Local effort to curb stunt driving fuels provincial campaign

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A local effort to curb speeding on the Bruce Peninsula has spawned a provincial campaign aimed at tackling stunt driving on Ontario’s roads.

The newly formed Regional Road Safety Committee (RRSC), established in response to Bruce Peninsula Safe Communities’ work to address excessive speed concerns on Highway 6 north of Wiarton, is launching the DRIVES (Driving Responsibly In Vehicles Everywhere Safely) campaign to raise awareness about the financial consequences of a stunt driving charge.

“We wanted to get a message out to local drivers and drivers across the province that stunt driving has a serious economic impact on the driver and their family,” said United Way of Bruce Grey executive director Francesca Dobbyn, who is co-chair of RRSC.

The committee, which includes representatives from the Ministry of Transportation, OPP, Peel Regional Police, Bruce and Grey counties, trauma centres in London and Windsor and public health units, has received a $5,000 MTO grant, $5,000 from donors and partners and in-kind creative support from Owen Sound-based Avenue A Advertising to create and deliver the DRIVES campaign.

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Dobbyn said the plan is to primarily target the demographic that tends to be charged most often with stunt driving, which local police data shows is men aged 16 to 30 from the Greater Toronto Area. Locally, many of the charged high-milers were rushing to get to reservations aboard the Chi-Cheemaun, to parks or campgrounds, she said.

To reach those individuals, the committee used its funding to create a 30-second audio commercial that it plans to run on music-streaming services such as Spotify.

The funding also paid for a print advertisement, with similar “don’t pay the price” and “speed kills” messaging, that the committee plans to run in tourism magazines and brochures.

“We’re trying to get the message into the ears and eyes of the people that are doing this,” Dobbyn said.

The committee plans to also run the commercial on local radio stations and the advertisement in publications in popular tourism areas such as Tobermory.

But the commercial can also be used by organizations and police services in other regions of the province who are able to secure funding for radio spots on local stations, she said.

The print ad, which includes 2020 stunt driving statistics for the Bruce Peninsula, can be tailored to suit other regions and markets as well.

“The awareness campaign can be flavoured locally as well as flavoured provincially,” Dobbyn said.

The campaign will use the hashtag #dontpaytheprice to drive home the message that stunt drivers will have their vehicles towed away and impounded for seven days, face fines of least $1,200 and see increases to their insurance rates.

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Bruce Peninsula Safe Communities began discussions to improve the safety of Highway 6 in Northern Bruce Peninsula following a head-on collision near Miller Lake Road that killed four people in 2017. Excessive speed was identified as a factor.

The United Way of Bruce Grey was involved from the start, Dobbyn said, and is the “legal entity” of the committee and the organization that receives donations and applies for grants to support its work.

Since 2017, the committee has purchased two SpeedSpys that enable the OPP to collect data, like speed and time of day, to better deploy their services, along with signs that warn drivers to slow down, including a large roadside sign that features a running tally of the number of stunt drivers charged so far each year on Highway 6 north of Wiarton.

The MTO and OPP have also boosted enforcement efforts and implemented road safety improvements along that stretch of highway since 2017.

But stunt driving – defined as travelling 50 kilometres per hour or more over the posted speed limit – remains a problem on the Bruce Peninsula.

Police charged 190 drivers with stunt driving on Highway 6 between Wiarton and Tobermory in 2019. That number climbed to 221 in 2020 despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

More than 12,000 drivers were charged with stunt driving across Ontario last year, including 333 in all of Grey-Bruce.

Dobbyn said the work of Bruce Peninsula Safe Communities came to the attention of other police services and injury prevention groups across the province.

“There was a discussion, pre-COVID, around broadening that campaign and that effort around stunt driving and injury and trauma prevention from the health side of things. And so the Regional Road Safety Committee was formed,” she said.

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