October 11, 2011
By Jordan W. Charness; photo courtesy AlbertaImpairedDrivingCharge.ca
It’s only October and the Christmas party season has still not begun, but as you’ll see, this column has absolutely nothing to do with drinking alcohol and getting behind the wheel of a car. Hopefully, we are all aware that driving while impaired is illegal, a jailable offence, socially unacceptable and just plain stupid… but more about that in a future column.
This column is dedicated to the type of drinking and driving that we all do. For the moment, it is perfectly legal, but may not stay that way forever. In fact, this type of drinking and driving can sometimes be illegal and may even be a jailable offence even though it has nothing to do with alcohol.
I got a call from a truck driver who had been arrested by the police and charged with dangerous driving. He was perfectly sober at the time. He was not speeding. He was not weaving back-and-forth. He was not passing on the right. All he was doing was drinking a hot cup of coffee.
He then put the coffee into a cup holder and reached over to change stations on his radio. In doing so he knocked over the hot cup of coffee spilling its contents into his lap. As you can imagine, things kind of went badly from that point on.
He quickly tried to wipe the scalding liquid off his pants with his hand which only burnt his hand. He also made a grab for the styrofoam cup as it fell between his legs, interfering with the gas and brake pedals. The next thing he knew, he found himself in a ditch on the side of the road. Of course, he was not there alone. His 18-wheel truck was with him!
Fortunately, he did not cause damage to any other vehicle but his truck was not in great shape. When the police arrived they asked him what had happened and he candidly and honestly told them the entire story.
They asked if he would take a breathalyzer test and he volunteered to take one and of course he passed. The fact that he had a dark wet stain on his trousers also went along way towards convincing the police that the story he told was the truth.
He was then charged with dangerous driving.
He maintains that he was doing nothing illegal. Drinking a cup of coffee while driving is perfectly legal in the province where he was driving. He says the accident was truly just that, an accident. He says he should not have been charged with anything except for having to pay his deductible on his insurance to get the truck repaired.
The way the police look at it is that it was that he was clearly driving dangerously as was evidenced by the fact that he drove himself right off the road and into a ditch without weather or another vehicle as a contributing factor. The fact that there was no damage caused to anyone else was just a matter of good luck. The truck driver’s failure to pay attention to the road was indeed a form of dangerous driving.
This particular case has not yet come before the courts. What do you think will happen?