Susan Kootnekoff is the founder of Inspire Law, an Okanagan based-law practice. She has been practicing law since 1994, with brief stints away to begin raising children. Susan has experience in many areas of law, but is most drawn to areas in which she can make a positive difference in people���s lives, including employment law. She has been a member of the Law Society of Alberta since 1994 and a member of the Law Society of British Columbia since 2015. Susan grew up in Saskatchewan. Her parents were both entrepreneurs, and her father was also a union leader who worked tirelessly to improve the lives of workers. Before moving to B.C., Susan practiced law in both Calgary and Fort McMurray, AB. Living and practicing law in Fort McMurray made a lasting impression on Susan. It was in this isolated and unique community that her interest in employment law, and Canada’s oil sands industry, took hold. In 2013, Susan moved to the Okanagan with her family, where she currently resides. photo:contributed

Kootnekoff: R v. Sidhu, was he asleep?

Driver in Humboldt crash wasn’t distracted at time of collision with bus, document says, read a headline.

It reminds me of a joke my mother, a Saskatchewan resident, tells, “A small car and a semi collided. The driver of the semi said, “It wasn’t my fault.” The driver of the car… had no comment.”

Therein lies the crux of it. Those involved in semi collisions are invariably unable to express their side of the story.

In R. v. Sidhu, the criminal case involving the driver of the semi that collided with the Humboldt Broncos’ team bus, the Crown and Sidhu agreed to a statement of facts.

Nothing in the Agreed Statement of Facts is inconsistent with the possibility that the driver may have been asleep as he approached that now infamous intersection.

The Agreed Statement of Facts contains the following statements.

“The Semi-Tractor Unit did not stop prior to entering the intersection. No tire skid marks due to braking were left by the Semi-Tractor Unit.”

“At the point of the impact, the Semi-Tractor Unit, together with two of the trailers was completely in the intersection and spanning all lanes of Highway 35, when it was struck in T-bone fashion by the Bus.”

“There were no environmental conditions that contributed to the collision.”

“Prior to the collision with the Bus, as the Semi-Tractor Unit driven by Sidhu was approaching the Intersection, Sidhu passed.”

Five different signs, including an oversized stop sign, four feet in diameter, with a red flashing traffic light attached near the top. The light flashed once per second.

Remarkably, the driver missed all of these signs, including the flashing red light.

“The driver of the Semi-Tractor Unit failed to recognize the hazard and took minimal or no action in an effort to avoid the collision.”

“The driver of the Semi-Tractor Unit failed to recognize that his vehicle was approaching an intersection and did not stop as required.”

“Sidhu… caused the collision” and “massive damage to the bus.”

“Alcohol and drugs were not a factor…. Also, Sidhu is not believed to have been distracted as a result of using his cell phone at the time of the collision.”

However, Agreed Statement of Facts is worded very carefully. It does not make a blanket statement that he was not otherwise distracted.

Such as asleep at the wheel.

The trucking company had numerous hours of service violations.

An explanation was offered at the sentencing hearing of a tarp that had apparently been flapping in the wind. He had apparently stopped previously to fix it.

Who can refute this?

Who can counter the driver’s story? Provide another side to this story?

No one.

Assuming the tarp was a problem, and he did fix it earlier, did he then fall asleep prior to entering the intersection? The facts as I read them are not inconsistent with this possibility.

Sidhu is represented by a well-known Saskatchewan criminal lawyer.

Apparently, Sidhu wanted to save the families from a trial. All very well, although I must wonder if some may have wanted more information than was provided at the sentencing hearing.

Avoiding a trial may also have saved Sidhu from greater scrutiny.

We may never know the full story.

We know there are many huge trucks, inadequately regulated, freely travelling the same roads on which we drive our families.

Just weeks ago, I was driving my children to an appointment in Vernon, B.C. one clear, beautiful morning.

Highway 97 North of Kelowna was closed that morning.

You guessed it, a semi had collided with a small vehicle.

An 18-year-old Oyama resident was presumably traveling to work or school on what was supposed to be an ordinary day. His whole life was ahead of him. He did not make it to his destination. His family is left grieving.

Obviously, the status quo is unacceptably dangerous. It is time to adequately regulate the trucking industry. Drivers must have better training and more experience. Greater rest periods must be required. Maybe rail ought to be preferred. Maybe semis ought to drive only at night. Maybe double trailers ought to be prohibited. Stiff penalties are needed, as is a registry of semi collisions on highways.

The content of this article is intended to provide very general thoughts and general information, not to provide legal advice. Advice from an experienced legal professional should be sought about your specific circumstances. If you would like to reach us, we may be reached at 250-764-7710 or info@inspirelaw.ca. Check out our website, www.inspirelaw.ca.

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