By Allison Jones
Chad Bélanger was left with a broken neck, ribs, collarbone and sternum, a bruised heart and lungs, a concussion and PTSD following a crash caused by a truck that crossed a solid double yellow line to pass another vehicle in northern Ontario.
His New Democratic member of provincial parliament, Guy Bourgouin, was surprised — as are many other Ontarians that Bourgouin has heard from — to learn that it is not actually illegal to cross double lines when overtaking another vehicle.
Current laws penalize operating a vehicle unsafely, including improper passing, and caution against crossing into oncoming traffic in certain conditions, but Ontario is the only province that does not make it explicitly illegal to cross two solid lines to pass, said Bourgouin.
The representative for Mushkegowuk-James Bay in northern Ontario has introduced Chad’s Law, a private member’s bill that aims to change that, named after Bélanger.
“I got a lot of citizens emails saying that they were, like me, surprised this wasn’t already the law,” Bourgouin said at a recent news conference.
“Adding a $400 monetary penalty and three demerit minimum points will be the most effective way to make drivers think twice before doing the manoeuvre. We don’t want to wait for an accident to happen before penalizing a behaviour.”
Bélanger said in a statement read by Bourgouin at his news conference that he has no recollection of his Jan. 12, 2022 accident near Kapuskasing, Ont., and his recovery process has been long and difficult so far.
“After two months in the hospital, followed by countless hours of physiotherapy, occupational therapy, counselling and speech therapy, I was able to regain most of my strength, mobility and function,” he wrote.
“However, I was left with chronic pain in my neck, shoulders, and head area. My eyesight was somewhat distorted. I still have some minor difficulty swallowing. Last but not least, I have PTSD and anxiety. I am hoping the new Chad’s Law will prevent future accidents and make the highway safer. I don’t want to see another accident like this again.”
A spokesperson for Transportation Minister Prabmeet Sarkaria said Ontario’s roads are among the safest in North America, with one of the lowest fatality rates per 10,000 licensed drivers.
“Ontario’s laws already provide the ability to enforce offences where appropriate if a driver is operating their vehicle unsafely including disobeying signage or improper passing,” Dakota Brasier wrote in a statement.
“The ministry regularly reviews its policies and practices to see if they are in keeping with current research findings and best practices worldwide.”
A spokesperson for Ontario Provincial Police said the force supports “any measures or legislation that would enhance road safety across Ontario and help save lives on our roadways.”
“Passing when there is a double yellow line is always ill-advised,” Bill Dickson wrote in a statement.
“Those solid lines serve as a warning that passing is not recommended and is hazardous. The double yellow lines are typically found leading into curves in the road, intersections or other situations in which drivers may not have a clear view of oncoming traffic.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 26, 2023
Banner image via The Canadian Press