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Licence demerit system: Case in points

Monday, June 29, 2020 @ 11:17 AM | By Nathan Baker


Nathan Baker %>
Nathan Baker
Demerit points were introduced in Ontario in 1994 with O.Reg. 339/94 and O.Reg. 340/94.

While people often speak of “losing points” it is actually an accumulation of points that occurs. Points accrue based largely on the perceived seriousness of the offence. For example failing to remain at an accident or failing to stop when directed by police carries seven points; careless driving and stunt driving ring in at six; most issues with signage carry two or three points; and variable offences like speeding vary in the points depending on the severity of the offence. 

A fully licensed driver will receive notice from the Ministry of Transportation when they reach six, seven or eight points.  From nine to 14 points they may be required to attend an interview where they will be warned and may be required to explain why their licence should not be suspended. Generally contrition at such an interview and a promise to change one’s way is seen as significant and appropriate. Failing to attend the interview or failing to comply with the results of the interview can lead to a suspension. If a person reaches 15 demerit points, they will lose their licence. The first time they reach 15 then they will lose their licence for 30 days and six months the second time. Upon being suspended the points reduce down to seven.

For novice drivers a similar process exists but two to five points results in notification, six to eight in an interview and suspension at nine. The suspensions are 60 days and six months though and the points are reduced to four if they are still a novice driver upon reinstatement. 

A novice driver who is convicted of a single offence where the demerit points are four or more, even if no points are issued as a result of a suspension, will face a 30-day, 90-day or complete cancellation of their licence escalating on first, second and third offences. 

Novice drivers are also subject to zero blood alcohol conditions; limitations on times that they can drive; who is allowed in the vehicle, i.e., anyone beyond family members; and requirements to have a licensed driver in the passenger seat depending on the type of novice licence they have.

Demerit points expire, or rather are removed from the record, two years after the event which gave rise to them. Offences out of province do count and accrue demerit points. If multiple offences occurred at the same time such as no seatbelt and careless driving, only the more serious matter counts; i.e., it is not two-plus-six points but merely six. 

Commercial drivers are bound to a different points system with their Commercial Vehicle Operators Registration (CVOR) and while there are exceptions the points generally follow similar patterns of more points for more serious matters. CVOR points may accrue in matters that do not carry demerit points and can have significant impact on insurance and job availability for commercial drivers.

Young drivers (under 22) in Ontario are subject to further conditions, regardless of whether they are novice or fully licensed, including requirements to have a zero blood alcohol concentration and a zero blood drug concentration. Commercial drivers also face these requirements. An exemption for medical cannabis users exists but practically this often results in a burden on the driver to prove the medical need including evidence from a medical practitioner. 

Conditions based on age do not only affect the young. A driver who is age 70 or more and is involved in an accident will be required to take a driving test if they are convicted of any offence as a result of it. Anyone 80 or older is required to take an educational program and pass a brief test every two years to remain licensed.

While more serious matters tend to carry more demerit points this is not always the case. Sometimes the severity in the traffic law is overshadowed by outside factors like insurance consequences. For example, a novice driver who receives an infraction for blowing over the zero blood alcohol concentration may think paying the ticket is easiest as it will result in a 30-day suspension and small fine, the insurance consequences will be a 100 per cent surcharge.

Contrast this with stunt driving which may seem more serious but is classified as a major offence only resulting in a 15 to 25 per cent insurance surcharge according to the Insurance Bureau of Canada. Implications of convictions go well beyond the immediately obvious fines and demerit points.

Nathan Baker is a criminal defence lawyer in Peterborough, Ont., and is a sole practitioner at Nathan Baker LawHe takes special interest in impaired driving cases, especially those involving drug impaired driving and impaired boating. E-mail him at nathanbakerlaw@gmail.com.

Photo credit / mechanick ISTOCKPHOTO.COM

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