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  • Writer's pictureDave Shellnutt

Injury & Injustice – Why Cyclists Need a Vulnerable Road Users Act

Child in bike lane beside massive truck trailer.
Photo courtesy of @tomflood1

CBC News spoke to our client, Majd Zakout, who was hit by an uninsured driver making an illegal left turn. Mr. Zakout suffered serious injuries including a broken arm, ankle and injuries to his hip, waist, back and neck. He also suffered a brain injury (which thankfully he is recovering from!)

The driver, David Gaio, had his charges dropped due to errors and ineffectiveness on the part of the Toronto Police and Toronto Crown Prosecutor. The Crown simply did not take the fact that a cyclist was injured seriously. As a result, an uninsured driver and repeat offender walked free, again. Mr. Zakout was left alone to face his injuries injuries and now also, injustice.

It’s clear from how our clients’ are frequently treated by authorities that we need a complete attitude change at all levels of government and society.

Driving must be treated as a privilege and not a right.

In Ontario, most motor vehicle collision related deaths and injuries do not result in charges.

For those that are charged, the charge is usually under the Highway Traffic Act. Most cases that lead to conviction result in a penalty or a small fine.

Out of all cycling fatalities, 62% were at fault of the driver, only 23% were actually charged.

If you harm someone, that must be taken seriously. The system is overburdened, underfunded and without a proper road safety focus. It will remain commonplace to negotiate for lessor charges or have them dropped despite seriously injuring someone.

As a way to encourage not only an attitudinal but a legislative shift towards road safety accountability, we stand firmly in support of Bill 64, the Protecting Vulnerable Road Users Act.

The Protecting Vulnerable Road Users Act, put forward by our friends at Bike Law Canada, the Vulnerable Road Users Coalition, and dedicated Members of Provincial Parliament will soon be going to the Committee on Justice Policy for reading and debate.

We must all act now!

Image courtesy of @tomflood1

Under the Protecting Vulnerable Roads Users Act, penalties would apply to all driving offences under the Highway Traffic Act that result in the death or serious injury of a vulnerable road user.

In our current system, drivers that injure or kill someone on our roads face minimal sentencing. If charged, most end up paying a small monetary fine and are not required to attend court.

The Protecting Vulnerable Roads Users Act would ensure mandatory penalties apply to people that break the law and injure someone. Such as:

  • Mandatory court appearance to face victim and family.

  • Driver re-education so they can learn how to be safe drivers.

  • Community Service - educating others on how to be safe drivers.

  • License Suspension until the above requirements have been met.

Bike Law's Melissa Dowrie: "We need to emphasize the importance of the retraining component as well as the justice that victims and families would receive because we know right now, they are left with nothing. We feel that the above penalties would deter bad drivers and create a safer cycling environment."

As the Protecting Vulnerable Road Users Act heads the Justice Policy Committee, it’s imperative that we band together and make the multitude of our voices heard!

Tell your MPP to take action and use this incredibly easy online form to send an email to your MPP, the Minister of Transportation and the Premier of Ontario (enter your name and postal code and it does the rest).

If you want to call your MPP click this link to find their office.

Without action, we will continue to see cases like Mr. Zakout’s and Mr. Wilson’s. In Guelph Ontario, Mr. Wilson was hit in a bike lane by a motorist who bolted across 4 lanes of traffic to enter McDonalds. The driver got a improper lane change charge and a fine of $120.00.

Mr. Wilson got a hip replacement and lingering effects of violent road trauma.

Please act now. Share widely and contact your elected representatives.

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