In a case out of Saanich, British Columbia has seen its first conviction for dangerous driving arising out of a case involving distracted driving.
The driver in the case is alleged to have been speeding, more than twice the speed limit, passing vehicles illegally, and tailgating. In an unusual twist, police also sought a production order to obtain cell phone records for the driver, in order to prove that she was also actively texting while driving.
Clearly, this is a case where it was not the distracted driving alone that led to the conviction for dangerous driving. However, it is an unprecedented case in that the evidence of distracted driving was relied on heavily by the court in finding that the driver is to be convicted. The judge even stated as much in his reasons:
“The accused was speeding, not paying adequate attention to clearly visible markers at the crosswalk, the child and the stopped vehicles and was engaged in conversations with other parties by way of a handheld electronic device.”
So what now?
Many people are calling for this case to be an example of why we need stricter distracted driving laws in British Columbia. And while this accident was tragic and preventable, the law and relative leniency is not the reason for it.
This case is a clear example of a driver behaving in a completely selfish manner. Distracted driving fines do not tend to deter that type of behaviour. The level of entitlement that is exhibited by a person who speeds, passes illegally, tailgates, and texts while driving is one that is not cured by harsher laws.
While sentencing for this driver has not yet taken place, the reality is that the sentence she will likely be given pales in comparison to the consequences that she has to live with knowing that she left a child with brain damage. And for most British Columbians, knowing that this can be the consequence of that type of driving behaviour is more of a deterrent than the potential that they will face jail time.
I have heard reports from people who call for this woman to be sentenced in a way that makes her financially liable for the lifetime care costs for this child. That would, effectively, be an indeterminate sentence and would not be lawful in the circumstances of the case.
However, the law already makes this driver liable, automatically, for the injuries sustained by the child. There is no way that the child, who was in a marked crosswalk, can be found even partially at fault for the collision. The insurance that this woman had on her car is null and void as a result of the conviction, meaning that she will have to reimburse ICBC for every penny that is paid out in the child’s claim.
Undoubtedly, the court will impose a period of jail as part of the sentence. Upon completion of the jail term, the driver will also have to serve a lengthy driving prohibition. I would anticipate something in the range of two to four years in a case like this. In addition, ICBC will require the driver to start back from a Class 7L license, if the prohibition is for two years or longer. The driver will not be able to apply for a license until the debt to ICBC is paid or a payment plan is in place and being followed. The woman’s insurance rates will skyrocket, if she is ever permitted to insure a vehicle again with her outstanding debt.
And at the end of all that, the child and her litigation guardians can also sue the driver for any additional costs not paid out by ICBC. There will be no shortage of financial consequences for this driver.
Thus, while this conviction may seem like a novel way to approach dangerous driving cases, the reality is that the conviction was based on more, and the consequences of that conviction are higher than the ordinary distracted driver should face.
But the human consequences of this collision are clearly enough to deter other drivers from mimicking the pattern of driving that occurred in this case.