Ontario driving laws were written to encourage safe driving habits and penalize those who violate the rules of the road. Failure to follow these rules can be costly, both in dollars and in your freedom to drive in the province. In addition to the costly fines charged to law-breaking drivers, Ontario’s demerit point system can also penalize wayward drivers in a number of other ways. In this post, we will examine how Ontario’s demerit point system works and how long demerit points stay on record in Ontario.
Ontario demerit points: Frequently Asked Questions
What are demerit points in Ontario?
The vast majority of Ontario drivers obey the laws that govern driving in the province. However, there are always some who will break the traffic laws that govern our roads and highways. The demerit point system was developed as a way for the Ontario Ministry of Transportation to track which drivers are following the rules of the road and identify those who repeatedly violate the traffic laws.
Once these repeat offenders are identified, there are a number of actions that the province can take to reinforce good behaviours. These actions include:
- Sending warning letters to drivers who have begun accumulating demerit points
- Requiring the driver to attend an in-person interview with Ministry officials
- Suspending the driver’s license for a period ranging from 7-days to two years
- Cancelling their driver’s license
If a license is suspended, the driver may need to retake and pass any driver training, written tests or a driving test as determined by the Ministry.
It’s important to mention that penalties for repeat offenders increase dramatically, so it is a good idea to heed the Ministry’s warnings.
How do demerit points work?
Every Ontario driver starts with zero demerit points on their record. Demerit points are applied to your driving record when you break Ontario traffic laws. You can also receive demerit points if you receive traffic tickets in any other Canadian province as well as certain tickets received in the states of New York and Michigan.
Demerit points stay on your driving record for two years from the date of the conviction. This does not mean that the traffic conviction itself disappears from your record, as it will remain for three years from the date of the conviction.
There are some traffic tickets that do not result in demerit points. For example, if you receive an automated ticket, such as one issued by a red-light camera or automated speed camera. The main reason for this is that those violations are charged to the registered owner of the vehicle, as the driver is unknown. Similarly, you will not receive demerit points for exceeding the speed limit by 15 km per hour or less.
If you decide to fight the traffic ticket in court and are successful, any demerit point that would have been applied to your license is voided and will not appear on your driving record.
How are demerit points applied in Ontario?
Different types of traffic offences trigger different numbers of demerit points. The more serious the offence, the higher the number of demerit points applied to your driving record. An example of the points assigned to various offences is listed below. You can find the complete list of offences that trigger demerit points and the number that are applied under the Ontario Traffic Act on the Demerit Point System regulations page.
Two demerit points – The lowest number of demerits are reserved for offences that are relatively minor, such as failing to signal, improper turns, failure to obey signs and not wearing a seatbelt.
Three demerit points – Points increase for actions that make our roadways less safe. You will receive three demerit points for tickets such as exceeding the speed limit by 16-29 km per hour, improper passing, running a stop sign or improper use of a HOV lane.
Four demerit points – These violations include speeding by 39-49 km per hour, following too closely and failure to stop at a pedestrian crossing.
Six demerit points – These violations are considered very dangerous and are treated as such. This category includes careless driving, failure to stop for a school bus, stunt driving and exceeding the speed limit by 45 km per hour or more (40 km or more if the posted speed limit is less than 80 km per hour).
Seven demerit points – This is the highest number of demerit points the Ministry assigns and includes such criminal activities as failing to remain at the scene of an accident and failing to stop when a police officer signals you to do so.
How many demerit points can I have in Ontario?
The penalties for demerit points vary, depending on whether you are a new driver with a limited driver’s license or a more experienced driver.
New drivers – Defined as those with a G1 or G2 driver’s license, or an M1 or M2 motorcycle license, face harsher penalties than more experienced drivers. The penalties include:
Two to five demerit points will result in the driver receiving a warning letter from the Ministry of Transportation advising them to follow the rules of the road.
Six-eight demerit points will result in another letter from the Ministry and may require an in-person interview with Ministry officials where you will be asked to justify why you should keep your license.
Nine or more demerit points result in an automatic license suspension for 60 days and you will be told to surrender your license at the nearest Service Ontario Centre.
New drivers may also receive a license suspension or cancellation under Ontario’s escalating penalties program. This program targets new drivers who violate more serious traffic laws, with penalties for a first offence starting with a 60-day license suspension, a second offence resulting in a 90-day suspension and a third offence resulting in the cancellation of your license, forcing you to start the graduated licensing process again.
Experienced drivers – All other fully licensed drivers face penalties that are slightly less restrictive. These penalties include:
Six to eight demerit points will result in you receiving a warning letter from the Ministry.
Nine to 14 demerit points will result in a letter from the ministry and may demand that you attend an in-person interview with Ministry staff to justify why you should retain your driver’s license.
15 or more demerit points result in an immediate suspension and you will be asked to surrender your license at a Service Ontario centre. Failure to surrender your license can result in a suspension for up to two years.
Do demerit points affect my car insurance?
Demerit points are only used by the Ministry of Transportation and are not a tool that insurers use to determine your insurance premium. That said, insurers do look at your driving record and any recent traffic violations will affect your premium, regardless of whether demerit points were applied or not. To learn more about how traffic tickets affect your insurance premium, check out our blog post on the topic.