What are the penalties for a careless driving ticket?

By: Lisa Coxon on March 23, 2020
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Presuming you’re a responsible driver, you generally know which traffic offences are considered serious and which are considered minor.

Careless driving, most of us know, falls into the serious offence category. And if you’re convicted of it, it can affect everything from your driving record to your insurance rates.

So, here’s what you need to know about a careless driving ticket: what constitutes careless driving, how a careless driving ticket will affect you, and how to fight it if you believe you’ve been wrongfully convicted.

What is careless driving?    

Careless driving is a serious traffic offence. No matter which province you live in, it will be classified and defined under your respective province’s Highway Traffic Act.

For instance, in section 130 of Ontario’s Highway Traffic Act, careless driving is defined as someone 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…”

Some examples of careless driving could include:

  • Excessive speeding
  • Not passing another vehicle safely
  • Texting and driving (distracted driving is considered a minor offence but can be upgraded to a careless charge if it results in bodily injury or death) 
  • Not paying attention to cyclists or other drivers

What are the penalties for careless driving?

According to Ontario’s Highway Traffic Act, drivers who are convicted of careless driving can be fined no less than $400 and no more than $2,000. They can also face imprisonment for no longer than six months. They can be fined and sent to prison.

You can also have your licence suspended for up to two years with a careless driving charge.

These penalties for careless driving are similar from province to province.                                                                                                                       

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

Yes. According to Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation, you would receive six demerit points for careless driving.

If you’re a new driver (G1, G2, M1, M2, M1-L or M2-L licence), you may need to attend a demerit point interview to discuss your driving record and defend against your licence being suspended. The fee for this interview is $50 and has to be paid in person at a ServiceOntario centre.

If you’re not a new driver (G licence), you will still receive the demerit points and a warning letter.

How will a careless driving ticket affect my auto insurance?

Auto insurance companies don’t look too kindly on any traffic offences, let alone serious ones like careless driving.

If you’re convicted of careless driving, you’re pretty much guaranteed to see a spike in your annual premiums for up to three years. And there’s also a chance your insurance company won’t allow you to renew your policy. One of the reasons an auto insurance company can cancel your policy is if the risk of insuring you changes. If it sees a careless charge, it could decide that you’ve become too high-risk, and could cut you loose. Having a cancellation stain on your record will make getting auto insurance elsewhere more difficult.

To illustrate what a careless driving ticket can do to your insurance premiums, we ran a test quote on our Ontario auto insurance quoter. We found that a 30-year-old male in downtown Toronto with an otherwise clean driving record who gets convicted of a careless driving charge sees the lowest auto insurance rate he can get on our site go from $2,369 a year to $4,655 a year. That’s a 49% increase.

Different types of tickets will have different levels of impact, too. Whether the ticket is minor, major, or serious, will affect the fine you receive, the demerit points you receive, and how much your auto insurance rates will increase (if at all).

Can I fight a careless driving ticket?

You can. This would involve pleading not guilty and then speaking with a lawyer or paralegal who could help you form a case as to why you think the charge is unwarranted.

But it’s not an easy process. You’ll need to mount a strong case with evidence that shows you weren’t driving carelessly, and that can be very difficult to prove. If you’re up for the challenge, it’s best to enlist the help of a professional.

If you go to trial and successfully fight the careless driving ticket, it will no longer be on your record, you’ll save your demerit points, and your insurance company won’t be able to penalize you in the form of higher rates.

But if you’re not successful, then it will remain on your record. And with some traffic offences, the fine rises if you fight the ticket in court and lose.