A Guide to Careless Driving in Ontario

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careless driving ontario

Have you been charged with careless driving in Ontario and you’re not sure what to do next? Don’t worry, we’ve created this guide to relieve you of any worry by helping you better understand the situation you’re in.

In 2018, there was an update to the Highway Traffic Act which divides careless driving into two versions: causing NO bodily harm or death and causing bodily harm and death.

Version 1: Careless Driving NOT Causing Bodily Harm or Death

Definition according to the Highway Traffic Act:

  • 130 (1) “Every person is guilty of the offence of driving carelessly who drives a vehicle or street car on a highway without due care and attention or without reasonable consideration for other persons using the highway.”

Version 2: Careless Driving Causing Bodily Harm or Death

Definition according to the Highway Traffic Act:

  • 130 (3) “Every person is guilty of the offence of driving carelessly who drives a vehicle or street car on a highway without due care and attention or without reasonable consideration for other persons using the highway and who thereby causes bodily harm or death to any person.”

What careless driving in Ontario really means

“Driving carelessly” may cause some confusion as to what it really means. There are many acts that are commonly considered to be considered careless driving, we’ve listed some examples below:

Penalties for careless driving in Ontario

If you’re convicted, careless driving penalties in Ontario include six demerit points, a fine between $400 and $2,000, possible jail time of up to 6 months and a 2 year licence suspension. Again, depending on the version of careless driving you are charged with the fines will vary. Here are the penalties associated with the two versions of Ontario Careless Driving:

Careless Driving NOT Causing Bodily Harm or Death:

Careless Driving Causing Bodily Harm or Death:

Do I get any demerit points for a careless driving ticket?

Yes, you do get demerit points if you receive a careless driving ticket. According to Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation, you will receive 6 demerit points for careless driving. The amount of demerit points remain the same whether you are charged with careless driving causing bodily harm or death or you are charged with careless driving NOT causing bodily harm or death.

What are the types of careless driving tickets?

There are two types of traffic tickets you can get:

  1. A traffic ticket that has a set fine – this means you can fight the ticket in court if you believe you’re innocent.
  2. A traffic ticket without a set fine – this means you are required to attend court and answer to the charges laid against you.

How long does a careless driving ticket stay on your driving record?

In Ontario, a careless driving ticket will stay on your record for 3 years from your conviction date. The conviction date is either the date you paid your ticket or the date you were found guilty in court.

What is the difference between careless driving and dangerous driving?

Most people make the mistake of confusing careless driving and dangerous driving. Make no mistake, careless driving is NOT the same as dangerous driving.

Careless driving is not a criminal offence while dangerous driving can often lead to criminal charges depending on the nature of the incident. The main difference between careless driving and dangerous driving is that careless driving are usually unplanned events (ie. car accident, rolling stop sign) and dangerous driving are planned events (ie. drag racing).

Dangerous driving is found in the Criminal Code of Canada whereas Careless driving is found in the Ontario Highway Traffic Act.

How does a careless driving ticket affect your insurance?

If you receive a careless driving charge you could be in trouble with your insurance company. Careless driving is considered a very serious offence and your insurance company will not take it lightly. Receiving a driving charge WILL impact your insurance rates – which is a major reason why most drivers choose to fight a careless driving charge.

There are three main ways your insurance could be affected:

  1. Your car insurance rates will increase, and in some cases up to 100%. Rate increases depend on your insurance company.
  2. Some insurance companies may choose to cancel your insurance coverage which may lead to you having trouble finding other companies that will offer you coverage. If you do find another company you can expect your insurance rates to be extremely high compared to your previous rates.
  3. Although not a criminal offence, having careless driving charges on your driving record is considered a bad driving conviction by most insurance companies. Because of this, they may decide to not renew your policy. If this is the case for you, consider looking at high risk car insurance.

How do I fight a careless driving charge?

It is recommended that you fight your careless driving charge to reduce the impact on your car insurance in Ontario. Luckily, people often win these cases because of the wide reliance on the officer’s discretion. If you’ve been fined here are the steps you’ll need to take (if your fine does not have a set amount you won’t be able to fight the charge):

  1. Select option 3 on your ticket and mail it in or drop it off.
  2. Either defend yourself in court or hire legal council to help – before hiring legal council, deeply consider the severity of the charge. Is the hourly rate of the lawyer worth the ticket charge?
  3. Once you’re in court, provide proof that shows you were NOT driving carelessly and the police officer’s assessment of the case was wrong.

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