McGuinty Government expands crackdown on dangerous drivers, street racing
The McGuinty government is expanding its crackdown on street racing and dangerous driving. The government will invest $2 million in an additional Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) aircraft, surveillance equipment and staff to support the OPP's Provincial Highway Traffic Safety Program.
Public Concern Over Traffic Safety
Dangerous and aggressive driving is a growing safety concern, especially on major 400 series highways. According to Statistics Canada, almost two-thirds of traffic deaths can be linked to aggressive driving. Each year approximately 900 people lose their lives on Ontario roads. Since 1999, 37 street racing deaths have occurred around the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) alone.
On May 29, 2007, the Ontario legislature passed the Safe Roads Act, targeting street racers and dangerous drivers. But stronger laws must be accompanied by increased police enforcement. An aircraft enables police to view hundreds of vehicles simultaneously, allowing for the identification of multiple violators within a short period of time.
The McGuinty government will invest $2 million for a new OPP aircraft to be used primarily for traffic patrols and surveillance.
The investment will include:
- A one-time investment for a competitively tendered, fixed-winged aircraft
- Technology that allows police to track suspects in darkness and challenging weather conditions, heat sensing capabilities and the capacity to communicate to command posts during critical incidents
- Operating and staff costs for two pilots and two technical flight operators during the first year of operation.
A fixed-winged aircraft will allow the OPP superior manoeuvrability in the air, has greater endurance than a helicopter and better fuel efficiency over long surveillance missions.
The new aircraft's primary mission will protect Ontario drivers through traffic patrol and surveillance. The aircraft and state-of-the-art surveillance equipment may also be used to:
- Support criminal investigations such as the identification of marijuana grow operations and methamphetamine labs
- Enhance aerial photography and video detection at major crime scenes.
The aircraft will be based in the GTA, in close proximity to the majority of Ontario's population base and many of the province's most heavily used highways. The plane will be deployed as necessary to all areas of the province for both traffic enforcement and other activities such as search and rescue.
OPP Aviation Services
The OPP has been operating aircraft since 1974. It has one aircraft based in Thunder Bay and two helicopters operating from bases in Sudbury and Orillia. In the past, additional aircraft have been leased on an as-needed basis.
The current fleet is used for search and rescue, drug eradication, surveillance, investigation support, emergency response, transport and prisoner transfers. The existing fleet is stretched to capacity, with little time or staff available for patrolling Ontario's highways.
Two full-time pilots and two full-time technical flight operators will be added to the OPP's Aviation Services. The pilots will operate the aircraft. Trained OPP personnel will handle traffic enforcement.
3-D Scanning Equipment
The equipment will allow the OPP to digitally capture a 360-degree 3-D scan of a collision scene. The addition of this equipment will enable accident reconstructionists to complete other elements of their investigation while the scanning unit collects and records evidence. This will allow OPP personnel to use their time more efficiently and reduce the time the road needs to be closed. The OPP will be the first police service in Canada using this technology.
Three constables are being added to each of the 15 traffic management teams deployed throughout the province. This will increase traffic safety because the OPP will be better able to target impaired driving, seat belt compliance and aggressive driving, including street racing.
Six full-time officers will be added to the Traffic Incident Management Efficiency teams to ensure efficient incident management and to expedite the investigation and reopening of highways following a crash.
Cracking Down on Street Racing, Driving Contests and Driving Stunts
Since 1999, there have been 39 street-racing related deaths in Ontario. Too often, innocent bystanders are the victims of such senseless acts. The risk of a fatality or serious injury is almost three times greater for vehicles crashing at 50 km/h or more above the posted limit on a highway with a posted limit of 100 km/h. The risk is even higher on roads with lower posted limits.
Excessive speeding is unacceptable in Ontario and will not be tolerated. A new regulation for street racing defines the terms "street racing," "driving contest" and "stunt."
- The definition of a "stunt" will include driving at 50 km/h or more above the posted speed limit. On average, there are about 2,500 convictions a year for driving at this rate of speed.
- This regulation also specifies how police will issue a seven-day driver's licence suspension and seven-day vehicle impoundment at roadside in a manner that is straightforward and efficient for police officers and reduces the risk for unsuccessful prosecutions. It also ensures that the appropriate information is provided to the ministry to update its driver records.
- In addition to these measures, the maximum fine for street racing or participating in a driving contest has been increased to $10,000 - the highest street racing penalty in Canada - and the minimum to $2,000.
- For a second conviction, it also allows a court-ordered suspension of up to 10 years if the second conviction occurs within 10 years.
- Connected nitrous oxide systems are banned while driving a motor vehicle on a public road. Those convicted, face fines of up to $2,000 and up to six months in jail.