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Careless Driving in Ontario

Cars, trucks, and motorcycles travel Ontario’s roadways every day.  Often times these vehicles can be at high rates of speed, navigating heavy traffic, or contending with poor road conditions.  Given all of these challenges, it is a surprising that more collisions don’t occur.  

Unfortunately, collisions do occur and when they do happen there can be legal problems.  Arguably the most common offence that we see the police issuing when there has been a collision, is Careless Driving.  That might not seem important to the average Ontarian.  The police gave you a ticket, so what?  Time to pay it and just move on.

However, that’s wrong. 

These are very serious charges that can result in large court fines, loss of licence, imprisonment, demerit points, and result is serious problems for insurance.  What would you do if you lost your licence or couldn’t find affordable automobile insurance?  The consequences are life altering.

Let’s take a look!

What is Careless Driving?

Careless driving falls under Ontario’s Highway Traffic Act (HTA) section 130.  There are two sections under which a driver can be charged.  The first definition, which falls under HTA s.130(1), states:

130 (1) Every person is guilty of the offence of driving carelessly who drives a vehicle or street car on a highway without due care and attention or without reasonable consideration for other persons using the highway. 2017, c. 26, Sched. 4, s. 17.

The second section falls under HTA s.130(3) for cases which have specifically involved bodily harm or death:

(3) Every person is guilty of the offence of driving carelessly who drives a vehicle or street car on a highway without due care and attention or without reasonable consideration for other persons using the highway and who thereby causes bodily harm or death to any person. 2017, c. 26, Sched. 4, s. 17.

The term “without reasonable consideration” is defined under HTA s.130(5):

Deemed lack of reasonable consideration
(5) For the purposes of subsections (1) and (3), a person is deemed to drive without reasonable consideration for other persons using the highway if he or she drives in a manner that may limit his or her ability to prudently adjust to changing circumstances on the highway. 2017, c. 26, Sched. 4, s. 17.

The definitions here are incredibly concerning due to their ambiguity and generality.  This may be one reason why the police will generally issue this charge when there has been a collision:  it virtually covers anything that could have lead to a collision. 

The first definition is driving “without due care and attention.”  This is certainly straight forward, if not also very unspecific:  was the driver paying attention to driving their vehicle?  Generally a momentary inattention such as checking mirrors or changing the radio station wouldn’t meet this definition.  But where does that line get drawn and how will the court rule on those facts at trial?

The second definition is a lack of reasonable consideration.  This is defined as driving “in a manner that may limit his or her ability to prudently adjust to changing circumstances on the highway.”  Re-read that definition again and take a moment to think about it.  There is a very important word in there which is the word “may.” 

This definition does require that some driving behaviour actually did result in limiting “his or her ability to prudently adjust to changing circumstances on the highway”.  Only that it may have (could have, might have, might potentially have, etc).  That’s a big door of legal liability to open up for Ontario drivers.  Safe roads are important.  But this definition could be literally anything that may impact their ability to adjust to changing roadway circumstances.  Is driving towards the sun without sunglasses careless?  Could singing along to a favourite song on the radio be careless?  Could driving while being upset or preoccupied be careless?  

Once a charge has been issued by the police.  It falls upon the defendant to go to court to argue their defence.  That can mean stress, legal expenses, and facing serious penalties.  But what are the consequences of a careless driving conviction?

What Are The Court Penalties For Careless Driving?

It depends.  There are two ways that the police will generally issue a careless driving offence.

The simplest version is getting a ticket.  These cases go to a Municipal Prosecutor at court who will argue why you should be convicted.  Tickets list a set fine and a total payable fine ($490.00 total payable fine).  However, a ticket does not show how many demerit points the offence carries or whether pleading guilty will result in a suspension of your driver’s licence.

The more serious version of a careless driving offence is one issued by way of a summons.  These charges go to a Provincial Crown Prosecutor at court and are generally much more involved than a simple ticket.  A summons does not list a specific fine as the fine must be determined by the court.  The summons will also list the time and place of your first appearance hearing which must be attended by either yourself or your legal representative.

The penalties at court for a charge issued by way of a summons, depend on whether you were charged with a simple careless driving offence or one which included bodily harm or death.  For simple careless driving offences under HTA s.130(1), the penalties that can be issued by the court are:

(2) On conviction under subsection (1), a person is liable to a fine of not less than $400 and not more than $2,000 or to imprisonment for a term of not more than six months, or to both, and in addition his or her driver’s licence or permit may be suspended for a period of not more than two years. 2017, c. 26, Sched. 4, s. 17.

For cases which have involved bodily harm or death and have been issued under HTA s.130(3), the court penalties are:

(4) On conviction under subsection (3), a person is liable to a fine of not less than $2,000 and not more than $50,000 or to imprisonment for a term of not more than two years, or to both, and in addition his or her driver’s licence or permit may be suspended for a period of not more than five years. 2017, c. 26, Sched. 4, s. 17.

It is important to note that the fines described in these two sections are also subject to an additional victim fine surcharge as follows:

Fine Range ($)

Surcharge ($)

0-50

10

51-75

15

76-100

20

101-150

25

151-200

35

201-250

50

251-300

60

301-350

75

351-400

85

401-450

95

451-500

110

501-1000

125

Over 1000

25% of actual fine

This could lead to a worst-case scenario of a $2,500.00 or $62,500.00 maximum total-payable fine for a simple or injury/fatality-based careless driving conviction respectively.  These are enormous fines for an average person.

How Many Demerit Points Will I Get For Careless Driving?

Demerit point penalties can range anywhere from 0 demerit points for very minor offences up to 7 demerit points for the most serious offences.  Careless driving carries one of the highest possible MTO penalties at 6 demerit points.  For novice drivers, this can also lead to escalated sanctions penalties being issued by the MTO on top of the other penalties that they are already facing.

What Are Escalated Sanctions Penalties For Novice Drivers?

Novice drivers are drivers who do not yet have a full licence.  A novice driver includes someone with a licence such as G1, G2, M1, M2, M2-L or M2-M.  The various conditions under which a novice driver can be issued escalated sanctions penalties includes:

  • convicted of breaking graduated licencing rules
  • convicted of a Highway Traffic Act offence that results in four or more demerit points (e.g., street racing, careless driving)
  • subject to a court-ordered suspension for a Highway Traffic Act offence that would have otherwise resulted in four or more demerit points

As careless driving carries a 6 demerit point penalty upon conviction, it is the second condition listed about that would trigger escalated sanctions.

The actual penalty issued by the MTO is as follows:

  • For a first offence: your driver’s licence is suspended for 30 days.
  • For a second offence: your driver’s licence is suspended for 90 days.
  • For a third offence: you will lose your novice licence.  You will need to re-apply for your licence and start all over, taking all tests and paying all fees. You will also lose any time discount you earned, any time you were credited, and any fees you have paid.

 What CVOR Points Would I Get As A Commercial Motor Vehicle Driver?

Commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers, such as transport truck drivers, have to be incredibly careful of their driving record.  Not only does their driving record impact whether or not they can maintain their current employment, but it also impacts whether they can obtain new employment in the future.  

When a police officer includes the CVOR number of the driver’s employer on the offence notice, the driver has to be incredibly careful.  Not only are they facing a potential 6 demerit point record of conviction on their personal licence, but their employer is now also facing a potential 5 CVOR point record of conviction.  5 CVOR points is the highest possible penalty that can be issued for a conviction under the Highway Traffic Act and could result in the driver losing their employment.

Posted under Careless Driving, Traffic Ticket Defence

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