Go speed racer to the impound lot!

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Think twice before speeding " Bill 203 could land you a suspended license, impounded car, and hefty fines.

The Safer Roads for Safer Ontario Act, which came into effect Sept. 30, 2007, targets street racing, aggressive driving, and stunt-driving in Ontario, said Dave Woodford, media officer in the Highway Safety Division of the Ontario Provincial Police.

Any vehicle caught going more than 50 km/h over the posted speed limit can now be immediately impounded and the drivers’ license will be suspended for seven days. Drivers can also expect to pay at least $2,000 and up to $10,000 in fines, plus towing fees.

Other dangerous behaviours, such as ‘playing chicken,’ ‘popping wheelies,’ driving with someone in the trunk, or drifting around corners, are also targeted.

This expanded definition of racing is supposed to make highway driving safer and reduce the number of traffic collisions in Ontario, said Sergeant Tom O’Brien, head of London Police Service’s traffic management unit.

Woodford added of the 367 people killed in highway traffic accidents last year, speed was a factor in 112 cases.

“That’s a 21 per cent increase in speed-related deaths since 2005,” Woodford said.

Since the legislation took effect three weeks ago, 840 vehicles have been impounded in Ontario, 610 of which were pulled off 400-series highways by OPP officers.

“At that rate, we’re impounding approximately 12,000-14,000 cars per year,” Woodford said.

London Police already seized seven vehicles, Sgt. O’Brien confirmed.

A 21-year-old London man, who wished to remain anonymous, was charged under the new legislation.

Although he admitted he was driving over the limit by 50 km/h, he did not feel his driving should be considered street racing.

“I was driving a sports car, something I don’t do very often,” he said. “Sure, I was having some fun, trying out the car. I was caught at the wrong place at the wrong time.

“The officer took my keys and license on the spot.”

The young man mentioned he had heard of the new legislation when he was pulled over.

“I wasn’t street racing,” he said. “There was no chasing, weaving or betting. I was the only car on the road and I could see everything in front of me.”

Sgt. O’Brien said street racers in London are not as organized or competitive as those in the GTA. Usually, street races are spontaneous acts of aggressive driving, he said.

“It’s usually an impromptu meeting at a stoplight. It doesn’t have to be a souped-up car, just a bad combination of testosterone and circumstance,” Sgt. O’Brien said.

Woodford said 50 per cent of drivers caught by the new laws are 26 years old and younger. The youngest offender so far was 17, while the oldest was 69.

“Old ladies driving four-door Buicks aren’t the ones racing,” Sgt. O’Brien observed.

For those caught under Bill 203, the consequences are significant.

“It affected my work, and it affected me,” the anonymous 21-year-old said.

Although he has already paid $475 in towing fees, the man’s speeding fines have yet to be settled in court.

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