Canadian jurisdictions do a poor job of tracking drinking and driving statistics, says MADD Canada

We need more people on the bench like Provincial Court Judge Al Bégin in Truro.

Faced with a seemingly incorrigible serial drunk driver, Bégin twice rejected more lenient punishments jointly recommended by Crown and defence attorneys and imposed a harsher jail term — to keep Steven Gordon Miller off the streets a bit longer.

On Tuesday, Bégin sentenced Miller, 48, of Five Mile River to 18 months in jail, followed by two years of probation and a 10-year driving ban.

Surprisingly, Crown attorney Laura Barrett and defence lawyer Nic Hoehne, as they had at Miller’s first sentencing hearing in February when Bégin initially rejected their recommendation, again asked only for nine months imprisonment and 18 months probation.

Thankfully, Bégin still was having none of it.

From Bégin’s comments about the accused, in court as a result of pleading guilty in November to refusing the breathalyzer in March, 2019, Miller appears not to appreciate the seriousness of his crimes.

“There is an overarching need to protect society from him. Overarching. He doesn’t care. He clearly doesn’t care,” Bégin told the court in February. “He doesn’t want to quit drinking, his attitude is if ‘I want to do it I will do it’.

“You are going to kill someone, sir.”

Miller’s record includes four previous convictions for refusing the breathalyzer and two convictions for impaired driving.

So kudos to Judge Bégin for trying to protect society from someone whose irresponsible actions could someday cost innocent lives.

And yet, the justice system still seems to essentially be kicking this can a teeny bit further down the road. And we’re all crossing our fingers, hoping — when Miller gets out and possibly starts drinking and driving again — nothing bad happens.

Steve Sullivan, MADD Canada’s director of victim services, says that for a small percentage of habitual drunk drivers, the fear of consequences that acts as a deterrent in many cases doesn’t seem to change behaviour.

“It presents a real dilemma for the justice system,” Sullivan told me Thursday. “What do you do with someone who just continues to ignore (possible consequences) and put people’s lives at risk? One hopes that someone doesn’t pay the price for that.”

Long driving bans are useless if habitual drunk drivers ignore them, meaning they’re also driving without insurance.

One big problem, Sullivan says, is that Ottawa and the provinces do a horrifically poor job of keeping statistics on drunk driving. Even data on deaths and injuries are often several years old.

MADD has not been able to find anyone tracking, for example, the number of people convicted of previous impaired driving offences who then go on to cause injury or death, says Sullivan.

Clearly, that’s data we should be keeping.

If I had my way, anyone with multiple drunk driving convictions would — for the rest of their life — be mandated to have ignition interlocks (breathalyzers requiring a driver prove they’re sober before the engine will start) installed in every vehicle they own.

Source: Saltwire.com


Last updated on: 2020-10-08 | Link to this post