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Northern Alberta man fined for speeding in collision that killed drunk driver

"My life has forever changed; I go to bed crying. I am stressed, nervous, scared, lonely and uncertain of my future," said widow of man killed by speeding driver.
Barrhead Provincial Court (VM)

A 23-year-old Neerlandia man received a fine and a temporary driver's prohibition for excessive speeding that at least partly was a factor in a highway collision that caused the death of one individual this summer.

Justice Jordan Stuffco handed his sentence of a $750 fine and a 14-day driver's licence suspension at Barrhead Court on March 20 at Barrhead Court of Justice accepting a guilty plea by Jonathan Van Assen for exceeding the speed limit.

Crown prosecutor Anthony Estephan withdrew a charge of failure to wear a seatbelt. Stuffco also imposed a $112 victim fine surcharge.

"I am sure there was contributory negligence on the victim's side, but we need to tell you that you cannot do that again. You have to take extra care when driving those roads," Stuffco said.

The facts

Estephan said that on Aug. 18, 2023, Barrhead RCMP responded to a two-vehicle accident at the Highway 769 and Township Road 604 intersection.

He added that the police stated that a Chevrolet Silverado pickup was heading north on Highway 769, followed by the accused's vehicle, also travelling north on the same road.

"[The Silverado] then proceeded to turn left onto Township Road 604, when Van Assen's vehicle entered the oncoming lane of traffic, the southbound lane, to pass the pickup, colliding with it, causing the death of the Silverado driver and causing the truck to catch on fire," Estephan said. "At the time, [the deceased's] blood alcohol content was three times the legal limit."

Estephan said the RCMP accident reconstructionist later determined that Van Assen's vehicle was travelling at least 144 km/h, noting the posted speed limit for that intersection is 100 km/h.

He added that Van Assen had told the police that the pickup driver had not activated his signal light before turning left.

"The RCMP reconstruction analysis could not determine if the truck's signal lights were on before he made the turn," Estephan said.

The Crown then read portions of a victim impact statement from the deceased's wife.

"The day I heard my husband passed away, my heart shattered into a million little pieces; my heart will never heal. He was just not my husband; he was my best friend, partner, soulmate, protector, confidant, security and joy," she stated. "My life has forever changed; I go to bed crying. I am stressed, nervous, scared, lonely and uncertain of my future."

Crown's position on sentencing

Estephan suggested a sentence of a $1,000 fine and a 14-day driving suspension was appropriate, calling the facts of the case unique.

"The gravity of this offence is serious travelling at least 44 km/h over the speed limit on a highway where Mr Van Assen entered the oncoming lane attempting to pass a vehicle," he said. "There is also a collision that was caused causing the death of the driver that it was driven into."

Estephan added it is difficult to "fathom a set of more serious circumstances related to a speeding ticket."

Stuffco asked if any criminal charges had been laid at any point in the proceedings.

Estephan replied, no.

"The lines on the road did not indicate that it was a place one could not pass. They are not present here," he said, adding that the intersection also has a problematic history, noting several collisions at that location.

Estephan also said the police reconstructionist and the electronics in the deceased's vehicle could not confirm if the left turn signal had been activated before the collision.

"From the very onset, Mr Van Assen advised that there was no signal, so he was under the impression that passing was appropriate," he said. "However, the speed at which he was passing was quite substantial, at 44 km/h over."

Estephan added that he also considered Van Assen's moral capability high, saying it was a conscious decision to attempt to pass the vehicle at such a high rate of speed.

Mitigating factors, Estephan said, were Van Assen's "extremely early guilty plea", noting it was his first appearance.

He said, "This shows that Mr Van Assen is responsible for his actions and is remorseful about what happened."

Although it might not be aggravating, Estephan said the accused's speeding ticket from B.C. in 2020 was "certainly relevant."

He added that a similar speeding incident would ordinarily result in a relatively minor fine due to the unique circumstances of the offence. However, due to the unique circumstances, i.e., a collision resulting in death, the Crown is seeking an elevated fine, adding the maximum fine for the offence under Alberta's Traffic Safety Act is $2,000.

"The big issue comes down to the driver suspension. The Crown believes a driving suspension is appropriate to address the conduct and the risks associated, especially to the public," Estephan said, noting that the maximum driving suspension for the offence is 90 days.

Van Assen's defence lawyer suggested a fine was sufficient, saying his client understood his mistake. He also reiterated the Crown's position and added that his early guilty plea demonstrates that he is taking responsibility for his actions.

The defence also stated that Van Assen also suffered injuries from the accident, resulting in him not being able to work until December.

"This is not a young man that you have to give a denunciatory sentence to drive home the message that he should not speed. He has physical reminders of that [nerve damage to his foot], not including the ones that will come as a result of this tragic loss of life."

Stuffco agreed with the Crown, saying Van Assen is fortunate that the Crown is only asking for a two-week driving prohibition, which is more than reasonable.

"I did the defence job for over 20 years, and most of my clients would get a lot more than 14 days," he said, but credited Van Assen for taking responsibility for his actions and decided to lower the fine to $750. “But realize what I am giving you is really on the low end of what is possible.”

Barry Kerton,


Barry Kerton

About the Author: Barry Kerton

Barry Kerton is the managing editor of the Barrhead Leader, joining the paper in 2014. He covers news, municipal politics and sports.
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