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ICYMI: Driver who killed cyclist near Drayton gets $2,000 fine and probation

Don Mackenzie was hit from behind at ‘highway speed’ and killed along a Mapleton road
Don Mackenzie, seen here, was riding his bicycle along Wellington Road 12 in April of 2023 when he was struck from behind and killed by a driver.

This article was previously published on EloraFergusToday.

GUELPH – The driver who killed a cyclist last year near Drayton was handed a $2,000 fine and ordered to serve six months probation in a Guelph courthouse on Wednesday morning.

Driving restrictions were also imposed.

Appearing via video link, Gary J. Miller pleaded guilty to careless driving causing death under the Highway Traffic Act. The plea and sentencing was handled by a justice of the peace in provincial offences court.

“The sentence no doubt feels inadequate,” said Justice of the Peace Jennifer Thompson, acknowledging it’s at the “lower end” of the sentencing options available to her. However, she noted the sentence follows a joint submission from the Crown and defence, Miller has “no driving history to speak of,” and his guilty plea came early in the judicial process.

“We have to work within the confines of culpability,” she added, noting Miller’s actions didn’t meet the threshold set for criminal behaviour.

A $2,000 fine is the lowest penalty permitted in a sentence for careless driving causing death. The maximum sentence is a $50,000 fine and two years in jail.

The fatal crash happened on April 16 of last year.

According to an agreed statement of facts read out in court, Mackenzie, was riding northbound along the edge of Wellington Road 12 in Mapleton at about 3 p.m. when he was struck from behind by an SUV travelling at “highway speed.” 

There was no indication of Miller hitting the brakes prior to impact.

Mackenzie was taken to Palmerston and District Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Court heard Mackenzie’s Sunday afternoon bike ride was a regular happening, as the 81-year-old made his way to a weekly gathering with his adult children and grandchildren, as well as a great-grandchild.

To the younger ones, Mackenzie was known as “Grampie,” court heard.

“The loss of my father makes me ‘Grampie’ now and I don’t think I can do it,” said the man’s son, Brett Wells Mackenzie, in delivering a victim impact statement ahead of sentencing. He said he’s unable to provide the level of “sage advice” the family received from his father. 

He recalled seeing police and paramedics “fly by” on the day of the crash.

“Those sounds still haunt me,” the son said. “After all this, I’ll never ride a bike again.”

“That day changed my life forever,” added daughter Reaghan Mackenzie in her statement, read out by her brother. “Words are not enough to describe the heartache.”

She lamented the fact her father won’t see her children grow up and help guide them by acting as their role model.

Miller, 69, said three words to the court on Wednesday – offering a “guilty” plea and twice acknowledging “yes” when asked if he understood the terms of his sentence. Through his lawyer, he declined an opportunity to make comments to the court and/or the victim’s family.

“He is very remorseful regarding his conduct,” offered defence attorney Elizabeth Barefoot. “It is extremely distressing to my client that he has caused this (death).”

No reason was provided as to why Miller's vehicle veered into Mackenzie, though Crown representative Christine Liu made mention of his “lack of due care and attention.”

“The death of Mr. Mackenzie was completely avoidable,” said Liu. “This is a tragic situation.”

Miller’s probation order includes restrictions that he not drive for six months, with the exception of attending volunteer work, medical or counselling appointments or in the case of medical emergencies. 

He’s also allowed to drive on Tuesday’s between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. in order to obtain the necessities of life, such as groceries.

Richard Vivian

About the Author: Richard Vivian

Richard Vivian is an award-winning journalist and longtime Guelph resident. He joined the GuelphToday team as assistant editor in 2020, largely covering municipal matters and general assignment duties
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