Demerit Points and Graduated Licences
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 7 points, careless driving and stunt driving ring in at 6, most issues with signage carry 2 or 3 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 6, 7 or 8 points. From 9-14 points they may be required to attend an interview where they will be warned and may be required to explain why their license 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 license. The first time they reach 15 then they will lose their license for 30 days and 6 months the second time. Upon being suspended the points reduce down to 7.
For novice drivers a similar process exists but 2-5 points results in notification, 6-8 in an interview and suspension at 9. The suspensions are 60 days and 6 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 4 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 license escalating on 1st, 2nd and 3rd offences.
Novice drivers are also subject to zero blood alcohol conditions, limitations on times that they can drive, who is allowed in the vehicle ie anyone beyond family members, and requirements to have a licensed driver in the passenger seat depending on the type of novice license they have.
Demerit points expire, or rather are removed from the record, 2 years after the even 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 ie it is not 2+6 points but merely 6.
Commercial drivers are bound to a different points system with their 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% surcharge. Contrast this with stunt driving which may seem more serious but is classified as a major offence only resulting in a 15-25% insurance surcharge according to the Insurance Bureau of Canada. Implications of convictions go well beyond the immediately obvious fines and demerit points.