Ontario is cracking down on high-risk driving with stiffer penalties for stunt driving, street racing and aggressive driving offences, with new laws going to effect this week.
The Moving Ontarians More Safely Act, also known as the MOMS Act, was introduced in the legislature on April 26 and will roll out in stages on July 1.
Under the new legislation, drivers will face longer licence suspensions, and have their vehicles impounded for twice as long as they would currently.
"Both as Minister of Transportation and a parent to driving-aged teens, I am extremely concerned by the rising numbers of young drivers in Ontario caught stunt driving, street racing and driving aggressively," said Caroline Mulroney, Minister of Transportation, in a news release.
"Driving is a privilege and those who threaten the safety of others have no place on our roads," said Mulroney.
The Ontario government says the number of driver's licence suspensions handed out for street racing and stunt driving increased 130 per cent between 2013 and 2019, and rose by an additional 52 per cent between March and August 2020 compared to the same period in 2019. Nearly five per cent of drivers suspended during this period had one or more previous suspensions in the previous five years.
The new penalties under the MOMS Act include:
Increasing the roadside driver's licence suspension and vehicle impoundment periods for drivers caught street racing/stunt driving from seven days each to a 30-day driver's licence suspension and a 14-day vehicle impoundment.
Introducing escalating post-conviction driver's licence suspensions for drivers convicted of street racing/stunt driving:
For a first offence, a minimum of one to three years
For a second offence, a minimum of three to 10 years
For a third offence, a lifetime suspension that may be reduced at a later date to be established by regulation, and
For fourth and subsequent offences, a lifetime driver's licence suspension.
The legislation also lowers the speed threshold for stunt driving charges form 50 km/h to 40 km/h or more above the speed limit on roads where the speed limit is less than 80 km/h, and introduces a default speed limit of 80 km/h on a highway not within a local municipality or a built-up area.
'Not worth the risk'
Sgt. Kerry Schmidt, spokesperson for the OPP's highway safety division, says a record 8,270 stunt driving charges were laid last year since stunt driving legislation came into effect in 2007.
"That is just completely unacceptable," said Schmidt. "Aggressive driving, dangerous driving continues to be a leading cause of death and injury on our highways, and these increased sanctions will hopefully have an even stronger deterrent."
Groups who engage in stunt driving and street racing have become more organized and are able to draw large crowds, which increases the risk of injury, he said.
"They're setting up in locations, they're monitoring police activities, they're working together on social media, they're communicating in private chats," said Schmidt.
"We've seen people involved in collisions, we've seen people get hurt, and we've seen people die, and this is just not worth that risk."
High-risk driving 'an epidemic' in Toronto, mayor says
Toronto mayor John Tory says he supports any effort to further crack down on street racing, stunt driving and disruptive vehicle noise.
In a letter Tuesday, the mayor implored Toronto police chief James Ramer and the city's Municipal Licensing and Standards department to "consider how even more can be done to enhance enforcement on Toronto's streets."
In the letter, Tory commends police for ramping up their enforcement efforts, referencing the recent success of "Project Takeover", a joint-forces initiative that resulted in hundreds of charges against illegal street racing groups across the GTA.
"High-risk driving and stunt racing is an epidemic and is at odds with the City's Vision Zero Road Safety Plan, and we must do even more to create safer streets," said Tory.
Since the start of the pandemic, Tory says Toronto has seen a "dramatic and troubling" rise in high-risk driving.
From January 2021 to the end of May, the city saw a 90 per cent increase in racing and stunt driving charges compared to the same time in 2019. Toronto police issued 276 tickets during that time, which is 130 more tickets than were given out during those months in 2019.