One of the recurring themes in the DriveSmartBC Discussion Forum involves avoiding penalty points after a driver has received a traffic ticket for committing a hazardous moving violation. Often the driver realizes that they have erred and are willing to pay the fine but want to avoid having penalty points assessed for the transgression. Avoiding penalty points is particularly important to drivers in the Graduated Licencing program who will be prohibited from driving at a low point threshold, but professional drivers and those with a poor driving record are also concerned.

Penalty points are essentially a score keeping method for assigning the level of risk associated with a hazardous moving violation. Disobeying a red light at an intersection is 2 points, speeding is 3 points, careless driving is 6 points and impaired driving is 10 points for example. ICBC and RoadSafetyBC use the penalty point total associated to a driving record to assess penalty point premiums or to impress driving prohibitions, the total cost or length of which depends on the number of penalty points accumulated during a period of time.

To state the obvious, the best way to avoid penalty points is not to be the recipient of a violation ticket in the first place. However, once you have a traffic ticket in hand, there are really only two ways to avoid penalty points. The first is to try and convince the officer who issued it to you to withdraw it and the second is to have the ticket dismissed in court. Once convicted, either through paying the penalty or having been found guilty at trial penalty points will be assessed. The justice cannot impose a fine but reduce or eliminate penalty points.

One other alternative is to agree to a plea bargain with the officer prior to your ticket dispute hearing. An example of this might be if you were charged with careless driving (which carries a fine of $368 and 6 points) you may be able to convince the officer to accept a guilty plea to an included offence with a higher fine and fewer points. Some officers are not comfortable with doing this, but there is no harm in trying.

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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.

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