It was fitting on Monday to see Drew William MacPherson, 38, sentenced to 10 years in prison on four charges, including impaired driving and criminal negligence causing death and bodily harm, in the death of Ward Robinson, 67.

Taxi driver Dennis Farnell was also injured when MacPherson’s speeding vehicle crossed into his lane and collided head-on with the taxi carrying Mr. Robinson on the north end of Barrington Street in Halifax on Sept. 30, 2011.

Mr. MacPherson represented himself and denied that he was driving. But Mr. Justice Allan Boudreau noted that a jury convicted Mr. MacPherson on evidence that was “clear and irrefutable.” He prohibited him from driving for 15 years after his release from prison.

Although deaths from impaired driving have been declining slightly in Canada, 121 such deaths occurred in 2011 and 839 people were injured.

Ironically, drunk driving legislation was on the Conservative agenda before an election was called. Justice Minister Peter MacKay was seeking an increase of the mandatory minimum sentence for impaired driving causing death to six years in prison, among other measures.

However, MADD spokesman Robert Solomon said in a CBC interview that his organization had problems with the Conservative bill, which died on the order paper.

He says the government has been ignoring two strategies that have been shown to reduce drinking and driving, each by 15 per cent or more: dropping the legal blood alcohol level from .08 to .05 per 100 ml of blood and introducing random breathalyzer screening for drivers as a deterrent. Nova Scotia reduced its legal blood alcohol level to .05 per cent in 2011.

In Canada, police can now only demand breath samples from drivers who they have reason to believe are impaired. With random screening, any driver could be asked to blow into a breathalyzer, similar to random security searches of luggage at airports.

According to a 2009 report from Parliament’s Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, introduction of random breath screening is credited with reducing the number of fatalities on Irish roads by about 23 per cent. After it was brought in, New South Wales, Australia, saw a drop of 36 per cent in the number of fatally injured drivers with a blood alcohol content over the legal limit.

The measure could fall under the Charter provision that rights are subject to reasonable limits in order to prevent highway carnage. And authorities would have to prove that testing was being done on a random basis and not in order to harass particular groups. Research also indicates that widespread public information campaigns, particularly when linked with the measures above, are effective.

Like MADD’s Mr. Solomon, we would urge the next government, Conservative or otherwise, to consider bringing in proven measures that have worked in other jurisdictions to keep dangerous impaired drivers off our roads.

Source: Chronicle Herald


Last updated on: 2015-08-21 | Link to this post