Understanding serious driving offences as a newcomer to Canada

Julia Hornstein
Published: November 22, 2023

Upon settling in Canada, many newcomers will get a driver’s license in the province or territory they are living in.

Depending on the province or territory, you may need to complete a written exam on road rules and one or two driving tests. With this license, you can legally drive anywhere in Canada.

Once you have a Canadian driver’s license, you must follow Canada’s driving laws. Before you start driving, you should take the time to learn the laws specific to your province or territory.

Discover if You Are Eligible for Canadian Immigration

It is important to understand serious driving offences in Canada, as these can lead to demerit points, higher car insurance, license suspension, fines and even jail time.

What is the demerit point system?

Demerit points are added to your driver’s license if you are convicted of breaking certain driving laws. The rules are usually dependent on if you are a new driver or have a full license.

You start with zero points and will gain points for being convicted of breaking certain traffic laws. These points stay on your record for two years from the date of the offence. If you collect enough points, you can lose your driver’s license.

Keep in mind you can lose demerit points on your record even when you violate driving laws in other Canadian provinces and territories, not just in the province or territory that issued your license.

Driving offences with high demerit points

Demerit point violations will vary by province and territory, but the number of points added to your driving record always depends on the offence.

To illustrate how the system works and the different types of demerit point offences, Ontario will serve as an example, since Ontario is the primary province of residence for new immigrants to Canada.

In Ontario, you can be given between two to seven demerit points for one offence.

Seven demerit points will be added if you are convicted of:

  • Failing to remain at the scene of a collision
  • Failing to stop when signaled or asked by a police officer

Six demerit points will be added if you are convicted of:

  • Careless driving
  • Racing
  • Exceeding the speed limit by 40 km/h or more on roads with a speed limit of less than 80 km/h
  • Exceeding the speed limit by 50 km/h or more
  • Failing to stop for a school bus

Five demerit points will be added if you are convicted of:

  • Failing to stop at an unprotected railway crossing (for bus drivers only)

Four demerit points will be added if you are convicted of:

  • Exceeding the speed limit by 30 to 49 km/h
  • Following another vehicle too closely
  • Failing to stop at a pedestrian crossover

Either two or three demerit points may be added for many offences that would be too long to list.

However, some examples of three demerit point offences include driving while holding or using a cell phone, failing to obey the directions of a police officer and improper passing.

Two demerit points offences include failing to signal, a driver failing to wear a seat belt or unnecessary slow driving.

As a driver with a full license, if you have more than 15 demerit points, your license will be suspended for 30 days. As a new driver, if you have more than nine demerit points, your license will be suspended for 60 days.

Other possible consequences for violating traffic laws in Canada

The nature of the punishment that would follow a given driving offence depends on various factors, including whether you have been convicted of the same type of offence in the past and the situation surrounding the offence.

Numerous small tickets for driving offences over time can increase your insurance rates.

Note: Each insurance company will have their own formula for calculating how much your insurance rates will increase.

Common driving offences that raise your insurance rates include:

  • Failure to stop at a red light
  • Reckless driving
  • Speeding

Your license may be suspended for numerous violations, ranging from minor to major offences. If you are a repeat offender and have multiple tickets for minor violations, you may be at risk of having your license suspended.

Other common reasons your driving license may get suspended include unpaid fines, driving without insurance, or careless driving.

In the major violation category, driving under the influence (DUI) is a serious offence. Depending on the situation, it can result in other penalties such as a lifetime license suspension or imprisonment for up to 10 years.

Finally, some serious driving offences can put you in prison for an indefinite time. As an example, you can receive jail sentences of varying lengths for the following driving offences:

  • Causing injury or death to someone while under the influence of drugs or alcohol or due to dangerous or distracted/careless driving
  • Leaving the scene of an accident without waiting for the authorities to arrive
  • Refusing to provide a sample of blood, urine, or breath when required to do so by the police
  • Driving whilst disqualified or with a suspended license

Discover if You Are Eligible for Canadian Immigration

Share this article
Share your voice
Did you find this article helpful?
Thank you for your feedback.
Subscribe to our newsletter
Did you find this article helpful?
Please provide a response
Thank you for your helpful feedback
Please contact us if you would like to share additional feedback, have a question, or would like Canadian immigration assistance.
  • Do you need Canadian immigration assistance? Contact the Contact Cohen Immigration Law firm by completing our form
  • Send us your feedback or your non-legal assistance questions by emailing us at media@canadavisa.com
Related articles
Donald Trump may now be inadmissible to enter Canada
A picture of a gavel and scales, in a court room.
Three tools to start looking for jobs after receiving an ITA from IRCC
Coworking spaces foster collaboration among diverse professionals in modern office
French language proficiency will lead category-based selection Express Entry draws in 2024
Nearly 80% of all Express Entry draws in 2024 will be category-based.
Statistics Canada releases new data on the educational achievements of racialized immigrants
Group of millenial young adult friends enjoying wintertime and in a snow-filled park
Top Stories
The top three universities in Canada according to the 2025 QS World University Rankings
Live Webinar: A Clear Path to Academic Achievement in Canada Redefined
How some Express Entry candidates may benefit from category-based selection draws
Join our free newsletter. Get Canada's top immigration stories delivered to your inbox.
More in Express Entry
How some Express Entry candidates may benefit from category-based selection draws
Business people smiling and having a meeting in the office.
How do Express Entry draws in 2024 compare to 2023?
A man sitting at a table looking intently at his laptop.
Canada invites 3,000 Canadian Experience Class candidates in latest Express Entry draw
Canada has issued ITAs to more Express Entry candidates.
10 Frequently Asked Questions about Proof of Funds for Express Entry
young couple boyfriend and girlfriend smiling together looking at the camera
Link copied to clipboard