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Driver charged in Humboldt Broncos bus crash

The driver, whose truck was involved in the collision with the bus carrying the Humboldt Broncos hockey team, has been charged with one count of dangerous driving causing death for every person who died and one count of dangerous driving causing injury for every person who survived but was injured.

Dangerous driving is a Criminal Code offence in Canada and is often confused with Careless Driving which is a Provincial traffic offence. Careless Driving, like most traffic offences under provincial legislation, is punishable by way of a fine of not more than a $2,000 fine or jail to a maximum of 6 months jail. Dangerous Driving, on the other hand is punishable for a maximum of 14 years jail for death and 10 years jail for bodily harm.

Careless Driving is committed by driving without "due care and attention" or without "reasonable consideration for other users of the road". Dangerous Driving is loosely defined as driving in a manner that is "dangerous to other users of the road based on the nature, condition and use of the road at the time." What amounts to Dangerous Driving therefore, varies with the circumstances for any road at any given time. For example, driving on a major freeway at 100 km/ph on a summer day is entirely within the law. However, travelling at the same speed on the same road in winter blizzard conditions, where visibility is next to nil could be Dangerous Driving.

The legal test to prove Dangerous Driving requires that the driving be a "marked departure" from the standard of a reasonable person in the same circumstances. The Judge or Jury will look at what the accused driver did and compare that to what a reasonable person would have done in the same circumstances. If the accused's driving was a marked departure from the reasonable person, the offence of Dangerous Driving is made out.

In the case of the truck driver involved in the bus crash, whether what happened amounts to Dangerous Driving will be determined by the many pieces of evidence. Where road conditions are good and if travelling at the posted speed, or close to, will not likely in itself amount to "dangerous" within the legal definition. What could make the driving dangerous however, is a failure to stop at the stop sign or if the speed was excessive. All the circumstances that existed will be scrutinized.

It is important to understand that a conviction for Dangerous Driving is not arrived at by working back from the consequences. Whoever is deciding the case, be that a Judge or a Jury, must dispassionately review the evidence and strictly apply the law to it. In a tragedy of this magnitude, dispassionately judging the case is not going to be an easy task. Judges, however, are specifically trained to not let emotions make their decisions. This is one of the strengths of our justice system in Canada. Dispassionate decision making is part of what makes the system fair.

Solid representation for accused persons is also an important part of our system of justice. Defence counsel are there to represent the interests of the accused and provide a check and balance to ensure individuals' rights are respected. At Der Barristers we take that responsibility very seriously and strive to provide the best representation possible to all our clients.

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