Will Bill 54 make it in time?

40 km per hour zone in the Glebe Ottawa

Protecting Vulnerable Road Users Act

I would like to give you a quick update about a proposed act in Ontario, Bill 54, that deals with the safety of vulnerable road users.

Vulnerable road users are highway construction persons, police officers, First Nation Constables, fire fighters, emergency response workers, pedestrians, persons in a wheelchair, persons on bicycles. (The total list is on line). I admit I was not aware of this bill so I collected some information about it.

Rates of injury and death due to road traffic collisions have declined overall in Ontario over the past 40 years, but Public Health Ontario reported this is not the case for Vulnerable Road Users [Road Safety, Journey Ahead, Public Health Ontario].

Collisions with vulnerable road users are not declining

Former Ontario NDP MPP Cheri DiNovo proposed in September 2017 the Protecting Vulnerable Road Users Act (Bill 54) because collisions with vulnerable road users are not declining. This despite drivers education (driver’s license, road signs, bill boards etc).

The objective of this bill is to protect all forms of road users by amending the Highway Traffic Act (HTA) to include added meaningful penalties where a vulnerable road user has been seriously injured or killed.

What will change?

The act calls for the following whenever pedestrians or cyclists get killed:

Mandatory court attendance for victim impact statements;
Driver re-education;
Community service related to road safety;
License suspension until the above conditions are met.

Two readings carried

The first two readings were carried. It passed second reading unanimously on November 24, 2021 and will go to the Standing Committee on Justice Policy in February or March.

Pled down to lesser offences

In our present system, most HTA charges given after a driver kills or seriously injures someone are not for Careless Driving.

For the few Careless Driving charges that are laid, it is generally pled down to a lesser and included offence. Once convicted, a driver is usually given small monetary fines as low as $110.

No sense of justice or closure

Convicted drivers are not required to personally attend court to hear the family’s victim impact statements, they do not receive licence suspensions nor are they required to take a driver re-education program.

Families and victims continue to be left with no sense of justice or closure and convicted drivers carry on as though nothing has happened, and they did nothing wrong. The resulting message this sends to drivers is that breaking the law has no real consequences, even when you take a life.

Providing real justice to those who are harmed

The proposed legislation would put Ontario at the forefront of accountability and protection when it comes to curbing bad and distracted driving. If the legislation is adopted, this would be the most comprehensive VRU law in North America.

The legislation would add penalties for at-fault drivers who injure or kill, regardless of which Highway Traffic Act charge the driver is convicted under. It is an essential component in deterring lethal driving behaviour, correcting bad driving habits, and providing real justice to those who are harmed.

What can go wrong with Bill 54?

Elections!

On June 2 Ontarians are going to the polls. The bill is now referred to the Standing committee on Justice Policy. It has to pass a third reading and then receive Royal Assent in order to become law. This all has to happen before June 2. If not, it dies after 5 years of anticipation.

It will be a good step if the bill passes. But we have to remember this is all punishment after the fact. As my mom likes to say: “You won’t have your partner/child/colleague back”. Collisions should not happen in the first place and investments in safe infrastructure can help avoid collisions.

That’s why I am a strong supporter for proper cycling infrastructure as it creates a safer environment. Especially for children. But for grieving families this could provide closure.

If you would like to support the act, click here.

Thank you Robert Zaichkowski for pointing this bill out to me.

I have mixed in text from the websites mentioned below with my own text. Why reinvent the wheel.

Sources:

https://www.ola.org/en/legislative-business/bills/parliament-42/session-2/bill-54

https://act.newmode.net/action/vulnerable-road-users-coalition/support-protecting-vulnerable-road-users-bill-54

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