Dressed in their fluorescent road working gear, a small group of flaggers attended traffic court Thursday to make a visible statement about safety for those who direct traffic on B.C.’s roads and highways.
The group of workers was there to support Susan Mclean, a flagger who was deliberately bumped by a driver while stopping traffic at a work zone along the Trans-Canada Highway in June.
While the flaggers were disappointed criminal charges of assault were not laid against the driver, David Harriman, he was issued a $368 violation ticket for driving without due care and attention. Harriman came to court to dispute the ticket, but, as his name was being called for him to appear in front of the judge, he changed his plea to guilty.
During a discussion about the potential fine, Const. Mike Draper stated the police would be against any reduction in the fine and if anything would ask the judge to increase the amount or consider a temporary suspension of Harriman’s driver’s licence. He outlined the situation, in which Mclean had stopped the traffic along the highway near the new Walmart. Harriman was driving the lead vehicle in the line, but when the traffic had cleared, Maclean refused to let Harriman continue on his way because he was using a cell phone. Draper told the court Harriman edged his vehicle forward, striking Mclean with his bumper. She stepped back and he edged forward a second time, causing a significant bruise to her thigh. Then Harriman drove around her, nearly striking her again.
Harriman disputed Draper’s version of the events.
“It didn’t happen that way in my opinion,” he told the judge. “I pled guilty so this would be done. I just want to pay the ticket and go.”
Harriman said both he and Mclean “were being difficult” and told the judge he was not talking on his cell phone, but was listening to a radio program on it.
Judge Brian Burgess reminded Harriman of the distracted driving laws, which state that a cell phone is being used even if the person is not on a call at the time.
“If you had it in your hand, then you were using it, sir,” he said.
Harriman also pointed out that a suspension of his driver’s licence would do serious harm to his livelihood. He is a private electrical contractor and relies on his vehicle to get to job sites around the province.
The judge decided not to issue a suspension, and kept the fine set at $368.
Following the outcome, Mclean said she was glad Harriman admitted his guilt, but still said she was frustrated by the charge of driving without undue care.
“To me that means you are not paying proper attention, not that you look someone right in the eye and hit them twice with your vehicle.”
Mclean says the case highlights the larger issues of safety both for flaggers and the travelling public. She says examples of drivers using cell phones or texting are increasingly common. Known among flaggers as “doing the dance,” it refers to flaggers having to jump out of the way to avoid being hit by vehicles.
“What if I had let this guy go, knowing he was breaking the law by being on his cell phone and he hurt someone? I would have been responsible for that. I hope this makes drivers more aware, pay attention and use some patience.”