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Traffic tickets can lead to driving prohibitions

We often hear from drivers caught off guard when they get a letter from the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles giving notice of a months-long driving prohibition. Many drivers are unaware there’s a section in the BC Motor Vehicle Act that allows prohibitions from driving “for any cause” relating to “the use or operation of motor vehicles.”

In essence, driving prohibitions may be issued at the Superintendent’s discretion. This means that if, at any time, the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles believes your driving record is “unsatisfactory” and that taking your license away could be in the public interest, they may do so. The catch-22 is that each subsequent prohibition could make your driving record even more “unsatisfactory,” even if you avoid any further ticketed offences.

To prevent a minor traffic infraction from becoming a record of “unsatisfactory” driving, it is extremely important for drivers to dispute their traffic tickets.

Here is what MVA s. 93 states:

(1) Even though a person is or may be subject to another prohibition from driving, if the superintendent considers it to be in the public interest, the superintendent may, with or without a hearing, prohibit the person from driving a motor vehicle

(a) if the person

(i) has failed to comply with this Act or the regulations, or

(ii) has a driving record that in the opinion of the superintendent is unsatisfactory,

(b) if the person’s privilege of driving a motor vehicle has been suspended or cancelled in any jurisdiction in Canada or in the United States of America, or

(c) for any cause not referred to in paragraph (a) or (b) that relates to the use or operation of motor vehicles.

(2) In forming an opinion as to whether a person’s driving record is unsatisfactory the superintendent may consider all or any part of the person’s driving record, including but not limited to any part of the driving record previously taken into account by a court or by the superintendent in making any order prohibiting the person from driving a motor vehicle.

(3) If under this section the superintendent prohibits a person from driving a motor vehicle on the grounds of an unsatisfactory driving record, a prohibition so made must not be held invalid on the grounds that the superintendent did not examine or consider other information or evidence.

How tickets can result in a driving prohibition

The broad scope available to the Superintendent in making these decisions is concerning. Nowhere in the Act does it state the Superintendent must believe a driver is unsafe or dangerous to other road users. It has been established in court that a prohibition may be determined from examining a driver’s record at “face value.” What that means is that the particulars of your driving record really doesn’t matter. A speeding ticket is a speeding ticket. The Superintendent does not have to consider whether you’re speeding 1 km/h over the limit, or 39 km/h over. It does not matter whether your speeding ticket resulted from speeding in heavy traffic, or from being slightly over the limit on an open highway.

Not all tickets are equal

There are some guidelines available to the Superintendent when determining whether a driver’s record is unsatisfactory, though it’s important to note the guidelines are just that. The Superintendent is not required to follow them.

However, the guidelines still provide an opportunity for drivers to understand some of the factors taken into consideration when driving prohibitions are issued. For example, some tickets are issued for “high-risk driving offences” and have more weight than others. Under the guidelines, two or more of these tickets within a one-year period can result in a 3 to 12 month driving prohibition:

– excessive speeding

– driving without due care and attention

– driving without reasonable consideration

– use of an electronic device while driving

– emailing or texting while driving

For less serious offences, the guidelines suggest prohibitions be made out based on the number of Driver Penalty Points someone has. The Superintendent, however, is allowed to take into account “both pointed and non-pointed violations” over a five-year period. Yep. Five years. Even an experienced, safe driver may accrue a few tickets over that length of time.

New drivers get the worst deal

For new drivers, these discretionary driving prohibitions are even more troublesome. Just a single ticket could result in a 1 to 6 month driving prohibition for those with a Learner or Novice licence. The Superintendent’s guidelines suggest that for a new driver, 2 to 6 Driver Penalty Points within 24 months are sufficient to warrant a prohibition. Even the offence of slow driving at 3 Points, or driving over newly painted lines at 2 Points, is enough to get a new driver prohibited. Running a yellow light? Same thing. The vast majority of ticket offences accompany at least 2 Driver Penalty Points.

Experienced drivers get a better deal, with the guidelines suggesting driving prohibitions ranging from 3 to 8 months with a minimum of 15 Driver Penalty Points in two years. You might think, no problem! That’s potentially 7 whole traffic tickets in two years! Not so fast. Remember that the Superintendent is entitled to issue driving prohibitions for “any cause” relating to driving. A single traffic violation, if the Superintendent believes the conduct warrants a driving prohibition, could be enough to prohibit a driver even with a previously clean record.

And if that wasn’t enough, traffic citations issued from another province or even the United States may be taken into account in determining whether to issue driving prohibitions. Yes, even if you receive a ticket elsewhere from the honest mistake of being unfamiliar with out-of-province laws, you can be prohibited at home in BC. Getting the picture yet?

You only have 30 days to act after a ticket or prohibition

In order to prevent a minor traffic infraction from becoming a record of “unsatisfactory” driving, it is extremely important for drivers to dispute their traffic tickets. Disputing a ticket allows the alleged offence to be properly tested. If an adjudicator or court finds the reasons for the ticket unsatisfactory, it will be expunged from your driving record, removing a potential reason for a driving prohibition down the line. The time limit to file an appeal to court for a driving prohibition is the same as the limit for disputing a ticket: 30 days.

One of the common regrets from drivers is that they only contacted a lawyer when they’ve already received a driving prohibition. By then, they may have missed the opportunity to dispute and possibly expunge what reasons the Superintendent might have had to issue a prohibition.

Remember, no ticket is too small when it comes to the record the Superintendent may consider in issuing a driving prohibition. Remove the risk. Call a BC Driving Lawyer today for a free consultation at 604-608-1200.