A long-haul trucker involved in a fatal crash in 2010 was jailed three weeks for failing to stop for a yellow light.
Jeffrey Penz has racked up 37 driving convictions, some of them since the accident, when commercial drivers are expected to follow a higher standard on the road - especially while operating an 80,000-pound vehicle, said Judge Anne Wallace.
"I do expect a professional driver to have a far better record," she said Monday. "It's an accident that could have been avoided if you'd paid attention."
Penz, 39, was driving his fully loaded rig west at
80 km/h on Highway 97 when an oncoming pickup turned left in front of him at Westlake Road in June 2010. The impact knocked his tractor-trailer to the right and it collided with a Toyota Corolla driven by Ethan Baptiste as he waited to merge onto Highway 97.
The semi, hauling furniture, ended up on its side and caught fire. Baptiste, a 33-year-old academic and native leader from Osoyoos, died soon after. His passenger, Viola Brown, was badly injured.
Penz failed to slow down and stop when the overhead wig-wag lights flashed, indicating the green light was about to turn yellow as he approached the intersection, the judge said. The pickup, driven by Megan Bates, turned left because she saw the other traffic slowing down and stopping.
Both drivers made split-second decisions that led to the tragedy. Penz had a greater responsibility because his rig had a "freight-train-like momentum," Wallace said.
"It was that momentum Mr. Penz didn't want to lose that perhaps made him drive through the yellow light . . . Lights change, and you're going to have to stop and start."
Bates and Penz were not seriously injured. She pleaded guilty to failing to yield the right of way and was fined $1,200.
Penz has been suspended from driving six times and convicted of numerous offences like speeding, running a red light and making an unsafe left turn. He was convicted three times after the fatal crash - one of them for using an electronic device - and is "clearly a danger to anyone on the roads," said Crown counsel David Grabavac.
"He has a horrible driving record - completely unacceptable for someone driving a commercial vehicle."
Kim Ross, defending, said Penz drives as much as 100,000 miles a year and has been long-haul trucking for more than 20 years. It's understandable to have 37 violations over such a long career, he argued.
Wallace disagreed and prohibited Penz from driving for three years - a punishment that could do him greater harm than jail. His wife died in August and he must raise three young children in Calgary himself, court heard.
Penz will likely serve the 21 days intermittently so he can work and see his children. He apologized to the Baptiste's family and girlfriend in court.
"I can relate to the loss. I didn't mean to do this," he said.
Baptiste, 33, was a doctoral student and taught aboriginal studies at Okanagan College. He was writing his PhD at UBC Okanagan on economic development. A hereditary chief and father of three young kids, he was a revered leader on the Osoyoos Reserve.
In her victim impact statement, Brown said she and Baptiste had just finished shopping and he piggy-backed her out of the store. He was her boyfriend and best friend, she said.
"My heart breaks that our nation, communities and families (will) no longer have the strong, educated, traditional Okanagan man to lead our people. He was an invaluable role model to our youth."