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New Year’s Eve – How Not To Lose Your Driver’s Licence

New Year’s Eve can see a lot of people out traveling on Ontario’s roadways to see friends and family and celebrate the arrival of the new year.  However, it can also see people running into trouble with the law.  There are a number of old laws, new laws, and changing laws that can result in the loss of your driver’s licence.  Let’s take a look at how we can keep New Year’s Eve fun and avoid any loss of your driver’s licence.

DRIVE WITH HANDHELD COMMUNICATION DEVICE

Cell phone charges have been around for a while in Ontario now and most people are aware that it is illegal to use (or even touch) a cell phone while driving.  Originally these charges carried 0 demerit points and then they were increased to 3 demerit point offences.  As of the writing of this article, the set fine for a conviction is $400.00 ($490 total payable fine) although technically to court fine could go up to $1000.  A conviction can also result in costly insurance problems.

Highway Traffic Act (HTA) section 78.1(1) plainly states that:

78.1 (1) No person shall drive a motor vehicle on a highway while holding or using a hand-held wireless communication device or other prescribed device that is capable of receiving or transmitting telephone communications, electronic data, mail or text messages.  2009, c. 4, s. 2; 2015, c. 27, Sched. 7, s. 18.

As of January 1, 2019, as the clock strikes midnight and people cheer in the arrival of the New Year, new penalties will come into effect:

(6.1) Every person who contravenes this section is guilty of an offence and on conviction is liable,

  1. for a first offence, to a fine of not less than $500 and not more than $1,000;
  2. for a first subsequent offence, to a fine of not less than $500 and not more than $2,000; and
  3. for a second subsequent or an additional subsequent offence, to a fine of not less than $500 and not more than $3,000. 2017, c. 26, Sched. 4, s. 16.

Same

(6.2) If a person is convicted of an offence under this section, the Registrar shall suspend his or her driver’s licence,

  1. for a first offence, for three days;
  2. for a first subsequent offence, for seven days; and
  3. for a second subsequent or an additional subsequent offence, for 30 days.  2017, c. 26, Sched. 4, s. 16.

Same

(6.3) An offence under this section committed more than five years after a previous conviction for an offence under this section is not a subsequent offence for the purposes of subsection (6.1) or (6.2). 2017, c. 26, Sched. 4, s. 16.

These changes represent a significant and incremental increase in court fines as well as a mandatory suspension of 3, 7, or 30 days.  If convicted, novice drivers (i.e. G1, G2, M1, or M2) will also be subject to escalated sanctions penalties as follows:

  • 30-day licence suspension for the first occurrence
  • 90-day licence suspension for the second occurrence
  • Licence cancellation and a requirement to re-apply for a G1/M1 after the third occurrence. Any fees paid, credit received for time spent in the program or BDE credit would be forfeited when the licence is cancelled. Please note that in the case of a hybrid driver, only the novice-class licence is cancelled on the third occasion; their full-class licence is maintained.

So, for New Year’s Eve…have a lot of fun and cheer in the new year!  Take lots of fun photos and selfies to post to social media.  But once you get behind the wheel to drive, make sure your cell phone is put away.  To keep yourself as safe as possible, secure your cell phone out of reach and inaccessible so there is no debate should you be stopped by the police.

NOVICE OR YOUNG DRIVERS AND ALCOHOL

Highway Traffic Act section 44.1 prohibits novice or young (21 years of age or younger) drivers from having a non-zero blood alcohol concentration (BAC):

Novice drivers

44.1 (1) It is a condition of the driver’s licence of every novice driver that his or her blood alcohol concentration level be zero while he or she is driving a motor vehicle on a highway.  2009, c. 5, s. 14.

Young drivers

(2) It is a condition of the driver’s licence of every young driver that his or her blood alcohol concentration level be zero while he or she is driving a motor vehicle on a highway.  2009, c. 5, s. 14.

The penalty for a conviction is as follows:

Penalty, novice drivers

(3) Every novice driver who contravenes the condition of his or her driver’s licence imposed under subsection (1) is guilty of an offence and on conviction is liable to a fine of not less than $60 and not more than $500.  2009, c. 5, s. 14.

[…]

Same, young drivers

(5) Every young driver who contravenes the condition of his or her driver’s licence imposed under subsection (2) is guilty of an offence and on conviction is liable to a fine of not less than $60 and not more than $500 and his or her driver’s licence is thereupon suspended for 30 days.  2009, c. 5, s. 14.

The reason that there is no suspension of licence listed for a novice driver, is due to the fact that a conviction would result in escalated sanctions penalties being applied for a suspension or cancellation of the driver’s licence.  If you’re legally able to drink, drink responsibly as you enjoy New Year’s Eve.  Just make sure that if you consumed ANY alcohol that you do not get behind the wheel to drive.  Take a taxi, bus, or Uber to your destination, or have a friend or family member drive you.  Failing to do so can result in you losing your licence!  Even sleeping for the night can still result in a non-zero BAC the next day if you consumed alcohol the previous evening.  

NOVICE OR YOUNG DRIVERS AND CANNABIS

Very similar to the above section regarding alcohol and novice or young drivers, consuming any cannabis and getting behind the wheel is also prohibited under HTA section 44.2:

Novice drivers

44.2 (1) It is a condition of the driver’s licence of every novice driver that there be no drug in his or her body, as indicated by approved drug screening equipment, while he or she is driving a motor vehicle on a highway. 2017, c. 26, Sched. 4, s. 5.

Young drivers

(2) It is a condition of the driver’s licence of every young driver that there be no drug in his or her body, as indicated by approved drug screening equipment, while he or she is driving a motor vehicle on a highway. 2017, c. 26, Sched. 4, s. 5.

The penalties upon conviction are the same as those involving alcohol:

Penalty, novice drivers

(4) Every novice driver who contravenes the condition of his or her driver’s licence imposed under subsection (1) is guilty of an offence and on conviction is liable to a fine of not less than $60 and not more than $500. 2017, c. 26, Sched. 4, s. 5.

[…]

Same, young drivers

(6) Every young driver who contravenes the condition of his or her driver’s licence imposed under subsection (2) is guilty of an offence and on conviction is liable to a fine of not less than $60 and not more than $500 and his or her driver’s licence is thereupon suspended for 30 days. 2017, c. 26, Sched. 4, s. 5.

While cannabis is now legal across Canada, if you are a young or novice driver you can lose your licence for driving while under the influence.  Even having been in proximity to other people smoking cannabis could result in a positive screening by the police and being charged.  If you are concerned that you might have come into contact with cannabis smoke, it may be prudent to arrange for another means of travel rather than driving yourself.

STUNT DRIVING

Stunt Driving falls under section 172(1) of the Highway Traffic Act:

172 (1) No person shall drive a motor vehicle on a highway in a race or contest, while performing a stunt or on a bet or wager.  2007, c. 13, s. 21.

For such a serious offence, this legal definition seems suspiciously brief and general.  If you thought that, you’re correct!  To get the actually legal definitions of these terms we have to turn to Ontario Regulation 455/07.

Race” or “contest” is defined as follows:

  • Driving two or more motor vehicles at a rate of speed that is a marked departure from the lawful rate of speed and in a manner that indicates the drivers of the motor vehicles are engaged in a competition.
  • Driving a motor vehicle in a manner that indicates an intention to chase another motor vehicle.
  • Driving a motor vehicle without due care and attention, without reasonable consideration for other persons using the highway or in a manner that may endanger any person by,
    1. driving a motor vehicle at a rate of speed that is a marked departure from the lawful rate of speed,
    2. outdistancing or attempting to outdistance one or more other motor vehicles while driving at a rate of speed that is a marked departure from the lawful rate of speed, or
    3. repeatedly changing lanes in close proximity to other vehicles so as to advance through the ordinary flow of traffic while driving at a rate of speed that is a marked departure from the lawful rate of speed. O. Reg. 455/07, s. 2 (1).

“marked departure from the lawful rate of speed” means a rate of speed that may limit the ability of a driver of a motor vehicle to prudently adjust to changing circumstances on the highway. O. Reg. 455/07, s. 2 (2).

Stunt” has a very extensive variety of definitions under Ontario Regulation 455/07:

  • Driving a motor vehicle in a manner that indicates an intention to lift some or all of its tires from the surface of the highway, including driving a motorcycle with only one wheel in contact with the ground, but not including the use of lift axles on commercial motor vehicles.
  • Driving a motor vehicle in a manner that indicates an intention to cause some or all of its tires to lose traction with the surface of the highway while turning.
  • Driving a motor vehicle in a manner that indicates an intention to spin it or cause it to circle, without maintaining control over it.
  • Driving two or more motor vehicles side by side or in proximity to each other, where one of the motor vehicles occupies a lane of traffic or other portion of the highway intended for use by oncoming traffic for a period of time that is longer than is reasonably required to pass another motor vehicle.
  • Driving a motor vehicle with a person in the trunk of the motor vehicle.
  • Driving a motor vehicle while the driver is not sitting in the driver’s seat.
  • Driving a motor vehicle at a rate of speed that is 50 kilometres per hour or more over the speed limit.
  • Driving a motor vehicle without due care and attention, without reasonable consideration for other persons using the highway or in a manner that may endanger any person by,
    1. driving a motor vehicle in a manner that indicates an intention to prevent another vehicle from passing,
    2. stopping or slowing down a motor vehicle in a manner that indicates the driver’s sole intention in stopping or slowing down is to interfere with the movement of another vehicle by cutting off its passage on the highway or to cause another vehicle to stop or slow down in circumstances where the other vehicle would not ordinarily do so,
    3. driving a motor vehicle in a manner that indicates an intention to drive, without justification, as close as possible to another vehicle, pedestrian or fixed object on or near the highway, or
    4. making a left turn where,
      1. the driver is stopped at an intersection controlled by a traffic control signal system in response to a circular red indication;
      2. at least one vehicle facing the opposite direction is similarly stopped in response to a circular red indication; and
      3. the driver executes the left turn immediately before or after the system shows only a circular green indication in both directions and in a manner that indicates an intention to complete or attempt to complete the left turn before the vehicle facing the opposite direction is able to proceed straight through the intersection in response to the circular green indication facing that vehicle. O. Reg. 455/07, s. 3

Even before stepping foot in a courtroom, just the mere allegation of Stunt Driving by a police officer will result in your licence being suspended for 7 days and your vehicle being towed and impounded for 7 days.  Should you actually be convicted of Sunt Driving, you could face the following court penalties:

(2) Every person who contravenes subsection (1) is guilty of an offence and on conviction is liable to a fine of not less than $2,000 and not more than $10,000 or to imprisonment for a term of not more than six months, or to both, and in addition his or her driver’s licence may be suspended,

(a) on a first conviction under this section, for not more than two years; or

(b) on a subsequent conviction under this section, for not more than 10 years.  2007, c. 13, s. 21.

Novice drivers would also be subject to escalated sanctions penalties should they be convicted of Stunt Driving. 

If you are in a festive mood, drive safely!  Don’t drive at a rate of speed 50 km/h or more over the posted speed limit.  Don’t put a friend in the trunk of your car, no matter how funny either of you think it might be.  Don’t street race other vehicles.  Don’t squeal your tires or drift around corners,  Drive safely and arrive alive at your destination.

IF YOU GET CHARGED BY THE POLICE

We hope that you have a great New Year’s Eve this year! 

However, if you do run into trouble with the police and end up being charged, it is important that you immediately seek out help.  Making an uniformed decision or making a legal misstep can lead to serious court penalties, loss of licencing, imprisonment, demerit points, and insurance problems.  Don’t leave your legal interests to chance.  Put an experienced and knowledgeable paralegal in the courtroom for you.  Most charges can at least be reduced to a lesser offence or lesser penalties assuming that no legal argument can be found to have the charge simply withdrawn.  Should your case require your defence to be argued at trial, many trials can be argued without requiring you to be present.  Your paralegal is your legal voice and advocate.

We offer a no-cost, no-obligation initial consultation to go through your case history and details with you.  Most matters can be reviewed in as little as 10 to 15 minutes over the phone and are confidential.  Our friendly staff can be reached via our toll-free number 1-844-647-6869, by text at 226-240-2480, or by email at info@otdlegal.ca.  You can also submit an online consultation requestany time of the day or night and one of our staff will contact you during regular business hours to assist you.

Posted under Speeding, Stunt Driving, Traffic Ticket Defence

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