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Street racing? Police will meet you at the finish line

York police, OPP and police services from across the GTA today launched Project E.R.A.S.E, an annual crackdown on street racing, stunt and aggressive driving

The statistics are sobering as are the penalties you may face if you bury the speedometer on local roadways.

Against a backdrop of vehicles roaring along Hwy. 400, York Regional Police and its law enforcement partners today kicked off the annual campaign known as Eliminate Racing Activity on Streets Everywhere (E.R.A.S.E.) in the west parking lot at Vaughan Mills Mall.

York police were joined by the Ontario Provincial Police, police services across the GTA, including Durham, Peel, Halton, South Simcoe, Barrie, Waterloo, Toronto, as well as representatives from Ontario’s environment and transportation ministries, and CAA.

“Wednesday night (May 8), we inspected 28 vehicles and towed 16, including one that was stolen,” said York Regional Police Staff Sgt. Sarah Riddell, of the force’s traffic bureau. “We laid 182 provincial offence notices, we arrested a dangerous driver, a stunt driver, and several suspended drivers. We took a replica gun off the streets. That is street racing.”

That street racing bust involved officers from various agencies, Riddell said, and was the result of an investigation of a large car meet in Vaughan.

“Their launch was our launch,” Riddell said this morning at the launch of the 2019 Project E.R.A.S.E. “We have the ability to suspend licences and impound vehicles for racing and stunt driving, and to take unsafe vehicles off the road. These are all effective tools in the battle against street racing.”

The program aimed at putting the brakes on aggressive and dangerous driving behaviours began in 1996. It was a collaborative effort of officers from York police, the OPP and Peel police service.

For more than 20 years, York police has supported the program in an effort to educate drivers and eliminate death and serious injury that can result when drivers operate vehicles aggressively and with no regard for the law or other’s safety, Riddell added.

The most recent statistics from the Regional Municipality of York show that acts of aggressive driving accounted for 39 per cent of all collisions in 2017.

Ontario Provincial Police Supt. Tony Cristilli calls street racing “one of the most dangerous, serious, reckless forms of aggressive driving known to us”.

“More than 10,000 collisions each year are investigated by the OPP, where speed is a causal factor,” Cristilli said. “Year-to-date, speed continues to be the No. 1 contributing factor among highway crashes.”

The OPP are aware that some drivers communicate and coordinate illegal activities through social media, Cristilli said.

“They run so-called qualifying races in municipalities around the GTA and often hold final races on our 400 series highways patrolled by the OPP. Take it to the race track where it belongs,” Cristilli added.

Several high-performance car enthusiasts and racers attended today’s launch, including representatives from professional racing team R. Ferri Motorsport and Lexus Racing.

“We recognize there are legitimate car enthusiasts and racers, some of whom are here today, but we’re all aware of the devastation that can result from dangerous driving and unsafe motor vehicles associated to street racing,” Staff Sgt. Riddell said. “We’ve seen horrific pictures of mangled cars and know the tragic loss of life caused by this criminal, dangerous activity. We’ve seen the near misses and fear instilled by aggressive driving on our community’s roadways. Our message is if you race, the street is not the place.”

The Project E.R.A.S.E. team now includes 22 police services across Ontario. Various police forces contribute resources such as planes, helicopters, unmarked vehicles and specially trained officers.  

York police also took the opportunity to remind members of the public to report any street racing activity in their community to the police.

“This is not simply having fun with cars, it’s playing with fire,” Riddell said. “The culture of speed, the movies, and philosophy represented in them are not safe. Our roads are not video games.”

Street racing is illegal and is punishable under the Criminal Code of Canada. If you are caught stunt driving (driving more than 50 km/h over posted speed limits), you are subject to an immediate seven-day licence suspension, your vehicle will be impounded and you can face fines up to $10,000, up to six months in jail, and a two-year licence suspension.

So, who were the biggest speeding offenders in 2017?

According to a June 2018 news release issued by the OPP, nearly 148,000 speeding charges were issued to male drivers, with female drivers drawing more than 65,000 charges.

The OPP laid about 213,000 speeding charges in 2017, and more than 4,800 street racing charges against Ontario drivers.

Below are the top three male/female age group offenders:  

Speeding charges (males by age group):

25 to 34 years: 37,498 charges

35 to 44 years: 27,959 charges

45 to 54 years: 26,212 charges

Speeding charges (females by age group):

25 to 34 years: 17,433 charges

35 to 44 years: 12,817 charges

45 to 54 years: 11,541 charges

The youngest male age group, 16 to 20, accounted for 5,939 charges, while their female counterparts drew 2,699 charges.  

Among the street racing charges, for driving more than 50km/h over the posted speed limit, males drew more than 4,100 charges, while close to 760 were issued to females.

Below are the top three male/female age group offenders:      

Street racing charges (males by age group):

25 to 34 years: 1,382 charges

21 to 24 years: 968 charges

35 to 44 years: 622 charges

Street racing charges (females by age group):

25 to 34 years: 260 charges

21 to 24 years: 155 charges

35 to 44 years: 130 charges

Among the youngest age group, 447 street racing charges went to 16 to 20-year-old males, compared to 91 charges laid against females in the same age group.