Maclean's Editorials

Try Punishment

October 1 1937
Maclean's Editorials

Try Punishment

October 1 1937

Try Punishment

Maclean's Editorials

THE NUMBER of people killed and maimed in automobile accidents this year is cause enough for sterner measures against drunken, reckless and inefficient drivers.

Ontario’s “Try Courtesy” campaign having been futile, the government of that province has tried horror advertisements and encouraged motorists to report reckless drivers encountered on the highways. Hundreds of driving licenses have been cancelled. And still there are too many potential killers loose on the public roads.

Appeals to reason, attempts to frighten, knowledge that they may be reported, have no effect upon this type of dangerous moron.

The only deterrents are—

SEVERE PUNISHMENT OF OFFENDERS.

NOT ALLOWING IRRESPONSIBLE PEOPLE TO CONTINUE DRIVING.

To date, prosecutions have been too apathetic; sentences too much like a tap on the wrist. Consider these Ontario cases:

(a) Young man kills a pedestrian and proceeds to enjoy the rest of the evening at a hockey game. Given so short a term of imprisonment that public indignation forces Attorney-General to take case to Court of Appeals, where jail sentence increased. License to drive suspended for an indefinite period not to exceed one year.

(b) Truck driver runs his truck on sidewalk and crushes girl against tree, almost killing her. Injuries necessitate amputation of victim’s leg at thigh. Driver admits he had been drinking. Sentenced to sixty days imprisonment. No suspension of driving license.

(c) Aftermath of drinking party. Guest of car owner, (driving without a license) drives into pedestrian. Victim’s legs badly fractured. Drunken driver lifts bleeding man from bumper, throws him in snow, drives off and leaves him. Death would have resulted but for the fact that passing motorist who stopped to examine radiator noticed crumpled form in snow. Guilty driver given short prison term. No cancellation of owner's driving license nor provision for refusal of permit to driver.

(d) Motorist charged with driving while license suspended. His counsel pleaded it was trivial

offense. Accused’s record showed he had been convicted of breaches of traffic laws thirteen times and had damaged property and injured people. Yet he was still driving !

These are fair examples of a considerable number of such cases.

Now contrast them with the following sentences given this year in England. They are taken from the files of the London Times.

Driver convicted of driving while drunk. Fined £25 and costs. Driving license suspended for five years.

Driver convicted of driving dangerously when cyclist killed. Fined £24. Driving license suspended for three years.

Driver convicted of driving dangerously, resulting in death of pedestrian. Twelve months imprisonment. License cancelled for fifteen years.

Driver acquitted of manslaughter but held guilty of driving dangerously. Sentenced to six months imprisonment. License cancelled for ten years.

Driver found not guilty of manslaughter on death of girl. Guilty of reckless driving. Twelve months imprisonment. License suspended for fifteen years.

Driver found guilty of dangerous driving of truck. Sentenced to twelve months imprisonment. License suspended for two years. (After appeal from original suspension of seven years, Court of Appeal reduced it to two years.)

Driver convicted of dangerous driving resulting in death of cyclist. Fined £50 and costs. License cancelled five years. Judge took lenient view because accident at night and driver could not see cyclist who had no rear lights on bicycle.

Truck driver ran into lorry resulting in injuries to five people. Convicted of dangerous driving. Fined £40. License suspended for two years.

Attorneys-general, lawyers, magistrates and judges in every province of Canada may find the contrast something to think about.

KILLING OR MAIMING FOR LIFE IS A GRAVE CRIME WHEN DONE WITH A PISTOL OR KNIFE.

WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE IF IT’S DONE BY AN INTOXICATED PERSON WHO HAS INSISTED ON DRIVING A CAR, OR BY A NON-INTOXICATED PERSON WHO DRIVES RECKLESSLY?