Skip to main content

Bill 17–The Drivers and Vehicles Amendment and Highway Traffic Amendment Act - suspension of driver's licenses for distracted driving

Thursday May 31, I spoke in the Manitoba Legislature at 3rd reading on Bill 17 which will put in place license suspensions for distracted driving and make careless driving a reportable offence.  My comments (from Hansard) are below.

Hon. Jon Gerrard (River Heights): Madam Speaker, the statistics in terms of the increase in accidents where there is evidence that there's a distractive driver are certainly concerning. And I think we are all concerned, in particular, about young people who are texting, but [also] anybody at any age who is texting or using a cellphone and being distracted. There appears to be something about using a cellphone which kind of grabs onto your brain and so that your brain is not paying attention as much to  driving as it needs to be. And, clearly, this is something which needs to be addressed.
      That being said, there are real concerns with the way this legislation is put forward. It is, in my view, fundamentally wrong to punish somebody with a three-day driver suspension before they've actually been found guilty. We don't oppose the three-day driver suspension, but we believe that this should be taken to a court and [a person] found guilty before having the car and the licence taken away.
      Scott Newman has–who's a defence lawyer, has talked about this. And he talks about the fact that when you're pulling somebody over for alcohol and  you do a breathalyzer test or police do a breathalyzer test, they can actually have an accurate measure that somebody has got too high a level of alcohol. When you're pulling somebody over for using a cellphone, that's an observation over a few seconds, usually, as the cars are moving by. And there clearly are instances where there can be mistakes made.   
      And we believe strongly that instead of doing it as this bill is proposing, what should have been done was to have a court decision and then have the suspension so that you're not punishing people before they're actually shown to be guilty.
      There is also a major issue with the issue of careless driving and making careless driving a reportable offence, so that once you have a careless driving mark, there will be reported charges to Manitoba Public Insurance. This will rapidly invoke driver improvement and control measures and may end up with the cost of your licence going up significantly. And yet we hear from Mr. Eastoe, and he's an individual who has had 12 years as a police officer, and he's had 27 years working as a traffic court agent. I mean, if anybody should know this area, he should. He's probably the most expert person, in fact, in–likely in Winnipeg, maybe in Manitoba.
      And he says about 40 per cent, maybe even more, I would suggest–this is what he says–"I would suggest probably 50 per cent of the careless driving charges are laid inappropriately." And when we had the briefing to lay this out, we were told by the minister that if somebody was drinking coffee or drinking tea while driving, that was careless driving.
      Now, I mean, I think that, particularly for somebody who is driving long distances or driving at night, that actually having a cup of coffee is useful in keeping you awake and alert, and I suspect that it cuts down on accidents instead of increasing them. So I think we have to be very cautious about what the real evidence is here before jumping too far.
      Now, with that cautionary note, and I will add one more, and this is from Justice Murray Sinclair, Senator Murray Sinclair now.  He talked with concern about what happens to him in terms of racial profiling, that he's much more likely to be pulled over by police officers than other senators in the Chamber.
      And I think that–and I would hope that the minister, in his efforts, will make a major, major educational attempt and a major effort to make sure that racial profiling in Manitoba stops. This needs to be part of this whole effort, because if people are going to be picked out for careless driving, if they're going to have their licence suspended without having a chance to talk in court and to make their case, then we have to make sure that this is not used in a way that would be racially profiling people, that there is some fairness and equity in this and that people like Senator Murray Sinclair are not more likely to be picked up than other people.
      So some major cautions with this legislation, some major concerns. We will, for the sake of safety, support this legislation, but there's some big issues here and we're going to be watching this government and watching what happens very, very closely. And if there's problems we'll be here in this Legislature holding this government to account for those problems.


Popular posts from this blog

Comparison between Manitoba and South Dakota shows dramatic impact of Physical Distancing

Manitoba implemented physical distancing measures in mid-March.  South Dakota has still not made physical distancing mandatory.   The result is a dramatic difference in the incidence of covid-19 viral infections between the two jurisdictions.   This graph shows the number of people with Covid-19 infections from March 27 to April 14.  Manitoba ( red line )  started leveling off about April 4 and has seen only a small increase in Covid-19 infections since then.   South Dakota ( blue line )   has seen a dramatic increase in Covid-19 infections since April 4.  Those who are skeptical of the impact of physical distancing in Manitoba should look at this graph! Data are from the Johns Hopkins daily tabulations

Standing up for Seniors

Yesterday in the Legislature I  asked the Minister of Health questions about the care of seniors in personal care homes in Manitoba.   I specfically called for the Minister to increase the training and staffing requirements for personal care homes in Manitoba to bring them up to date.   My questions, the Minister's comments and the Speaker's interjection are below:  Personal-Care-Home  Improvements - Need for Upgrades to Standards and Training Hon. Jon  Gerrard   (River Heights): Madam Speaker, we're very concerned this government is not adapting to the reality of caring for seniors who are living longer. Seniors living in our personal-care homes today have much more challenging health-care conditions than those who were in similar homes even five years ago, and yet the staffing formula, or minimal personnel requirement, is over 20 years old. Too few care aides and nurses are adequately trained to look after residents with dementia and multiple chronic health conditi

Karen Keppler 1953 - 2020

  Karen was an incredible person who helped so many people. She had a heart of gold. Back in 1994 to 1997 we worked closely together to help communities all over Manitoba get connected to the internet. In the years since she has done amazing things.   She has served as Chair of the Winnipeg Library Foundation and helped with raising money for the expansion of the Millenium Library.    She helped many people to get new opportunities through the Selkirk and District Learning Centre and through her activities at the University of Winnipeg and the Herzing College.   She was an entrepreneur who helped many people move forward and start successful businesses.  Karen was very concerned about her community.  In she was   the Manitoba Liberal Party candidate in Sekirk constituency.   When the COVID pandemic came, Karen was really helpful in an effort to get computers for kids in need so that they could learn at home. Even recently when I was working to understand lead pollution and lead effects