Ontario Puts Its Foot Down on Street Racing

by : Ally Wahlberg

Looks like becoming another The Fast and the Furious wannabe would now entail more than just guts and skill.

In Canada, where trucker David Virgoe met his tragic death on Highway 400 after an accident allegedly caused by street racing, officials are putting down their foot and are now intent on getting tough on street racers.

Likening speed shops that make street racers to bomb factories or illegal drug labs, Attorney General Michael Bryant warns "juiced-up" cars could be seized and destroyed before even hitting the road.

"Just on the balance of probabilities if we can establish that a car is being used for the unlawful purpose of street racing, we will seize it and you will never see it again.
"We will crush your car, we will crush the parts."

York Regional Police Chief Armand La Barge welcomed Bryant's get-tough words saying that since 1999, 39 people have been killed in the Greater Toronto Area because of illegal road racing. "We welcome any proposed new legislation to make it easier to do that (seize vehicles in road racing). That's the type of strong message that needs to go out," he said.

La Barge added that he would like to see the courts send a tougher message to people charged with racing. According to La Barge, his officers have laid some 550 racing charges over the past six weeks, but that many drivers expect to be treated lightly by the courts. Police try to educate road racers, sometimes it turns out to be an exercise in futility, he said.

Sgt. David Mitchell, a York Region traffic officer, said road racers range from teenagers driving their parents' cars to adults who have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars modifying cars. Some have been so overhauled they would be unfit for a motor speedway, he said.

Charged drivers, said Mitchell, often choose to take their chances with the court because they believe "not much is going to happen there." Apparently technology has been a great help for racers, as they use the Internet and text messaging to quickly call races and locations, making it difficult for police to stake out races.

"What I would say to anybody who is engaging in the illegal act of street racing is we don't need to wait until that car hits the road fully loaded.

"The damage that these vehicles can cause can sometimes be catastrophic," Bryant said in his message at Queen's Park, referring to Virgoe's death.

While Bryant declined to discuss details of Virgoe's death or the three men charged in it, he noted "Ontario Crown prosecutors are using the brand new street racing crime provisions under the Criminal Code for these offences.

"We have in Ontario generally the ability to seize street racing cars," he said.

About Street Racing
Street racing is a form of unsanctioned and illegal auto racing which takes place on public roads. Street racing can either be spontaneous or well-planned and coordinated. Spontaneous races usually occur at intersections where two cars stop at a red light before they begin racing. Well coordinated races, in comparison, are chosen before the race night and often have a people communicating via 2-way radio/citizens' band radio and using police scanners and GPS units to mark locations of local police hot spots.

Because vehicles used in street racing competitions more often than not lack professional racing safety equipment such as roll cages and fuel cells and drivers seldom wear firesuits and are not trained in high-performance driving, injuries and fatalities are common results from accidents. Illegal street racers also put ordinary drivers at risk because they race on public roads rather than closed-course, purpose-built facilities.

More recently the rise of chop shops which sell anything and everything from engine parts to has been associated with street racing.