Under the Highway Traffic Act section 172 known commonly as Stunt Driving (or alternately worded ‘Race Motor Vehicle) is one of the most serious offences that can be issued against a driver. The range of fine, including the 25% victim fine surcharge, ranges from a minimum total payable fine of $2,500.00 to a maximum of $12,500.00. A conviction can also result in a jail term up to a maximum of six months. A court ordered suspension, aside from any demerit point issues with the MTO, can range up to two years on a first offence and up to ten years on a second or later offence. Whether or not you are actually guilty of an offence under HTA s.172, your licence will also be immediately placed under a 7 day administrative suspension. Further, regardless of your guilt or innocence, you vehicle will likely be towed and impounded at your personal expense. Generally, the consequences to insurability means being no longer able to qualify for standard insurance coverage and having to seek out very costly high-risk insurance coverage.
Those are some incredibly heavy penalties that can be devastating to the average driver. But what constitutes ‘stunt driving’ or ‘racing’ a motor vehicle?
Section 172(20)(c) of the Highway Traffic Act states:
“(20) The Lieutenant Governor in Council may make regulations,[…]
(c) defining the terms “race”, “contest” and “stunt” for the purposes of this section. 2007, c. 13, s. 21.”
To find out how these terms of defined, we must look to Ontario Regulation 360/11. This regular defines ‘race’ or ‘contest’ as follows:
“2. (1) For the purposes of section 172 of the Act, “race” and “contest” include any activity where one or more persons engage in any of the following driving behaviours:
1. Driving two or more motor vehicles at a rate of speed that is a marked departure from the lawful rate of speed and in a manner that indicates the drivers of the motor vehicles are engaged in a competition.
2. Driving a motor vehicle in a manner that indicates an intention to chase another motor vehicle.
3. Driving a motor vehicle without due care and attention, without reasonable consideration for other persons using the highway or in a manner that may endanger any person by,
i. driving a motor vehicle at a rate of speed that is a marked departure from the lawful rate of speed,
ii. outdistancing or attempting to outdistance one or more other motor vehicles while driving at a rate of speed that is a marked departure from the lawful rate of speed, or
iii. repeatedly changing lanes in close proximity to other vehicles so as to advance through the ordinary flow of traffic while driving at a rate of speed that is a marked departure from the lawful rate of speed. O. Reg. 455/07, s. 2 (1).
“marked departure from the lawful rate of speed” means a rate of speed that may limit the ability of a driver of a motor vehicle to prudently adjust to changing circumstances on the highway. O. Reg. 455/07, s. 2 (2).”
Further, Ontario Regulation 360/11 goes on to define ‘stunt’ as:
“3. For the purposes of section 172 of the Act, “stunt” includes any activity where one or more persons engage in any of the following driving behaviours:
1. Driving a motor vehicle in a manner that indicates an intention to lift some or all of its tires from the surface of the highway, including driving a motorcycle with only one wheel in contact with the ground, but not including the use of lift axles on commercial motor vehicles.
2. Driving a motor vehicle in a manner that indicates an intention to cause some or all of its tires to lose traction with the surface of the highway while turning.
3. Driving a motor vehicle in a manner that indicates an intention to spin it or cause it to circle, without maintaining control over it.
4. Driving two or more motor vehicles side by side or in proximity to each other, where one of the motor vehicles occupies a lane of traffic or other portion of the highway intended for use by oncoming traffic for a period of time that is longer than is reasonably required to pass another motor vehicle.
5. Driving a motor vehicle with a person in the trunk of the motor vehicle.
6. Driving a motor vehicle while the driver is not sitting in the driver’s seat.
7. Driving a motor vehicle at a rate of speed that is 50 kilometres per hour or more over the speed limit.
8. Driving a motor vehicle without due care and attention, without reasonable consideration for other persons using the highway or in a manner that may endanger any person by,
i. driving a motor vehicle in a manner that indicates an intention to prevent another vehicle from passing,
ii. stopping or slowing down a motor vehicle in a manner that indicates the driver’s sole intention in stopping or slowing down is to interfere with the movement of another vehicle by cutting off its passage on the highway or to cause another vehicle to stop or slow down in circumstances where the other vehicle would not ordinarily do so,
iii. driving a motor vehicle in a manner that indicates an intention to drive, without justification, as close as possible to another vehicle, pedestrian or fixed object on or near the highway, or
iv. making a left turn where,
(A) the driver is stopped at an intersection controlled by a traffic control signal system in response to a circular red indication;
(B) at least one vehicle facing the opposite direction is similarly stopped in response to a circular red indication; and
(C) the driver executes the left turn immediately before or after the system shows only a circular green indication in both directions and in a manner that indicates an intention to complete or attempt to complete the left turn before the vehicle facing the opposite direction is able to proceed straight through the intersection in response to the circular green indication facing that vehicle. O. Reg. 455/07, s. 3.”
Section 4 of this Ontario Regulation also defines a number of exemptions were this section of law does not apply:
“4.(1) Despite section 2, “race” and “contest” do not include,
(a) a rally, navigational rally or similar event that is conducted,
(i) under the supervision of the Canadian Association of Rally Sport,
(ii) under the supervision of a club or association approved in writing by the Ministry, or
(iii) with the written approval of the road authority or road authorities having jurisdiction over the highway or highways used;
(b) motor vehicle owners engaged in a tour, scenic drive, treasure hunt or other similar motoring event in which the participants drive responsibly and in a manner that indicates an overall intention to comply with the provisions of the Act; or
(c) an event held on a closed course with the written approval of the road authority having jurisdiction over the highway, including any event lawfully using any of the trademarks “CART”, “Formula One”, “Indy”, “IndyCar”, “IRL” or “NASCAR”. O. Reg. 455/07, s. 4 (1).
(2) Despite sections 2 and 3, “race”, “contest” and “stunt” do not include any activity required for the lawful operation of motor vehicles described in subsections 62 (15.1) or 128 (13) of the Act, or the lawful operation of an emergency vehicle as defined in subsection 144 (1) of the Act. O. Reg. 455/07, s. 4 (2).”
As one can see by reading through these definitions, they cover a very broad range of circumstances that undoubtedly will surprise you. Indeed the breadth of circumstances under which drivers can be charged under HTA s.172 would give pause to most Ontario drivers in going through a recall of their past driving behaviour and whether they could have been charged under this section of law.
It is in everyone’s interests to have safe roadways and to be in compliance with the law to avoid the penalties and costs of a conviction at court. Certainly in the case of Race Motor Vehicle or Stunt Driving charges, the consequences of a conviction are enormous. The first and best defence is to avoid being charged by the police and certainly part of that is knowing the law and the definitions of ‘race,’ ‘contest,’ and ‘stunt.’
However, if you do find yourself in the unfortunate circumstance of being charged by the police it is important to understand your potential defences and to provide a thorough and vigorous defence at court. Generally this will be best served by seeking out the assistance of a licenced legal representative. Most paralegals will generally offer an free initial consultation to review your summons and provide you with basic information about the offence and the court process. If you have been issued a ticket or a summons for a HTA or CAIA offence, our staff are happy to assist you via our toll-free number at 1-844-647-6869, via email firstname.lastname@example.org, through our website, or at any of our offices in person.