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Ontario police, speed enthusiasts urging potential street racers to take it to the track

Police, speed enthusiasts urging potential street racers to take it to the track
WATCH ABOVE: OPP say 21 people have died in speed-related incidents on roads they patrol since the start of the year. Mark Carcasole reports.

As the warm weather sets in across Ontario, provincial police are seeing the same scenario unfold this year as does every year.

“Already this year … 21 people have already died in speed-related fatalities,” said OPP Sgt. Kerry Schmidt with a particular concern about street racing and stunt driving.

“This year alone already we have charged 2,000 people with stunt driving across the province. Over 1,000 of those came from within the GTA.”

READ MORE: New OPP helicopter camera being deployed for Victoria Day long weekend traffic blitz

He said that’s about 100 more charges than they had laid by this time in 2017.

As Schmidt laid out the startling numbers, several high-performance sports cars zoom by to his left — each one is travelling well in excess of 100 km/h. But the officer doesn’t bat an eye at the vehicles and doesn’t chase the drivers down to ticket the drivers because the cars are at the Canadian Tire Motorsports Park in Clarington. The racers paid for the opportunity and the OPP approve this activity as an alternative to street racing.

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“Here you know what you’re getting yourself into and you’re in a space where people are watching out for you … and it can be a lot of fun. We fully support people participating in these kinds of events if it takes it off the street.”

READ MORE: 343 killed on OPP-patrolled roads in 2017 for 5-year high

The track day these drivers are participating in on Thursday is being run by DriveTeq. Co-manager Rick Morelli said the point of these sessions is to allow people to open up their sports cars to their fullest potential in a safe place — not on a city street.

“We work at trying to break people off some of those bad habits and hopefully teach them a respect for their vehicle,” he said.

Morelli said he believes a safer driver is a smarter driver and vice versa.

READ MORE: OPP release sobering stats ahead of Victoria Day long weekend

Depending on the package purchased, track days can cost anywhere from $100 to $700 as opposed to a free ride on a public road. But Morelli said it’s worth it given the alternative.

“There is a cost to having fun, and there is also a cost to making serious mistakes,” he said.

Dave Brewda agreed, adding a nugget of wisdom he often shares with young racers.

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“You can’t live your passion inside a jail cell.”

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Brewda is the head of the Type R Canada car club, but he said he got his start like many young car lovers — whipping around on local roads. He said he ignored the dangers until he was presented the opportunity to take it to the track and get involved in that community.

He said there can be challenges to drawing the street racing crowd to the track. The costs, the feeling of invincibility and of course making it “cool” to be legitimate. That’s why Brewda said outreach is key.

“It’s the job, I think, of the movers and shakers that are in the industry … some of the guys that are notable racers, teachers, etc. to create that ‘cool’ quotient,” he said.

Drivers caught stunt driving at 50 or more km/h over the limit will see their cars cool off in the impound lot. They could also face a fine of up to $10,000 with the potential for a licence suspension and jail time, if convicted.