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Tougher penalties eyed to deter unsafe driving

Apr 20 2012

B.C.'s Justice Minister is looking at putting more teeth into penalties for drivers who continue to break the law despite a string of offences and driving prohibitions.

Shirley Bond said she's asked the Office of the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles to explore more severe consequences for such drivers to deter unsafe behaviour on the road.

"We can legislate, we can educate, we can do just about everything imaginable, but people still make the choice to do things that are illegal and irresponsible," she said

Bond's comments come in the wake of a video posted to YouTube of a motorcyclist dangerously swerving in and out of traffic. Police believe the rider is a 25-year-old man with 27 previous driving-related convictions.

"This is an individual who chose to get on a motorcycle and drive almost 300 kilometres an hour, and I can suggest the prohibitions obviously didn't really matter all that much," said Bond, adding she's taking a serious look at making individuals' driving records public in British Columbia.

Ontario is the only province in Canada to make driving records public. Though B.C. does make some violations public through the court system, such as records of those with excessive speeding tickets, records for the bulk of Motor Vehicle Act offences, including those nabbed under new drunk-driving prohibitions and road-side licence suspensions, are not available for public scrutiny.

A host of privacy issues need to be ironed out before B.C. can proceed with driving-record transparency, said Bond. "We have to work through that," she said. "I'm looking for disincentives, and if education and prohibition isn't enough, what else can we do?"

Colleen Woodger, road safety co-ordinator for ICBC, said the motorcyclist in the video put himself and 70 other people on the road at risk by lane splitting — using the centre line to cut between cars on either side — and swerving in and out of traffic. "Based on the actions we saw, I think we know no B.C. motorist wants this guy on the road."

Saanich police Sgt. Dean Jantzen said it's frustrating that police can't do anything to ensure the rider doesn't drive recklessly in another vehicle, since he shows no hesitation to drive without a licence. "I think if this young man is on the road in any vehicle, regardless of who may own it, there is a risk to the public," he said.

Chris Foord, chairman of the Capital Regional District traffic safety commission, said if a motorist is willing to flagrantly disobey the law in a way that poses such a risk to the public, he should be behind bars.

rshaw@timescolonist.com