As the open roads of the COVID-19 pandemic create further headaches for local law enforcement and government officials in the way of speeding and stunt driving, the recent results of a survey conducted by the Canadian Automobile Association showed over half of provincial motorists surveyed self-admit to engaging in unsafe driving behaviour.
Conducted to obtain a better understanding of the thoughts and attitudes of Ontarians toward issues on our roadways, Manager of Government Relations for CAA South Central Ontario Raymond Chan said those results were surprising – in that the number should be significantly higher.
Speaking to his own experience on the road, Chan argued that he could not “fathom” or point to any particular individual that hasn’t conducted themselves in a manner that is “not becoming” of the Highway Traffic Act – either in speeding or distracted driving. According to Chan, further results of that survey showed 42 per cent of respondents admitting to speeding on the province’s roadways as well – a figure that Chan also noted to be suspiciously low.
“Everyone’s gone at least a kilometre over the particular speed limit – so those were some of the surprises that really stuck out to me with regards to the survey.”
While it’s easy to imagine that the issues on the road are a result of the drivers around you, but not your own abilities, Chan said that motorists surveyed recognized that there are issues of unsafe driving on roadways, with 95 per cent of respondents indicating that they’ve witnessed unsafe driving behaviour like speeding, distracted driving, the unsafe changing of lanes and aggressive driving.
Chan also noted that there may be some misunderstanding among our province’s motorists as to what constitutes both “stunt driving” and “aggressive driving”, as he argued that the former extends beyond simply “driving too fast”.
“Stunt driving can really encompass a number of things – and I go back to this whole COVID-19 lockdown situation. Roads have largely been empty, especially at night; we haven’t seen the usual traffic patterns,” said Chan. “What are younger folks doing? They’re congregating in things like parking lots at night and they’re performing dangerous acts.”
“I was reading various media reports where people would use accelerants on roadways; set the road on fire and put on a bit of a show while doing some donuts in a parking lot. All these things constitute as stunt driving, not just speeding.”
With regards to aggressive driving, Chan also mentioned that behaviour is about more than cutting off another motorist or speeding – as it can also include more the common occurrences of aggressive acts like tailgating or changing lanes without signalling or checking your blind spot.
While some may argue that steeper penalties are needed to combat issues of stunt and aggressive driving in the province, Chan argued that changes under the recently implemented Moving Ontarians More Safely Act have targeted high risk drivers – though there needs to be a further effort to educate drivers performing stunts.
Calling upon what he noted are the “number of E’s involved,” Chan said efforts against stunt driving need to include the education of the driver, the empathy to understand why they’re engaging in that behaviour, proper enforcement from police services and consideration given to road engineering.
“I go back to my earlier point of younger people, and it’s usually younger males: that’s what our survey shows, who are out there conducting these particular illegal acts,” said Chan. “What that also tells me is there’s a lack of education, of enforcement – and a lack of empathy and really understanding the whole stunt driving situation.”
With all that information in mind, Chan also said that road safety remains the responsibility of every individual – whether they’re navigating the province in a vehicle, on a motorcycle or bike, or traveling their local area on foot.
“We just need to remind our friends and family that we all have a role to play,” said Chan. “Having that dialogue, reminding people that you need to practise safe driving, and to watch your speed when you’re out there on the roadway and not driving aggressively – all of that will go a long way into curbing this behaviour.”
Implemented in May, Chan said that further measures are expected to come under the Moving Ontarians Safely Act legislation in September – related to graduated fines. According to Chan, those convicted of stunt driving now face a fine up to $10,000 and a license suspension up to ten years depending on severity.
“In some of the more severe cases, stunt driving can actually lead to jail time and further prohibitions, including taking your ability to drive away from you in Ontario,” said Chan. “The number one [thing] people don’t talk about enough either is the impact on your wallet.
“Once you have one of those convictions on your driving record, your insurance rates are going to go through the roof – and I don’t know a better way to get people to think than by hitting them right at the pocket book.”