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November 15, 2018

Demerit Points in Ontario

5 min read


Demerits – The Only Points That Nobody Wants

If you are among the millions of Ontarians who don’t know the ins and outs of demerit points, rest easy. We’ll spell it all out for you right here.

  1. Introduction
  2. What is a Demerit?
  3. Demerit Points in Ontario
  4. How Do I Get a Demerit Point?
  5. How Many Points is Too Many Points?
    1. 2-8 Points: Warning Letter
    2. 9-14 Points: Fight For Your Right to Drive
    3. 15 Points: 30-days of Riding the Bus
  6. New Drivers
  7. Can I Get Demerit Points For Tickets Outside Ontario?
  8. Losing Points – That’s a Good Thing
  9. Demerit Points and Car Insurance
  10. Can I See How Many Demerit Points I Have?

1. Introduction

If you’re a driver in Ontario, you’ve probably heard tell about demerit points, or maybe just ‘points’. You’ve probably worried about “how many points” a driving infraction will cost you. Some people think that you start with a certain number of points and lose them if you get a speeding ticket. That’s wrong. Some people think that if you lose points, you’ll pay higher insurance premiums. That’s also wrong…kind of.

There is a lot of confusion and misinformation about demerit points, why they exist, how they work, how many you need to get/lose to have your license suspended, and whether your points magically reset after a certain period of time. Well, if you are among the millions of Ontarians who don’t know the ins and outs of demerit points, rest easy. We’ll spell it all out for you right here.

2. What is a Demerit? defines “demerit” simply as “a quality that deserves blame or lacks merit”. A demerit is a flaw, a fault. A demerit point, it stands to reason, is a negative point that is given to drivers for behaviour behind the wheel that’s not so smart. It is given, not taken away, but it’s not the kind of point most people would want to earn.

3. Demerit Points in Ontario?

Ontario is just one of countless jurisdictions around the world that use a demerit point system to encourage safe driving and discourage dangerous behaviour behind the wheel. Every province in Canada has a points system of some kind, as well as many U.S. states.

In Ontario, you accumulate demerit points for traffic-related convictions, and if you collect a certain number, there are penalties that apply, including losing your license for a spell. Note that these penalties are in addition to any fines and other penalties related to the specific offences.

4. How Do I Get a Demerit Point?

Oddly, you can’t get just one demerit point in Ontario. Minor convictions will get you 2 points and major convictions will get you 6 or 7 points. Here is the full breakdown:

Driving OffenceDemerit Points
Minor Offences
Improper use of high beams2 Points
Improperly opening vehicle door2 Points
Turning where prohibited2 Points
Towing people (on bicycle, skateboard etc.)2 Points
Failing to obey signs2 Points
Failing to share the road2 Points
Improper turn2 Points
Failing to signal2 Points
Driving too slowly2 Points
Reversing on a highway2 Points
Driver not wearing a seatbelt2 Points
Minor in the car not wearing a seatbelt2 Points
16-29 km/h over speed limit3 Points
Driving through, around or under a railway crossing barrier3 Points
Distracted driving (texting etc.)3 Points
Failing to yield the right-of-way3 Points
Failing to stop at a stop sign, red light, railway crossing or crosswalk3 Points
Failing to obey traffic control stop sign3 Points
Failing to obey traffic control slow sign3 Points
Failing to obey the directions of a police officer3 Points
Driving the wrong way3 Points
Failing to report a collision to a police officer3 Points
Not staying in your lane3 Points
Crowding the driver’s seat3 Points
Driving on a closed road3 Points
Crossing a divided road where no proper crossing is provided3 Points
Improperly passing a stopped emergency vehicle3 Points
Driving with a radar detector or equivalent device3 Points
Improper use of a high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane3 Points
Not-so-minor Offences
30-49 km/h over the speed limit4 Points
Following too closely4 Points
Bus driver failing to stop at unprotected railway crossing5 Points
Serious Offences
Careless driving6 Points
Racing6 Points
50+ km/h over the speed limit6 Points
Failing to remain at the scene of a collision7 Points
Failing to stop for police7 Points

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5. How Many Points is Too Many Points?

This is really the question of the hour, and the key to the whole demerit point system. What are the consequences for bad driving, and when do they kick in? Put another way, how many points can you accumulate before it starts to hurt?

As you would imagine, as your points go up, so too does the severity of the penalties:

a) 2-8 Points: Warning Letter

Given that 2 is the minimum number of points you can get, this means that whenever you’re convicted of a traffic violation, the Ministry of Transportation will send you a letter to warn you that if you continue to drive badly, there will be some pain for you.

b) 9-14 Points: Fight For Your Right to Drive

When you hit 9 points, you may have to attend a meeting to argue why you should keep your license. If you don’t make a convincing argument, your license could be suspended. The meeting will cost you $50 regardless.

c) 15 Points: 30-days of Riding the Bus

If you ever hit 15 points or more, you will have to give up your driver’s license for 30 days. If you refuse, you could get hit with a 2-year suspension. After the 30 days, you could have to take a test before getting your license back. Note that you will re-enter the driving world with 7 points. Serving your suspension does not reset your points to zero.

6. New Drivers

In keeping with the principles of Ontario’s graduated licensing system, new drivers are held to a higher standard than the rest of us. The above penalties for fully-licensed drivers are somewhat more severe if your license has a number in it (G1, G2, M1, M2), and they kick in at a lower point total. For new drivers, the magic number is 9. That’s how many points it takes to lose your license. Here is how it works:

  • 2-5 points: Warning letter
  • 6-8 points: Meeting to justify keeping your license
  • 9 points: 60-day license suspension

In this case, when you get your license back, your points are reset to 4.

7. Can I Get Demerit Points For Tickets Outside Ontario?

The short answer is yes. Ontario has agreements with every other province in Canada, New York State and Michigan, and if you get a ticket there, it’s like getting a ticket here. Sorry to break the bad news.

8. Losing Points – That’s a Good Thing

Are you ready for the good news? Every demerit point you ever collect on your Ontario driving record magically vanishes after 2 years. The 2 years begins either the day you are convicted of the offense, or, if you don’t challenge the ticket in court, the day you pay the fine.

9. Demerit Points and Car Insurance

Many people think that demerit points determine what you pay for car insurance. That is not true. Insurance companies don’t use demerit points to determine your premium. But the things that will get you demerit points are also some of the things that determine your insurance premium. Minor traffic convictions can affect your insurance premium a little. Major convictions will affect it a lot.

The fact is that if you have more than five points, you are very likely to pay more for car insurance than a driver with a clean record, because it means you have a major conviction or multiple minor convictions in a short period of time.

The opposite is not true. You can have zero points and pay high premiums. Why? Well, for one thing, insurance companies can use any conviction that is still on your driving record to help determine your premium. Although points go away after 2 years, convictions stay on your record for 3 years. Also, if you are convicted of a DUI, you won’t get any demerit points because it is a Criminal Code conviction, but you can bet your bottom dollar it will affect what you pay for that little pink slip the next time you renew your policy.

10. Can I See How Many Demerit Points I Have?

If you want to know how many points you currently have, you can order your driver’s abstract online, or at any Service Ontario location. It will cost you $12 or $18, depending on whether you want it certified.

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