The holiday season generally means two things: many more people travelling Ontario’s roadways, and, worsening road conditions. Canadian roadways at this time of year can cycle between dry, wet, slushy, and snow-covered all within a single day and in any order. With all of the various holidays that occur in December, Ontarians will be travelling to visit friends and family as well as attend various events for social, entertainment, or religious reasons.
The equation of more vehicles plus variably bad road conditions equals more collisions! This can result in vehicle damage or loss, injury or death, as well as being charged by the police whether or not you feel you were at fault. These factors can also result in further future problems such as increased insurance rates or civil lawsuits. This is certainly not the festive celebrations of the holiday season that most people want to experience at this time of year.
This holiday season: drive carefully to keep yourself and your loved ones safe. However, if you do end up in a collision, protect yourself and your legal interests. Let’s take a look at some of the most common charges that can be issued.
WHAT CONSEQUENCES COULD I FACE?
If you are involved in a collision you can find yourself facing some or all of the following consequences:
- Vehicle damage or loss
- Property damage
- Injuries or death
- Increased insurance costs
- Criminal or Highway Traffic Act charges
- Court fines
- Suspension or loss of driver’s license
- Demerit points
- Civil lawsuits
- Legal defence costs
If charged by the police, the extent of court penalties will generally depend on two factors. The first factor is how minor or serious the offence issued is. There can be very minor or very serious Highway Traffic Act offences. There can even be criminal charges issued that could leave you with a record of criminal conviction.
The second factor impacting the severity of penalties is whether you are charged by the police with a ticket or a summons. A ticket will generally mean a fixed and smaller fine, with no risk of imprisonment or loss of licensing from the court. A summons can mean significantly higher court fines, loss of licensing, and even imprisonment. A ticket will result in your case being argued by a Municipal Prosecutor whereas a summons will result in you facing a Provincial Crown Prosecutor.
WHAT CHARGES COULD I FACE?
The most common offence that we see as a result of a collision is Careless Driving under Highway Traffic Act (HTA) section 130:
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.
Careless Driving is a catch-all offence that is commonly issued by police any time there is a collision or a vehicle goes off the roadway. A Careless Driving conviction is a 6-demerit point penalty against an Ontario driver’s license and will generally result in being placed onto high-risk insurance. Commercial motor vehicle driver’s can also receive a 5 CVOR point penalty. Court penalties are determined by whether or not the incident resulted in bodily harm or death.
For charges that do not include bodily harm or death:
(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 license or permit may be suspended for a period of not more than two years. 2017, c. 26, Sched. 4, s. 17.
For charges that involved bodily harm or death, the following court penalties can be applied:
(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 license or permit may be suspended for a period of not more than five years. 2017, c. 26, Sched. 4, s. 17.
Careless Driving offences (especially those involving injury or death) carry some of the largest possible penalties under the Highway Traffic Act. Fortunately, they are also one of the best offences that can generally be either reduced or eliminated at court by hiring a paralegal.
FOLLOW TOO CLOSELY
The next step down in severity of consequences would be Follow Too Closely under Highway Traffic Act section 158:
158 (1) The driver of a motor vehicle or street car shall not follow another vehicle or street car more closely than is reasonable and prudent having due regard for the speed of the vehicle and the traffic on and the conditions of the highway. R.S.O. 1990, c. H.8, s. 158 (1).
The wording here is very general and loose. What exactly defines, “more closely than is reasonable and prudent having due regard for the speed of the vehicle and the traffic on and the conditions of the highway?” Could that be different for different drivers with different driving capabilities? How do you know if you were in fact at a reasonable distance given the road conditions? Could other factors be at play other than following distance?
Commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers fortunately get a much more well-defined following distance than regular drivers do:
(2) The driver of a commercial motor vehicle when driving on a highway at a speed exceeding 60 kilometres per hour shall not follow within 60 metres of another motor vehicle, but this shall not be construed to prevent a commercial motor vehicle overtaking and passing another motor vehicle. R.S.O. 1990, c. H.8, s. 158 (2).
To put this in more concrete terms… The trailer portion of a tractor-trailer truck is generally a little over 16 meters in length. The following distance that a transport truck should be from the next vehicle ahead is therefore almost 4 trailer lengths. Think of how many times you have driven along a major highway like the 401 and watched a transport truck more commonly within 3-4 car-lengths of the next vehicle? Not good!
Not only do these charges carry 4 demerit points, but they can also carry 5 CVOR points for CMV drivers. That many CVOR points for a conviction can result in a driver being terminated by their employer…which is certainly something that no one wants to see happen just before the holiday season.
Snowy road conditions or being distracted with thoughts of the holidays can lead to collisions at intersections. Maybe you slid through a stop sign or maybe you just didn’t notice that the light turned red. There are multiple intersection-related charges that can be issued. Generally these most commonly have to do with disobeying traffic signal lights or signs. The most common charges issued in this circumstance and with their penalties are:
|Amber Light Fail to Stop
|Red Light Fail to Stop
|Disobey Stop Sign
|Fail to Yield – Yield Sign
|Disobey Lane Light
|Proceed Contrary to Sign
|Fail to Yield to Pedestrian
|Fail to Yield to Traffic
The above offences are certainly not exhaustive of the various charges that can be issued for collisions occurring at an intersection. Transport truck drivers may also be facing CVOR points and need to be extremely careful in protecting their driving record. While the court fines for most of these offences are not particularly big, the larger financial cost may occur in the impact to insurance costs. A collision and conviction may also mean potentially being forced into high-risk insurance for thousands of dollars in additional future insurance costs.
WHAT SHOULD I DO IF I’M IN A COLLISION?
First and foremost: drive safely and have a wonderful holiday season! Get to where you’re going safely.
Accidents happen. If you find yourself being charged by the police after being involved in an accident, don’t panic. OTD Ticket Defenders Legal Services is here to help you. Many of these cases can be resolved without the need for trial or ever requiring you to be present at court. Let an experienced and knowledgeable paralegal represent you and your interests at court. Avoid providing a poor defence on your own behalf or making legal mistakes that can result in costly consequences.
Have You Been Charged With Careless Driving In Ontario?
If you’ve been charged with careless driving in Ontario you should contact us as soon as possible. We have skill and experience in helping drivers just like you respond to accusations of careless driving and provide free, confidential consultations to empower you to fight your charges. We help drivers throughout Ontario including Cambridge, Georgetown, London, Windsor and from our home office in Kitchener. Contact us online or call us directly at 1.844.647.6869 or text us a copy of your ticket to 226-240-2480.