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Class 7 drivers face harsher penalties from ICBC

Class 7 drivers: learning from your mistakes can be costly

It’s tough being a young driver in BC. Making mistakes as you learn the rules of the road can be costly, especially when the rules are much stricter for Class 7 drivers. A recent story involving a teen driver serves as the perfect case study of what not to do if you are a learner driver.

The 16-year-old got an expensive lesson when he racked up nearly $800 in fines in one traffic stop. An officer spotted him in a Land Rover doing about 100 km/hr in a 60 km/hr zone in West Vancouver.

Upon stopping the vehicle the officer noticed the driver had been listening to music through his cell phone and gave him another ticket for using an electronic device while driving. But that’s not all, he was also driving without a qualified driver over the age of 25 in the car with him and, to top it off, there was no ‘L’ sign displayed on the Land Rover.

All in all, he received a total of four traffic tickets amounting to nearly $800 in fines – without taking the towage fee for the Land Rover into account. What the story doesn’t mention are the additional costs that come with traffic tickets if you’re a learner driver. Needless to say, this poor guy is going to be a lot more than $800 out of pocket.

Already, this one traffic stop has cost the 16-year-old the best part of $1,300.

Graduated Licencing Program

In order to get a full driver’s licence in BC, you must go through the Graduated Licencing Program (GLP). The GLP has two stages, a learner stage (‘L’) and a novice stage (‘N’). Anyone over the age of 16 can obtain a learner’s license after passing a written knowledge test, after which they can learn to drive either from an instructor, a friend, or a family member, over the age of 25, with a full Class 5 licence.

At the end of one year, they can take the first of two road tests to earn a novice license. Drivers must hold a novice license for a minimum of two years before they are able to take a second road test to receive a full Class 5 license.

Both ‘L’ and ‘N’ licences, or Class 7 licences as they are known, come with lots of restrictions.

Additional penalties

In addition to the $800 in fines the young driver will have to pay, he may also be shocked to find his auto insurance costs have gone up. Way up.

The Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC) is informed of any penalty points you have accumulated and it uses them to calculate your Driver Penalty Point (DPP) premium. If you have two or more high-risk driving offences on your record in the last three years you may also qualify for Driver Risk Premium (DRP). You won’t have to pay both DRP and DPP but you will have to pay whichever works out to cost more. A full list of DPP and DRP charges is available on ICBC’s website.

The 16-year-old learner driver will now have three penalty points on his licence for speeding and four for using an electronic device while operating a vehicle. Failure to display an ‘L’ sign and not driving with a qualified supervisor over the age of 25 would not result in penalty points, but that’s still seven points in total. This means he will have to pay an annual DPP premium of $498 on top of the fines. Already, this one traffic stop has cost the 16-year-old the best part of $1,300.

It doesn’t stop there. From April next year, ICBC will be taking into account your driving record when calculating your insurance rate. With four offences on his record before he’s even technically allowed to drive, this driver will end up paying a lot more than his peers.

Speeding is not considered a high-risk offence, but using an electronic device while driving is a high-risk offence, just like excessive speeding. The driver would escape Driver Risk Premium, assuming this is his first and only high-risk offence but he will have to be very careful because if he gets caught using his phone once more in the next three years, he will qualify for DRP and have to pay an annual premium of at least $444.

Use of electronic devices and other restrictions on Class 7 drivers

Class 5 drivers are allowed to use electronic devices while driving under certain circumstances, such as when it is securely fixed to the vehicle and it requires only one touch to receive calls. Class 7 drivers, on the other hand, enjoy no such privileges.

‘L’ and ‘N’-drivers cannot use any electronic devices while driving, even for GPS. The teen driver was given a ticket for listening to music through his phone. Regardless of whether he was touching the phone or if it was even distracting him, the restrictions are such that he would still technically have committed an offence.

Any distracted driving infraction, such as using an electronic device while driving, will place Class 7 drivers in the category of ‘high-risk’, meaning they can be reviewed by the Driver Improvement Program. They would also automatically undergo review by the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles who may decide to prohibit them or even order them to start the 24-month novice licence period all over again.

Other restrictions on Class 7 drivers include no alcohol or drugs. Class 5 drivers are allowed up to 80 mg of alcohol in 100ml of blood and a small amount of THC in their saliva before they commit the offence of impaired driving. There is zero tolerance for novice drivers consuming any alcohol prior to driving, meaning if there is a whiff of alcohol or drugs they would technically be drunk driving, regardless of whether or not they are actually impaired.

Class 7 drivers must also display ‘N’ or ‘L’ signs on their vehicles and are not permitted to drive between midnight and 5 am.

Lower threshold for new drivers

Not only do novice drivers face more restrictions than their full-licence holder counterparts, but they also face a lower threshold for intervention action by the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles. Class 7 drivers are at greater risk of driving prohibitions because they are allowed fewer penalty points before a suspension is considered.

According to the DriveSmartBC website, experienced drivers can accumulate up to 15 penalty points before they are assessed for a prohibition. New drivers with no previous prohibitions, on the other hand, can be put on probation or considered for a driving ban from as low as two to six penalty points.

Why challenging traffic tickets is important if you’re a Class 7 driver

It’s a virtue to be able to learn from other people’s mistakes. If you’re a Class 7 driver, do yourself a favour and learn from this 16-year-old driver’s mistakes.

Penalties for traffic tickets do not end with fines. They can also result in thousands of dollars in additional insurance costs and premiums. Having penalty points and offences on your driving record can also be like a noose around your neck, one more false move and you’re done for.

It doesn’t have to be that way. If you successfully challenge a traffic ticket you can lower your premiums and clean up your driving record. It is crucial you hire a lawyer who knows these kinds of offences inside out. BC Driving Lawyers has more than a decade of experience helping novice drivers to get back on the right track.

Call us today for a free consultation on 604-608-1200