Backgrounder - McGuinty Government expands crackdown on dangerous drivers, street racing

    TORONTO, Aug. 15 /CNW/ - 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)
    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 Aircraft

    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
      -  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.

    Mission Effective

    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


    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
    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

    Traffic Management

    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
    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.

    Disponible en français


For further information:

For further information: Anthony Brown, Ministry of Community Safety and
Correctional Services, (416) 314-7772; Bruce O'Neill, Corporate Communications
Bureau, Ontario Provincial Police, (705) 329-6879; Bob Nichols, Ministry of
Transportation, (416) 327-1158

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