Just before noon, police stopped a 33-year-old impaired driver, charging him with a breach of court orders and several offences under the Highway Traffic Act. Officers also discovered the man was wanted under an outstanding warrant and owed over $8,000 in fines. His vehicle was impounded and he is in custody awaiting a court appearance. (that’s from VOCM news, June 10).
Reports of impaired drivers being pulled over by police have virtually become part of our daily breakfast diet in recent years, to the point we hardly raise an eyebrow anymore.
A few months ago, one rainy day, with nothing much else to do and likely subliminally motivated by a breakfast news report of yet another impaired driver stopped, ticketed, court-appearance date mandated, and then — the almost invariable closer — that the driver already owed the province many thousands of dollars for previous outstanding fines, I Googled “Outstanding impaired driving fines in NL.”
I spent some time reading through the repetitive reports, i.e., individuals pulled over by police, impaired, ticketed, then the unbelievable section — the unpaid fines. Impaired drivers in this province collectively owe many hundreds of thousands of dollars. How does that get to happen, repeatedly, the fines allowed to balloon, seemingly without followup or redress?
What’s the problem, the province can’t find a use for the money? It doesn’t have the man-power to track down these seemingly elusive offenders? Solution: from the moneys garnered from the collection of outstanding fines, hire a few special constables to track-down and provide the outstanding fine offenders a date with a special temporary court/payment office at Fort Townshend. This office, if necessary, should be empowered to attach wages or other sources of income, and/or otherwise provide for arrest and jail time. These special measures should pay for themselves, from fines collected.
If nothing is done about these “nose-thumbing” instances of this province’s laws by impaired drivers, one is moved to ask, who or what part of our justice system is to blame? Again, if our justice system has no appetite to collect on these outstanding fines, perhaps it would be open to turning the responsibilities over to a charitable collective which could most certainly use the money; and/or simply “out” the offenders by publishing their names in a special monthly section of The Telegram, and on the radio stations.
In any event, however it’s done, these drivers — blatant death threats, that’s what they are — should be removed from our roads and dealt with in the courts. Jail time should be doled out liberally, at the very least.
If there is no recognizable attempt to do so, the finger should be pointed at this province’s minister of justice; the responsibility-buck and shame stop there. If laws need to adjusted, do it, please. Current laws are not working efficiently, as demonstrated. Impaired drivers are being pulled in virtually every day, but in this instance, we are more specifically speaking about the previously convicted drunks who are not getting the message.
Coincidently, as I close this letter, June 16, VOCM just reported that police have nabbed another high-fines driver after a single-vehicle accident in St. John’s centre the previous night. A subsequent investigation showed the accused owes $22,000 in outstanding fines. Need I say any more?
Ronald Tizzard writes from Paradise.