By MPP Toby Barrett
The recent debate of Bill 31, Make Ontario’s Road Safer Act, raises some issues that hit close to home in regards to road safety.
While this government talks road safety, Native protestors have again shut down construction of the Cayuga bridge – an important safety and transportation issue. During debate of Bill 31, I suggested Minister of Community Safety and Corrections Yasir Naqiv step in, given the failure of both the Minister of Transportation and the Minister of Native Affairs to resolve things.
Another dangerous situation is Haldibrook Road and Highway 6, north of Caledonia, reinforcing the call for completion of the highway link between Hamilton Airport and the Caledonia Bypass Bridge.
The reconstruction of Caledonia’s Argyle Street Bridge has been on the Ministry of Transportation’s to-do list since 2002, there’s no start date. A few miles down the road, a cure has yet to be found for the long-proposed Highway 6 truck bypass at Hagersville. Tractor trailers coming through town, not being able to turn at intersections, and being involved in accidents, are an obvious road safety concern.
Bill 31 proposes to increase the range of fines for distracted driving from $60 to $500 to a range of $300 to $1,000. In addition, there will be three demerit points with a distracted driving conviction. Novice drivers will lose their license for texting while driving. It will also require drivers to wait until a pedestrian has completely crossed the road before proceeding at school and pedestrian crossings and, as well, pedestrians must not walk out and force last minute, unsafe vehicle stops. Fines and demerit points will be increased for drivers who open their doors in the path of oncoming cyclists.
This summer I was on Long Point for the civic holiday weekend. Quebec’s Grand Tour Desjardins included Norfolk County as part of its annual tour. I give a tip of my hat to Norfolk tourism for pulling out this ace as more than 1,700 cyclists visited. The problem was putting that many cyclists on Long Point’s narrow roads on a long weekend. There has been some talk about widening the causeway, but do we want to lose valuable marsh to make the road wider – it won’t be cheap and it will push up taxes.
The bill has measures to clarify mandatory and discretionary reporting of unfit drivers to the Ministry of Transportation. It is imperative that we do our best to ensure our roadways are as safe as possible, but a priority should be getting things in order at the Medical Review Board to provide faster service.
Repeat offenders who are charged for drinking and driving need more intervention. My experience working at the Addiction Research Foundation indicates repeat offenders have a problem and need treatment. Bill 31 also provides more effort to prosecute drivers who are impaired by drugs.
Driving in rural, smalltown Ontario is usually a necessity to hold down a job. We need to apply some common sense to the rules – considering a driver’s license might be the ticket to working. And we need to consider real safety measures – not just jacking up fines, pretending it’s a deterrent.
Bill 31 has yet to pass. However, we can take those extra precautions to ensure we drive safely over our winter holiday season.