While it's a common practice to pass slower-moving vehicles on the way to your destination, impatience and poor technique can result in a ticket for improper passing. This seemingly minor offence can have long-lasting consequences, so it's in your best interests to consult with a paralegal who can explain your options and help you make an informed decision about the best way to proceed.
Understanding Ontario's Improper Passing Laws
Overtaking and passing rules are covered in section 148 of the Highway Traffic Act of Ontario. The law states:
(8) No person in charge of a vehicle shall pass or attempt to pass another vehicle going in the same direction on a highway unless the roadway (a) in front of and to the left of the vehicle to be passed is safely free from approaching traffic and (b) to the left of the vehicle passing or attempting to pass is safely free from overtaking traffic.
The Official Ministry of Transportation (MTO) Driver's Handbook states, "Never overtake and pass another vehicle unless you are sure you can do so without danger to yourself or others. Don't pass moving snow plows under any conditions. If in doubt, do not pass."
If you are passing a cyclist, you are required to leave a one-metre distance between your vehicle and the bicycle.
Improper passing of a school bus is a separate offence that carries significantly harsher penalties than improper passing of other types of vehicles.
The penalties for improper passing include:
- A fine of $85 for a standard offence or a fine of $150 if your offence occurred in a community safety zone
- Two demerit points on your licence
There is also a government victim surcharge added to each Ontario traffic ticket to assist victims of various crimes. The surcharge applies even if your behaviour did not cause an accident resulting in property damage or injury.
There Are Additional Consequences to Consider
Even though improper passing is considered a minor offence, it's often not in your best interest to simply plead guilty and pay the fine. Depending on your previous driving record and the type of licence you have, a guilty plea can have more severe ramifications.
Auto insurance is a significant expense for any vehicle owner—and tickets can cause your rates to increase substantially. It is possible that your insurance provider may offer forgiveness for a minor ticket, but multiple offences can result in you being slapped with the "high risk" classification. In this case, you can end up paying premiums that greatly exceed the initial fine associated with your ticket.
Any demerit points for offences in Ontario, as well as those in other Canadian provinces and territories, the State of Michigan, and the State of New York, stay on your driving record for two years. If you accumulate too many points, your licence will be suspended. If you have a G1, G2, M1, M2, M1-L, or M2-L licence, nine or more points results in a licence suspension. If you have a full licence, 15 or more points will result in a suspension.
Building a Strong Defence
When you are issued a ticket for improper passing, you have three potential options:
- Sign the ticket, plead guilty, and submit payment.
- Plead guilty with an explanation. If you choose this option, you'll go to the courthouse and speak with a justice of the peace who can adjust your fine or give you additional time to pay.
- Dispute the charge and ask for a trial.
You have 15 days from the date the ticket was issued to make your decision. The response deadline should be printed on the ticket you received.
If you determine that you wish to dispute the charge, an experienced paralegal can help you build the best possible defence. Many drivers make the mistake of relying on invalid arguments, such as trying to get a ticket thrown out because it wasn't signed or contained a minor error. A paralegal can ensure that you have a legally valid argument based on the specific facts of your case. For example, a paralegal might point out that the other driver unexpectedly sped up while you were passing or that you attempted to pass in order to avoid a safety hazard. Or, it may be possible to get the charge dropped if there is insufficient evidence to support the officer's claim.
When you are represented by a licensed paralegal, it is generally not necessary to appear in court. Your paralegal can handle the matter on your behalf, although you are still free to attend the trial if you wish to do so.
Do You Need To Defend Yourself Against An Ontario Traffic Ticket?
If you need to defend your driving rights against an Ontario traffic ticket you should contact us as soon as possible. We have skill and experience in helping drivers just like you respond to a variety of traffic tickets 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.