Despite normally being a safe driver, you find yourself late for work or an important meeting and decide to risk speeding to avoid problems due to your lateness. Risking a speeding ticket doesn’t seem any worse than not arriving on time. Just your luck you pass a police cruiser and soon find yourself pulled over and a police officer at your window. Undoubtedly the speeding ticket is going to be expensive, you were going pretty fast. After a few minutes a tow truck arrives to tow and impound your vehicle. The officer demands that you surrender your driver’s licence card and informs you that your licence is now suspended. You’re handed a summons for Stunt Driving and left on your own to find a way back home or to your meeting.
What is a Stunt Driving offence? What are the penalties involved? What can you do?
Let’s take a look…
A Stunt Driving (or Race Motor Vehicle) offence falls under section 172(1) of the Highway Traffic Act:
172. (1) 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. 2007, c. 13, s. 21.
This incredibly brief single sentence is not at all helpful to the average person. To get specific information we have to turn to Ontario Regulation 455/07:
“Definition, “race” and “contest”
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).
(2) In this section,
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).
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.”
That’s a lot of different scenarios under which a Stunt Driving or Race Motor Vehicle offence can be issued. Some of the grounds, such as having someone in the trunk of the vehicle, may have surprised you.
By far the most common scenario that we see these offences being issued in is a single vehicle travelling at 50 km/h or greater over the posted speed limit.
The immediate penalty is that your driver’s licence card will be taken, your driver’s licence will be suspended, and your vehicle will be towed and impounded. You will be responsible for the cost of the towing and impounding of your vehicle which generally ranges from $500-$1,500. A record of the licence suspension will also be placed into your driving record.
The Ministry of Transportation of Ontario assigns demerit points ranging between 0 and 7 upon conviction of an offence depending of the severity of the charge. A conviction for Stunt Driving / Race Motor Vehicle results in a 6 demerit point penalty. This is sufficient to trigger an escalated sanctions driver’s licence suspension or cancellation for a novice driver (such as a G1 or G2 licence).
For commercial motor vehicle drivers, such as a transport truck driver, a conviction will also result in a 5 CVOR point penalty. A conviction under HTA section 172(1) may prevent maintaining or obtaining employment in the transportation industry.
A conviction for Stunt Driving will generally result in no longer qualifying for standard insurance coverage and having to seek out a high-risk insurer. These insurance policies can be very expensive and in some cases be prohibitively expensive in being able to obtain affordable vehicle insurance.
Highway Traffic Action section 172(2) specifically deals with the penalties that can be issued by the court:
(2) Every person who contravenes subsection (1) is guilty of an offence and on conviction is liable to a fine of not less than $2,000 and not more than $10,000 or to imprisonment for a term of not more than six months, or to both, and in addition his or her driver’s licence may be suspended,
(a) on a first conviction under this section, for not more than two years; or
(b) on a subsequent conviction under this section, for not more than 10 years. 2007, c. 13, s. 21.
The fine listed in the above section is also subject to the mandatory 25% victim fine surcharge (vfs). Adding in the vfs, the total-payable fine ranges from $2,500.00 to $12,500.00. A period of imprisonment not exceeding 6 months can be issued upon conviction. The court may also suspend the driver’s licence for up to a further two years on a first offence, and up to 10 years for a subsequent offence. The court penalties that can be applied upon a conviction for this offence are some of the most severe penalties available under the Highway Traffic Act.
WHAT CAN BE DONE?
On the summons will be the date of your “First Appearance” hearing. Generally these are very brief court appearances and your attendance should not be required if you have hired a paralegal to represent you. Once the evidence in your case has been disclosed by the Crown Prosecutor’s Office, you or your legal representative can review that evidence with the Crown Prosecutor at an early resolution meeting to determine the legal merits of the case and whether there are any legal grounds upon which to have the charge withdrawn.
If there is not a legal basis upon which to have the charge withdrawn, there may then be discussions between the defence and prosecution to determine whether a negotiated settlement can be reached that is acceptable to both parties. This may include reducing the nature of the offence to a lesser charge and/or reducing the penalties to be applied by the court. Based upon the merits of the Crown’s case and the likelihood of how a Justice would reasonably rule at trial, the offer to resolve may or may not be accepted. If no resolution can be reached, the matter will then proceed forward to trial to be argued in the courtroom. At the end of a trial, the court will either convict or dismiss the charge against the defendant. If the defendant is convicted, the defence may make submissions to try and mitigate the penalties to be applied by the court.
Given the very serious nature of Stunt Driving / Race Motor vehicle charges, these cases need to be proceeded upon carefully and thoroughly. Most cases before the Ontario Courts will generally take between 6 to 12 months and generally required 3 to 5 court hearings. With legal representation, it is possible that a defendant may only need to attend one of these hearings or may possibly not need to attend court at all.
A charge of Stunt Driving or Race Motor Vehicle under section 172(1) of the Highway Traffic Act is one of the most serious traffic charges that a driver can experience. The financial, licencing, and insurance repercussions of a conviction can be devastating to the average person. It is important to know what you have been charged with and what you can do to protect your interests.
OTD Legal helps Ontario drivers by providing a no-cost, no obligation initial consultation to help provide the basic information needed to make an informed decision. If you have been charged by the police, our friendly staff can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via our toll-free number 1-844-647-6869.