Thunder Bay impaired driver injures pedestrian, causes $300K in damage after series of collisions

A 36-year-old Thunder Bay man is facing multiple impaired driving charges after a series of collisions involving vehicles, a pedestrian, and two homes, on the city’s north side.

Police said the incident, which occurred along Kenogami Avenue Tuesday afternoon, led to an estimated $300,000 in damages, and resulted in injuries to a pedestrian.

Traffic Unit Acting Sgt. Sal Carchidi said police received multiple 911 calls about the incident, and officers, along with paramedics and firefighters, responded.

Responding officers found a pickup truck in the middle of a driveway in the zero-to-100 block of Kenogami Avenue, and further investigation revealed the truck was the one involved in the collisions.

The driver had fled the scene on foot, and officers located him nearby about 15 minutes after the initial call. Officers noticed signs of impairment and transported the accused to police headquarters, where further evaluation determined his blood alcohol content was nearly three times the legal limit.

Police said the pickup also struck two homes on Kenogami Avenue.

‘His actions changed a lot of people’s lives’

Two other vehicles had also been struck by the pickup, and one of those vehicles in turn struck a pedestrian, who sustained a fractured leg, police said.

“I had a conversation with her [Wednesday] morning,” Carchidi said. “She’s been released, and thankfully the injuries aren’t as serious as first believed, but she’s still significantly impacted by the collision.”

The accused has been charged with:

  • Operation of a motor vehicle causing bodily harm
  • Dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing bodily harm
  • Operation of a Motor Vehicle with blood alcohol content of 80/mg or more per 100/ml of Blood
  • Failure to stop after accident causing bodily harm
  • Obstructing police

He appeared in court on Wednesday, and police said he was released with conditions.

“His actions changed a lot of people’s lives,” Carchidi said. “He destroyed two vehicles, significantly damaged the foundation and main structure of the residence, as well as caused severe damage to other vehicles as well as and other residents on the street.”

Thunder Bay police are investigating a series of collisions along Kenogami Avenue on Tuesday afternoon involving vehicles, a pedestrian, and two homes. (Submitted by Thunder Bay Police Service)

“We do see a lot of impaired drivers in Thunder Bay,” he said. “We don’t see them with this type of catastrophic destruction often.”

Carchidi didn’t have exact impaired driving numbers for 2022. He did say the number of drivers charged for being impaired by drug is down slightly, but overall police are “on pace” with 2021 and 2020.

Police charged 299 people with impaired driving in 2020, and 252 in 2021.

And it’s not just a Thunder Bay issue, with OPP seeing a rise in impaired charges this year in the region.

As of April 25, OPP had charged 97 people in the northwest with impaired driving. Of those:

  • 17 were in Rainy River
  • 3 were in Greenstone
  • 15 were in Kenora
  • 1 was in Marathon
  • 4 were in Nipigon
  • 22 were in Red Lake
  • 14 were in Sioux Lookout, and
  • 13 were in Thunder Bay

OPP also have also charged eight people in Dryden, but the service only took over policing in that community on Feb. 24, so data between that date and Jan. 1 isn’t available.

The 2022 OPP numbers mark a rise of 39 per cent over the same period in 2021 (OPP charged a total of 490 impaired drivers in the northwest over all of last year).

Eric Dumschat, legal director of MADD Canada, said while the problem of impaired driving remains a serious one, there are approaches that have proven effective.

“I think there has been quite a change,” he said. “If you look at what impaired driving was back in the eighties, let’s say, versus what it is today, there’s been a complete societal reversal.”

“Back in the day, it was almost seemed acceptable to drive while under the influence. And now it’s the exact opposite.”

“It’s seen appropriately as a scourge on our roads.”

An administrative approach

Dumschat said taking an administrative approach, and penalizing drivers with immediate licence suspensions and vehicle impoundment, has proven effective.

“We know from deterrence theory that there are sort of three pillars: the certainty of the punishment, the severity of the punishment, and the swiftness of the punishment,” he said. “While the Criminal Code is very severe, it’s not certain and it’s not swift, where … this administrative system is certain and swift and I would argue quite severe, as well.”

There are other measures that could be taken, as well, Dumschat said, including ensuring there are other transportation options for drivers who have been drinking or consuming drugs, such as taxis or public transport, and he cited a program in consideration in the U.S. called the Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety.

“It would put a passive alcohol sensor in the car, so the car would not start if the person had over a certain threshold [of blood alcohol content],” he said. “That’s the technological solution that would help deal with this.”

And, Dumschat said, it’s important that people continue to report suspected impaired drivers.

“That’s definitely a reason that many impaired drivers are taken off the road,” Dumschat said. “And I would strongly encourage anyone, if you see someone you suspect to be impaired, call 911.”

In a report from 2020, MADD also recommends Ontario implement an immediate 90-day administrative licence suspension (ALS) and a 30-day administrative vehicle impoundment (AVI), for drivers with a blood alcohol content of .08 per cent or higher.

“These provisions should include significant administrative fees and penalties, mandatory remedial requirements, and a mandatory 6-month alcohol interlock order,” the report states. “Drivers subject to 90-day roadside ALSs and 30-day AVIs for a failed ASD test should not be charged criminally if they do not have a prior provincial 90-day ALS or federal impaired driving conviction, did not cause a fatal or personal injury crash and did not have a passenger under the age of 16 in the vehicle.”

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