Penalty Points and How They Affect You

cop-writing-ticket.thumbnailI’ve always understood penalty points to be a kind of score keeping method to assign a level of risk to the breach of a traffic rule. The more dangerous the violation, the more penalty points that would be assigned to a driving conviction. Rack up too many points in a set period of time and you would have to pay ICBC premiums and risk a driving prohibition from RoadSafetyBC. Regardless of the fact that penalty points have been a part of driving in BC for many years, they are generally poorly understood.

The penalty point scheme is set up under Division 28 of the Motor Vehicle Act Regulations. It states that when a driver is convicted of an offence, ICBC will assign penalty points to a persons driving record according to four schedules. The first contains two point offences such as changing lanes without signalling or running a red light. The second lists three point offences that include driving without a driver’s licence or speeding. The six point violations in the third list are driving without due care and attention and driving without reasonable consideration for others using the highway. Finally, we have ten point offences such as impaired or dangerous driving under the Criminal Code.

Effective June 1, 2016 there will be a new category of four penalty points for drivers who are convicted for distracted driving offences such as texting and driving.

Is the level of risk associated to various offences appropriate? I would equate disobeying a red light at an intersection as being more dangerous than speeding, yet the red light offence is only two points while speeding is three. Why was distracted driving assigned four points instead of six? It would seem that texting and driving might be the equivalent of driving without reasonable consideration for others using the highway.

Each year ICBC looks at the total number of points you received during a 12-month assessment period that ends five months before your birthday. The assessment period may include driving offences during an earlier period which have only recently been recorded on your driving record. If you collect more than three points on your driving record during the assessment period, you’ll pay a Driver Penalty Point premium. Depending on the type of offence, you may also be assessed a Driver Risk premium.

RoadSafetyBC decides on driving prohibitions set out in the Driver Improvement Program Policies and Guidelines. In general, a driver in the Graduated Licencing Program may expect a sanction  after only one or two tickets in a 24 month period. Experienced drivers have much more latitude. Depending on the type of offence, it could take as many as 15 penalty points over two years before action is taken.

The Guidelines are prefaced with the advice that they are just that. An adjudicator may choose to take action in a different manner if the driving behaviour justifies otherwise.

Is there any way that I could just pay a fine and not receive the penalty points? This is a question heard frequently in traffic court. The only connection between penalty points and traffic court is on whether you are convicted of the offence as a driver or not. If you are convicted, the offence goes on your driving record and ICBC will assess points.

Cst. Tim Schewe (Ret.) runs DriveSmartBC, a community web site about traffic safety in British Columbia. For 25 years he was an officer with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, including five years on general duty, 20 in traffic and 10 as a collision analyst responsible of conducting technical investigations of collisions. He retired from policing in 2006 but continues to be active in traffic safety through the DriveSmartBC web site, teaching seminars and contributing content to newspapers and web sites.

Detroit muscle cars aren’t so strong in crash tests

Source: Canadian Press

The Ford Mustang, Chevrolet Camaro and Dodge Challenger didn’t get the highest ratings in new tests by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The institute, which is funded by2016-Camaro insurers, tested 2016 models.

The Mustang earned the highest rating on four of the five tests, but didn’t do as well on the small overlap test, which simulates what happens when a small portion of the car’s front end hits a pole at 40 miles per hour.

The Camaro did well on that test but had a lower rating for roof strength. The Challenger was the worst performer, with lower ratings for roof strength, seat and headrest strength and the small overlap test.


Ontario considers highway signs promoting safe texting zones for drivers

Ontario is considering the idea of putting signs on highways to alert drivers about upcoming areas where they can safely pull over to text or check their emails.

All three parties voted in favour on second reading of a private member’s bill from Progressive Conservative Vic Fedeli to create so-called safe texting zones.

Fedeli says signs on highways would inform drivers of about 185 existing areas such as commuter parking lots, transit stations and rest stops where they can safely pull off to use their smart phones or tablets.

He got the idea while driving through Pennsylvania and New York, and saw signs in both states promoting safe texting zones, and says it would not require any new infrastructure.

Fedeli says increased fines are not enough to curb distracted driving habits, and believes safe texting zones will save lives and help educate motorists about the dangers of texting behind the wheel.

The Ontario Provincial Police reported in March that distracted driving was the cause of more deaths on provincial highways than any other factor for the third consecutive year, contributing to 69 deaths in 2015.

Fedeli says he’s had widespread support from police, insurance companies, the Canadian Automobile Association and the Ontario Safety League for his Safe Texting Zones Act.

“It sends a clear message to distracted drivers that there is no longer any excuse to endanger themselves and those they share the road with,” said Fedeli.  “Their text can wait until the next texting zone.”

Ontario stiffened penalties for distracted driving last fall, with a set fine of $490 that a judge could increase to $1,000, plus three demerit points on conviction.

Safe texting zone signs will be especially important in helping educate younger drivers about the dangers of distracted driving, added Fedeli.

“Texting is so popular with young people who are new drivers as well, and this has surpassed drunk driving (as a cause of accidents) and has become so very, very serious that it needs that extra little nudge, that extra reminder that says: ‘It can wait,”’ he said.

New Democrat transport critic Wayne Gates told the legislature that it’s not just the younger drivers who text.

“Older people, seniors are doing it, and young people are doing it, and it’s putting people at risk,” said Gates.

Private member’s bills rarely become law in Ontario, but Fedeli is confident his will either be passed or be adopted by the Liberal government after members from all sides of the legislature spoke in favour of it.

“It really is a bill that I expect will come into law in Ontario one day,” he said.


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