“I was punished basically for not having enough money to buy a Bluetooth device.”
She had been talking to her mother, on speaker phone, while sitting at a red light. The phone somehow went off speaker, and she needed to handle it to turn the speaker back on.
An RCMP officer in a “ghost car” ticketed her.
If she had the money for, and chose to purchase, hands-free, cell-phone technology, it would have been perfectly legal for her to chat away on the telephone her entire journey.
She could have been yak, yak, yakking away, notably oblivious to what was going around her, glanced over and given the RCMP officer a wink without a worry in the world.
Don’t have the money to afford hands-free technology?
Sucks to be you.
You’ll just have to pull over, or wait until you arrive at your destination, before you can have your telephone discussion.
That’s how it was in the “good, old days?" On the rare occasion that something really pressing came up, eyes scanned the strip malls for a phone booth. We dug for the quarter to operate the thing.
Just a quick call to get back on the road as quickly as possible.
Yes, young folks. We used to buy telephone time at coin-operated booths, just like you buy condoms today.
If affluent enough to afford hands-free technology, you now have the privilege of chatting away on a telephone the entire way.
Is that fair?
Life isn’t fair. Affluence comes with all sorts of privileges. This is just another one.
But does it make any sense? Does it make our roads any safer?
Would it surprise you that a discussion paper, Addressing the Problem of Distracted Driving and its Impacts to Road Safety, includes the following words in the executive summary:
“Evidence also concludes that there is no difference between the cognitive diversion associated with hands-free and hand-held cell phone use?”
Would you be angry if you knew the discussion paper had been available to British Columbia before enacting legislation that prohibits hand held, but not hands free, cell phone use?
Would it push you over the edge if you knew that the discussion paper was issued by British Columbia’s very own Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General?
Dr Louis Francescutti, professor in the School of Public Health, University of Alberta, was interviewed by CBC in August, 2016.
Wasn’t that around the time when ICBC was announcing the worst-case scenario of a 40-some per cent increase of rates?
A write-up of that interview summarizes:
“Francescutti said governments are to blame for allowing what he calls ‘idiotic legislation’ that told people it’s OK to use hands-free options while driving.”
By making only hand-held cell phone use illegal, the government appears to have given two enthusiastic thumbs up to the hands-free version, which the government knew was just as dangerous.
Before British Columbia’s idiotic law came into force on Jan. 1, 2010, safety conscious British Columbians avoided cell phone use while driving, conscious of the distraction.
After Jan. 1, 2010, reassured about the safety of hands-free cell phone use, they put immense profits into the pockets of those producing hands-free technology and enjoyed the privilege of using their vehicles like a rolling phone booth.
Instead of causing a reduction, the British Columbia government has actually caused an increase in cell phone use while driving.
With that increase has come increased crashes. Crashes cause vehicle damage, injuries and deaths.
Leaving personal loss alone, those crashes cost billions of dollars of cost to British Columbians.
No wonder ICBC rates have been increasing. What about increases in emergency services, health care and other costs that impact our taxes?
Dr. Louis Francescutti suggests that we should bring a class action against our own government for knowingly making the problem of distracted driving worse instead of better.
It took class action litigation to force tobacco companies to be held accountable. Will it take a class action lawsuit to force our political leaders to take the very, very simple step of banning cell phone use while driving altogether?
With an election just around the corner, we could not be better situated to put pressure on our political leaders to do the right thing.
Which party will commit to changing the legislation if they are elected?
If the “right thing” doesn’t happen, I put up my hand as willing to lead a class-action lawsuit.
“Clearly, a drunk can consent.”
Dangerous words when pulled out of context from a judge’s acquittal of a cab driver, found by police with pants undone and an unconscious woman in his cab, the woman’s urine soaked pants and underwear in his hands.
Out of context, they could mean that it’s OK to sexually prey on women who are so drunk that they urinate in their pants and pass out drunk.
It’s not, and the judge didn’t say that it is.
The judge actually denounced the behaviour of the cab driver, who had been entrusted with taking a clearly intoxicated young woman home.
He expressed his moral judgment that even if the young woman had expressed her agreement that he remove her clothes, he should not have done so. Even if she had been flirtatious with him, acting on that would be taking advantage of a vulnerable person.
He was also supportive of the police officer who made the arrest, noting that the circumstances were such that they “would lead any reasonable person to believe that Mr. Al-Rawi was engaging in or about to engage in sexual activity with a woman who is incapable of consenting.”
However much the judge denounced the cab driver’s behaviour, he had a difficult job.
The passed-out victim had no memory of what occurred. There was only circumstantial evidence with which to infer her level of capacity at the time her clothes were stripped off, which was the evidence of sexual contact between the cab driver and the victim.
He noted, “…I do not know whether Mr. Al-Rawi removed (the complainant’s) pants at her consent, request, with her consent, without her consent. I don’t know. The Crown marshalled no evidence of this.” (Click here for full transcript)
Obviously, if the victim was already unconscious at the time the clothing was removed, she could not have consented. But the judge had no way of knowing whether she was conscious at that time.
As for her capacity before passing out, a forensic alcohol expert testified that even at her high level of intoxication (about three times the legal driving limit), the young woman “might very well have been capable of appearing lucid but drunk and able to direct, ask, agree or consent to any number of different activities.”
The acquittal is under appeal. Perhaps the appeal court will find that there was, indeed, sufficient evidence to infer the facts necessary to convict.
I think it’s important, though, not to direct our revulsion about a lack of criminal accountability for this cab driver’s horrible behaviour at the judge, nor at an appeal court that might well uphold the acquittal.
Judges simply apply laws that we create. Do we want cab drivers to be criminally accountable for taking advantage of vulnerable passengers? We can pass laws that will do that.
Do we want criminally accountability, generally, for taking advantage of vulnerable women? We can pass laws to do that too.
The law we are currently asking judges to apply comes from section 273.1 (2)(b) of the Criminal Code. It says that you do not have consent if a person “is incapable of consenting to the activity.”
Those words have recently been interpreted to require proof beyond a reasonable doubt that “the complainant’s cognitive capacity is sufficiently impaired by the consumption of alcohol so as to make her incapable of knowing that she is engaging in a sexual act or that she can refuse to engage in the sexual act.”
Holy, smokes, that’s a high standard. It’s not enough, in itself, to prove that the victim was “falling down drunk.”
Do we want to fix it? It is fully within our power to do so. Let’s pass laws to protect those who have become vulnerable by intoxication from predators who would take advantage of that vulnerability.
It was out of character for Lori, the single, hard-working, mother of four. She was always the one ensuring that no one would be drinking and driving.
Imagine what her children, the youngest aged six, felt as their mother was taken away to begin serving her three-year jail sentence.
The server who had delivered the shots of tequila and beer offered to arrange a driving service. Lori declined, saying she was calling a friend for a ride. That decision will haunt her for the rest of her life.
Lori made no excuses and was sobbing as she gave her heart-felt apology to the family of Erin, the 33-year-old nurse whose life she ended. She was also apologizing to Lindsay, Erin’s 31-year-old co-worker who will never recover from her injuries.
No amount of jail time could fix this. In fact, the longer she spends behind bars will only increase the harm to the four victims who were not in the crash: her children.
Nothing can fix this.
But this tragic event, occurring right here in our Okanagan community, can help fix us.
Impaired driving continues to be a significant road safety problem. Every time the RCMP put their important resources to targeting impaired drivers, another “tip of the iceberg” of offenders are snagged.
For every impaired driving death, there is some significant multiple of impaired driving injuries.
The last bold step our political leaders took to fix this problem, and it was a beauty, was implementing automatic roadside consequences in 2010.
Is it time for another bold step?
How about Erin’s Law, requiring bars to ensure that clearly impaired patrons do not get into a vehicle and drive?
Servers could be required to keep track of the number of drinks served. A simply formula, taking into account the amount of time spent in the bar, could trigger the obligation.
A minimum-wage earner could follow the patron to the parking lot, warning that the RCMP will be called if they get into the driver’s seat of a vehicle.
Those much smarter than me can come up with the details, but surely a clear screening and prevention procedure can be conceived of. Failure to implement it could be a criminal offense with similar penalties to impaired driving itself.
No procedure would be iron clad. Those intent on driving impaired could simply park off site.
Erin’s Law would have saved Erin. If would help in most situations where well meaning people at the beginning of the night make horrible decisions after they are impaired.
It could be extended anywhere alcohol is consumed. Yes, including your home when friends come over to drink. Would it be ridiculous to make a conscious effort to keep a tally on the number of drinks consumed by those who bring their vehicles?
The most important impact of Erin’s Law would be a change in attitudes. It is clearly insufficient to rely on drinkers to be responsible. We must add responsibility to those who are complicit in impaired driving situations occurring.
Erin’s Law would do just that. The next generation would grow up seeing their parents and the world around them actually doing something to prevent impaired driving, rather than just sitting back and letting it happen.
More Achieving Justice articles
One of my little joys as a columnist is the delicious opportunity to publically expose ignorance.
Don’t we all yearn to have been that keener whose hand shot up, aching to enlighten a clueless classroom with the right answer?
It’s particularly satisfying after another student has embarrassedly exposed his or her ignorance with a wrong answer.
And I get to name names!
First off, I will establish my basis for having a great deal of knowledge about the area I am writing about.
I’ve been in the crash injury business for over 20 years.
Hundreds of injured victims have shared with me the onset, progression and fluctuations of their symptoms, the impact of various care modalities on their recovery, and the long term aftermaths of their injuries.
The careful review of hundreds of reports from specialists in various medical fields has informed me about the medical science.
At times, such as when I am urging my clients to try their best to wean off of passive therapies in favour of more active rehabilitation, I refer to myself jokingly as “Dr. Paul.”
Those who know my writing style are already anticipating the punch line, i.e. that it is my own clueless ignorance I am writing about.
It has taken this many years for me to learn about an aspect of crash injuries that impacts nearly fifty percent of my clients.
I have a good friend who hasn’t formally retained me to go after fair compensation on her behalf, but she informs me occasionally about how she’s doing.
She’s the same friend I wrote about in a previous column, who would like “at fault drivers” to be required to share the inconvenience of scheduling and attending therapy, by tagging along with their victims.
She is lucky. Her injuries have significantly resolved.
From time to time, though, she experiences flare-ups which are really quite significant.
For Dr. Paul, the periodic flaring up of symptoms is par for the course.
As sure as the earth turns on its axis, there will be ebbing and flowing of symptoms with variations of activity and other factors.
Wisely, my friend didn’t rely on Dr. Paul. She kept close track of the timing of her flare-ups, which was roughly monthly, and consulted with her actual doctor.
Wouldn’t you know, but on careful examination and questioning, her doctor diagnosed a particular condition my friend “suffers from,” which impacts on her crash injury symptoms.
I use quotation marks because the word “suffers” might seem overly dramatic and highly debatable.
This particular condition causes the monthly production of increased levels of a group of cyclic fatty acid compounds called prostaglandin.
The prostaglandin, as I understand it, sensitizes pain sensing neurons, resulting in increased pain signals to be sent from areas of injury to the brain.
On making the diagnosis, her doctor prescribed medication that will hopefully ease the flare-ups.
As it turns out, my friend is not alone. In fact, her condition is somewhat widely shared. I am embarrassed that, after all these years, I’ve been clueless about it.
Her condition? Menstruation.