What happens to drivers who flee the scene of a hit and run?

Man and car involved in accident
Had these drivers remained at the scene, any punishment they faced could have been lessened. Stock photo from iStock/Getty Images

Is it the darkened skies that come with this time of year, slippery roads, or just plain negligence that seems to be causing an uptick in hit-and-run pedestrian deaths?

Toronto alone has seen two gruesome pedestrian deaths in the past 24 hours as a result of hit and runs. With that in mind, the question these drivers should be asking themselves is: what happens if I kill a pedestrian?

As with most criminal law, it is more complicated than simply being charged with murder or a related offence.

Some provinces also have legislation to deal with hit-and-runs.

For instance, British Columbia has the Motor Vehicle Act. In s. 68 of the act — named “duty of the driver at accident” — the legislation requires a driver to stop and stay at the scene of an accident.

In Ontario, police investigating a hit-and-run have the ability to charge a driver under the Criminal Code of Canada or the Highway Traffic Act of Ontario (HTA).

  • Fail to Remain at the scene of an accident is a less serious charge under the HTA that could result in a traffic ticket.
  • Fail to Stop at the Scene of an Accident is much more serious criminal charge under the Criminal Code.

Section 252 of the Criminal Code says that every person in control of a vehicle and who is involved in an accident that involves the death of a pedestrian, is guilty of an indictable offence. That can carry a punishment of up to life in prison.

Similarly, if the accident is as a result of being impaired by alcohol or drugs while being behind the wheel, s. 255 specifies that everyone found guilty of an indictable offence will be sentenced to life in prison.

Had these drivers remained at the scene, any punishment they faced could have been lessened, with fines, loss of driving privileges, and possible imprisonment as an outcome. While still steep, these consequences do not come knowing that you left someone to die as a result of your own negligence.

In a rather unfortunate twist, a man who left the scene of an accident in Brampton, Ont. Over the weekend that killed a McMaster University student, has taken to social media, creating a Facebook page in memorial of Mariel Garcia. Steven Richards even went so far as to write a poem in Garcia’s memory, entitled “Heaven’s Little Angel.”

If only he had put this much effort in and stayed at the accident scene in the first place.

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