Highway Traffic Act

Stunt Driving and Racing: What are the Consequences?

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

Due to the pandemic, there have been fewer vehicles on streets and highways across the province.  Some drivers are taking advantage of the situation by using the open roads for the opportunity to engage in dangerous driving behaviours.  According to Ontario Provincial Police, hundreds of drivers have been charged between the months of March and June with the offence of stunt driving in the GTA.

In Toronto, police have issued 443 racing and/or stunt driving tickets since the start of the pandemic in Ontario up until the end of June, which is a 357% increase compared to the same time period in 2019. 

York Regional Police began “Project Dragnet” in July to crack down on organized street racing.  This operation resulted in 13 arrests, 20 stunt driving charges and 116 offences related to illegal car equipment. 

In Peel Region, there has been a 26% increase in stunt driving charges between the months of March and August compared to the same time period last year. 

Although Durham Region Police have noted that most driving violations have decreased since the start of the pandemic in Ontario, stunt driving has escalated.  Typically Durham Police issue only 10 stunt driving tickets a month, however, between April and May, Durham Police have been issuing up to 23 stunt driving tickets a month.

Last month a traffic officer from Durham Region Police Service charged three drivers with stunt driving:

  • A 24-year-old was travelling 132 km/h in an 80 km/h traffic zone;
  • A 40-year-old was travelling 140 km/h in an 80 km/h traffic zone; and
  • A 19-year-old was travelling 116 km/h in a 60 km/h traffic zone.

WHAT IS STUNT DRIVING?

Stunt driving and racing are very serious offences and with them come very serious consequences, if you are convicted.

Stunt driving is an offence found under section 172 of the Ontario Highway Traffic Act:

No person shall drive a motor vehicle on a highway in a race or contest, while performing a stunt or on a bet or wager.

Stunt driving can include the following acts:

  • Driving a motor vehicle 50 km/h or more over the posted speed limit;
  • Driving a vehicle with an intention to lift some or all of the tires from the surface of the road;
  • Driving a motor vehicle with the intention to cause one or more of the tires to lose traction with the surface of the road;
  • Driving a vehicle with the intention of preventing another vehicle from passing you;
  • Driving a vehicle with the intention to spine the vehicle without maintaining control of it;
  • Driving a motor vehicle while there is a person in the trunk;
  • Driving a motor vehicle while not sitting in the driver’s seat (i.e. a passenger momentarily taking control of the steering wheel for the driver);
  • Driving without due care and consideration of others on the road, in a manner that might endanger someone by preventing them from passing, stopping or cutting someone off or slowing down.

THE CONSEQUENCES ASSOCIATED WITH STUNT DRIVING

Despite stunt driving being classified as a traffic offence opposed to a criminal offence, it is a various serious charge and it carries some significant penalties.  These include a minimum $2,000 fine and the potential for a driver’s license suspension. 

If you are charged with stunt driving, and even if you are not convicted of the offence, you are subject to an immediate 7 day administration roadside suspension of your driver’s license.  Also, your vehicle will be seized and impounded for 7 days, regardless of who owns the vehicle.  In order to get the vehicle back, you will be responsible for paying towing charges and storage fees for the 7 days.

If you are found guilty of the offence of stunt driving or racing, there is a fine of not less than $2,000 and no more than $10,000, or imprisonment for no more than six months, or both.

Anyone found guilty of stunt driving or racing can be subjected to a license suspension of up to two years on a first conviction, and up to 10 years for any subsequent convictions.  Following the end of your driver’s license suspension, you must pay $281.00 to the Ministry of Transportation to reinstate your license.

Being charged with stunt driving also means that you will receive 6 demerit points.

Stunt driving will stay on your record for a total of three years from the conviction date (the date you are found guilty in court).  However, the court can look at your driving record for the past ten years for this type of traffic charge.

An individual’s employment can be affected by a conviction of stunt driving.  If an individual requires a vehicle their employment eligibility can be at risk.

Stunt driving or racing, as with other offences under the Highway Traffic Act, are strict liability offences.  This means that the Crown prosecutor only needs to prove that the accused offender committed the prohibited act, not the intention behind the act.  The accused offender must prove that he/she was driving with due diligence at the time of the offence.

If you have been charged with a driving related offence, please contact the knowledgeable criminal defence lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947.  Our skilled criminal defence lawyers have significant experience defending a wide range of criminal charges and protecting our client’s rights.  We offer a free consultation and are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  Trust our experienced criminal lawyers to handle your defence with diligence, strategy and expertise.

Changes in Crime Patterns During the Pandemic

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting shelter-in-place orders across Canada have changed the way we currently live.  According to police departments, this new reality has also changed crime rates across communities.

Since the State of Emergency has been declared, Durham Regional Police report that both emergency calls for service (down 11.3%) and urgent calls for service (down 5.5%) have decreased.  However, routine calls for service have increased by 13.5%.

Durham Regional Police report that they have received changes in the following type of calls for service during the time period between March 17 to April 22, 2020 when comparing it to the same time period in 2019:

  • Unwanted persons calls are up by 58%;
  • Suspicious persons calls are up by 38%;
  • Domestic and domestic-related calls are up by 14%;
  • Fight calls are down by 50%;
  • Theft calls are down by 21%; and
  • Motor vehicle collisions are down by 47%.

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE ON THE RISE

Under normal circumstances, a woman in Canada is killed by her intimate partner every six days according to the Canadian Women’s Foundation.  Given the current pandemic, across the globe reports of familial and intimate partner violence is increasing.  In response to this harsh reality, the Canadian government has recently invested $40 million in women’s shelters and sexual assault centres across the country.  The government has also reported that it is providing $10 million for emergency shelters for Indigenous women and children fleeing violence.

Although Durham Regional Police and York Regional Police (increase of 22%) report an increase in domestic violence calls, police departments in Brampton, Mississauga and Caledon are not seeing an increase of this nature.

Experts warn that despite the number of calls made to the police, violence within the home may still be occurring.  Specialists in the field of domestic violence are concerned that women who should leave abusive situations may be afraid to call for help.  Under normal circumstances, abused women can come up with reasons to make contact with shelters by saying they were going to work or dropping children off at school.  Given the pandemic, vulnerable women do not have this justification to leave the home as schools and workplaces are closed.

Abused women and children are stuck in their homes with their abusers.  They may also be at more of a risk due to the overwhelming stress of the current situation.  Individuals who lack coping skills might be more likely to lash out at others in their household.

Given the current situation, women who were saving money to leave an abusive situation may not be in a position to do so now as many have lost jobs and may be afraid they won’t receive child support payments given that courts are not prioritizing child support cases at this time. 

Yasmine Youssef, the National Manager for Nisa Homes, a transitional home for Muslim and immigrant women and children, reported:

We’re seeing reports coming out of China, Italy and other countries that the number of domestic violence cases have tripled since the pandemic started.  We know it’s definitely affection women that are [experiencing] abuse very heavily, because now the resources are very limited, and they’re stuck at home with their abuser 24/7.

Experts are afraid that the numbers from police departments are not reflective of the reality.  They believe that the majority of those affected by domestic violence do not call the police.  According to Marlene Ham, the executive direction of the Ontario Association of Interval and Transition Houses (OAITH):

Our fear is that there are a lot of women who are experiencing violence in their home and they may not be accessing any services or supports.  We really want women to know that those services and supports are available, and there are many entry points to getting the services they need.

For those that are experiencing abuse, in an emergency call 911 or contact the Assaulted Women’s Helpline at 1-866-863-0511 or dial #SAFE on your mobile phone.

TRAFFIC VIOLATIONS DURING THE PANDEMIC

Since the pandemic began, across Ontario there are reports of fewer traffic violations, less drunk driving and fewer cases of fraud, however, in addition to the increase in domestic violence, police are finding increases in commercial break-ins and stunt driving.

Given that the roadways are less congested, some are taking this as permission to engage in stunt driving and speeding more than 50 km/h over the limit.

Stunt driving is an offence found under the Highway Traffic Act and anyone found guilty of breaking this law can be subject to a fine between $2,000 to $10,000 and/or imprisonment for a term of not more than six months.  The driver’s licence may also be suspended if convicted.

Last weekend, OPP caught a 18-year-old driver and his 19-year-old passenger driving on the QEW near Burlington travelling at a speed of 308km/h.  The individual was charged with stunt driving under the Highway Traffic Act and was charged with dangerous driving under the Criminal Code.  His driver’s licence has been suspended for seven days and his vehicle has been impounded. 

If you have been charged with a driving related offence or a domestic violence offence, please contact the knowledgeable criminal defence lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947.  Our skilled criminal defence lawyers have significant experience defending a wide range of criminal charges and protecting our client’s rights.  We offer a free consultation and are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  Trust our experienced criminal lawyers to handle your defence with diligence, strategy and expertise.

Police Services Launch Project ERASE to Target Dangerous Drivers

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

On May 10, 2019, Durham Regional Police, OPP and police services across Ontario launched their annual campaign “Project E.R.A.S.E.” to eliminate street racing from our roadways. 

The operation utilizes police in the air and on the ground to stop dangerous driving that endangers the safety of the participants, spectators and other innocent vehicles on the streets.

WHAT IS PROJECT ERASE?

ERASE stands for “Eliminate Racing Activity on Streets Everywhere”.  This campaign started in 1996 and includes 22 police services (some of which include York, Durham, Peel, Halton, South Simcoe, Barrie, Waterloo and Toronto), the Ministry of the Environment and the Ministry of Transportation.  These police forces work together and provide resources such as planes, helicopters, unmarked vehicles and specially trained officers aimed at cracking down on street racing, stunt and aggressive driving in Ontario.

High speeds on our roadways is extremely dangerous.  Driving in this manner makes it difficult to stop safely if there is an emergency, if a car pulls out in front of the driver, or if a child runs into the roadway. 

Excessive speed was directly related to 10,000 motor vehicle collisions on OPP-patrolled roads last year alone.  In 2018, OPP laid a total of 5770 street racing charges.   According to the OPP, there have been more than 750 stunt driving charges laid in the Greater Toronto Area this year.

York Regional Police Insp. Ed Villamere stated:

Our mission is to change aggressive driving behaviour through education, awareness and strict enforcement of both the Highway Traffic Act and the Criminal Code of Canada. … If you are hooked on street racing, rest assured you will be hooked up in handcuffs, your car will be hooked up and impounded, and your driver’s licence will be suspended.

WHAT IS STREET RACING AND STUNT DRIVING?

Street racing is illegal and is defined under the Ontario Highway Traffic Act (section 172(1)):

No person shall drive a motor vehicle on a highway in a race or contest, while performing a stunt or on a bet or wager.

A regulation entitled “Races, Contests and Stunts” found in the Highway Traffic Act provides a list of behaviours that can encompass “stunt driving”.  Such behaviours that violate the law may include:

  • Exceeding the speed limit by 50 km/h or more;
  • Causing a vehicle to spin or circle;
  • Causing one or more wheels of a vehicle to leave the ground;
  • Driving without due care or attention;
  • Preventing another vehicle from passing;
  • Two or more vehicles driving side-by-side where at least one of the vehicles occupies a lane intended for oncoming traffic;
  • High speeds decreasing a driver’s ability to react to pedestrians and other motorists;
  • Loss of control of a vehicle because of speed or unsafe maneuvers;
  • Rollover hazards.

Unlike a typical speeding ticket, if you are charged with street racing or stunt driving, you will be subject to a 7 day administrative driving suspension, a 7 day vehicle impound and impound fees. 

If you are convicted of these offences, pursuant to section 172(2) of the Highway Traffic Act, there are even more severe penalties, which may include:

  • A fine ranging from $2,000 to $10,000; and/or
  • Imprisonment for a term of not more than six months; and
  • A driving suspension, which can last up to 10 years in some cases.

The consequences of street racing and stunt driving become even more serious if charges of careless driving or careless driving causing bodily harm or death are involved. 

If a driver is convicted of careless driving, he/she will face a fine of up to $2,000, six demerit points, and/or a jail term of six months, and a licence suspension of up to two years.

If a driver is convicted of careless driving causing bodily harm or death, he/she will face a fine of no less than $2,000 to the maximum of $50,000, six demerit points, and/or imprisonment up to two years, and a licence suspension of up to five years.

STREET RACES AND SOCIAL MEDIA

Some drivers communicate and coordinate illegal activities, such as street racing, through social media. 

OPP Supt. Tony Cristilli advises:

They run so-called qualifying races in municipalities around the GTA and often hold final races on our 400 series highways patrolled by the OPP.  Take it to the race track where it belongs.

Police are encouraging the public to report any information regarding street racing activity or videos found on social media of street racing or dangerous driving behaviours in Ontario.

According to OPP Supt. Tony Cristilli:

There are different forms of communication these days and social media is definitely one platform that’s used to communicate these activities.  Obviously that reaches a broad spectrum of people that are out there that’s on social media who could easily advise the police.

If you are facing a street racing or stunt driving charge or any another driving offence, please call the experienced criminal lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP at 905-404-1947 or contact us online.  We offer a free consultation, and are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.