Changes in law sought after motorcyclist killed in collision

The wife of a motorcyclist killed by a pickup truck making a left turn will petition the federal government for changes to the Criminal Code.

The wife of a motorcyclist killed by a pickup truck making a left turn will petition the federal government for changes to the Criminal Code.

Four more motorcyclists have been killed in Central Alberta since the death on Sept. 24, 2010, of Bill Tomlinson, who lived in the rural area southeast of Rocky Mountain House. Four of the five crashes, including the one in which Tomlinson was killed, involved four-wheeled vehicles making left turns.

Tomlinson died when a pickup truck making a left turn struck his motorcycle on the Rainy Creek Road, about three km northwest of Leslieville.

Pickup truck driver Brett Bardenhagen was fined $115 for making an unsafe left turn after pleading guilty in Rocky Mountain House provincial court on Aug. 17.

Most recently, 58-year-old Lanny Byron Berg of Lousana died in a collision on Hwy 11 near the Joffre bridge at 5:45 p.m. on Sunday. Police investigating the crash believe he was riding eastward on Hwy 11 when his motorcycle collided with a westbound pickup truck that was making a left turn onto Hwy 808.

The only fatality not involving a left turn occurred on the same day, when a unidentified 32-year-old man from Eastern Canada was killed after the motorcycle he was riding struck a median in Red Deer while he tried to flee from police.

In Tomlinson’s case, a criminal charge was not available because Bardenhagen had not shown a pattern of dangerous driving, said his widow, Linda Tomlinson.

She believes the possibility of facing criminal charges would serve as a stronger deterrent than a fine under the province’s Highway Traffic Act.

The petition, that will eventually be forwarded to Parliament, asks that section of the Criminal Code that deal with dangerous driving be changed to better define the phrase “dangerous to the public,” thus enabling police to lay criminal charges when someone is killed as a result of a vehicle being improperly operated.

The petition says: “The definition of ‘dangerous to the public’ is not well defined in the Criminal Code, making convictions under this section more difficult, and forcing police officers to charge offenders with summary offences under provincial driving codes.”

Tomlinson said on Wednesday that she needs only 25 signatures to have the petition presented to the House of Commons. However, that’s not enough names to get any attention from parliamentarians, she said.

She and her supporters have also started an online petition. While the online petition does not have any legal muscle, it will put pressure on MPs to make changes, she said.

The group is distributing copies of the petition to motorcycle dealers and making it available at motorcycle events, including a toy run at the Watipi campground near Blackfalds on Saturday.

Visit www.petitiononlinecanada.com/petition/improper-left-hand-turns/291 to view the petition online.

bkossowan@bprda.wpengine.com