, which was on the verge of second reading, was intended to strengthen existing road safety laws and add new measures to make roads safer.
The proposed changes included creating a new offence of careless driving causing death or bodily harm which carries with it a maximum penalty of a $50,000 fine, up to two years in jail and a licence suspension of up to five years.
The existing offence of careless driving carries a maximum fine of $2,000, six months in jail and a license suspension of up to two years.
In 2016, over 6,000 people were convicted of careless driving in Ontario, and only 16 were sentenced to any time in jail.
The private member’s bill, which was introduced last fall by NDP MPP for Parkdale-High Park, Cheri DiNovo, follows a series Global News published last June about lenient sentences being given to drivers who kill.
Global News covered the case of a Toronto driver who killed a 76-year-old grandmother by making an unsafe turn. She got a $500 fine, and didn’t show up for a court appearance at which the victim’s family read a long, emotional victim impact statement – legally, she didn’t have to.
Under the amended legislation, the proposed $2,000 minimum fine for careless driving causing death or bodily harm would mean that a driver would have to either be represented at the court hearing or appear in person. However, it would still be legally possible for an accused driver to send a lawyer and not show up.
“The law will provide important legal protection for vulnerable road users who are not protected by two tonnes of steel and air bags,” Patrick Brown, a safety advocate on behalf of the Coalition for Vulnerable Road User Laws, said Tuesday.
“Our governments and laws have put a lot of effort in protecting drivers and it is time to protect vulnerable road users. A fine for killing or maiming a cyclist, pedestrian, or first responder, should not be equivalent to the cost of repairing a dent in your car.”
VIDEO: Pedestrian and cyclist fatalities – little consequence
—With files from Patrick Cain