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Whistler woman who called police to report slow driver handed nearly $500 in fines

Whistler resident Joanna Harrington was fined nearly $500 for an incident she reported to the RCMP, after an investigation found that she made a couple of missteps on the road.

Joanna Harrington was frustrated, stuck behind slow-moving driving school vehicle, called police

A frame grab from an in-car rear-view camera shows a motorist driving close to the back of the car on Highway 99. (Todd McGivern/Licence to Drive)

A Whistler woman will have to pay nearly $500 in traffic fines for an incident that she reported. The other driver, a new driver getting a lesson, wasn't ticketed at all.

Joanna Harrington was heading to work on a stretch of highway from Pemberton to Whistler last July when she drove up behind a driving lesson that was taking place.

Rear-view video recorded from the Licence to Drive car shows Harrington approach, ride close behind the car, honk the horn, and gesture for the student driver to move over to allow a pass.

Passed on right side

Eventually, after more than 10 minutes, the incident concludes when she gets the chance to pass — on the right side over a solid white line.

But for Harrington, it wasn't over. She called the cops.

"We had someone ... contact Whistler RCMP to report the driving school vehicle was travelling below the noted 90 [km/h] zone between Pemberton and Whistler," said RCMP Staff Sgt. Paul Hayes. "She also indicated to us that she was using her cellphone while she was driving to take pictures."

"We definitely investigated her complaint. It just didn't turn out the way I suspect she was hoping," said Hayes.

Police learned that the driving school records rear-view camera footage, which was provided to investigators.

A few weeks after the incident, Harrington says officers knocked on her door to deliver two fines — $109 for crossing a solid white line and $368 for use of an electronic device while driving. 

Footage provided by Licence to Drive driving school shows motorist Joanna Harrington riding close behind the school's vehicle, using her cellphone camera, and passing on a solid white line. 0:32

Planned to contest fines

Harrington said in an emailed statement to CBC News that she had planned to contest the tickets, but struggled with the court system, and didn't realize her attempt to postpone her 9:30 a.m. North Vancouver court appearance on Monday had failed.

She said she is caring for her newborn baby and couldn't make the three-hour drive to court at that time. Harrington said she didn't even realize she had missed her court appearance and lost her case until the story showed up in the news and she started getting hate messages on social media.

"You can imagine, it's been a pretty horrible 12 hours," Harrington said on Tuesday.

Harrington wrote in her statement to CBC News that she believes the driving instructor, Todd McGivern, was "more focused on using his student to play games with other drivers than focusing on what he should have been focusing on."

She admitted that she was wrong to use her cellphone to document the driving school car while she was behind the wheel, and also that she had erred in overtaking the vehicle before the solid white line ended.

Student driver

McGivern claims the 90 km/h zone ended very quickly after Harrington approached his vehicle, and he instructed his student, a woman in her 20s, to slow the vehicle and then accelerate back to the speed limit to give herself space.

"We all know people get upset. When you're behind someone who's not maintaining a speed limit, it is frustrating. If they go 70, 50, 60, 50, 70, and new drivers have a hard time maintaining [their speed]," said McGivern, who added that his student was practising for an upcoming road test.

"Maybe we got deductions on our [simulated] road test for going too slowly, but we certainly didn't fail for doing anything illegal," he said.

McGivern said this ended up being a useful lesson, even if it was stressful for his student.

Follow Rafferty Baker on Twitter: @raffertybaker

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Rafferty Baker

Rafferty Baker is CBC Vancouver's mobile journalist. Follow him @raffertybaker