Hot rodders with souped-up muscle cars start a street race in this still from The Need for Speed, a documentary filmed in Toronto. ((Canadian Press))

Convicted street racers could getlengthy prison sentences and lifetime driving bans under tough new penaltiesunveiled Thursdayby the Conservative government.

The proposed legislation was spurred by several recent deaths and injuriesin roadaccidentsacross the country.

If passed, it would specifically recognizestreet racing in assessing harsher penalties for a number of driving-related offences.

Incases wherestreet racing was involved,themaximum prison terms for the following driving offences would increase:

  • Dangerous driving causing bodily harm:raised to 14 yearsfrom 10years.
  • Dangerous driving causing death: raised tolifetime imprisonment from 14 years.
  • Criminal negligence causing bodily harm: raised to 14 yearsfrom 10years.

Drivers with repeated convictions for street racingcausing bodily harm would receiveautomatic two-year licence suspensions.Those with repeated convictions for racing causing deathwould face lifetime driving bans.


Two cars used in a street race and seized by police were destroyed by York Regional Police, Thursday. (CBC)

"Street racing is not about kids having fun," said Justice Minister Vic Toews in a statement. "It is a reckless and dangerous activity that has no place in Canadian communities."

In January, four menwere killed in a Vancouver crash blamed on street racing.

The same month, Tahir Khan, a 46-year-old immigrant from Pakistan, was killed in Toronto when a Mercedes-Benz slammed into his taxi. In that case, two teenagers were charged with criminal negligence causing death.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper first announced the proposed changes last month in Vancouver.

Critics of the proposed legislation have argued that existing sections of the Criminal Code can already be used to impose harsh sentences for street racing.

Racing a deadly activity: father

A Sudbury, Ont.,man whose 16-year-old son died in a suspectedstreet race in April said he supports the tougher penalties.

"The government needs to send a message that racing is deadly. It's a very serious activity with a deadly impact," said Daniel Herard.

Patrick Herard was riding his bicycle to a friend's house at about 8:30 p.m. on April 23 when he was hit from behind by a speeding car. He was killed instantly.

Police say two cars were racing down the residential street. Two teenagers face charges ofcriminal negligence causing death anddangerous driving causing death.

Daniel Herard,who is also a police officer,said the proposed law is a good first step, but said the government needs to develop education programs for teenagers about street racing.

Police crush street-racing cars

Armand La Barge, chief of police inYork Region north of Toronto, said he wholeheartedly supports the proposed legislation.

La Barge said he believes street racing is on the rise,noting "movies like The Fast and the Furious, the glorification of it on the internet, on videogames."

York Regional Police hadtwo street racing cars publicly crushedin Markham, Ont., on Thursday, where La Barge made his remarks.

The modified cars were seized in 2004 and 2005 after their drivers were stopped for speeding and dangerous driving.

"If [the new legislation] stops one individual from racing, if it saves one life or saves a family from going through the trauma of having to deal with somebody that's been injured in a street race, then quite frankly, it's worth it," said La Barge.

Police say 34 people have died as a result of street racing in the Greater Toronto Area since 1999.