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Blog: Protecting Vulnerable Road Users

Keeping Ontario's roads safe is part of our plan to create jobs, grow our economy and help people in their everyday lives.

Last week, the province introduced new Legislation to protect Ontarians and enhance road safety.  

Keeping Ontario's roads safe is part of our plan to create jobs, grow our economy and help people in their everyday lives. For 16 years in a row, Ontario's roads have been ranked either first or second safest in North America, but we know more can and must be done, particularly in terms of protecting vulnerable road users.

As part of this Legislation, Ontario introduced tough new measures to protect road safety with additional penalties for impaired driving convictions under the Criminal Code of Canada, a Federal statute.

The new Legislation also includes amendments to Ontario's Highway Traffic Act, and is part of our plan to crack down on careless and distracted driving with tough new rules and penalties that would help improve road safety, and save lives.

As you will know, last year prior to being appointed to Cabinet, I tabled a Bill to amend the Highway Traffic Act (HTA), with a specific focus on the Careless Driving provision, which so often is the charge laid in cycling and pedestrian offences. Given the significant burden of proof necessary for a Criminal Code charge, (intent vs careless disregard) law enforcement leverages the charge that applies under the HTA, Careless Driving, which is why it is so commonly used.

Strengthening the Careless Driving provision of the Act thus became a critical priority for me. My Bill has now gone from a Private Member's Bill, to being embraced by our Government and once it is passed, the enhanced penalties for offences involving our most vulnerable road users - pedestrians and cyclists will become law.

In setting out the most significant penalties allowed under provincial law, it is our hope that these new charges will have a deterrent effect. It is also our intention to leverage this new law to raise awareness of the vulnerability of cyclists and pedestrians and the significant responsibility motorists have to always drive with due care and attention.

The proposed measures include:

  • Two new offences to be known as Careless Driving Cause Death and Careless Driving Cause Bodily Harm with penalties that include fines ($50,000), licence suspension and two years imprisonment, the highest allowable under the Act.
  • The toughest penalties in North America for distracted driving, including the use of cellphone while operating a vehicle, with higher fines, more demerit points, and license suspensions.
  • Increased penalties for drivers who fail to yield for pedestrians, and escalating fines for drivers who are convicted of multiple pedestrian-related offences within a five-year window.

In addition, the province recently made changes allowing police to immediately remove drivers from the road who they believe are impaired by drugs.

Developing this legislation has been a personal journey for me, and has involved conversations with advocates, law enforcement and those whose lives have been impacted by the loss of a loved one.  I am deeply grateful for all of the input, advice and support I have received.

Thank you for your advocacy and your partnership. I look forward to continuing to work with you to ensure that our roads are safe for all and to ensure that not only are our roads safe for pedestrians and cyclists, but that all Ontarians know that the safety of our most vulnerable, is our priority.

Finally, given my background as a road safety advocate, it has always and will always be my intention that road safety is most effectively achieved by a combination of measures that include education and awareness initiatives, in addition to legislation. It is also my belief that while sharing the road is a shared responsibility, given the vulnerability of pedestrians and cyclists, motorists have a particular responsibility to ensure that they are always driving with due care and attention.

Driving is a privilege, not a right, as such, our responsibility while driving is enhanced  particularly given the gravity of the consequences to the lives of others, when we drive distracted or carelessly. 

 

— Eleanor McMahon, MPP Burlington

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