Stunt driving on city streets and highways can lead to serious injuries and even death.
Just hours before police services across the Greater Toronto Area launched Project ERASE (Eliminate Racing Activity On Streets Everywhere) on April 18, a 22-year-old man was nabbed going 183 km/hour in a 100 km/hour zone on Highway 401.
Constable Clint Stibbe of Toronto Police Services Traffic Division said the car was moving so fast the driver didn’t see a fully marked police vehicle as he sped past him.
“The vehicle was seized and the graduated licence driver was charged,” said Stibbe. “His license was suspended and he now faces the possibility of jail, a $10,000 fine and an additional license suspension upon conviction.”
Stibbe said Toronto Police have laid 116 stunt-driving-related charges so far this year. In 2016, they laid 196 charges.
“Stunt driving has no place on city streets,” he said. “Unfortunately, it is something we see all too often. When we partner with Services from across the GTA, we can work together to make the possibility of safer roads an actual reality. The responsibility is with the vehicle operator. We, as police services and officers, will step in and stop anyone caught operating a vehicle in a reckless fashion anywhere."
ERASE is an awareness and enforcement campaign operated jointly by police services across the GTA in partnership with the provincial government.
The focus is on eliminating street racing and other high-risk driving behaviour.
“Stunt driving continues to be a disease on our roads and it’s one that’s taking too many lives every year,” said TPS Superintendent Gord Jones, co-chair of the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police Traffic Committee. “Speed is also a major contributing factor and one of the top-four reasons for collisions we investigate. Speed increases the level of injury or the amount of damage caused to a vehicle, its occupants and the public.”
Jones said stunt driving is a crime that affects everyone.
“It has no place on our roads,” he added. “It belongs on a racetrack or other venue where the public can’t be harmed. I do not believe a driver initially intends to injure a person or take someone’s life, but once a bad decision is made to exceed a speed limit, the risk to the driver and the public is dramatically increased. Too often we hear about vehicles which have travelled not only well above the speed limit, but also beyond the ability of the driver of that motor vehicle. They often end very badly.”
Speaking directly to drivers who make poor decisions to speed or commit stunt-driving-related offences, Jones assured them they will be caught and prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
“We will be there. We will find you. We will charge you. We will hold you accountable for your actions,” he pointed out. “If you want to race, take it to the track and take it to that location where your actions will not end the lives of innocent people.”
Deputy Chief Tom Carrique of York Regional Police Service joined Jones at Project ERASE launch at Canada’s Wonderland.
“Our goal is simple,” he said. “It is to change aggressive driving behaviour through education, awareness and strict strategic enforcement using an aerial platform, unmarked vehicles and very highly trained police officers all dedicated to strictly enforcing the Highway Traffic Act and the Criminal Code.”
Carrique said over 200 drivers have been charged so far this year with stunt-driving-related offences.
Air2, the York Regional Police helicopter, is a useful tool
used to nab stunt drivers in the region.
“We have a unique perspective by being up so high,” said Sergeant Andrew Owens. “On many occasions, we see drivers speeding at high rates, putting people at risk in close quarters and on tight streets. We want these reckless drivers to know that they must take this business somewhere else. It doesn’t belong on our streets.”
Hobby racer Olivier Bedrad said it’s much safer to race on tracks than roadways and highways.
“I know that young drivers feel the need for speed,” said the 20-year-old. “But I want them to know it is much more fun and safer when you race on the track. I never let the urge to go fast get the better of me when I am driving on the road. Sometimes, during the winter, I feel like if I want to go fast, but I hold back and wait for summer to come around so I can get back on the racetrack and have great fun.”
Three law enforcement officers – one each from York Regional Police, Peel and the Ontario Provincial Police – started Project ERASE to curb street racing and stunt driving. The program has grown to include 22 police services across Ontario, the Ministry of Transportation and the Ministry of the Environment.
Under provincial legislation, drivers engaged in street racing, stunt driving or other aggressive behaviour on the road can face tough sanctions, including an immediate seven-day licence suspension and vehicle impoundment.
Upon conviction, fines range from $2,000 to $10,000. For a first conviction, a driver can be slapped with six demerit points, a maximum licence suspension of two years and up to six months in jail.
Courts can also impose a driver-licence suspension of up to 10 years for a second conviction within a decade.