On September 27, Marco Muzzo, who had just landed in Toronto from Las Vegas, where he was attending a bachelor party, slammed his Jeep SUV into a minivan near Vaughan, Ontario. Three children and their grandfather died as a result of the tragic motor vehicle accident, which has brought the issue of impaired driving to the forefront of many Ontarians’ minds. Muzzo is facing 18 charges, including four for impaired driving causing death. The mother of the deceased children, Jennifer Neville-Lake, has urged the public to push for life sentences for drunk drivers who kill.
Regardless of the public’s fervour, though, most drunk drivers avoid harsh penalties. For example, in drunk driving case that transpired recently in Toronto, the driver, whose actions resulted in two deaths, was sentenced to just five years in prison. In fact, lenient sentencing may be a factor behind relatively stable rates of drunk driving, which plummeted from their 1980s levels, but which have plateaued since the turn of the century. Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) estimates suggest that in 2010, more than a thousand people died as a result of a motor vehicle accident caused by drunk driving. Only 125 of those deaths led to charges, with just 48 resulting in convictions.
According to the Globe and Mail: “a 2004 study from British Columbia of hospital data found that only 11 per cent of hospitalized drivers who were involved in crashes and had blood-alcohol levels above the legal maximum of 0.08 per cent were convicted of any criminal impaired-driving charges.”
Drunk driving is, of course, a nationwide problem. In 2011, Ontario actually had the lowest rate of impaired drivers involved in a motor vehicle accident. Compared to provinces like Saskatchewan and Prince Edward Island, Canada’s most populous province looks pretty good.
British Columbia, on the other hand, has the fourth highest rate of impaired driving accidents among the provinces. To combat the prevalence of impaired driving on the west coast, B.C. in 2010 passed a tough set of regulations which include the pioneering practice of instant roadside prohibitions, wherein a police officer may suspend the license of an inebriated driver, effective immediately.
The strict rules, while certainly steadfast in their aim of reducing motor vehicle accident rates, have faced some legal backlash. In 2012, the province made a number of changes which it said addressed all constitutional issues, and in 2015, Canada’s Supreme Court upheld British Columbia’s right to impose the law in two separate cases: Goodwin v. British Columbia and Wilson v. British Columbia. The ruling received positive feedback from a number of sources.
“From the perspective of my client, it’s a good day for those people who want to see preventable drunk driving injuries and deaths reduced in the country,” said Bryan Mackey, council for MADD, in an interview with Canadian Lawyer magazine. The ruling, he added, reinforced “the desirability of having provincial administrative regimes that are aimed at curbing impaired driving to compliment the criminal code provisions.
The Government of British Columbia was also happy with the ruling. “Our government believes strongly in our immediate roadside prohibition law and we know it saves lives – 260 since September 2010,” said B.C. Justice Minister Suzanna Anton. “I’m pleased to see the court agreed with our argument in the Wilson case and with the majority of our argument in the Goodwin case.”
If you or a loved one has been injured in a motor vehicle accident, whether or not is was caused by an impaired driver, contact the personal injury lawyers at Neinstein Personal Injury Lawyers today.
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