Demerit points are essentially “bad marks” that appear on your driving record if you are convicted of certain traffic offences. If you receive too many demerit points, your license will be suspended and your automobile insurance premiums may rise.
The information presented below only applies to fully licensed drivers in Alberta.
How do I find out how many demerit points I have?
You can request a copy of your driving record (also called an “abstract”) at any Alberta registry agent. This document will contain your entire driving history, including any traffic convictions and license suspensions. It will state the current number demerit points recorded against you.
You will automatically receive written notice about the number of demerit points on your record if you accumulate 8 or more points.
How do I get demerit points?
You will only receive demerit point if you are convicted of certain traffic offences. Generally, these offences relate to failing to obey the “rules of the road” or operating a motor vehicle in an unsafe manner. The number of demerit points increases proportionality with the severity of the offence and range from 2 to 7. Demerit points are imposed on the date you are convicted of the offence. If the offence has a voluntary payment option, the points are imposed on the date the payment is received.
Some common offences and their corresponding demerit point penalty include:
- Improper turns – 2 demerit points;
- Distracted driving (including using a cellphone or electronic device) – 3 demerit points
- Failing to stop (at red light, stop sign, etc) – 3 demerit points;
- Exceeding a speed limit by up to 15 km/h – 2 demerit points;
- Exceeding a speed limit by more than 15 km/h but less than 30 km/h – 3 demerit points;
- Exceeding a speed limit by more than 30 km/h but less than 50 km/h – 4 demerit points;
- Exceeding a speed limit by more than 50 km/h – 6 demerit points;
- Careless driving – 6 demerit points; and
- Failing to remain at the scene of an accident – 7 points.
Many offences do not have any demerit points attached. For example, you will not receive any demerit points if you are convicted of a “registered owner” offence (an offence issued to the registered owner of a motor vehicle, not the driver of the vehicle). This includes all “photo radar” and “red light” tickets. Also, you will not receive demerit points if convicted of an “administrative offence,” which includes offences related to licensing, registration and insurance.
What if I am convicted of a traffic offence in another province?
If you are convicted of a traffic offence in another province, demerit points will be recorded on your Alberta license as if you were convicted of the “equivalent” offence in Alberta. For example, if you are convicted of driving 35 km/h over the speed in limit in British Columbia, you will receive 4 demerit points even though you would only receive 3 demerit points if you were licensed in British Columbia.
What if I receive multiple convictions?
If you are convicted of multiple offences arising out of the same circumstances, you will only receive the demerit points that are associated with the offence that carries the most points. For example, if you are convicted of exceeding a posted speed limit by more than 50 km/h (6 demerit points) and distracted driving (3 demerit points), you would only receive 6 demerit points. If you are convicted of two or more offences that carry the same number of demerit points, you will only receive the points for one of the offences.
What if my license is suspended as a result of a conviction?
If you are sentenced to a license suspension, the demerit points that would normally be imposed for that offence will not be recorded. In other words, the license suspension “replaces” the demerit points. For example, if you are convicted of exceeding a posted speed limit by more than 50 km/h (6 demerit points) and distracted driving (3 demerit points), you would normally receive 6 demerit points. However, if you were sentenced to a license suspension for the speeding offence, no demerit points will be imposed for that offence. Therefore, you would only receive the 3 demerit points that are associated with the distracted driving offence.
Can demerit points be reduced like a fine?
A common misconception about demerit points is that they can be reduced in the same way that a fine can be reduced. This is not the case in Alberta. The demerit point program in Alberta is an administrative scheme that is overseen by the Registrar of Motor Vehicle Services. As a result, they are not considered a sentence and there is no discretion in how many demerit points are imposed. This means that demerit points cannot be “reduced” by a prosecutor, traffic commission or judge.
The only way in which demerit points can be “reduced” is by entering a plea to an alternative offence that carries fewer points. For example, failing to stop at a red light is associated with 3 demerit points. With the consent of the prosecutor, it may be possible to enter a plea to an alternative offence like “failing to obey a traffic control device” that only has 2 demerit points associated with it. Whether or not you will be permitted to enter a plea to an alternative offence is completely at the discretion of the prosecutor.
How do I get rid of demerit points?
There are only two ways in which you can get rid of demerit points:
- Demerit points will be automatically removed from your license two years after the date that they were imposed. For example, imagine that you were convicted of travelling 20 km/h over the speed limit on May 1, 2016 and received 3 demerit points. Those 3 points will be automatically removed from your driving record on May 1, 2018.
- It is possible to have demerit points removed by completing an approved driving course. You may only exercise this option once every two years.
- If you have 2 demerit points on your record, you will be entitled to a 2-point reduction; and
- If you have 3 or more demerit points on your record, you will be entitled to a 3-point reduction.
If you believe you were given a demerit point in error, you may request to have your driving record reviewed by contacting Driver Fitness and Monitoring.
Will my license be suspended if I get too many demerit points?
If you accumulate 15 or more demerit points in a two year period, your license will be suspended. You will receive written notice within one month of accumulating the points that your license is suspended. The notice will specify the date on which the license suspension will start. Your license will still be suspended even if the number of demerit points recorded against you falls below 15 before the suspension is scheduled to start.
The length of a demerit suspension depends on whether or not you have previously received a demerit point suspension:
- If you accumulate 15 or more points in a two year period, your license will be suspended for one month;
- If, after having received a demerit point suspension within the past year, you accumulate 15 or more demerit points, your license will be suspended for three months; or
- If, after having received two demerit point suspensions within the past two years, you accumulate 15 or more demerit points, your license will be suspended for six months.
A demerit point suspension will run concurrently to any other license suspension. For example, if your license is suspended as a result of a criminal conviction, a demerit point suspension will still begin on the date specified in the notice and will run at the same time as the criminal suspension. You will not have to wait for the criminal suspension to conclude before beginning your demerit point suspension.
Your license and driving privileges will not automatically return after you have completed a demerit point suspension. You must apply at registry agent to have your license reinstated. When your license is reinstated, the number of demerit points recorded on your license will be reset to 7.
What if I need a license to drive for employment, health or educational reasons?
If you require a driver’s license for employment, health or educational reasons you may qualify for the Restricted Operator’s License Program if you apply before the demerit suspension starts. A Restricted Operator’s License will allow you drive during the demerit point suspension, subject to the conditions deemed appropriate by Driver Fitness and Monitoring. An application can be purchased from an Alberta Registry agent for $150.
Please keep in mind that you may not be eligible for the program. Even if you are eligible, your application may still be denied. More information is available from Driver Fitness and Monitoring.
What if I am a novice driver?
You are considered a novice driver if you holder a learner’s operator’s license or a probationary license. The information discussed above is applicable to novice drivers, with the following exceptions:
- You will receive written notice if you have accumulated 4 or more demerit points;
- You will receive a demerit point suspension if you accumulate 8 or more demerit points in a two year period; and
- When your license is reinstated after a demerit point suspension, the number of demerit points recorded on your license will be reset to 3.
What if I have more questions?
A lawyer at Pringle Chivers Sparks Teskey can assist you if you have been charged with a traffic offence. A lawyer will ensure the best possible outcome if you intend to accept responsibility or if you wish to fight the ticket. Please contact us to discuss your case.