This driver was stopped after being clocked at 148 km/h in a 80 km/h zone.

This driver was stopped after being clocked at 148 km/h in a 80 km/h zone. (File photo)

OPP Sgt. Dave Rektor has heard all the excuses from speeding motorists.

They’re running late. The vehicle’s speedometer is broken. They just bought new tires.

Those are just a sample of the reasons Rektor says drivers caught travelling more than 50 km/h over the speed limit — an offence known as stunt driving or street racing in Ontario — have given him.

“You just get a whole gamut of excuses,” Rektor said.

“How can somebody be that self-centred in their driving behaviour to drive like that? It’s very dangerous — that’s the bottom line.”

The OPP in Southwestern Ontario issue daily media releases about drivers who’ve had their vehicles impounded and their licences temporarily suspended after being clocked flying down county roads and highways.

Earlier this week, a 22-year-old Belmont woman was charged with stunt driving after Middlesex OPP caught a Nissan Altima going 175 km/h on Manning Drive, a street in southwest London with a speed limit of 60. Her excuse? She was running late for work, police said.

Despite the near-daily news of reckless speeders, Rektor says the OPP are on track to lay fewer stunt-driving charges than last year in its west region, an area that encompasses Southwestern Ontario.

So far, the OPP have charged 244 motorists with the offence, compared to 716 people in all of 2016.

Rektor credits a combination of awareness, public education and enforcement for the drop in stunt-driving charges. “We’re talking about it more because it is such a dangerous problem,” he said.

Introduced in 2007, a stunt driving or street racing charge automatically results in a seven-day licence suspension and vehicle impoundment. If convicted, first-time offenders face up to six months in jail, a maximum $10,000 fine, six demerit points and a licence suspension of up to two years.

The charge also includes a range of other dangerous behaviours, such as intentionally racing another vehicle, weaving through traffic at high speed, drifting around corners, doing doughnuts and driving with a person in the trunk.

Legal critics have taken aim at the speeding aspect of the stunt-driving law, arguing it’s impossible to mount a defence against. At least two Ontario judges have dismissed stunt-driving charges, ruling the legislation is unconstitutional.

The Ontario Ministry of Transportation cites the stunt-driving legislation for reducing the number of speed-related traffic deaths. There were 85 speed-related fatalities in 2014 compared to 170 in 2006, one year before the new law was introduced.

While stunt driving is less likely to happen in cities, where speed limits are significantly lower, it still happens. London police have laid 26 stunt-driving charges this year, down from 35 in the same time period last year.

Rektor noted high speeds affect a driver’s ability to react.

Offenders come in all ages, but drivers between 25 and 45 years old make up the bulk of stunt-driving charges, Rektor said.

“It doesn’t discriminate.”

Stunt driving penalties

Convicted stunt drivers face:

  • Automatic seven-day licence suspension and vehicle impoundment
  • Up to six months in jail
  • $2,000 to $10,000 fine
  • Six demerit points
  • Licence suspension for up to two years

Source: London Free Press