Extreme speeders getting caught without high-speed pursuit: OPP

At left, the Mercedes clocked Saturday at 308 km/h near Burlington. At right, the Dodge Hellcat that blew a tire after its speed was measured at 271 km/h. OPP/Twitter photos

Premier also weighs in on “reckless and careless” drivers after teen stopped at 308 km/h

ONTARIO — Extreme speeders are making tracks on provincial highways emptied during these COVID-19 times, and they’re making headlines after police catch them — without high-speed pursuit.

That’s right: The very worst speeders in Ontario are apprehended by law enforcement these days without hot-pursuit chase scenes worthy of The Dukes of Hazzard, The Cannonball Run or The Fast and the Furious — whatever the armchair speculation on social media.

Take the example of the 18-year-old driver intercepted on the Burlington-area QEW at an eye-popping speed of 308 km/h on Saturday night.

“In this situation there was no pursuit at all,” says OPP Sgt. Terry Schmidt, with the provincial force’s Highway Safety Division. “The driver came to a stop on his own, compliant to the officer.”

In fact, says Schmidt, the young man pulled over moments after the stationary officer flicked on his overhead cruiser lights as the Mercedes barrelled towards his position at a rate of about 85 metres per second. Locking onto the vehicle’s incredible speed while it was still half a kilometre away, “the officer had about six seconds” to put down his laser-based measurement device, turn on the lights and put the cruiser in drive as the sedan blew by.

“Amazingly and fortunately, the driver did not try to flee. The officer pulled out, and they stopped. There was nothing out of the ordinary or unique about the traffic stop. We were not in any position to chase after him. He was slowing down as soon as he saw those lights; he knew the jig was up,” says the sergeant, conceding the motorist’s “speed was aggravating but his conduct was cooperative.”

Another recent extreme speeder travelling more than 200 km/h was less cooperative on Highway 407, but was still apprehended without chase, Schmidt reports. In that case, the motorist sped away from a first OPP cruiser that switched on its overhead lights and pulled out to follow. “The officer immediately shut off his lights, pulled off to the side of the road, notified the comm centre and radioed ahead,” he says, adding the process repeated three more times, with three different cruisers, before the motorist pulled over for the fourth cop in the series, in the Vaughn area.

“By this time, the driver in that car realized ‘this is not going to end well,’ so he stopped…. Again, no pursuit was ever engaged, and it ended very peacefully. Keep in mind, we have radios, we have multiple units.”

Another aspiring speed demon was similarly caught without chase on Highway 417 near Hawkesbury after the involved Dodge Hellcat blew a tire at 271 km/h. “I’m surprised he kept that vehicle on its wheels,” observes Schmidt.

Maximum penalty for a speeder like the 308 km/h case is a fine of $10,000, two years’ licence suspension and a potential six months in jail, if convicted of the provincial stunt-driving offence. The Criminal Code dangerous driving charge also laid against the teen carries a potential 10 years in jail, says Schmidt, adding, “We’re not talking about maximum penalties here, but that’s the potential.”

The sergeant says the young man possessed a G2 licence and was behind the wheel of his father’s Mercedes AMG C63 — now impounded for seven days after hitting the “egregious, unbelievable” speed. “I thought it was a prank … I thought they had targeted an airplane coming in on approach, but this was a car on the highway.”

Schmidt says the upscale German luxury model is capable of hitting the measured velocity, lest their be any doubters.

Asked during yesterday’s daily media briefing if he believed the on-the-spot vehicle-impoundment and licence seizure period should rise to 30 days for stunt drivers, Ontario Premier Doug Ford didn’t hesitate. “Yes, I do,” said a sombre Ford.

“That was reckless for that young man to do that. He put himself in jeopardy … 200 km over the speed limit? That is just totally irresponsible,” said the premier of the latest incident. “Even if there’s no cars on the road, I know our OPP and other regional police will be keeping eye on that.

“You’ve got to throw the book at these people because they’re putting everyone’s lives in jeopardy when they do something that reckless and careless,” said Ford, again highlighting the latest case but also observing of the driver and his teenaged passenger: “You know something? Thank God, he’s alive, and thank God his friend’s alive. That’s the most important thing. I understand he made a mistake, and hopefully he’ll never do it again.”

Schmidt says traffic has been light during these COVID-19 times, which has coincided with a rise in stunt-driving cases. “We’re seeing them not just late at night. We’re seeing them in the morning, in the afternoon, with more open roads.”

Canada Road Safety Week launches today, May 12.


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