News / Toronto

New legislation to go beyond increased fines for dangerous drivers

A new private member's bill proposes to better protect most the most vulnerable road users: cyclists and pedestrians.

The bill would add to tougher measures for distracted and dangerous drivers introduced by the Liberal government last week.

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The bill would add to tougher measures for distracted and dangerous drivers introduced by the Liberal government last week.

A new private member's bill at Queen's Park seeks to establish a vulnerable road-users law to better protect pedestrians and cyclists.

The bill introduced Wednesday by the NDP's Cheri DiNovo, MPP for Parkdale-High Park, adds to tougher measures for distracted and dangerous drivers introduced by the Liberal government last week.

That legislation proposes a new charge for careless driving resulting in death or bodily harm, which could result in a maximum fine of $50,000. But it's not enough for DiNovo.

"We have a real problem on our streets. Not a week goes by without seeing a byline on somebody getting injured. Something has to change," she told Metro.

Under her bill, a guilty driver could lose his or her licence for a prolonged period and be asked to participate in community services before he or she is allowed back behind the wheel.

In addition, DiNovo wants such drivers to be required to attend sentencing and hear testimonials from the victims.

"Many of those victim-impact statements are read to an empty courtroom," she said, noting it's already gut-wrenching for families who've lost their loved ones to prepare those statements. In most cases, she said, the driver never faces the victims to apologize. "To go through all of that and to not even reach the ears of the offending party is quite awful."

She would also like to see offending drivers take re-education programs, because "clearly they don't know what they're doing while operating four-tonne vehicles."

Private member's bills rarely get passed, but DiNovo's website says she's passed more than any other MPP since her election in 2006.

DiNovo sees her bill as adding to the province's plan, in which careless drivers responsible for death or injury would face a two-year jail term, a five-year licence suspension and six demerit points. The proposal would also increase distracted-driving fines up to $2,000.

While the changes could take effect by 2019, DiNovo said vulnerable road users are concerned the process may drag on for too long.

"We are months away from an election, and there's not a lot of legislative time left," she said, noting it's been two years since the City of Toronto first asked the province to pass a vulnerable road users law — already a common practice in the United States. "Right now it's a promise, it's not an actuality. We really need to move on this."

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