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Drivesmart column: What is street racing?

How do the courts recognize street racing as opposed to, say, speeding?

By Tim Schewe

An incident that took place in Surrey on March 26 was headlined as street racing, which brings to mind the following questions: how is “street racing” defined? How do the courts recognize street racing as opposed to, say, speeding? And why are the rules currently on the books for things like speeding, reckless driving and endangerment alone not harsh enough to apply to street racers?

Let’s start with the definition of race found in the Motor Vehicle Act:

“race” means circumstances in which, taking into account the condition of the highway, traffic, visibility and weather, the driver or operator of a motor vehicle is driving or operating the motor vehicle without reasonable consideration for other persons using the highway or in a manner that may cause harm to an individual by doing any of the following:

(a) outdistancing or attempting to outdistance one or more other motor vehicles;

(b) preventing or attempting to prevent one or more other motor vehicles from passing;

(c) driving at excessive speed in order to arrive at or attempt to arrive at a given destination ahead of one or more other motor vehicles;

This driver’s actions do not meet the definition of race, but certainly qualify as being dangerous.

The Criminal Code makes it an offence to drive dangerously:

Dangerous operation

320.13 (1) Everyone commits an offence who operates a conveyance in a manner that, having regard to all of the circumstances, is dangerous to the public.

In R v Beatty, the Supreme Court of Canada examines what constitutes dangerous driving under the Criminal Code.

If this driver had been taking part in a race that fact could be considered an aggravating factor calling for a harsher punishment if he were convicted.

According to the news story, this driver was ticketed for excessive speeding which carries a penalty of $483 and three penalty points if convicted.

Excessive speeding

148 (1) A person who drives a motor vehicle on a highway at a speed greater than 40 km/h over the applicable speed limit set under the authority of an enactment commits an offence and is liable on conviction to not less than the aggregate of the fine amount and the applicable supplemental fine amount, if any, prescribed under section 148.1 for this offence and, subject to those amounts, section 4 of the Offence Act applies.

The investigating officer may contact RoadSafetyBC from the roadside during the investigation and relate the circumstances of the race. If they meet the criteria, the superintendent will issue a driving prohibition on the spot to the drivers involved.

Another penalty for racing is the impoundment of the vehicles involved. The impoundment may take place if the circumstances amount to a race and the officer intends to charge the driver(s) with a serious offence.

A serious offence includes:

• Any motor vehicle related Criminal Code driving offence

• Driving while prohibited

• Driving without due care or reasonable consideration for others

• Excessive speeding

If a collision were to occur as a consequence of the race, ICBC can deny the driver insurance coverage. The driver would be expected to pay for any damages that they caused out of their own pocket. Typically, ICBC settles with the third party and recovers the money from the driver.

Should the offending driver not pay, ICBC can deny any driver or vehicle licence transactions.

Tim Schewe is a retired constable with many years of traffic law enforcement. To comment or learn more, please visit