By Peter Cameron
THE CANADIAN PRESS
TORONTO _ Ontario’s ombudsman says the system for notifying drivers that their licence has been suspended is “fundamentally flawed” leaving many people unwittingly driving with invalid licences.
In a report released on Thursday, Paul Dube makes 42 recommendations designed to make the system fairer and keep drivers better informed of their status.
Dube says the Ministry of Transportation has already begun to address the recommendations and overhaul the way it notifies drivers whose licences are suspended for unpaid fines.
For example, Dube says one woman was shocked to learn in 2016 that her licence had been cancelled four years earlier over a speeding ticket.
Although she had paid the fine, she was unaware she had to pay a licence reinstatement fee, and said she never received any notice that her licence was invalid.
The report says it ultimately cost her several days off work and hundreds of dollars to reinstate her licence, because the ministry required her to go through the graduated licence system meant for novice drivers.
About 90,000 Ontario drivers have their licences suspended for unpaid fines every year, Dube said.
“In 2017, an estimated 5,000 of the notices that were mailed to them were returned to the ministry, undelivered … but the ministry doesn’t track returned mail so it has no record of which drivers didn’t get the notices,” he said.
“We have heard from drivers who went for years without knowing their licences were suspended,” Dube said.
“When they finally found out, it was through their insurance company or police, not the ministry _ which then treated them as brand new drivers, requiring them to go through the graduated licencing program to have their licences reinstated,” he said.
“Even when the system works as intended, we found it is fundamentally flawed,” the ombudsman said.
Drivers are only ever warned that failure to pay fines “may” not “will” result in licence suspension and suspensions take effect on the day they are mailed before drivers receive them, he said.
Dube noted he will monitor this issue as the ministry reports back to his office every six months on its progress in implementing the recommendations.