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Everything to know about your vehicles brakes

Brakes are an important safety feature on any vehicle.  From Bicycles to motorcycles all the way up to commercial motor vehicles like transport trucks that could be hauling hazardous materials, brakes are important.  Not only do brakes allow us to safely slow and stop our vehicles, but they are also the law.  

Every week day our friendly staff help people just like you with charges across Ontario and Quebec.  The first step is almost always information.  If you’ve been charged by the police, you’ll need to know what you’ve been charged with and what options you have.  Is your offence something that can reasonably be argued at court and will it be cost-effective to do so?  The court process can seem both intimidating and complex to the average Ontarian.  Fortunately, that is where a licenced and experienced paralegal can help you.  If you have been charged by the police, you can submit an online consultation request and one of our staff will get in touch with you to answer your questions as well as go through your case history and details with you.

This week we’re going to be looking at some of the law surrounding brakes under Ontario’s Highway Traffic Act.  What are the legal requirements for the type of vehicle that you drive?  Are those requirements different for different types of vehicles?  Are there legal requirements for maintaining the condition of your brakes?  What penalties could you be facing?  Are penalties different for commercial motor vehicle drivers?  These are all important questions to have answers to.

Let’s take a look!

What Are The Basic Brake Requirements In Ontario?

The basic brake requirements under Ontario’s Highway Traffic Act section 64(1) are as follows:

Brakes, two systems required

64 (1) Every motor vehicle, other than a motorcycle, when driven on a highway shall be equipped with at least two braking systems, each with a separate means of application and effective on at least two wheels, one of which shall be adequate to stop the vehicle as required by regulations made by the Ministry and the other of which shall be adequate to hold the vehicle stationary.  R.S.O. 1990, c. H.8, s. 64 (1).

Definitions

Highway Traffic Action Section 1(1)

highway” includes a common and public highway, street, avenue, parkway, driveway, square, place, bridge, viaduct or trestle, any part of which is intended for or used by the general public for the passage of vehicles and includes the area between the lateral property lines thereof; (“voie publique”)

motor vehicle” includes an automobile, a motorcycle, a motor assisted bicycle unless otherwise indicated in this Act, and any other vehicle propelled or driven otherwise than by muscular power, but does not include a street car or other motor vehicle running only upon rails, a power-assisted bicycle, a motorized snow vehicle, a traction engine, a farm tractor, a self-propelled implement of husbandry or a road-building machine; (“véhicule automobile”)

motorcycle” means a self-propelled vehicle having a seat or saddle for the use of the driver and designed to travel on not more than three wheels in contact with the ground, and includes a motor scooter, but does not include a motor assisted bicycle; (“motocyclette”)

While these requirements apply to motor vehicles in general, they do not apply to motorcycles. 

At least two separate braking systems are required to be present.  Each braking system must:

  • Have it’s own method of application, and,
  • Be effective on at least two wheels

The separate braking systems must have:

  • One system sufficient to stop the vehicle as required by government standards
  • One system sufficient to hold the vehicle stationary

If your non-motorcycle vehicle doesn’t meet these standards, you not only risk your personal safety and the safety of others, but you risk being charged by the police.

What Are The Brake Requirements For A Motorcycle In Ontario?

Under Highway Traffic Act section 64(2), motorcycles have the following brake requirements:

Motorcycles, etc.

(2) Every motorcycle, motor assisted bicycle or power-assisted bicycle when being driven on a highway shall be equipped with at least two braking systems, each with a separate means of application, with one effective on the front wheel and one effective on the rear wheel.  2009, c. 5, s. 29 (1).

Definitions

Highway Traffic Action Section 1(1)

motor assisted bicycle” means a bicycle,

(a) that is fitted with pedals that are operable at all times to propel the bicycle,

(b) that weighs not more than fifty-five kilograms,

(c) that has no hand or foot operated clutch or gearbox driven by the motor and transferring power to the driven wheel,

(d) that has an attached motor driven by electricity or having a piston displacement of not more than fifty cubic centimetres, and

(e) that does not have sufficient power to enable the bicycle to attain a speed greater than 50 kilometres per hour on level ground within a distance of 2 kilometres from a standing start; (“cyclomoteur”)

power-assisted bicycle” means a bicycle that,

(a) is a power-assisted bicycle as defined in subsection 2 (1) of the Motor Vehicle Safety Regulations made under the Motor Vehicle Safety Act (Canada),

(b) bears a label affixed by the manufacturer in compliance with the definition referred to in clause (a),

(c) is fitted at all times with pedals that are operable to propel the bicycle, and

(d) is capable at all times of being propelled on level ground solely by using muscular power to operate the pedals

Motorcycles are required to have two separate braking systems, each with their own separate means of application:

  • One effective for the front wheel, and,
  • One effective for the rear wheel

What Are The Brake Requirements For A Bicycle In Ontario?

Under Highway Traffic Act section 64(3), a bicycle is required to have brakes as follows:

Brakes on bicycle

(3) No person shall ride a bicycle on a highway unless it is equipped with at least one brake system acting on the rear wheel that will enable the rider to make the braked wheel skid on dry, level and clean pavement.  R.S.O. 1990, c. H.8, s. 64 (3).

Definition

Highway Traffic Action Section 1(1)

bicycle” includes a tricycle, a unicycle and a power-assisted bicycle but does not include a motor assisted bicycle; (“bicyclette”)

The requirements of brakes on a bicycle under this law are that:

  • At least one brake be present that acts on the rear wheel
  • The brake must be sufficient to cause the bicycle to skid on dry, clean, and level pavement

Does My Unicycle, Tricycle, or Power-Assisted Bike Require A Brake?

Despite the legal definition of a bicycle under Highway Traffic Act section 1(1) including unicycles, tricycles, and power-assisted bicycles, there is an exemption under Highway Traffic Act section 64(4):

Meaning of bicycle

(4) In subsection (3),

“bicycle” does not include a unicycle, tricycle or power-assisted bicycle.  2009, c. 5, s. 29 (2).

Unicycles, tricycles, and power-assisted bicycles are not required to have the brakes required by a regular bicycle.

What Are The Brake Requirements For A Trailer Or Semi-Trailer?

The legal requirements under Highway Traffic Act section 64(5) apply to trailers or semi-trailers with a gross weight of 1,360 kg or more:

Trailer or semi-trailer

(5) Every trailer or semi-trailer having a gross weight of 1,360 kilograms or more shall be equipped with brakes adequate to stop and to hold the vehicle.  R.S.O. 1990, c. H.8, s. 64 (5).

The legal requirements of those brakes is simply defined as “adequate to stop and to hold the vehicle.”

Is That All That I Need To Know About Vehicle Brakes?

Unfortunately not.  The laws under HTA section 64 cover the basics of brake requirements.  The provision for other exemptions or requirements to be made by the government is provided under Highway Traffic Act section 64(6) as follows:

Additional brakes

(6) The Lieutenant Governor in Council may make regulations,

(a) requiring vehicles or any type or class thereof to be equipped with brakes or braking systems in addition to the brakes required by subsection (1), (2), (3) or (5);

(b) prescribing the standards and specifications of brakes and braking systems or any class or type thereof that are required by this section or regulations made under clause (a);

(c) exempting any person or class of persons or any class of bicycles from subsection (3) and prescribing conditions for any such exemption.  R.S.O. 1990, c. H.8, s. 64 (6).

Unfortunately the Highway Traffic Act is not the sole, exhaustive legal document regarding the specifications and use of braking systems.  A licenced and experienced paralegal can can help guide you through the more involved elements of those requirements and exemptions.

Do I Legally Need To Maintain The Condition Of My Brakes?

Yes.  Under Highway Traffic Act section 64(7), your legal responsibility is as follows:

Condition of brakes

(7) All such brakes and braking systems shall be maintained in good working order and shall conform to the regulations made under this section.  R.S.O. 1990, c. H.8, s. 64 (7).

Your legal obligations are to ensure that:

  • The brakes are maintained in good working order
  • The brakes conform to the regulations set out by the government

Could I Face Higher Penalties At Court If I Am A Commercial Motor Vehicle Driver?

Yes.  Generally a non-commercial motor vehicle driver would face a set fine of $85.00 plus a $5.00 court fee plus the victim fine surcharge for a conviction under one of the subsections of HTA s.64.  This would result in a total-payable fine of $110.00.  A full listing of set fines by offence can be found here.

However, commercial motor vehicle drivers are subject to much higher court fines under Highway Traffic Act section 64(9) as follows:

Penalty

(9) Every person who contravenes subsection (1), (5) or (7) or a regulation made under subsection (6) is guilty of an offence and, if the offence was committed by means of a commercial motor vehicle or any trailer within the meaning of subsection (5) that is drawn by a commercial motor vehicle, on conviction is liable to a fine of not less than $400 and not more than $20,000.  1996, c. 20, s. 14; 2014, c. 9, Sched. 2, s. 23.

A conviction could result in a maximum court fine of $20,000.00.  Once the victim fine surcharge has been included, that amount would increase to a total-payable fine of $25,000.00.

What Should I Do If I’m Charged By The Police?

Vehicle braking systems are important.  Not only do they keep you and others safe, but they are the law in Ontario.  Every day Ontario’s OPP and various regional police services are out on the roads enforcing the law.  Commercial motor vehicle drivers face extra scrutiny in being required to stop at inspection stations operated by Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation (MTO).  Hopefully any problems with your vehicle’s braking system are caught and corrected before it comes to the attention of the police or results in an accident.

However, if you are charged by the police you’re going to need to make a number of important decisions about what to do.  The consequences of those decisions may impact your life for years into the future.  A hasty decision to simply enter a plea of guilt and pay the ticket means that you will be convicted and face any court penalties as well as any impact to your licencing, insurance, and employment.  If you later regret that decision, your legal options will then be fewer and more expensive.  It’s always best to seek out information about what you’ve been charged with and what your options are as early as possible after having been charged by the police.

Our friendly staff are here to help you.  We offer a no-cost, no-obligation initial consultation to talk with you and go through your case history and details.  We can be reached via our toll-free number 1-844-647-6869, by email at info@otdlegal.ca, or by text at 226-240-2480.  You can also submit an online consultation request any time of day or night and one of our staff will contact you during regular business hours to assist you.

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