This isn't a normal find and tackle mission. McKnight isn't driving a new "black and white" cruiser: he's behind the wheel of an unmarked Chevy Impala, with tinted windows and a spoiler on the tail. If street racers want to tear past at 180 km/h, this car is designed to catch them in the act.
But tonight, despite all the media hype of long weekends being extra dangerous in terms of extreme driving, the highways are quiet.
"Last night, we had a motorcyclist crash at high speeds," says McKnight, noting the young man was reported to be travelling in excess of 180 km/h.
Four other motorcycles were pulled over on the QEW for speeds of up to 200 km/h. "That would have been a good night to see aggressive drivers; there were a lot."
Tonight, the police scanner is going full tilt: "MC (motorcycle) called in driving at high speeds on the 400" ... "an Acura and a Jeep racing on the 404" ... "253 (drunk driver)"...
We cruise the highways for nearly half of McKnight's 12-hour shift, but there are no racers or extreme drivers in our path.
At the beginning of the year, OPP Commissioner Julian Fantino issued an open letter to Ontarians: "Beginning now, on a province-wide basis, OPP officers will be unrelenting in their pursuit of aggressive and irresponsible drivers," he wrote. "Every day, 24-7, OPP officers will be deployed in an all-out effort to put an end to the senseless carnage."
Although you might not always see them, the OPP's 1,500 vehicles are everywhere. And even when they are not, Big Brother is still watching. That family in the Corolla you just sped by at 160 km/h? Someone in that car just dialled *OPP (*677), and officers will be looking for you down the road.
Six people died on OPP-patrolled roads over the Canada Day weekend, four as a result of speeding. And officers stopped two separate groups of street racers on Monday afternoon, heading southbound on the 400.
As of Wednesday, there had been 225 traffic deaths on OPP roads so far this year, compared with 186 at this time last year – despite the fact OPP officers have issued 21,986 more speeding tickets in the first six months of this year than last.
Before he became a constable five years ago, McKnight worked as a mechanic. So when he's not patrolling the highways, his other role with the OPP is forensic mechanic: investigating whether or not a crash was due to mechanical failure.
But more often than not, he says, crashes are caused by aggressive driving. The OPP puts the number at 80 per cent.
There's a difference between aggressive driving and street racing, although the latter falls under the "aggressive" umbrella. The OPP are targeting three main areas to make Ontario highways safer: aggressive driving, drunk drivers and those not wearing seat belts.
Although McKnight hasn't spotted any racers, there are lots of bad things happening on the road Saturday night.
North of Canada's Wonderland on Highway 400, the driver of a minivan is angry that a passing motorist did not move over to let her change lanes when hers was ending. The van driver flashes her headlights; we pull her over for aggressive driving.
"Your eyes have to refocus after you've been flashed," explains McKnight. "When you're getting hit in the eyes by headlights flashing in your mirror, it's a potentially dangerous situation."
A Grand Am passes McKnight's unmarked cruiser at 140 km/h. He follows it for a kilometre or so, then triggers the hidden flashing lights to announce his presence.
"The first thing I'll ask is, `Why were you going that fast?' It's not because I want to laugh at the reason but because if your child is ill or your father is on his deathbed, I'll help – I'll escort you," he says.
This driver doesn't want to talk to McKnight at all. Not a word. She hands over her licence, insurance and registration. He hands over a ticket.
In 2004, the OPP formed a partnership with the Ohio State Highway Patrol to study the road safety tactics of that U.S. organization.
"We wanted to take a look at the best practices, not just across Canada, but across North America," says Bill Grodzinski, chief superintendent and commander of the OPP's highway safety division.
"Whenever we asked about the best, we heard California Highway Patrol, Ohio State Highway Patrol and the New York State Police," he says. "We had members go down to Ohio and, from that very first meeting, it just clicked."
Ohio reported its safest road record ever last year, and strives for one death per 100 million vehicle miles travelled.
Ohio's strategy focused on three things: seat belt enforcement, aircraft-patrolled radar and a program called LifeStat 1.0, which identifies "hot spots" and assigns more police patrols to those highways.
The OPP has also focused on seat-belt enforcement and pinpointing hot spots to stop aggressive drivers. But aircraft patrols, which the force used from 1965 to 1981, remain a hot topic.
"We would not bring back aircraft patrol for the sole purpose of stopping speeders; it's about catching aggressive drivers, street racers and extreme drivers," says Grodzinski.
"It wouldn't be just for pulling people over at 15 or 20 km/h over the speed limit. It would focus very clearly on criminal driving behaviour, and those activities that are taking lives and causing serious injuries on Ontario highways."
Back in the cruiser, McKnight is patrolling the 407, 401 and 400 highways.
Even though he's in the unmarked black Impala, no drivers are moving more than 15 or 20 km/h over the limit.
McKnight's car isn't equipped with radar but the speedometer is calibrated and certified, so he can determine how fast a vehicle is travelling by tailing it for a few kilometres.
How fast is too fast? "It depends on the situation, if traffic is heavy or light, time of day, day of the week and location," he says.
If you're going over the posted limit, you're speeding. But if you're travelling on a major highway at, say, 1 a.m., at less than 120 km/h and not doing anything too stupid to catch the eye of an officer, you're likely okay.
But if you're driving at 100 km/h and drifting to the left and right, you're going to attract police attention: Inside the Hyundai are five young men, aged 17 and 18, from Montreal. They drove to Wasaga Beach the night before and decided to drive home 24 hours later.
The constable asks if they have open alcohol in the vehicle; they produce four bottles. When backup arrives and the car is searched, the number of bottles doubles.
The driver claims he hasn't had anything to drink – and he's telling the truth. He blows 0.0 on a Breathalyzer test. The poor driving – considered aggressive – was likely caused by distractions from the passengers and a lack of sleep.
The driver gets two tickets: one for open alcohol and the other for being a minor in possession of alcohol. This trip will be tough to explain to his parents.
At the end of the night, McKnight stresses that this was an unusual shift.
He didn't chase, or even see, any street racers in action. But there were still many aggressive drivers on the road.
The next night, a Mazda Miata allegedly racing a Grand Prix on Highway 401 crashed into the back of a car carrying a couple heading up to Wonderland to watch the Canada Day fireworks.
So on a long weekend that began with a high-speed motorcycle crash on Friday night, followed by a deadly crash on Sunday night, and ending with the arrests of two sets of street racers on Monday afternoon, this Saturday night was unusually quiet.