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A traffic ticket is a big issue

When drivers in BC get a traffic ticket, they may think it’s no big deal. After all, the fines for most traffic offences in BC are very low. They are so low that they may seem too good to be true.

This may cause thoughtful people to wonder whether there is more to this – whether a traffic ticket is a big issue.

The fines for traffic offences start in the two-digit range which is almost comical. If the police officer gives you an $86 ticket, the cost to the government, including paying the police officer their wage, likely exceeds the cost of the ticket. Add to that the cost of the police vehicle, and one can reasonably expect that the government will be out much more than they will recover for the ticket.

So why are the fines so low? Why bother issuing tickets with insignificant fines?

Well, this is a situation where what seems too good to be true is, in fact, something of a trap. When you pay the ticket or fail to dispute it, that’s when the bad stuff begins. A traffic ticket is a big issue in BC because of the undisclosed consequences.

This arises as a result of the unusual philosophy we have toward traffic enforcement in the province.

The BC ticketing philosophy

People arrive in British Columbia from Alberta or Ontario and after a while, they realize that they haven’t seen a speed trap, or a car being pulled over for an offence. In fact, because we have so many unmarked Vancouver Police cars, they can go weeks without even seeing the police. Enforcement seems non-existent.

And largely it is non-existent. Traffic generally travels at 10-15 kph over the speed limit. Stop signs are rarely observed as an actual stop. On the highway, it’s common for all the traffic to drive 20 kph over the speed limit. What the heck is going on? Why is this allowed?

There are a few locations where speeding is enforced. The viaduct from downtown Vancouver heading eastbound, and westbound on southwest Marine Drive for example. If you’ve lived here for a while you know about those spots. But that’s it. So it seems you can defy the law and get away with it. And if you get a ticket, no big deal, right?

Not quite. In BC there may be rare enforcement but when you do get a ticket, upon conviction, they come down hard. That’s the trap. It’s the way we do it in BC. Not much enforcement. Low fines. When you pay the ticket or if you get convicted in court, they come down like a hammer.

The undisclosed consequences of a traffic ticket in BC

If people knew the painful consequences of a ticket conviction, they would be more likely to take their matter to court. The low fine is the bait in the trap. If the fine amounts were increased, drivers would be more likely to take the matter to court. That’s a bit of a trick to keep people from taking their matters to court. But there is so much more than just the fine that they do not tell you. The problem, of course, is that you don’t know about the undisclosed consequences until it’s too late.

So what are the actual consequences of a traffic ticket in BC? The first thing you need to know is that in BC your driving record is forever. It never goes away.

In some jurisdictions, they erase traffic convictions after 5-10 years, but not in BC. In fact, ICBC maintains records going back over your entire driving history. If you have a ticket every second year going back 26 years, then your driving record is likely well into the second page. But they only show you 5-year’s worth of your record. So what’s the problem?

If you are alleged to have committed an offence such as having a prohibited blood-alcohol concentration 2 hours AFTER driving, then the prosecutor and ultimately the judge will see your entire record filed in court. And this is common. People don’t learn about it until years after their ticket when they’re facing a judge for some unexpected mistake.

A driving prohibition for two tickets?

In BC if you get two tickets in a two-year period, the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles may send you a letter prohibiting you from driving, usually for 4 months the first time out. Of course, the police don’t tell you that when they give you the ticket. Two offences, provided one is considered high-risk, will often trigger some “intervention” from the Superintendent and what that means is a driving prohibition.

That’s even the case for a fully-licenced class 5 driver. If you’re a class 7, with only one conviction you can expect a license suspension.

An assumption if you’re a chronic offender

In BC a traffic ticket is a big issue because the government assumes that this is simply the first time you’ve been caught.

While in Alberta or Ontario if you speed over a 45-minute drive you can expect to get a ticket, in BC you might speed every day for a year before getting a speeding ticket. If you were bad enough to actually face the remote chance of getting a ticket, the assumption is that you have a problem that needs correction.

A more damaging trap

Don’t get lured into the trap of paying for your ticket. In BC even one traffic ticket is a big issue because of the undisclosed consequences. The government comes down hard on people in BC when they are convicted of traffic offences because they assume that enforcement is rare and therefore to be caught you must be a chronic offender.

If you have a traffic ticket, you can call us to talk about how we can help you keep it off your driving record. We are driving lawyers which means we defend traffic tickets and all matters involving you, the police and driving.

If you have your ticket there in front of you, give us a call right now.