ST. JOHN’S – Stand for Hannah Foundation president Gail Thorne said new changes to the province’s Highway Traffic Act will hopefully save lifes.
Amendments to the act aimed at increasing safety began second reading in the House of Assembly on Monday.
Thorne’s daughter, Hannah, died of multiple head injuries following a street racing incident on the New Harbour Barrens in 2016.
Brian Robert King pleaded guilty in September to a number of charges. The co-accused, Steven Ryan Mercer, has pleaded not guilty to charges against him.
“I am delighted with the changes that were brought forward today,” Thorne said in a news release.
“My daughter paid with her life, and we will suffer for the rest of ours because of an incident on our highway. We need changes like this to prevent other incidents from happening.”
The amendments include changes to reduce excessive speeding, stunting and street racing by adding licence suspensions and vehicle impoundments as new penalties.
Move over provisions will require drivers to reduce their speed by 30 kilometres per hour below the speed limit and move to an adjacent lane when approaching law enforcement or other emergency vehicles stopped at roadside.
As well, a new offence for driving without due care and attention or without reasonable consideration for other persons causing bodily harm or death has been added to the act.
The Stand for Hannah Foundation and other community stakeholders helped develop the amendments.
The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary, the RCMP and the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Fire Services also provided input.
New changes to the Highway Traffic Act
Driving Without Due Care
Bill 27 increases existing fines for driving without due care and attention and for driving without reasonable consideration for other persons from its current range of $120-$480 to $300-$1,000.
Causing Death or Bodily Harm
Bill 27 includes a new offence of driving without due care and attention or without reasonable consideration for other persons causing death or bodily harm and set the following penalties:
- A minimum fine of $2,000 and maximum fine of $20,000;
- Up to two years imprisonment; and
- A licence suspension of not more than five years.
Accompanying regulations will also outline a penalty of six demerit points.
Bill 27 strengthens excessive speeding provisions by:
- Including separate speeding offences for 31 to 50 kilometres per hour and greater than 50 kilometres per hour over the posted speed limit;
- Setting higher fines for speeding greater than 50 kilometres per hour over the posted speed limit. The fines will increase to between $400-$850 and $800-$1,800 in construction and school zones.
- Imposing a new seven day driver licence suspension for speeding greater than 50 kilometres per hour over the posted speed limit, to be effective the second day after the notice of suspension is given; and,
- Adding regulation-making authority to impound vehicles for three days for speeding greater than 50 kilometres per hour over the posted speed limit.
Bill 27 strengthens racing provisions by imposing additional penalties:
- A new seven day driver licence suspension for racing on a highway, to be effective the second day after the notice of suspension is given; and,
- Adding regulation-making authority to impound vehicles for three days for racing.
Bill 27 includes new stunting provisions by:
- Creating a new offence for stunting on a highway;
- Imposing a new seven-day driver licence suspension for stunting, to be effective the second day after the notice of suspension is given; and,
- Adding regulation-making authority to impound vehicles for three days for stunting.
Bill 27 strengthens move over provisions by:
- Adding a speed reduction of at least 30 kilometres per hour to a minimum speed of 30 kilometres for vehicles passing stopped emergency or designated vehicles; and,
- Providing the ability to charge the registered owner.
Proof of Insurance
Bill 27 modifies proof of insurance provisions to:
- Place the onus on the driver to prove the vehicle they were driving was insured at the time the proof of request was made; and,
- Place the onus on the person charged with an offence to prove there was an insurance policy at the time of the offence.
Bill 27 adds a process for appeals to the Registrar for 90-day impaired driving suspensions (BAC of .08 or greater; refusal or failure to provide a sample). The grounds of appeal would be:
- Identity of the driver, and
- Medical explanations for failure to provide a sample or refusal to provide a sample.
Bill 27 has also made related amendments to clarify that impaired driving suspensions are imposed by operation of the legislation and not by the Registrar.