Enforcement must not only look ominous to be successful – it must actually be shown to be effective.

Stiffer stunt driving penalties have been introduced in Ontario effective July 2, 2021. But how many stunt drivers will be caught is an important question. Is it like winning a bad lottery?

A CTV News article reported yesterday that:

“Between January 2021 to the end of May, Toronto saw a 90 per cent increase in racing and stunt driving charges compared to the same time in 2019.

The city says that police issued 276 racing and/or stunt driving tickets during that time, which is nearly 130 more tickets than they gave out during those months in 2019.”

While this data is somewhat useful and informative, a key issue is how many stunt drivers are actually out there and how many times do drivers engage in stunt driving before they are caught? Reportedly 276 racing/stunt tickets were issued over 5 months in Toronto or about 55 per month or just under 2 per day. Is there an estimate as to how many drivers actually engage in racing/stunt driving without being caught? Is it 2 per day, 10 per day, 100 per day?

Certainly a reasonable estimate could be easily obtained from the numerous surveillance cameras positioned throughout the city. But there is a reason why such data is not provided as it is a performance measure that may not look too good in the public’s eye.

The result of increased penalties for stunt driving may not be what the public might expect. If there are not enough “boots on the ground” enforcements, and if many racers/stunt drivers are able to escape without being caught, then the process becomes no different then winning a bad lottery. With a minimal chance of being caught stunt driving continues and the very few who get caught may receive penalties that could affect their entire lives.

For example, in a first offence a driver will receive a driving suspension of one to three years. If the driver needs to drive to maintain a job then he/she could lose that job. We may not cry tears for that outcome but what happens next? If that person is now unemployed he/she does not just disappear. That person may be using public funds to survive. That person may become homeless, walk the streets or perhaps turn to crime. And then we set up commissions of inquiry to understand where the homeless persons came from or how they got there or why crime exists. Perhaps a reasonable approach is to conduct a deep study of those persons who engage in racing/stunt driving in addition to penalizing them.

The important issue then is, accompanied by the stiffer penalties, we need to ensure that there is sufficient enforcement that racing/stunt driving becomes prohibitive, not just a chance of being struck by lighting in a winter storm. Where is the data that tells us whether these official actions are being successfully prohibitive?