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Unsafe Lane Change Ticket

Making an unsafe lane change in Ontario is not just a minor offence; it’s a traffic violation that carries serious consequences for drivers. This seemingly simple act can disrupt traffic flow, place you in the wrong lane, and lead to dangerous situations involving oncoming traffic and potentially cause motor vehicle accidents. Understanding this offence is important for all drivers who wish to maintain a clean driving record, avoid accumulating demerit points, and keep their insurance rates from rising.

What Constitutes an Unsafe Lane Change?

An unsafe lane change ticket is issued to drivers who fail to signal their intention to change lanes. This can include changing lanes without signaling, making abrupt or reckless lane changes, and disrupting the flow of traffic. Tickets can be issued by a police officer if:

  • The driving behavior is observed by a police officer/motorist, or
  • There is a car accident while a driver is making a lane change

Examples Of Unsafe Lane Changes

  • Not Signaling Before Lane Changes
  • Crossing Solid Lines to Change Lanes
  • Sudden or Careless Lane Switching
  • Lane Changes Close to Intersections
  • Misusing the Road Shoulder
  • Interrupting the Flow of Traffic
  • Not Giving Way When Needed

Penalties for Unsafe Lane Changes

Unsafe lane change charges, issued under a few different sections of the Ontario Highway Traffic Act, include the following penalties:

  • Demerit Points: 2 to 3 demerit points which remain on the driving record for 2 years
  • Increased Insurance Rates: Potential to be considered a high risk driver, leading to higher insurance rates and premiums.
  • Fines: $85.00 ($110.00 including the Victim Fine Surcharge). More severe instances can attract fines up to $1,000.00.

Demerit points

If a driver is issued a ticket for an unsafe lane change or improper lane change and is found guilty or if the driver pays the ticket, the Ministry of Transportation issues demerit points. The number of points depends on the section of the Highway Traffic Act that the unsafe lane change ticket was issued under. Under section 142 (1), a driver will receive 2 demerit points. Under section 154 (1), a driver will receive 3 demerit points. Demerit points stay on your driving record for 2 years from the date of the incident.

Insurance rate increases

If a driver is found guilty of an unsafe lane change ticket, their insurance rates will likely increase. If the incident involved a motor vehicle accident as well as a ticket for an unsafe lane change, a driver’s insurance rates could double or triple. If a driver is already facing high insurance rates for previous tickets or accidents, one additional incident could mean the insurance company drops the driver altogether, leaving the driver scrambling to find a new insurance provider at much higher insurance rates.

Conviction on your driving record

Any time a driver pays a ticket or is found guilty of an offence, the court reports the conviction to the Ministry of Transportation and a conviction is entered on the driver’s driving record. A conviction could result in a driver being excluded from employment opportunities. Novice/new and professional drivers are especially vulnerable to the consequences of having a conviction for a moving violation on their driving record.


The fine for making an unsafe lane change is $85.00 plus a Victim Fine Surcharge of $25.00. The total payable, or out-of-court settlement is $110.00. An unsafe lane change charge issued on a summons has a fine range of up to $1,000.00. 

Legal Definitions and Relevant Sections of the Highway Traffic Act

There are two sections of the Highway Traffic Act that address unsafe lane change charges: section 142 (1) and section 154 (1). The wording on your ticket will be different for each charge. A ticket issued under section 142 (1) will likely read, “Change Lane – Not in Safety”. A ticket issued under section 154 (1) will likely read, “Unsafe Move – Lane or Shoulder”. The legislation reads as follows:

Signal for left or right turn

142 (1) The driver or operator of a vehicle upon a highway before turning to the left or right at any intersection or into a private road or driveway or from one lane for traffic to another lane for traffic or to leave the roadway shall first see that the movement can be made in safety, and if the operation of any other vehicle may be affected by the movement shall give a signal plainly visible to the driver or operator of the other vehicle of the intention to make the movement.  R.S.O. 1990, c. H.8, s. 142 (1).

Where highway divided into lanes

154 (1) Where a highway has been divided into clearly marked lanes for traffic,

(a) a vehicle shall not be driven from one lane to another lane or to the shoulder or from the shoulder to a lane unless the driver first ascertains that it can be done safely;

(b) in the case of a highway that is divided into three lanes, a vehicle shall not be driven in the centre lane except when overtaking and passing another vehicle where the roadway is clearly visible and the centre lane is clear of traffic within a reasonable safe distance, or in preparation for a left turn, or where the centre lane is at the time designated for the use of traffic moving in the direction in which the vehicle is proceeding and official signs are erected to indicate the designation;

(c) any lane may be designated for slowly moving traffic, traffic moving in a particular direction or classes or types of vehicles and, despite section 141, where a lane is so designated and official signs indicating the designation are erected, every driver shall obey the instructions on the official signs.  R.S.O. 1990, c. H.8, s. 154 (1); 2015, c. 14, s. 45.

In some cases, a driver may find themselves charged with Careless Driving under section 130 (1) of the Highway Traffic Act. Even though the driver’s actions may have fit an unsafe lane change charge, an officer can use their discretion to issue a charge under the section they deem most appropriate. Careless Driving has more serious consequences than the charges above, including 6 demerit points, a minimum $400.00 fine, a possible license suspension, serious insurance implications and even possible imprisonment. Section 130 (1) of Ontario’s Highway Traffic Act reads as follows:

Careless driving

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.


(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.

Why Paying Your Ticket Without Protest Is a Mistake

At first glance, the penalties for an unsafe lane change ticket may seem minimal. If you’re eager to put the issue behind you, it might seem like paying the ticket is the easiest way to resolve the matter. However, this can be a serious mistake. There are consequences to a guilty plea that go beyond the fine and the initial demerit points.

If you accumulate too many demerit points, your license may be suspended. Demerit points stay on your driving record for two years after the offence date. Points are added for all offences in Ontario, as well as those in other Canadian provinces and territories, the State of Michigan, and the State of New York. If you are a driver with a full license, your license will be suspended when you accumulate 15 or more points. As a novice driver with a G1, G2, M1, M2, M1-L, or M2-L license, your license will be suspended when you accumulate nine or more points.

Another important consideration is how the ticket will affect your insurance rates. If your insurance company considers you to be a high-risk driver, your rates will rise substantially. An unsafe lane change ticket is considered a minor offence but can result in double-digit premium increases if you have multiple minor offences on your record.

How to fight unsafe lane change ticket

Unsafe lane change charges are considered strict liability charges, which means you may have a defence available to you. There are several elements that must be proven in court for the judge to find you guilty of the offence. If even one of those elements is not present, an argument can be made ahead of a Trial date to have the charge against you withdrawn. When defending an unsafe lane change ticket, it is always in your best interest to take the appropriate steps to ensure you are successful in court. An experienced legal representative will take the following steps on your behalf:

  • Review your ticket and determine how the incident occurred
  • Explain what options are available to you
  • Take the appropriate steps to challenge the ticket
  • Obtain and review the evidence to find weaknesses or omissions
  • Meet with the Prosecutor to discuss the case
  • Attend all court appearances on your behalf 
  • Conduct a trial, if necessary

It would be hard to find a more experienced team of legal representatives than the team at OTD Legal Services. We offer free consultations, which include a free quote, to ensure you make the best decisions right from the start.

Potential Defences

The law regarding unsafe lane changes is open to interpretation, and there are a number of factors that could be relevant to your defence. For example, you may have been on a road where the signage was unclear or hidden. It’s also possible that a miscommunication between you and another driver was to blame. Since the law does not specifically spell out what constitutes a “safe” lane change, an experienced paralegal can help you build a strong defence to fight the ticket.

Please note that it is a myth that your ticket will be dismissed if it contains a minor error. If the officer made a minor mistake in your address, vehicle identification, or driver’s license number, this will not get your ticket thrown out. The error will simply be corrected.

FAQs About Unsafe Lane Changes in Ontario

How many demerit points will I receive for an unsafe lane change?

Depending on the violation, you could receive 2 to 3 demerit points.

Can an unsafe lane change ticket affect my insurance rates?

Yes, convictions can lead to increased insurance premiums.

What should I do if I receive an unsafe lane change ticket?

Consider consulting with a legal team to explore your options for fighting the ticket.

Is changing lanes over solid lines considered an unsafe lane change?

Yes, moving across solid lines without ensuring it can be done safely is illegal and considered unsafe.

Can I fight an “unsafe lane change Ontario” or “turn not in safety” ticket?

Yes, you can contest an “unsafe lane change Ontario” or “turn not in safety” ticket. It’s advisable to consult with a legal representative specializing in traffic violations to explore your defence options. A successful challenge can lead to the ticket being reduced or dismissed, depending on the circumstances and evidence of the case.

How can I minimize the impact of a traffic ticket on my insurance rates?

Minimizing the impact of a traffic ticket on your insurance rates can involve fighting the ticket in court with the help of legal representation, attending a driving course (if applicable), and maintaining a clean driving record going forward. Some insurance providers also offer forgiveness for the first traffic violation, so it’s worth checking your policy.

Strategies for Avoiding Unsafe Lane Changes

  • Always Signal: Ensure to signal your intention well before changing lanes.
  • Check Mirrors and Blind Spots: Be aware of your surroundings and check for other vehicles.
  • Avoid Abrupt Movements: Make lane changes gradually and smoothly to avoid surprising other drivers.
  • Obey Lane Markings: Respect solid lines and only change lanes where permitted.

The Role of Legal Representation

Having a skilled legal team can make a significant difference in the outcome of an unsafe lane change ticket. Legal professionals can:

  • Provide Expert Advice: Offering insights into possible defences and the implications of the ticket.
  • Negotiate on Your Behalf: Working to reduce penalties or have the charges dismissed.
  • Represent You in Court: Presenting your case effectively and arguing for the best possible outcome.

Contact OTD Legal for a free consultation and quote

If you have been charged with an Unsafe Lane Change in Ontario, contact our office for a free, confidential consultation. You can complete an online request here, call us toll-free at 1-844-647-6869, or text a picture of your ticket to 226-240-2480. You don’t have to navigate the legal system alone! We are available to help drivers all over Ontario, including Kitchener, Cambridge, London, Georgetown, Blind River, Leamington, and Windsor. 


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Due to the serious nature of this charge, it is always best to talk to an experienced paralegal before deciding how to proceed. Our team can help uncover defences that may be available to you.

Contact OTD Legal for a free consultation and quote

If you have been charged with an Unsafe Lane Change in Ontario, contact our office for a free, confidential consultation. You can complete an online request here, call us toll-free at 1-844-647-6869, or text a picture of your ticket to 226-240-2480. You don’t have to navigate the legal system alone! We are available to help drivers all over Ontario, including Kitchener, Cambridge, London, Georgetown, Blind River, Leamington, and Windsor. 

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