Driving 50 km/h over limit is 'racing:' Fantino
TORONTO - Police planes should patrol Ontario's skies, and any driver going 50 kilometres an hour over the speed limit should be automatically considered a street racer and have their car seized, provincial police Commissioner Julian Fantino said Monday in calling for new strategies to stop dangerous driving.
More needs to be done to stop people who drive aggressively, Fantino said, and he called for some new "meaningful consequences'' to make drivers change their habits.
"I'm advocating that if you speed 50 kilometres over the speed limit, you're racing,'' Fantino said.
"And then we should apply the racing laws to that and seize the vehicles and do whatever else is necessary. We have to stop all this.''
Fantino visited Ohio this past weekend to see how police planes are being used to catch dangerous drivers, and he said he'd like to import that idea to Ontario.
In just 30 minutes, he watched Ohio police take down eight "high-end'' speeders, and he became convinced the program should be brought across the border.
Fantino said the plan has no downside and would have negligible costs, considering the savings gained from preventing tens of thousands of deaths and injuries, plus costs associated with damages, insurance and lost productivity.
"If you factor all those things in, as I think we should, this is a minimal expense, one that I think is cost-effective, but more so, it's very effective in terms of saving lives,'' Fantino said.
The police force is launching a feasibility study to see if a similar program would work here, but Fantino doesn't think it will be a hard sell.
"I don't know that we're going to have a whole lot of difficulty here, but I wanted to do all the homework, look at all the ups and downs, pluses and minuses, and then put my case forward to the decision-makers,'' he said.
Bill Grodzinski, the commander and chief superintendent of the provincial police's highway safety division, said launching police planes isn't a new idea.
The force had planes watching motorists from the skies between 1965 and 1981, but the program was discontinued for reasons including cost, he said.
The force also borrowed an RCMP plane two years ago for a weeklong pilot project and was then convinced it was just a matter of time before the idea would be revisited.
"We liked the results, but obviously these types of activities involve a fair amount of investment, so at that point, we kind of put it on the backburner,'' Grodzinski said.
"We were waiting for the time to go back and have another look at it, and that time is clearly now.''
He said some initial cost estimates suggest Fantino's plan is affordable: leasing a plane would cost about $200 an hour, while purchasing a plane could cost some $380,000.
"When you consider the offsets of saving one life, that's a fairly reasonable investment,'' Grodzinski said.
When asked about the idea of putting police planes in the air, Premier Dalton McGuinty said he had not yet heard about the idea officially.