Dangerous Street Racing and Stunt Driving – Where the Law Draws the Line
Anyone who spends time on the 400 series of highways in Ontario has witnessed at least one case of what the law would deem dangerous driving. You are just driving along, going with the flow of traffic, when suddenly another driver comes from behind, passing you on the right at high speed, out of nowhere, with virtually no warning. As they race ahead of you, they weave in and out of other cars with little regard for the safety of others.
Although television and film often glorify extreme driving, making it seem “cool”, the reality is that people who choose to imitate their adrenaline-fueled idols on public roadways are a menace to public safety. These maniacs are actually putting others at extreme risk every time they act out these scenes. The drivers and passengers they share the road with have a much higher risk of being involved in a car accident through no fault of their own. Because of the excessive speeds involved, the injuries resulting from these accidents tend to be much more serious – sometimes resulting in fatal accidents.
In this article, we will examine street racing and stunt driving in Ontario in depth, focusing on what qualifies as street racing and dangerous driving, and the penalties involved – from a legal standpoint and also from an insurance perspective. We will also look at some of the things that you might not expect to be classified as stunt driving. Finally, we will review how and why reckless driving makes vehicle collisions so much worse for all parties involved.
The Dangers of High-Speed Driving
The faster someone drives the more likely they are to cause an accident. That is just common sense. Controlling a motor vehicle requires concentration and quick reflexes, even when you are just going down the street to pick up milk and eggs. Driving faster requires more focus and even shorter reaction times, and extreme driving pushes a driver’s ability to maintain control to the absolute limit.
Recent studies show that going 50 km/h over the posted speed limit on a 100 km/h highway makes a driver five times as likely to cause a traffic accident that could seriously injure and maybe even kill an innocent person. These risks are tenfold when travelling at excessive speeds on city streets. Driving 50 km/h over a posted limit of 60 km/h or lower increases the risk of serious injury or death by a factor of eight.
To combat the risk faced by responsible drivers and passengers who have to share the road with these reckless drivers, the Ontario Government has taken action in recent years to discourage street racing and stunt driving through a combination of penalties, including immediate vehicle seizures, high fines, road-side licence suspensions, accumulation of demerit points, and even the possibility of jail time.
The Penalties for Street Racing in Ontario
Under the Highway Traffic Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. H.8, O. Reg. 455/07: Races, Contests and Stunts, street racers and stunt drivers face severe consequences. For starters, the arresting officer can impose an immediate roadside seven-day license suspension and vehicle impoundment if they have reasonable, probable grounds. The vehicle is impounded even if the driver is not the registered owner.
If the driver is convicted of racing or stunt driving, the courts can impose fines anywhere from $2,000 to $10,000. Those fines double if drugs or alcohol have played a role. The driver could lose their licence for up to two years, and if it is their second such conviction within ten years, the suspension could be for up to ten years. Guilty parties will also accumulate six demerit points, and there is also the possibility of up to six months in jail.
These are just the charges a driver risks if they do not hurt anyone else.
Dangerous Driving and Insurance
Street racing and stunt driving will also drive up the offending party’s insurance rates for years. Insurance companies always review the driving record of new customers, as well as a good percentage of those whose policies are renewing. The convictions associated with this type of driving are considered major offences. At the very least, it will drive up the price of the driver’s premium or it could result in the company refusing to insure them at all.
Insurance companies in Ontario have different levels of risk they are willing to accept, and a lot of them simply refuse to insure drivers with major convictions on their records. And why not? Such drivers have demonstrated they are a danger to themselves and others and make insurance more expensive for everyone else.
These drivers usually have to get insurance through the Facility Association. Essentially, this organization exists because all licenced vehicle owners need to carry auto insurance even if most insurers refuse to cover them. The Facility Association takes all cases, regardless of record, but it is anything but cheap.
Other Risky Behaviours that Qualify as Reckless Driving
Mention stunt driving and most people tend to associate it with street racing or other dangerous driving habits. While driving 50 km/h over the posted speed limit is indeed one of the major reasons this law exists, there are several other infractions covered under the same umbrella that might surprise you.
Many of the other offences are clearly dangerous, while others used to fall into the category of people blowing off steam or being mischievous.
Among the more obvious behaviours are preventing another vehicle from passing, intentionally cutting someone off, or tailgating – whether that be to another vehicle, a pedestrian, or a fixed object. All instances of road rage, of course, also qualify.
But it’s also considered stunt driving if you endanger others by doing donuts, driving a vehicle with someone in the trunk, or letting someone not in the driver’s seat operate the vehicle. Hold the wheel? No, thanks.
Stunt driving also includes popping wheelies on a motorcycle. Further, if a driver has a nitrous oxide system that potentially allows their engine to have more oxygen available for combustion, it is considered stunt driving just to drive while it is connected, even if they do not use it.
Lawsuits Resulting from Street Racing and Stunt Driving
As mentioned above, the high speeds and reckless behaviour associated with street racing and stunt driving often lead to accidents with more serious injuries and a great likelihood of causing death. As a result, these accidents are more likely to cross the threshold that allows an injured party to sue an at-fault third party for pain and suffering.
With Ontario’s no-fault insurance system, if you’re injured in a car crash, most of your expenses will be covered by submitting claims to your own auto insurance provider. You may also be entitled to income replacement benefits.
Under the current system, the right to sue a third party for liability only becomes an option when the accident kills someone or the injuries are permanent and serious causing disfigurement or impairment of an important physical, mental, or psychological function.
This may mean further burdens and deductions; you should, however, always see an expert so they can advise you specifically to your case. The first step is retaining a well-qualified personal injury lawyer as soon as possible to help you navigate the long road ahead of you.
Stunt driving and street racing puts innocent motorists at unacceptable risk and often results in serious, permanent injury or even death.
Even with increasingly stiffer punishments for such reckless and antisocial behaviour, the problems persist. Fortunately, if you are the innocent victim of such an incident, you are well within your rights to sue the at-fault party for pain and suffering if your injuries exceed the legal threshold discussed above.
Have you been Seriously Injured by a Reckless Driver?
For a consultation about your case, follow the link below to contact Mackesy Smye today. Our dedicated team of experienced personal injury lawyers will review your file and give you an honest assessment on whether you have a case or not, and if we can help.