If you are among the millions of Ontarians who don’t know the ins and outs of demerit points, rest easy. We’ll spell it all out for you right here.
If you’re a driver in Ontario, you’ve probably heard tell about demerit points, or maybe just ‘points’. You’ve probably worried about “how many points” a driving infraction will cost you. Some people think that you start with a certain number of points and lose them if you get a speeding ticket. That’s wrong. Some people think that if you lose points, you’ll pay higher insurance premiums. That’s also wrong…kind of.
There is a lot of confusion and misinformation about demerit points, why they exist, how they work, how many you need to get/lose to have your license suspended, and whether your points magically reset after a certain period of time. Well, if you are among the millions of Ontarians who don’t know the ins and outs of demerit points, rest easy. We’ll spell it all out for you right here.
Merriam-Webster.com defines “demerit” simply as “a quality that deserves blame or lacks merit”. A demerit is a flaw, a fault. A demerit point, it stands to reason, is a negative point that is given to drivers for behaviour behind the wheel that’s not so smart. It is given, not taken away, but it’s not the kind of point most people would want to earn.
Ontario is just one of countless jurisdictions around the world that use a demerit point system to encourage safe driving and discourage dangerous behaviour behind the wheel. Every province in Canada has a points system of some kind, as well as many U.S. states.
In Ontario, you accumulate demerit points for traffic-related convictions, and if you collect a certain number, there are penalties that apply, including losing your license for a spell. Note that these penalties are in addition to any fines and other penalties related to the specific offences.
Oddly, you can’t get just one demerit point in Ontario. Minor convictions will get you 2 points and major convictions will get you 6 or 7 points. Here is the full breakdown:
|Driving Offence||Demerit Points|
|Improper use of high beams||2 Points|
|Improperly opening vehicle door||2 Points|
|Turning where prohibited||2 Points|
|Towing people (on bicycle, skateboard etc.)||2 Points|
|Failing to obey signs||2 Points|
|Failing to share the road||2 Points|
|Improper turn||2 Points|
|Failing to signal||2 Points|
|Driving too slowly||2 Points|
|Reversing on a highway||2 Points|
|Driver not wearing a seatbelt||2 Points|
|Minor in the car not wearing a seatbelt||2 Points|
|16-29 km/h over speed limit||3 Points|
|Driving through, around or under a railway crossing barrier||3 Points|
|Distracted driving (texting etc.)||3 Points|
|Failing to yield the right-of-way||3 Points|
|Failing to stop at a stop sign, red light, railway crossing or crosswalk||3 Points|
|Failing to obey traffic control stop sign||3 Points|
|Failing to obey traffic control slow sign||3 Points|
|Failing to obey the directions of a police officer||3 Points|
|Driving the wrong way||3 Points|
|Failing to report a collision to a police officer||3 Points|
|Not staying in your lane||3 Points|
|Crowding the driver’s seat||3 Points|
|Driving on a closed road||3 Points|
|Crossing a divided road where no proper crossing is provided||3 Points|
|Improperly passing a stopped emergency vehicle||3 Points|
|Driving with a radar detector or equivalent device||3 Points|
|Improper use of a high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane||3 Points|
|30-49 km/h over the speed limit||4 Points|
|Following too closely||4 Points|
|Bus driver failing to stop at unprotected railway crossing||5 Points|
|Careless driving||6 Points|
|50+ km/h over the speed limit||6 Points|
|Failing to remain at the scene of a collision||7 Points|
|Failing to stop for police||7 Points|
This is really the question of the hour, and the key to the whole demerit point system. What are the consequences for bad driving, and when do they kick in? Put another way, how many points can you accumulate before it starts to hurt?
As you would imagine, as your points go up, so too does the severity of the penalties:
Given that 2 is the minimum number of points you can get, this means that whenever you’re convicted of a traffic violation, the Ministry of Transportation will send you a letter to warn you that if you continue to drive badly, there will be some pain for you.
When you hit 9 points, you may have to attend a meeting to argue why you should keep your license. If you don’t make a convincing argument, your license could be suspended. The meeting will cost you $50 regardless.
If you ever hit 15 points or more, you will have to give up your driver’s license for 30 days. If you refuse, you could get hit with a 2-year suspension. After the 30 days, you could have to take a test before getting your license back. Note that you will re-enter the driving world with 7 points. Serving your suspension does not reset your points to zero.
In keeping with the principles of Ontario’s graduated licensing system, new drivers are held to a higher standard than the rest of us. The above penalties for fully-licensed drivers are somewhat more severe if your license has a number in it (G1, G2, M1, M2), and they kick in at a lower point total. For new drivers, the magic number is 9. That’s how many points it takes to lose your license. Here is how it works:
In this case, when you get your license back, your points are reset to 4.
The short answer is yes. Ontario has agreements with every other province in Canada, New York State and Michigan, and if you get a ticket there, it’s like getting a ticket here. Sorry to break the bad news.
Are you ready for the good news? Every demerit point you ever collect on your Ontario driving record magically vanishes after 2 years. The 2 years begins either the day you are convicted of the offense, or, if you don’t challenge the ticket in court, the day you pay the fine.
Many people think that demerit points determine what you pay for car insurance. That is not true. Insurance companies don’t use demerit points to determine your premium. But the things that will get you demerit points are also some of the things that determine your insurance premium. Minor traffic convictions can affect your insurance premium a little. Major convictions will affect it a lot.
The fact is that if you have more than five points, you are very likely to pay more for car insurance than a driver with a clean record, because it means you have a major conviction or multiple minor convictions in a short period of time.
The opposite is not true. You can have zero points and pay high premiums. Why? Well, for one thing, insurance companies can use any conviction that is still on your driving record to help determine your premium. Although points go away after 2 years, convictions stay on your record for 3 years. Also, if you are convicted of a DUI, you won’t get any demerit points because it is a Criminal Code conviction, but you can bet your bottom dollar it will affect what you pay for that little pink slip the next time you renew your policy.
If you want to know how many points you currently have, you can order your driver’s abstract online, or at any Service Ontario location. It will cost you $12 or $18, depending on whether you want it certified.
Want to add to this story? Let us know in comments below! Mitchell & Whale is a fast-growing insurance brokerage in Ontario, striving to make insurance _not suck_ one customer at a time. Give us a call today to discuss any of your insurance needs at 1.800.731.2228.