Many drivers have questions about the Demerit Point System in place in Ontario. This article will explain the laws, how they work, and the various ways that Demerit Points can affect your driving record.
PART ONE – THE BASICS
Demerit Point systems came into effect in Europe and North America in the mid-seventies as a way to track traffic convictions and offences on a cumulative basis. In Ontario, Demerits are additive, meaning that every driver begins with a clean driving record and zero points. Driving related offences are assigned points based on their severity and penalties are introduced once certain thresholds of total points have been surpassed.
In Ontario, the Demerit values for various driving offences range from two to seven points. While these values remain constant, their effect on the driver can change based on the level of driving experience and type of license held. For example, those drivers under the initial phases of Ontario’s Graduated Licensing program are held to stricter standards where supplemental discipline such as loss or suspension of a license occurs at a lower value than those holding a non-Graduated License.
While points-systems around the world are largely implemented and enforced on a Provincial or State basis, driving infractions incurred out-of-province or in another country can be enforced in the driver’s home jurisdiction. Such is the case in Ontario where driving infractions assumed elsewhere can result in Demerits, though the list of applicable offences is less exhaustive and generally focuses on more serious infractions such as Racing or Careless Driving. Additionally, Ontario drivers are also subject to potential Demerit Points for offences committed in the states of New York and Michigan.
Under Ontario’s Highway Traffic Act, Demerit Points are issued at the time of conviction, meaning that once a driver has been found guilty in a court of law or pleads to that effect by making payment towards the infraction in question, the point value for that offence will be applied to the driver’s record.
Lastly, the penalties for cumulative Demerits range from a warning letter to full license suspension for a minimum of 30 days. Ontario’s legislation allows for some subjectivity as those at risk for license suspension may be called to appear at an interview to discuss the driving offences in question and asked to provide reasoning as to why further sanctions should be avoided. Again, these point thresholds vary depending on the type of Driver’s license held and the experience of the driver.
Part Two – The Most Serious Offences
Many drivers still have questions about the Demerit Point System in place in Ontario. Here we’ll explain the laws and how they work, as well as various ways that Demerit Points can affect your driving record.
Let’s take a look at the eight most serious Demerit Point offences in Ontario. It is important to note that any Demerit Points issued against one’s driving record are by no means the full extent of the penalties a driver may potentially face for an infraction. Many of the highest-demerit point offences such as street racing or failing to remain at the scene of an accident can carry harsh penalties upon conviction including driver licence suspensions and vehicle impoundment. In some cases the demerit points, while still a serious matter, are the least of an offender’s worries.
Seven Demerit Points
7 Demerit points is the heaviest penalty an Ontario drive could potentially face under the Highway Traffic Act. These are the most common infractions were a driver would incur up to 7 demerit points on their driving record:
- Failing To Remain At The Scene Of A Collision – In Ontario, the law states that any driver involved in a collision must remain at (or immediately return to) the sense of the incident. Drivers are also obliged to provide details such as their names, address, licence and insurance numbers, to all involved parties. Additional penalties can include licence suspension up to two years, a $2,000 fine, and/or six months in prison.
- Failing To Stop When Signaled Or Asked By A Police Officer – Drivers that fail to obey directions from a Police Officer are subject to stiff penalties similar to those described above for Failing To Remain At The Scene Of A Collision.
Six Demerit Points
An Ontario driver could be charged up to 6 demerit points for the following infractions:
- Careless Driving – By far the most broadly-worded offence in the Highway Traffic Act, Careless Driving is generally applied to collisions and other situations in which due care or reasonable consideration for others has not been practiced. Careless drivers are also subject to fines and/or incarceration, but the vague wording of the law results in an extremely broad range of sanctions, determined on a case-by-case basis.
- Racing – Recent legislation has implemented a lower-threshold set of standards, which define ‘street racing’ or ‘stunt driving’ and its stiffened penalties. In Ontario, any driver caught racing is subject to roadside vehicle impoundment and several other severe sanctions such as licence suspension and fines of up to $10,000.
- Exceeding The Speed Limit By 50 km/hr Or More – Along with the racing and stunt offences above, drivers observed exceeding the speed limit by 50km/hr or more are subject to immediate roadside vehicle impoundment. Excessive speeders in this category are also usually charged with a stunt driving/racing offence in addition to the speeding charge.
- Failing To Stop For A School Bus – While the penalty for failure to stop at red lights, stop signs, and railroad crossings is three points, situations involving dangerous or careless activity around a school bus will result in little leniency.
Four Demerit Points
An Ontario driver could be charged up to 4 demerit points for the following infractions:
- Exceeding The Speed Limit By 30 To 49 km/h – Demerit points for speeding begin at three points for driving 16-29km/hr over the posted limit but increase to 4 points from 30 to 49 km/hr.
- Following Too Closely – If you follow a vehicle more closely than is reasonable without having due regard for the speed of the vehicle, the traffic on the roadway and the conditions of the highway, you could be charged and if convicted with 4 demerit points.
Part Three – Demerit Point Penalties In-Depth
Now we’ll be looking at the penalties for Demerit Point offences in more detail. As mentioned in part one, the Demerit Point system functions in a cumulative manner, with every driver beginning with zero points and a clean record. Points are then applied for offences under the Highway Traffic Act.
Penalties for Demerit Points are applied when a driver reaches certain thresholds of accumulation, with stiffer penalties for higher totals. Below is a breakdown of the penalty escalation system in effect currently in Ontario:
- 6-8 Points / 2-5 Points (New Drivers) – Drivers will receive a warning letter informing them that further points could result in an in-person interview to determine any further sanctions.
- 9-14 Points / 6-8 Points (New Drivers) – After reaching this threshold, the Ministry of Transportation has the right to suspend a licence based on the outcome of a mandatory in-person interview. Failure to show up for the scheduled meeting could also result in a suspension.
- 15+ Points / 9+ Points (New Drivers) – If at any time you reach 15 points or more, your licence will be automatically suspended for 30 days. New drivers reaching nine points and above are subject to double that amount, an automatic 60-day suspension.
As you can see, new drivers are given less leniency with regards to when penalties are subject to application. It should also be noted that all of the above suspension and penalty information relates only to first-time offenders. Accumulating subsequent points to warrant a second or further suspension will result in a mandatory six-month suspension.
This brings us to the aforementioned mandatory meeting with the Ministry of Transportation for those drivers with more than nine points (or six points for New Drivers). This is the only subjective aspect of the Demerit Point Penalty system and requires the driver in question to provide details as to why they should be allowed to continue holding a valid licence. If a suspension is levied the driver will be notified by mail of the dates of the suspension. Failure to appear for the scheduled meeting can result in an automatic suspension, while failure to surrender a licence which has been suspended can lead to an extension of the time the driver is under suspension.
When Are Demerit Points Are Applied?
Demerit points are only applied to an offender’s record at the time of conviction. This can occur with either a judgment at an in-person hearing, or upon the payment, signature, and processing of the originally issued ticket. All drivers have the right to contest their ticket in front of a judge, with or without assistance from legal counsel.
How Long Do Demerit Points Remain On A Driving Record?
Once convicted of an offence, Demerit Points remain in effect on the driver’s licence until two years from the offence date (date they received the ticket). At the end of the two year period the demerit points will be removed from the current cumulative count, but the record of the offence will remain on your driving record.
Lastly, if multiple violations occur as part of a single incident, demerit points are only applied for the one most serious charge. For example, if a driver is involved in a situation in which they are charged and convicted with Exceeding the Speed Limit by 30-49km/h (4 points), Following Too Closely (4 points), and Careless Driving (6 points), the driver would only face the most serious penalty of those offences – six points – as opposed to the cumulative amount for each offence – in this case 14 points.