Even if you’re normally a very careful and attentive driver, it’s easy for a moment of absent-mindedness to result in a ticket for an unsafe lane change. However, you should think twice before simply pleading to this charge. With the right representation, you may be able to avoid the fines, penalties, and increased insurance premiums that can accompany a guilty plea.
What the Law Says About Unsafe Lane Changes
Unsafe lane changes are discussed in section 154(1a) of the Highway Traffic Act of Ontario. The law states: “A vehicle shall be driven as nearly as may be practicable entirely within a single lane and shall not be moved from the lane until the driver has first ascertained that the movement can be made with safety.”
This means that the driver who is already travelling in the lane has the right-of-way. If you are moving into the lane, you need to clearly signal your intentions to other drivers on the road. Other safety considerations include:
- You must not change lanes within 30 metres of a crosswalk.
- You should not pass another vehicle over the centre line between two directions of traffic within 30 metres of a bridge, tunnel, or viaduct.
- Changing lanes while approaching the crest of a hill is considered unsafe because it impedes your view of oncoming traffic.
If you receive a ticket for an unsafe lane change, the penalty includes:
- Two or three demerit points on your licence
- An $85 fine
- A government victim surcharge (a percentage of your fine that is earmarked to assist crime victims and is automatically added to each Ontario traffic ticket)
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 licence 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 licence, your licence 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 licence, your licence 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.
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 licence number, this will not get your ticket thrown out. The error will simply be corrected.
How We Can Help
If you wish to fight your unsafe lane change ticket, you should contact an experienced paralegal as soon as possible. You have 15 days to respond to the ticket, and the response deadline should be listed on the copy of the ticket that you received.
A paralegal who focuses on motor vehicle law and is familiar with the issues surrounding various traffic violations can help by reviewing the case for potential weaknesses or defences, challenging the credibility of witnesses who may testify against you, and arguing for the exclusion of evidence. An ethical paralegal can’t guarantee that you will win your case but will do everything in their power to assist you in achieving the best possible result. In most cases, you will not be required to come to court to fight the ticket because your paralegal can handle all matters on your behalf.
OTD Ticket Defenders Legal Services Professional Corporation was founded by Ron Harper, a retired Provincial and Municipal Prosecutor. Our team takes pride in providing frank, honest, and ethical representation both inside and outside the courtroom.
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.