As an Ontario driver, you will now face higher fines and longer vehicle impoundments if you are found guilty under the latest stunt driving laws. Many people think stunt driving is all about street racing and donuts, however, if you have a shorter temper on the road, you could find yourself guilty of a “stunt driving” incident. Let’s break down what exactly constitutes as stunt driving in Ontario, and examine the consequences of this dangerous pastime if you are convicted.
Since the beginning of quarantine and self-isolation due to COVID-19, Toronto Police have reported a 200% increase in stunt driving compared to the same timeframe back in 2019. Causes for the increase are tied to the dramatic drop in traffic on the roads since most Ontarians began working from home and attending school online. Transportation Minister, Caroline Mulroney, said the province had seen a spike in offences since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. With fewer motorists on the roads, drivers were inclined to drive at more excessive speeds.
IS THERE MORE TO A STUNT DRIVING CHARGE THAN JUST DRIVING “TOO FAST?”
Section 172 of the Highway Traffic Act in Ontario states that “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 recent survey conducted on behalf of CAA South Central Ontario (CAA SCO) found that only 24% of Ontario drivers are aware of all the offences that account for stunt driving. Almost 95% said they have witnessed dangerous driving from other motorists:
- Speeding at 81%
- Distracted driving at 74%
These were the top two unsafe behaviours people saw on the roads, followed by unsafely changing lanes (73%) and aggressive driving (69%). However, over 50% of the drivers polled admitted to engaging in unsafe driving themselves.
Stunt driving is more than excessive speeding, street racing and contests. However, with the recent media glorification in street racing over the past decade (think Fast & the Furious franchise), there has been an increase in drivers adding illegal or upgraded car modifications to increase performance with suspensions, style enhancements or high-performance motors. These modifications are sometimes not reported to insurance, which would most likely increase premiums and result in lower car resale value.
Stunt driving in Ontario also includes engaging in dangerous driving practices, such as road rage and weaving through traffic. In a nutshell, it is careless driving that puts the driver and others at a greater-than-normal risk.
Under the Highway Traffic Act, “stunt driving” can mean:
- Burn outs, drifting or donuts
- Popping wheelies or doing “stoppies” on a motorcycle (or car, if possible)
- Occupying a passing lane for longer than is reasonably required to overtake
- Driving with a person in the trunk of a motor vehicle or driving while not in the driver’s seat
- Exceeding 50km/hr of the speed limit where the speed limit is 80km/hr or more (the most commonly known, and the most commonly charged offence)
- Exceeding 40km/hr of the speed limit where the speed limit is 79km/h or less
- Driving without due care and consideration of others on the road, or in a way that might endanger someone by intentionally preventing another person from passing, stopping, cutting someone off or slowing down
- Driving as close as possible to another vehicle, person, or cyclist
- Jumping ahead and turning left before traffic commences through an intersection
- Road rage and aggressive driving
As we can see above, there are many dangerous driving practices that can be considered “stunt driving” other than simply exceeding the speed limit.
WHAT ARE THE PENALTIES FOR STUNT DRIVING?
If you are caught stunt driving, you will now face a tougher penalty. Motorists will face a 30-day roadside driver’s licence suspension, as well as a 14-day vehicle impoundment. The previous penalty was one week.
The Ontario government is also introducing an escalating post-conviction driver’s licence suspension for drivers convicted of stunt driving, as seen below:
- A first offence brings a minimum of a one to three-year suspension
- For a second offence, a minimum of three to 10 years
- A third offence could mean a lifetime suspension that may be reduced at a later date (to be established by regulation)
- A fourth and subsequent offence will cause a lifetime driver’s licence suspension
FACTORS DETERMINING PENALTIES FOR STUNT DRIVING IN ONTARIO
Various factors determine the penalty charges for stunt driving. Some of these include:
- The speed. The higher your stunt driving speed, the more severe your penalty.
- Previous convictions. As we have mentioned, your licence may be suspended for one to three years for the initial stunt driving offence. If involved in a repeat stunt driving offence, your license may be suspended for up to 10 years, while a third and repeat stunt driving offence may see the licence suspended permanently.
- If an accident occurred due to stunt driving. If anyone was hurt or killed as a result of your stunt driving, you can expect more severe penalties.
- Interactions with the police officers. Most often reckless drivers engage in stunt driving intentionally and are often involved in confrontations with police officers. Some even try to evade arrest or speed up when flagged down. The less cooperative stunt drivers are with police, the harsher the penalties.
- The timing of the accident and where it occurred. Some locations attract harsher penalties. For instance, stunt driving near a school or in a residential area will be treated harshly by the authorities. This is because such areas pose higher risks to other road users or pedestrians, such as children.
NEW SAFETY LAWS FOR DRIVERS
The provincial government introduced the legislation named the Moving Ontarians More Safely Act (MOMS Act) in April 2021. These new laws came into effect on July 01, 2021. The goal is to help combat high-risk driving behaviour and improve road safety.
What has changed?
A new penalty system for Ontario drivers began its rollout in stages on July 1st, 2021. The MOMS Act includes stricter penalties for unsafe, high-risk driving, which includes stunt driving. Additionally, the MOMS Act improves commercial truck safety, provides more oversight on the towing industry and provides protection for cyclists and road workers.
The MOMS Act: Providing greater safety on the road
The MOMS Act applies a variety of safety measures. Cameras will be placed inside streetcars to catch drivers who illegally pass, as well as drivers will now be charged for hitting cyclists when opening their car doors. E-bikes will individually be categorized as bicycle-style, mopeds or motorcycle-style. For truck drivers, new enforcement tools will be implemented, specifically for drivers behind the wheel for an extended period of time.
HOW A STUNT DRIVING CHARGE COULD IMPACT YOUR CAR INSURANCE
A stunt driving conviction will remain on your driving record for three years. If you are convicted of aggressive, careless driving, you will experience a substantial increase in premiums or you could become uninsurable. Your insurance company may choose to access your driving record to assess what the risk is to them that you might be involved in an accident. The more speeding or traffic tickets you have on your driving record, the more the insurance company perceives that “their risk to insure you is higher.” The higher the risk, the higher your rates will be.
As you can see, it doesn’t pay to break the rules of the road. Keep road safety top-of-mind while you’re navigating city streets. Stunt driving is not only youth drag racing or performing donuts in a parking lot late at night; it can be any type of aggressive or dangerous driving behaviour. If you have ever been angered by being cut-off on Highway 401 during rush hour and decide to follow them to express your displeasure, you would be found guilty of stunt driving, too.
Remember: driving is a privilege, not a right. Let cooler heads prevail while navigating your gradual return to work. Speak with your isure broker for more details about how unsafe driving habits can affect your premiums.