What’s your reaction when served with a traffic ticket?
“Darn! You got me! How do I pay and be rid of this problem?”
“Okay, I know what I did, BUT I want to explain! Can I maybe get this reduced?”
“I want to fight this! I don’t believe I did anything wrong!”
- What are demerit points?
- Do drivers get these when first licensed in Ontario?
- As a driver, are points taken away from you when you are convicted?
- Are demerit points identified on the traffic ticket given to you?
- Who determines how many points are assigned to my traffic violation(s)?
- Are the consequences the same for all license classifications?
- As a licensed driver in Ontario, why is it important to understand demerit points?
- What can I do to minimize/avoid this penalty?
The name itself can be unsettling. When I think of the word ‘merit’, I think of an award, an acknowledgment for doing something good. I interpret ‘de’-merit as something punishable, taken away from me as a penalty for doing something bad.
There is a misconception made by many drivers who believe that licensed drivers are provided with a standard amount of demerit points when they obtain their license. In fact, you do NOT lose demerit points on your driving record when convicted of an offence; rather you start with zero points and gain them (they are added to your driving record) based on the severity of certain offences and if convicted. These points will accumulate over time should you be convicted of additional violations that have a penalty of demerit points.
The amount of demerit points assigned to an offence is determined by the Ministry of Transportation, not the court. The points are applied in accordance with the severity of the offence and if convicted, remain on the driver’s record for two years. The penalty applied is dependent on your license classification(s). Different license classifications are also considered when a suspension of your license is warranted. For example, a newly licensed driver would have their license suspended with fewer accumulated points than a fully licensed driver.
The points are generally not included on the ticket/certificate and/or summons you receive when charged. However, the infraction is identified. You may gather full details regarding demerit points under the Highway Traffic Act which can be found on the government website under the Highway Traffic Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. H.8
Many drivers are willing to plead guilty to the infraction and pay the required fine but ask the court not to consider the points associated with the offence if convicted. The court has no authority over the amount or allocation of demerit points. However, the driver or his agent may have the opportunity to speak with the prosecutor to negotiate to a lesser charge which does not carry the demerit points penalty or perhaps a charge with a lesser demerit points penalty, if the driver is willing to plead guilty.
It is the type of convicted offence that impacts your auto insurance premiums. Should you receive too many demerit points, the Ministry can suspend your license and the insurance company is not obligated to provide you with insurance coverage. It also may be a challenge to find affordable auto insurance once your suspension is lifted. In addition, generally, your infraction remains on record for three years with your insurance company, rather than two years, on your driving record.