Tue. Feb 27th, 2024

A car’s cameras captured the heart-stopping seconds leading up to a dramatic crash on the Gardiner Expressway that sent a taxi flying and seriously injured two people — footage so “obviously dangerous” that a Toronto judge sentenced the driver to nine months in jail.

Jerzy Bogacz, who pleaded guilty to one count of dangerous driving causing bodily harm, told the court he was rushing home in his BMW on a Sunday in January 2022 because of a family emergency. But Justice Apple Newton-Smith said there’s no justification for driving that dangerously.

“The video shows a busy highway full of cars taking people about their business on a bright and sunny Sunday afternoon. Watching the video, Mr. Bogacz’s driving is so obviously dangerous that the accident appears to be inevitable. It is only a matter of luck that there were not more victims and that no one was killed,” Newton-Smith said in her October ruling.

The video shows Bogacz “making erratic lane changes and driving in such a dangerous manner that numerous calls were placed to 911 by concerned motorists,” she said.

At 2:15 p.m., Bogacz made a “sudden and dangerous lane change, passing a vehicle on the right before flipping in the air five times.”

The video shows the BMW clip a taxi in the right lane, whose rear hatch immediately buckles as the car pivots towards the guardrails on the right side of the Gardiner, near the Exhibition grounds.

The taxi goes flying and rolls five times before stopping on the other side of the highway as nearby drivers screech to a halt.

The driver of the taxi suffered a hand and head injury and still has limited mobility in his hand, Newton-Smith wrote. The passenger had head, shoulder and knee injuries and lost sight in one eye.

In a brief filed with the court, Bogacz apologized and said he was not the kind of person who “purposely goes out and tries to hurt others.”

“I accept responsibility for a foolish error I had made and, at the time, did not factor in that the speed I was driving would constitute such a public hazard. I simply thought that I would be able to speed home to resolve an issue that was pressing,” he said.

That pressing issue was a family member with a drinking problem, the judge wrote. But she did not accept that as an excuse.

“I am told that he was rushing home to deal with a family crisis. If the situation in his home required urgent and immediate intervention, the appropriate response would be to call 911. I do not consider putting the lives of innocent people at risk for the sake of trying to get home quickly to be a mitigating factor,” she wrote.

She sentenced the driver to nine months in prison with a five-year driving prohibition. She declined to order probation and said any financial penalty she prescribed would be deducted from any insurance penalty.

The sentence is on the tougher end, said Jess Spieker of Friends and Families for Safe Streets, pointing to other cases where a driver’s actions resulted in death but didn’t necessarily result in jail time.

“That was completely preventable. He didn’t have to drive like that,” Spieker said.

Spieker said judges should consider restorative justice measures like ordering training and community service that could include talks to younger drivers to warn them about behaviour that could result in injuries and death.

She also said the evident speeding here could be an argument for automated speed enforcement cameras on highways, which would be an incentive to reduce speed and reduce the likelihood of serious crashes. 

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