Truck driver loses appeal of conviction in deadly Whitby crash

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Truck driver Mohinder Saini has lost his appeal fighting a six-year sentence following a deadly 2015 crash in Whitby, Ont.

Saini was traveling westbound on a clear and dry Highway 401 at 10:29 p.m. when he failed to slow down in a construction zone, striking a Ford Fiesta and setting off a 17-vehicle collision. Four people, including two children, were killed and nine others sustained significant bodily harm including life-altering injuries.

The case before the Ontario Court of Appeal argued that the collision was caused by “momentary inattention” rather than a “marked departure from the standard of care”.

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(Photo: iStock)

Defence witnesses testified Saini likely had untreated sleep apnea and experienced “microsleep” in the moment before the collision. But the trial judge rejected that evidence.

He was convicted on four counts of dangerous driving causing death, and nine counts of dangerous driving causing bodily harm.

Saini had argued the judge applied uneven scrutiny to the evidence, and that the sentencing judge applied too much weight to deterrence and not enough to mitigating factors such as advanced age and medical condition. He also said Charter rights were violated because of inadequate English-to-Punjabi interpretations during the trial and sentencing.

Logbooks and testimony

“Although the appellant claimed he was reducing his workload and this was to be his last drive, the appellant’s own logbook showed that he had not reduced his workload for the period leading up to the collision,” the June 22 ruling notes.

“Although the appellant testified that, before the collision, he put his foot on the brake and never stepped on the accelerator again, that evidence was contradicted by data downloaded from the appellant’s vehicle and the reconstruction report which showed that the appellant did step on the accelerator again after braking.”

During testimony at the initial trial, Saini also contradicted himself on several points, such as whether he could remember which vehicle he struck first, and how many vehicles he struck.

“The appellant claimed he was forced to hit his brakes because the truck in front of him suddenly braked but this evidence was contradicted by vehicle data, the reconstruction report, and the testimony of other drivers that the traffic was stopped or slowed a substantial distance ahead of the appellant,” the ruling adds.

Doctors also confirmed it would be impossible to steer through a curve in a road while asleep, and Saini acknowledged that he knew he was entering a construction zone and had to pay special attention while driving.

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John G. Smith is Newcom Media's vice-president - editorial, and the editorial director of its trucking publications -- including Today's Trucking,, and Transport Routier. The award-winning journalist has covered the trucking industry since 1995.

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  • We have 2 languages in this country. If you drive truck. You better understand at least one of them. If you can’t shouldn’t have a commercial drivers license.

  • The fact that the accelerator was pushed again after the initial break. That’s a little cocky, and over-confident. But many vehicles pass me in construction zones, or at least sit on my tail…trucks or cars. Many seem to have little regard for construction.

  • We need to pay all drivers hourly and pay overtime. No one should drive a truck in Canada that can not read and understand English or French. All new drivers to Canada should be in a reduced hour team for the first 1200 hors if driving in a truck.