Ontario promises to put brakes to street racing

CanWest News Service
Published: Thursday, March 15, 2007

TORONTO -- Ontario's Liberal government is promising to bring in new legislation to curb street racing, but an Opposition lawmaker says it is only happening because the families of victims went public with their grief.

"Because we have the initiative of these victims of this crime saying they will show up here (at Queen's Park) ... now all of a sudden we have legislation coming forward," Conservative MPP and former transportation minister Frank Klees told reporters Wednesday.

"It's very clear that the government has not seen this as a priority at all. They were prepared to spend hours and hours discussing pitbulls in this place but they weren't prepared to move on (until now) something as serious and important as street racing."

Klees was flanked at the press conference by the tearful relatives and friends of victims of street racing.

Thirty-eight people have been killed in such incidents in the Greater Toronto Area since 1999.

"It's upsetting to me that we had to open up our own lives, my children's lives to everyone to witness our pain to get action ... but I am very thankful ... that something is coming of this," said Adrienne Seggie. Her 21-year-old son Matthew was crossing a Hamilton intersection last November when a speeding car ran him down and nearly severed his body in half.

"My son didn't have a chance and the damage that was done to him left us for four days without being able to see him or hold him or touch him and in those four days we had to go through planning his funeral. .... All because someone decided that it would be really a big rush to drive extremely fast down a street where there are pedestrians, where the speed limit is 50."

With legislators scheduled to return to work next week after the winter break, the governing Liberals say they will introduce changes to the Highway Traffic Act aimed at curbing street racing. But Jamie Rilett, a spokesman for Transportation Minister Donna Cansfield, was vague on exactly what measures would be included.

The federal Conservatives passed amendments to the Criminal Code just before Christmas that increased the maximum penalty for street racing that causes injury to 14 years, up from 10 years. The maximum for a race that kills someone was increased to life, up from 14 years. The new regime also includes a series of driving bans for street-racing offences that can lead to a lifetime ban.

Klees said the goal of any provincial changes should be to "ensure that people give first or all second thought to even picking up the weapon of a car in irresponsible way."

Options include giving police officers the authority to issue on-the-spot license suspensions and to impound the vehicles of anyone suspected of street racing. A ban on connecting nitrous oxide fuel systems - used to improve speed - in any vehicle driven on a public road has also been suggested.

All three measures were proposed in legislation that was introduced by the previous Conservative government but died when the 2003 election came along. Klees reintroduced the measures last June in a private member's bill that has since stalled in the legislative process.

Klees came forward with the changes after his constituents Rob and Lisa Manchester were killed in an alleged street-racing incident in Richmond Hill, Ont. The Manchesters, who were out celebrating their wedding anniversary, had a seven year-old daughter.

CanWest News

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