2020-05-29
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Halton stunt driving on the rise as COVID-19 restrictions in effect

The Ontario Provincial Police charged two drivers with failing to comply with an emergency order after they were seen speeding on Highway 407 near Trafalgar Road in Oakville on Apr. 13.

The OPP officers who made the arrest said the drivers were not making “essential travel.” The arrest was made in connection with a group of more than five drivers who were not social distancing.

Those drivers are not the only ones who have been charged since the social restrictions began. The OPP and Halton Regional Police have been busy catching stunt drivers in Halton since mid-March, when Canada started enforcing social restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The OPP handed out 124 stunt driving and racing charges on provincial highways during the first week of April. OPP Commissioner Thomas Carrique warned the public to slow down on the roads while announcing this in a Tweet on Apr. 6.

The OPP also made over 3,200 traffic stops during the week prior, from Mar. 23 to Mar. 29. They laid 12 stunt driving charges over the Mar. 29 weekend alone.

Today, Traffic Officers focused on those driving +50km/h OVER the limit. As a result, 7 drivers were charged with Stunt Driving/Speeding & had their vehicles impounded and licences suspended for 7 days. They will appear in court at a later date. #NotInOurTown #RoadSafety ^MRT pic.twitter.com/NxAUt7skhv— HRPS Oakville (@HRPSOak) March 29, 2020

Police have also been seeing unusually high driving speeds when charging stunt drivers. The speeds have been as high as 206km/h, which is much higher than 50km above the speed limit, the minimum for police to lay a charge for stunt driving.

The person charged with stunt driving and speeding at 206km/h was driving on the QEW in Oakville on Mar. 30 and held a G2 licence. The driver was also charged with improper use of an HOV lane.

A police radar speed gun reads 206km/h in front of a halted vehicle on the QEW. (Halton Regional Police/ Twitter)

Other speeds seen by police on the QEW have been in the range of 155km/h and 173km/h, and continue to be high above speed limits in Halton.

The penalty for stunt driving in Ontario is a fine of $2,000 to $10,000, six demerit points, a seven-day vehicle impoundment and license suspension, and the possibility of up to six months in jail. License suspensions can be increased for up to two years with a conviction.

Constable Mark Taraso of Halton Police said in response to a tweet comment questioning impoundment practices on Apr. 3 that, according to the Highway Safety Act, officers who have “reasonable and probable grounds” that a vehicle has been driven for a stunt or race can have that vehicle impounded. This includes getting a vehicle impounded from the driveway of the owner’s home, which can be done in tandem with a driver’s licence revocation.

According to the 2020 Halton Regional Police Road Safety Strategy, Milton and Halton Hills are susceptible to stunt driving and racing because they are large and rural areas.

Police see an increase in these kinds of offences in those areas in the spring and summer months especially. Now, there are even fewer drivers on the roads and highways in Halton due to the enforcement of social distancing measures.

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If the possibility of charges, impoundments and licence revocations aren’t enough to entice drivers to slow down on the roads, the more sinister cost of this offence might be. The latest annual report published by the OPP says that the leading primary causal factor for fatal motor vehicle collisions was speeding in 2018. It was also the leading cause for traffic-related charges in general.

Though police have been keenly watching the roads during the pandemic for speeding and stunt driving, their efforts to minimize these offences also extend to public outreach online. Their message to the public is clear: pandemic or not, speeding is not worth the risk.

Danielle Orr
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Danielle Orr
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