Police aim to curb street racers, stunt drivers across Ontario

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Police aim to curb street racers, stunt drivers across Ontario

The sun is finally out again — and so are street racers and stunt drivers, police say.

On Tuesday, the Toronto Police Service, Halton Regional Police, York Regional Police and other law enforcement agencies from across Ontario kicked off Project ERASE, or "Eliminate Racing Activity On Streets Everywhere."

The project, a collaborative effort with the provincial government, aims to curb stunt driving and speed racing.

There has been a spike in stunt driving charges in Toronto in 2017, with more than 110 charges laid so far this year. In all of 2016, about 200 charges were laid.

York Regional Police Const. Karen Hodge says the numbers are troubling.

"It's always been a growing concern," she said.

Police helicopter to track down racers

But these days, she said, there are cars with powerful engines that can reach particularly high speeds. 

"And when they crash, the results are very traumatizing, and there are tragedies."

As Project ERASE rolls out, officers will be watching for speeding cars and vehicles gearing up to race. Officers will be on the ground and in the skies with York Regional Police helicopter, Air2, starting this Friday.

The project's Tuesday launch came just hours after Toronto police say they clocked a 22-year-old man — a G2 driver — going 183 km/hour in a 100 km/hour zone in an Audi on Highway 401.

The irony wasn't lost on Traffic Services Const. Clint Stibbe, who said this type of behaviour "belongs on a race track."

"The reality is, in the end, they either hurt themselves or kill someone else," he said.

Take it to the track, police say

Part of the renewed police push is encouragement of drivers with a need for speed to visit local tracks — legally — rather than racing on the road.

It's something Montreal resident Olivier Bedard, 20, is already doing as a hobby racer. He was on-hand for the Project ERASE news conference, and stressed that racing on a track is a safer way to go that doesn't diminish the fun factor.

"The sensation of speed is even better than on the road," he said.

But with blockbusters like the latest Fast and the Furious installment — box-office record breaker The Fate of the Furious — showing the flashy side of car chases and races, Brian J. Patterson, president and CEO of the Ontario Safety League, said curbing street racing can be a challenge.

"The marketing campaign that supports the need for speed, whether it's video or sales methodology for some cars, or the ability to soup up cars beyond their requirements — we're competing against that every day," Patterson said.

Convictions can lead to fines, jail

Still, Patterson welcomed the police efforts to curb dangerous driving and enforce the law.

According to provincial legislation, drivers involved in street racing, stunt driving, or other aggressive behaviours on the road can face tough sanctions, including an immediate seven-day license suspension and vehicle impoundment.

If someone is convicted, the fines range from $2,000 to $10,000. For a first conviction, a driver can be slapped with six demerit points, a maximum license 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.

But what, exactly, constitutes stunt driving?

Alongside risky manoeuvres like popping a wheelie, driving with someone in the trunk, or doing doughnuts, it can also mean a variety of other dangerous behaviours. That includes intentionally cutting off another car to intentionally driving too close to another vehicle, pedestrian or object.