Pubdate: Thu, 20 Oct 2005
Source: Williams Lake Tribune, The (CN BC)
Copyright: 2005 Williams Lake Tribune
Author: Margaret Speirs


An Abbostford trucker who killed two Terrace residents in a fiery 
crash had a driving record of impaired and other charges.

But police say it was no worse than others who have similar histories 
of problems behind the wheel.

David James Hart had five convictions from 2000 to 2002 and an 
impaired driving charge from March 29, 2003 before the Abbotsford 
courts at the time of his death on Aug. 27, 2004 when he steered his 
tractor-trailer unit into the path of another truck containing Dean 
Ganson and Richard Brown on Hwy97 near Williams Lake.

The record includes a three-month driving prohibition from 2003. He 
had older impaired driving charges from 1989 and 1992.

"In the course of my work, I've seen people with an awful lot worse," 
said Williams Lake highway patrol Corporal Mel Callander last week.

"Obviously anybody that had two or three convictions on their driving 
record for impaired driving indicates this person has an alcohol problem."

The five convictions include excessive speeding, illegal passing, 
speeding against a highway sign and speeding in a municipality. 
Callander said part of the problem with driving records is they don't 
indicate everything.

A driver can have a history of crashes but if the police were too 
busy to attend the accidents or if new members don't issue a ticket, 
an employer may not know about those incidents even if a driver's 
record is available.

When drivers get 14 points on their records, they will receive a 
four- month driving prohibition letter, but that isn't always effective.

A person could continue to drive under a prohibition without anyone 
knowing as long as police don't stop him.

"Exactly, it's not like the police are waiting to collect you," 
Callander said, adding that about 100,000 unlicensed, suspended or 
prohibited drivers are in the province at any one time.

If a person under a prohibition is stopped, his vehicle could be 
impounded for 60 days and he must pay towing and storage charges and 
appear in court.

He said most of the time impaired drivers aren't caught.

"There's a maybe 1 in 100 chance of getting caught drinking and 
driving," he said.

Callander believes the government hasn't given police the tools they 
need to catch drivers under the influence of illegal drugs.

"If I suspect a driver is impaired by alcohol, I can demand their 
breath or blood sample," he said.

"If I suspect a driver is impaired by crystal meth or whatever, I 
can't make a demand."

Crystal meth is readily available, cheap and is the drug of choice 
among truck drivers.

The drug keeps people alert, enabling truckers to make long trips.

Callander said if the trucking industry wants to take steps to curb 
the problem, it could institute mandatory drug testing.