Insights & Articles
Recent Changes to the Highway Traffic Act
Bill 282 – known as the Moving Ontarians More Safely Act 2021 (“the MOMS Act”) – quietly crept into existence on July 1, 2021. It has implemented various amendments to the Highway Traffic Act (“HTA”) in order to crack down on street racing and stunt driving, as well as other amendments aimed at protecting young drivers and vulnerable road users.
These changes are welcomed by advocates who hope that they will deter dangerous driving behaviours while promoting greater safety on Ontario roads.
What is Considered Street Racing and Stunt Driving?
Under the HTA, racing and stunt driving is illegal. This dangerous driving is a leading cause of death and injury on highways. In Ontario, licence suspensions relating to street racing and stunt driving have increased by 130% between 2013 and 2019, and have risen by an additional 52% during the COVID-19 pandemic between March and August 2020, in comparison to the same period in 2019. 
Drivers who travel more than 50km/h above the posted speed limit are considered to be stunt driving, subject to penalties under the HTA. The MOMS Act has amended the HTA to also define stunt drivers as drivers who are travelling more than 40km/h over the speed limit on roads where the posted speed limit is under 80km/h. These drivers will now be subject to the same penalties under the HTA.
Harsher Penalties for Street Racing and Stunt Driving
A person convicted of street racing and stunt driving will face harsh penalties, including fines between $2,000 and $10,000 and/or possible imprisonment of up to 6 months. Further, with recent amendments to the HTA, a convicted driver will now face a mandatory suspension of their driver’s license for 1-3 years upon first conviction, 3-10 years upon second conviction, and indefinitely upon a third conviction.
The MOMS Act also provides Ontario police officers with broad discretion to request drivers to surrender their driver’s license for 30 days and to immediately detain the driven vehicle to be impounded for 14 days if they reasonably believe on probable grounds that the driver was street racing or stunt driving.
Finally, the HTA has been amended to include an offence that any person who obstructs or interferes with a police officer in the performance of the officer’s duties will be subject to a fine between $200 and $5,000, and/or imprisonment of up to 6 months.
Protecting Vulnerable Road Users and Young Drivers
Holding Drivers Accountable for Dooring
In an effort to protect Ontario’s most vulnerable road users, amendments have been made to the HTA specifying that a motor vehicle is considered to be involved in an accident if any open door of the vehicle comes into contact with a cyclist, a bicycle or a moving vehicle, even if the motor vehicle is stationary, stopped or parked. Accidents which involve dooring must now be reported to the nearest police officer.
E-Bikes now Defined
The HTA has also been amended to define three different types of power-assisted bicycles (“e-bikes”), including bicycle-style, mopeds and motorcycle-style. These e-bikes are defined as possessing two to three wheels with steering handlebars, have pedals that are always operable while the e-bike is in use, and are capable of being propelled solely with muscular power with the pedals. They also possess one or more electric motors that do not exceed 500 watts and are incapable of propelling the bicycle over 32km/h. “Bicycle-style” e-bikes weigh less than the “moped” or the “motorcycle-style” bikes.
The minimum age to drive an e-bike has now been reduced from 16 years of age to 14 years. On highways, operators of “bicycle-style” e-bikes must be over the age 14 years, and operators of “moped” or “motorcycle-style” e-bikes must be over the age of 16. Finally, parents or guardians of those under the age of 16 who operate a “bicycle-style” e-bike must ensure that the person is wearing a helmet while operating the e-bike on the highway.
Advocating for Your Legal Rights
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This article was written by Personal Injury Lawyer Judith Hull & Summer Student Chanele Rioux-McCormick.