Guilty plea after driver goes airborne in roundabout

·3 min read

Roundabouts are a notoriously confusing concept for many drivers. But one Sarnia man’s attempt to tackle the intersection by going straight up the middle left him with a busted car, lasting injuries, and now a criminal record.

The incident took place at the Mandaumin Rd. roundabout in the early morning hours of July 19 last summer. As Curtis Marks, 21, approached the divider northbound on Lakeshore Rd., instead of turning he blew through the centre with such force that his Nissan flew into the air. It smashed down in the roundabout wiping out several signs before crashing into a ditch and coming to rest against the trees.

A Sarnia police officer heard the crash and came to the scene. He was followed by Lambton EMS, Sarnia Fire and Lambton OPP. EMS and fire crews were able to remove Marks – the vehicle’s lone occupant – who had lacerations to his face and was drifting in and out of consciousness.

This is when OPP officers noticed a strong smell of alcohol on Marks, so an officer rode with him to the hospital. As soon as Marks was cleared by the ER doctor he was arrested for drunk driving. He was given breath tests at the hospital which returned blood alcohol readings of .190 and .170.

Defense lawyer Nick Cake was blunt about his client’s conduct. “He offers of course no excuse, and realizes – for lack of a better word – the pure stupidity of his actions,” says Cake.

“It was a big mistake to make. It’s one that he regrets, and it’s one that he is here before the court taking accountability for,” Cake says. Marks suffered minor hearing loss in the accident.

Cake asked for a $2,000 fine and one year driving ban. But Crown attorney Suzanne LaSha says the facts call for elevated punishments.

“What takes it above the $2,000 level… is the fact of the accident, the severity of the accident, and the injuries that were incurred by Mr. Marks. Those consequences were severe,” says LaSha as she asked for a $3,000 fine.

LaSha also argued a longer driving ban should be considered, suggesting 18 months. “The driving prohibition is higher than what we’d expect to see on a first offense because of those aggravating conditions.”

Marks, appearing by telephone, spoke of the personal costs of the crash. “I know it’s a huge mistake to make. Everyone says they wish they could go and relive those nights, and I really wish I could. It’s messed up my whole life.”

“I’ll take the consequences, because I really messed up. And I’m sorry,” says Marks.

“What was especially concerning in this case were the high readings – which were more than double the legal limit – and the severe nature of the collision that occurred,” says Justice Krista Leszczynski as she deliberated Marks’ sentence.

Leszczynski leaned toward the defense in her decision, settling on a $2,300 fine and one year driving ban. She cited that Marks has no criminal record, is a youthful adult, and “you have plead guilty and taken responsibility for your actions and expressed remorse, which I accept as sincere and genuine.”

Before closing the case Leszczynski stressed to Marks this behavior cannot happen again. “It’s important that you appreciate and understand the seriousness of your conduct, and how much worse the potential consequences of your conduct could have been. You frankly are very lucky that you did walk away without more serious injuries, and without hurting or killing someone else,” she says.

“When you indicate that you wish you could relive that night, I certainly can appreciate your feelings in that regard. One of the lessons from this experience Mr. Marks, I hope, will be that decisions need to be made in advance,” says Leszczynski.

Alex Kurial, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Independent