Some residents of Ottawa's Barrhaven neighbourhood are calling for a stop to the revving engines, squealing tires and dangerous speeds that they say have become a nearly nightly occurrence on the suburb's streets.
"It reminds me of being at a NASCAR speedway. It's loud, it's obnoxious, it's dangerous," said Kelsi Ashfield, who lives next to Strandherd Drive.
"They're racing each other. They're stunting, too, so you can hear the tires squealing," Ashfield said. "They'll stop at the red light and you can hear them revving their engines, and as soon as it turns green they're taking off."
Someone's going to get killed. - Donald O'Connor, Barrhaven resident
Ashfield said cars are continually speeding down the road in front of her condo, making enough noise to wake her up. She said she's not only annoyed, but also concerned about the safety of other drivers.
Donald O'Connor, who has lived near Woodroffe Avenue for 20 years, describes the road as a "racetrack," and said he'd like to see speed cameras installed.
"Someone's going to get killed. That's how I look at it, and police can't be everywhere. I wish they were, but they're not," O'Connor said.
A problem across Ottawa
Ottawa police say the problem of excessive speeding isn't limited to Barrhaven, but happens across the city. On May 1, police started cracking down on drivers through a traffic safety initiative called Project Noisemaker, now in its second year.
In 2020, officers issued 1,400 speeding tickets and stopped an average of 10 stunt drivers a week. A stunt driving charge is laid when a driver is caught going 50 km/h or more over the posted speed limit.
Stunt driving on the rise
Sgt. Rob Cairns of the Ottawa Police Service's traffic unit confirmed officers have seen a spike in speeding and stunt driving since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
For example, in 2017 police charged just 74 people with stunt driving. That number increased in 2018 to 150, and again in 2019 to 186. In 2020, the number rocketed to 455, and police have already charged 154 people with stunt driving this year.
Cairns attributes the steep rise to the sudden reduction of traffic on city streets during the pandemic, enticing some drivers to "put the foot to the floor."
In one instance, Cairns said an officer pulled over a driver racing at 243 km/h on Woodroffe Avenue.
"At the end of the day, driving is a privilege, it's not a right, and if you want to obtain that privilege you have to comply with the rules of the road as outlined in the Highway Traffic Act," Cairns said.
Last April, a 19-year-old university student was charged with two counts of criminal negligence causing death, and one count each of stunt driving and careless driving, after the car he was driving collided with another vehicle on Merivale Road, killing two people.
The province of Ontario recently announced new legislation to combat high-risk driving. If passed, the Moving Ontarians More Safely Act would create tougher penalties for those who participate in street racing or stunt driving.
Currently, drivers charged with stunt driving face fines starting at $2,000, a seven-day driving suspension, a seven-day vehicle seizure and a court date.