Demerit points, or merit points?
I often get the chance to speak with many drivers across Ontario, and Canada, to discuss their favourite topic and mine; driving. Of the more than 23 million drivers in Canada; of which over 9 million drivers are in Ontario, most people say they are good drivers. I ask them why they believe they are good drivers and they say they’ve only had a couple of tickets and no crashes. Does having only a few tickets make you a good driver? Is it normal to receive a few tickets in the history of your driving, or should you be ticket free to call yourself a good driver?
We have to remember that driving is a privilege and that this privilege can be taken from you at any time. If you abuse it, it’s gone. Our roads are regularly monitored by the police and if you’re caught doing something wrong, you’ll be punished. If you’re lucky, it’ll only be a warning or perhaps just a minor fine. If you’re not so lucky, you’ll receive demerit points. In Ontario you begin your driving career with zero demerit points and as you break the rules, you’ll receive points on your license. Think of it as a penalty in hockey. You begin the game with zero penalty minutes and when you make mistakes up, you gain penalty minutes.
When I speak with drivers about their demerit points they often shrug it off and say the police officer wouldn’t reduce the infraction for them so they wouldn’t receive points. They say this as if they are disappointed with the officer who pulled them over. Why would the police need to reduce the penalty for them? If you were the person making the mistake, you deserve the penalty don’t you? You need to face the fact that you made a mistake and got caught. It’s often a conscience act you did by speeding, rolling through a stop, etc. If you try to get away with something, you’ll eventually get caught. Hopefully it will happen soon enough before someone gets hurt. And remember, ignorance of the law is no excuse for making these mistakes.
What do you think the consequences would be if you received demerit points? The first form of punishment is the fine and the accumulation of points. Some tickets only have fines and no demerit points, such as speeding up to 15 km/h over the speed limit. Once you receive demerit points, they stay on your license for two years from the date the infraction occurred. Once you receive a total of 6 demerit points on your license, you’ll receive a letter warning you that your driving privilege is in jeopardy. If you can’t change your poor driving habits, or don’t want to change them, then you may receive more points with another infraction. Once you receive a total of 9 demerit points, you’ll have to go into the MTO for an interview to explain why your license should not be suspended. It’s time to swallow your pride here. You may be asked to do a road test or see me as you take a Driver Improvement Course or a Defensive Driving Course at Young Drivers of Canada. Oh, this is at your cost as well. So now you’ve got an added cost from the fine of the demerit points to paying for this course.
If you get away from the interview Scott free (no pun intended), you’re still under the gun to drive safely. Once you receive a total of 15 demerit points, you’ll automatically receive a 60 day suspension. Wow; 2 months without driving! And if you think that you can still drive while under suspension, think again. If you get caught, it comes with a criminal offense, a fine and higher insurance rates. If you’re involved in a collision while under suspension, your insurance company will not honour the claim since you weren’t covered while under suspension. This means that you’ll have to pay for the damages out of your own pocket. If you’re sued, you could be financially ruined.
How would losing your driver’s license affect your life? How would you get to work? How would you shop for groceries? How would you take your kids to their activities? Would losing your license affect your job? Think about these questions the next time you think about rolling through the stop sign or red light. Think about these questions when you’re in a hurry because you slept in and decided to speed, usually toward a red light.
The bottom line is this; treat your license as a privilege and not a right. The only right you have is the right to attempt to get and keep the license. The Ontario government also has the right to take it away from you if you break the rules too many times. If you’re going to play the game of driving, you need to play by the rules.