Earning demerit points in Ontario is no laughing matter. It won't just lead to an awkward encounter with law enforcement. Build up enough and it can lead to driving suspensions - some lasting as long as two years.
For most of us, that would spell financial disaster. Not to mention the impact on our social and family lives. When the winter closes in, not being able to get in the car presents a huge headache.
It doesn't have to be that way. We'll examine exactly what demerit points are, and exactly how to keep your driving record clean.
What Are Demerit Points in Ontario?
Demerit points are put on your license when you violate the rules of the road. They are like strikes against your license. If you have a few, the consequences will be limited. The more you build, the more serious the repercussions.
Demerit points in Ontario are different for new drivers and more experienced ones. New or novice drivers who have a G1, G2, M1, M2, M1-L or M2-L license face more serious penalties for collecting few points.
Everybody's license starts with zero points, and it should be everybody's aim to keep it that way. If you are convicted of breaking traffic laws, demerit points will be added. Demerit points will remain on your driving record for two years from the date of the offense. You can't 'lose' your demerit points - but if you collect enough, you can lose your license.
It's good to note that while we're discussing demerit points in Ontario, you can still collect them driving elsewhere. Demerit points will be added to your license for driving law violations in any part of Canada. Additionally, there are reciprocal arrangements in place with the State of New York and the State of Michigan in the United States.
How Many Demerit Points Do I Have?
To check the number of demerit points on your license, you'll need to order a common 3-year driver record. Make sure you order this rather than the driver's license history - this does not include details of demerit points.
This can be ordered online, in person or by mail or fax from the Ontario Ministry of Transportation. The record will cost $12 for an uncertified record and $18 for a certified one.
You may be required to order one of these reports when applying for car insurance, or when applying for a job. It will certainly be a requirement if the job involves driving, such as a courier job. Other employers may also ask to see it as part of their application process.
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What Kinds of Offenses Cause Me to Gain Demerit Points?
There are different numbers of demerit points attached to each offense, according to its severity. The lowest number of demerit points for a single offense is 2 and the highest is 7.
2 Demerit Points
Two demerit points are the lowest amount that can be applied to your license. You will receive them if convicted of:
- Making improper or prohibited turns
- Towing people - for example, on a sled, bicycle, or skis
- Driving unnecessarily slowly
- Backing up on a highway
- Failing to follow signs, signal properly, wear a seat belt, stop at a crossing
Demerit points also highlight the need for safety within the car. Failing to properly secure any passengers under 16 in the car will also result in two demerit points on your license.
3 Demerit Points
Three demerit points can be applied for offenses including:
- Speeding - going over the speed limit by 16 to 29 km/hour
- Holding or using a hand-held wireless communications device such as a cell phone while driving
- Viewing a display screen that is not related to driving
- Violating railway crossing barriers
- Failing to yield the right-of-way
- Driving on the wrong side of the road or on a closed road
- Failing to obey road signs - stop signs, traffic control signs, traffic lights, railway crossing signals
- Failing to obey a police officer
- Failing to report a collision to the police
- Failing to slow down and carefully pass stopped emergency vehicles or tow trucks with amber lights flashing
- Failing to move into another lane where possible to pass stopped emergency vehicles/tow trucks with amber lights flashing
- Improper overtaking or lane discipline
- Improper use of a high occupancy vehicle lane
Safety inside the car is again emphasized. If you crowd the driver's seat in your vehicle, you'll receive three demerit points.
4 Demerit Points
You will have 4 demerit points applied to your license if you are convicted of these more serious offenses: going over the speed limit by 30 to 49 km/hour or following another vehicle too closely.
6 Demerit Points
This level of demerit points will be applied for the following dangerous driving behavior:
- Careless driving
- Racing another vehicle
- Going over the speed limit by more than 50km/hour or more
- Failing to stop for a school bus
This is a level no one wants to reach for a single offense. At this point, the system is recognizing dangerous behavior.
7 Demerit Points
Seven demerit points are the highest number that can be applied for a single offense. However, multiple offenses will lead to higher numbers of points being accumulated.
Single offenses that attract 7 demerit points are:
- Not remaining at the scene of a collision
- Not stopping when signaled or asked by a police officer
These are the most serious offenses that are handling by the demerit system. More serious offenses such as impaired driving - while under the influence of drugs or alcohol - can lead to long driving bans and possibly jail time.
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What Penalties will I Receive for Demerit Points?
If you have a full license and receive between 2 and 8 demerit points, you'll receive a warning letter. For 9-14 points, you'll receive a second warning letter, giving pointed advice on improving your driving behavior.
If you have 15 or more points, your license will be suspended for an initial period of 30 days. You'll receive a letter informing you how to surrender your license. Fail to do so, and you can lose your license for up to two years.
If you're a novice driver, the points thresholds are lower. Get 2 to 5 points, and you'll get a letter. 6 to 8 points will trigger the second, stronger letter and 9 or more points will lead to your license being suspended for 60 days. Again, if you don't surrender it, you can lose your license for up to two years.
Novice drivers may also receive longer suspensions under the escalating penalties system. All drivers will need to pass their vision, written and road tests again before their license is returned to them.
Do Demerit Points Affect My Car Insurance?
The short answer is, Yes they can.
Demerit points become part of your driver's abstract. This is one of the factors that insurers take into consideration when calculating your renewal premium. Fewer or no demerit points indicate you're a safer driver, and thus a lower risk for insurers.
It's not possible to say exactly how much demerit points will impact your insurance premium. Two or three demerit points indicate a minor infraction, so would usually hike the premium by a lesser amount. It's safe to say that the higher the number of points or the more serious the infraction, the greater the impact.
If your insurance company comes to know about a serious infraction, they may even cancel your insurance. They won't be automatically informed by the government, but they can check at any time. You must also declare them when applying for insurance, otherwise, your policy could be cancelled.
How Long Do Demerit Points Last?
Demerit points remain on your driving record for two years. The start date of the two years is the date the offense occurred. This is true of demerit points from Ontario and those accrued in other provinces, territories or the US States of New York and Michigan.
If you have multiple convictions leading to demerit points being applied at different times, it can be tricky to keep track of them. The only accurate way to do this is by requesting your 3-year driver record from the Ministry of Transportation, as mentioned above.
You may wonder whether you can renew your driver's license with demerit points. The answer is that you can. The law in Ontario requires that all driver's licenses are renewed every 5 years. As long as your license has not been suspended, you will be able to renew it. The demerit points will remain on your license.
Safe Driving: Avoiding Demerit Points in Ontario
The goal of the system of demerit points in Ontario is to encourage safe driving. Everybody should have the same goal - to follow the rules of the road and keep ourselves, our passengers and other road users as safe as possible.
Keeping your license clean will make it much easier to access great deals on car insurance. Insurers like to work with drivers who are conscientious and safety-minded. You'll find it pays dividends in every respect to pay close attention when on the road.
At Insurdinary, we want to keep you and your family safe on the road. We have a wide range of resources to help you do so. The rest of our blog includes advice and tips on safety, health, and insurance. Also, be sure to head over to our auto insurance comparison tool. We'll help you find the right insurance for your needs from highly rated providers.