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Old 09-10-2009, 08:06 PM   #1
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ontarios new stunt driving law found unconstitutional

speeding doesn't equal racing.


www.thestar.com/News/Ontario/article/693457

'Stunt-driving' grandma gets reprieve from judge

STEVE RUSSELL/TORONTO STAR
Sep 10, 2009 04:30 AM
Iain Marlow
Jason Miller
Staff Reporters

Jane Raham admits she panicked when she pushed on the accelerator to overtake the tractor-trailer.

The 62-year-old grandmother of four was in a steady column of traffic along a desolate stretch of Highway 7 near Kaladar, doing 90 km/h where the posted speed limit was 80 km/h. An OPP officer in an unmarked car was gliding along behind her when she pulled out to pass and hit the gas.

The officer registered her speed: 131 km/h, more than 50 km/h over the speed limit – just enough to merit the grandmother, who volunteer teaches adult literacy courses, an automatic conviction for stunt driving under provincial law.

Now an Ontario Court judge has overturned her guilty verdict and ruled a section of Ontario's stunt driving law is unconstitutional.

Since stunt driving is considered an "absolute liability" offence, there is no possible defence.

A charge automatically leads to a conviction and, upon conviction, there must be a fine of between $2,000 and $10,000 – a punishment that may also be combined with a maximum jail term of six months.
"I didn't even know what (stunt driving) meant in terms of what the repercussions would be," Raham said in an interview.

Raham was on her way home on April 29, 2008 to Oakville from Kanata, where her daughter had just given birth to twins. She said she had chosen Hwy. 7 because it has fewer trucks than Hwy. 401 and she is petrified of being caught in a truck's blind spot.

Raham moved into the eastbound lane to overtake a truck in front of her and sped up, then noticed it was speeding up as well. That's when she roared ahead.

"I did, out of a sort of fear reaction, pick up speed to get past him and back into the westbound driving lane," she later testified in court.

Her guilty verdict was overturned last Friday. "If one were asked to describe a stunt driver, the appellant would not immediately spring to mind," Justice G. J. Griffin wrote in his ruling.
Brian Starkman, the lawyer who successfully argued the appeal, said "the reason why the judge found this to be unconstitutional is because, on the one hand, the person is exposed to a possible jail sentence. And, on the other hand, he has no means to defend himself at trial."
There are various ways to be charged under Ontario's stunt-driving laws designed to target street racers. One of those is to drive 50 km/h over the speed limit; another is engaging in a contest with another vehicle.

Griffin's ruling does not encroach upon the OPP's ability to nab and charge reckless street racers. It just means convicting someone on excessive speed alone – as in Raham's case – is now unconstitutional.

However, OPP officers are still going to hand out stunt-driving tickets and the Ministry of the Attorney General is planning an appeal.
"Our position is that the street-racing provisions are constitutional and that they are an important public safety initiative," ministry spokesman Brendan Crawley said.

"We will be seeking leave to appeal the decision of the Ontario Court of Justice. In the interim, people should understand that the street-racing provisions are still in effect and police can still lay charges."

James Morton, a lawyer who is past president of the Ontario Bar Association, said the ruling is "important across the province" and noted it is binding on all Justices of the Peace, though not on Ontario Court judges.

But he said the Crown should have fought harder.

"The statute could have been upheld under Section 1 of the Charter that talks about a reasonable limit in a free and democratic society," Morton said. "But for reasons I'm unaware of, the Crown conceded that it could not be so upheld. And I thought that was surprising."

Sgt. Dave Woodford of the Ontario Provincial Police said the judge's ruling was highly specific and that the stunt-racing law has been instrumental in reducing fatalities since it came into effect in September 2007.

"We're continuing to do business as normal," Woodford said.

Last year, the number of fatalities on OPP-patrolled roads dropped to 322 from 451 in 2007.

As for Raham, she recalls being shocked when the officer said she was charged with stunt driving.

She said she feels stunt driving means someone is driving recklessly on the highway and causing danger to other people. "I believe the police should take those people off the road, impound their car and give them a stiff penalty," she said.

Still, even with the case seemingly behind her, there is one lasting effect: Her grandchildren continue to tease her by calling her "stunt driver."
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Old 09-10-2009, 09:08 PM   #2
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Of course speeding doesn't equal racing. Nobody said that. She was charged with "stunt driving". I'm not going to bother giving myself carpal tunnel trying to explain much of this for you, but since I actually live in Ontario and it actually pertains to me on a daily basis I'll go over a few things. If you drive like an idiot and/or exceed the posted speed limit by any amount, but specifically 50km/h, you are still going to face stiff fines, potential for jail time and your car impounded, regardless of this ruling. The ruling deals with the process of enforcing the law, not the content of it. It's still quite illegal to speed here.. I guess what irks me is that I can't help but think from your first line that you think that it's acceptable to speed excessively, so long as you aren't doing it next to a like-minded individual. I do hope that you never have to lose someone close to you because somebody thought they knew better than the system and make a poor decision that a great number of people have to deal with the ramifications of.

I guess I also can't help but think that it's total crap about her not knowing the stunt driving law and how it pertains to excessive speeding. There are signs all over the highways and constant coverage in the media out here for the last couple of years. You'd have to be a complete recluse to not know about it.
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Old 09-10-2009, 09:16 PM   #3
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She lived to fight the charge? I would never have thought.
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Old 09-10-2009, 10:06 PM   #4
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The fact the OPP say they will continue to enforce this even after a Judge has ruled "unconstitutional " law,just reconfirms they are wrong .Your tax dollars are being spent to write tickets for a law that no longer exists as enforceable in a court of law, brilliant OPP.
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Old 09-10-2009, 10:07 PM   #5
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And one knows full well at 50 over that they are doing something wrong. Why is it that no one ever seems to choose that pedal a little further to the left in a passing situation where oncoming traffic interferes?
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Old 09-10-2009, 10:11 PM   #6
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The fact the OPP say they will continue to enforce this even after a Judge has ruled "unconstitutional " law,just reconfirms they are wrong .Your tax dollars are being spent to write tickets for a law that no longer exists as enforceable in a court of law, brilliant OPP.
Unfortunately, it is your understanding of the situation that is a bit shaky here. A lower court has made a ruling in one case. Government lawyers have directed the police to continue to act as they have been directed to before the ruling was made. In order to do something like this, the lawyers must have a strong reason to believe that the appeal will be successful.

In the meantime, any charges laid by police will be held in abeyance until the appeal is ruled on. If the appeal is successful, they can proceed to trial. If not, they will be disposed of with no further action required of the disputant.
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Old 09-10-2009, 10:16 PM   #7
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Unfortunately, it is your understanding of the situation that is a bit shaky here. A lower court has made a ruling in one case. Government lawyers have directed the police to continue to act as they have been directed to before the ruling was made. In order to do something like this, the lawyers must have a strong reason to believe that the appeal will be successful.

In the meantime, any charges laid by police will be held in abeyance until the appeal is ruled on. If the appeal is successful, they can proceed to trial. If not, they will be disposed of with no further action required of the disputant.
Ontario Court Judge actually ,so its not a Municipal court judge or anything?

And this guy has a fairly good incite
http://thestar.blogs.com/kenzie/2009...l-not-see.html

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Old 09-10-2009, 10:23 PM   #8
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Your tax dollars are being spent to write tickets for a law that no longer exists as enforceable in a court of law, brilliant OPP.
Also, your tax dollars aren't used to fund the ONTARIO provincial police. Those costs are borne by the municipalities that they service. So, actually, YOUR tax dollars aren't being spent on it (mine are).
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Old 09-10-2009, 10:31 PM   #9
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Ontario Court Judge actually ,so its not a Municipal court judge or anything?

And this guy has a fairly good incite
http://thestar.blogs.com/kenzie/2009...l-not-see.html
Do you know what's great about blogs? People can say whatever they want. I have two quotes I wanted to share from that entry:

"And even if speeds could be reduced, there is zero evidence it would have any positive effect on our traffic casualty statistics." - While I'm no more capable of proving my point right now than he is, I'm certain that's wrong and that there are studies that prove that higher speeds = greater chance of serious injury and fatalities.

"Why don't the police lay charges against the driving behaviours that DO cause crashes?" - You mean like speeding up on a semi-truck, and then exceeding the speed limit by over 50km/h to pass it in time? That sure as hell sounds like driving behaviour that could cause a crash, and hey, that's what this court case was about...
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Old 09-10-2009, 10:31 PM   #10
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YOUR tax dollars aren't being spent on it (mine are).
That is why I said "your" and not "my" or "our".
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Old 09-10-2009, 10:50 PM   #11
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"Why don't the police lay charges against the driving behaviours that DO cause crashes?" - You mean like speeding up on a semi-truck, and then exceeding the speed limit by over 50km/h to pass it in time? That sure as hell sounds like driving behaviour that could cause a crash, and hey, that's what this court case was about...
Perhaps she could have passed it at 115km/hr and that would have increased the amount of time she spent in the lane, putting her at greater risk of being in a head-on collision.

Nobody ever died driving 131km/hr on a straight road. The ones who did die did so because that speed was combined with another variable that caused them to collide. That same variable could easily cause a deadly collision even at the speed limit.


If her statement about the truck speeding up while she was passing was true, why wasn't the truck driver also charged with racing, stunting or whatever else they call this stupid law?
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Old 09-10-2009, 11:10 PM   #12
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Perhaps she could have passed it at 115km/hr and that would have increased the amount of time she spent in the lane, putting her at greater risk of being in a head-on collision.

If her statement about the truck speeding up while she was passing was true, why wasn't the truck driver also charged with racing, stunting or whatever else they call this stupid law?
Because from our limited understanding of the situation as it happened, it's entirely likely that while the truck driver sped up, he was likely still doing the or around the speed limit... Keep in mind that if there was any doubt in the car driver's mind though when she pulled out to pass that at the reasonable speed that she was driving that she would not be able to move back into the right-hand lane fast enough, then they should never have moved over to pass.

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Nobody ever died driving 131km/hr on a straight road. The ones who did die did so because that speed was combined with another variable that caused them to collide. That same variable could easily cause a deadly collision even at the speed limit.
"Highways" out here follow the BC legal definition of highway much more closely than the nice 4+ lane separated road that we generally think of in BC. That stretch of highway 7 I would equate to being more like the backroads from Abbotsford out to Mission, or Mission to Harrison.. Speed limits in Ontario, particularly out in the middle of nowhere I'd say are probably actually higher than in BC. I'm not saying it's not possible to safely travel faster on those roads, but when you're in traffic (obviously was at least 3 vehicles traveling along in our example), increasing your speed by over 50%, is going to cut your reaction time down by a dramatic amount, as well as those of other drivers when that other variable occurs, be it wildlife dashes out into the road, someone turns onto the highway, or oncoming traffic is coming faster than anticipated. That same variable could easily cause a deadly collision at the speed limit, sure. It's just far more likely to happen when the speeds are increased.
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Old 09-11-2009, 09:56 AM   #13
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so what, they dropped the charge on this old woman? if that was a ~20 year old guy, he would've been screwed.

I don't know the exact section of road she was on, and generally everything out here is flat afaik, but if there was any sort of hill coming up then the truck would've naturally be increasing it's speed. combine that with that fact that they were already clipping along 10 over the limit down a single lane road, what was she planning on doing once she got past the truck? dropping back to 90 and achieving nothing or continuing on at 100+? If she's so scared of being in a trucks blind spot (not sure how that hurts when you're behind it) then she should fall back further, pull over and wait, or get someone else to drive. If the job of the judge and police is to uphold the law then why can they make exceptions for this old woman pleading ignorance? Is that not discrimination against everyone that isn't a 62 y.o. woman?
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Old 09-11-2009, 11:15 AM   #14
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Perhaps she could have passed it at 115km/hr and that would have increased the amount of time she spent in the lane, putting her at greater risk of being in a head-on collision.
How about NOT passing? Ever thought of that? if you ever need to go 50 km/h above the limit to pass someone you clearly don't need to be passing. I mean, sure maybe if you pass at "excessive speeds" while in the passing/fast lane on the freeway it's still not too dangerous, but in the ONCOMING lane (two-lane road I'm assuming here)??? cmon now...


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If her statement about the truck speeding up while she was passing was true, why wasn't the truck driver also charged with racing, stunting or whatever else they call this stupid law?
Only the officer who pulled her over can attest to the fact that the truck was indeed speeding up solely to prevent her from passing. That is illegal. We don't know why the truck sped up. People don't drive at the same speed the entire time. If there's a gradual downhill for example, most people end up going faster.
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Old 09-11-2009, 02:36 PM   #15
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Last year, the number of fatalities on OPP-patrolled roads dropped to 322 from 451 in 2007.
I would love to see ACTUAL proof that that drop is directly related to this law being enacted...

How many of those deaths were related to "street racing" or "stunt driving" as they call it? I just don't understand how speeding is a more serious offense than drunk driving?
Even better... how many of those "street racing" deaths were related to the driver being drunk... Just saying...
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Old 09-11-2009, 06:01 PM   #16
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Ontario Court Judge actually ,so its not a Municipal court judge or anything?
Looks like a provincial court judge to me.

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And this guy has a fairly good incite
Well, actually he has an opinion. It appears to be prejudiced too, judging by the comment "Never mind that the entire concept of speed limit enforcement is totally bogus."
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Old 09-11-2009, 06:54 PM   #17
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the interesting part is the the Creator of the stunt driving law Michael Bryant, former Ontario Attorney General, was arrested 2 weeks ago after killing a cyclist with his car in an act of road rage...

So much for him trying to make the streets safer.
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Old 09-12-2009, 09:25 AM   #18
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the interesting part is the the Creator of the stunt driving law Michael Bryant, former Ontario Attorney General, was arrested 2 weeks ago after killing a cyclist with his car in an act of road rage
I doubt very much that he created it. I would certainly agree that he is the head of the government department that created it though.
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Old 09-12-2009, 07:57 PM   #19
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There is a lot more behind the Bryant case than has been reported in the media. Do a bit of a serach and see what was involved, what the cyclist's background and past history was, talk of the cyclist either trying to strangle Bryant and/or his female passenger ( his wife)...and that sort of thing. Let's wait until all the facts come out in court before we start making judgements, and not rush to conclusion, like the media have done. There is always at least two side to every story. Just remember the "missing cell phone video" of the Vancouver Police shooting...and how the "activist" who said he filmed it, turned out he was nowhere near the scene at the time he lied and said he was...accoring to 2 different security videos.
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