Ontario's transportation minister says it will be harder for people with suspended licences to take to the road once the tougher penalties the province introduced last year take effect this fall.
The tightening of sanctions against suspended drivers, including the immediate, seven-day impoundment of their vehicles, was part of several amendments to the Highway Traffic Act passed in April 2009.
Kathleen Wynne's comments Tuesday come one day after CBC News aired a report in which it caught on camera a handful of men driving mere minutes after having their licences suspended in court.
About 75 per cent of the province's nearly 270,000 suspended drivers are still on the road, according to the Ministry of Transportation and traffic safety groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving and the Ontario Safety League.
"There will be tougher regulations around police officers' ability to impound cars at the side of the road," Wynne said Wednesday of the new penalties to be enacted this fall. "So, you know, you run the risk if you do this that your car is going to be taken away from you."
The bill that introduced the tighter penalties on suspended and drunk dirvers was dubbed Greg's Law in honour of Ontario Provincial Police Sgt. Greg Stobbart.
Stobbart died in June 2006 after he was struck by a car while riding his bicycle off-duty in Milton, Ont. The driver of the car had five convictions for driving with a suspended licence.
Under the amended Highway Traffic Act, repeat offenders could face fines of up to $50,000. Once enacted, the new regulations will give police the ability to impound a vehicle for seven days if they find that the person behind the wheel has a suspended licence.
'People need to be more aware'
Stobbart's widow, Eleanor McMahon, who pushed for the changes, said confiscation of vehicles has been shown to have a major impact on driver behaviour.
"When this law has been implemented — and it's now on the books in six other provinces — it's been highly successful because [of] the inconvenience at the loss of the car," McMahon told CBC News on Tuesday.
"And that's really what changes these long-standing behaviours for people who really disregard the law, thumb their nose at the justice system, don't feel like the law applies to them and get behind the wheel of the car."
CBC News went to a courtroom in east Toronto last week and encountered some of the offenders McMahon is talking about: individuals who drove away minutes after being served with licence suspensions. One man, Andrew Roxburgh, had 34 driving convictions, including nine different suspensions.
"What's really good about this story being made public is that people need to be more aware that this is an issue," Wynne said.
McMahon, meanwhile, urged the Liberal government not to wait until the fall to begin enforcing the new regulations.