Penalty Points and How They Affect You

Ticket WriterI’ve always understood penalty points to be a kind of score keeping method to assign a level of risk to the breach of a traffic rule. The more dangerous the violation, the more penalty points that would be assigned to a driving conviction. Rack up too many points in a set period of time and you would have to pay ICBC premiums and risk a driving prohibition from RoadSafetyBC.

Regardless of the fact that penalty points have been a part of driving in BC for many years, they are generally poorly understood.

image of drivers view and penalty points banner

The Penalty Points Scheme

The penalty points scheme is set up under Division 28 of the Motor Vehicle Act Regulations. It states that when a driver is convicted of an offence listed in this Division, ICBC will assign penalty points to a persons driving record according to four schedules. 

The first contains two point offences such as changing lanes without signalling or running a red light. 

The second lists three point offences that include driving without a driver’s licence or speeding. 

The six point violations in the third list are driving without due care and attention and driving without reasonable consideration for others using the highway.

Finally, we have ten point offences such as impaired or dangerous driving under the Criminal Code.

Effective June 1, 2016 there will be a new category of four penalty points for drivers who are convicted for distracted driving offences such as texting and driving.

The System Needs Adjustment

Is the level of risk associated to various offences appropriate? I would equate disobeying a red light at an intersection as being more dangerous than speeding, yet the red light offence is only two points while speeding is three.

Why was distracted driving assigned four points instead of six? It would seem that texting and driving might be the equivalent of driving without reasonable consideration for others using the highway.

How ICBC Calculates the Premium

Each year ICBC looks at the total number of points you received during a 12-month assessment period that ends five months before your birthday. The assessment period may include driving offences during an earlier period which have only recently been recorded on your driving record. If you collect more than three points on your driving record during the assessment period, you'll pay a Driver Penalty Point premium

Depending on the type of offence, you may also be assessed a Driver Risk premium.

Optional Insurance Coverage Premiums

Effective September 1, 2019 penalty points may affect the cost of optional insurance from ICBC. More points mean higher rates for coverage and the scan period will include 3 years.

Driver Improvement Program

RoadSafetyBC decides on driving prohibitions set out in the Driver Improvement Program Policies and Guidelines. In general, a driver in the Graduated Licencing Program may expect a sanction  after only one or two tickets in a 24 month period.

Experienced drivers have much more latitude. Depending on the type of offence, it could take as many as 15 penalty points over two years before action is taken.

The Guidelines are prefaced with the advice that they are just that. An adjudicator may choose to take action in a different manner if the driving behaviour justifies otherwise.

Can I Just Pay a Fine Instead?

Is there any way that I could just pay a fine and not receive the penalty points? This is a question heard frequently in traffic court. The only connection between penalty points and traffic court is on whether you are convicted of the offence as a driver or not.

If you are convicted, the offence goes on your driving record and ICBC will assess points.

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I was rather surprised to see driving without a licence as a three point penalty.  But I guess it depends on what driving without a licence means.

If driving without a licence means you have a licence, but you don't happen to have it with you when stopped by the police, then perhaps that is only worth two points.

On the other hand if you have never been granted a licence, never taken the test, then that, in my opinion, shows a much higher degree of disregard for the law.  Perhaps that is worth four points.

And I certainly agree with Tim's assessment that blowing through a red light needs a stiffer penalty.  Ditto for distracted driving.

If you don't produce your driver's license you are generally charged with Fail to Have plus Fail to Produce, once you (later) produce your DL the Fail to Have charge is dropped and you pay a fine for Fail to Produce, I don't believe there are points for failing to produce.

The Failing to Have charge has another "little kicker".  On your second offense the car you are driving is impounded.  Thus one can't just keep on getting Fail to Have tickets and pay fines, they are walking after the second one.

Always the easiest way to find out where the offences are buried in the mighty Motor Vehicle Act - find the ticket in Div. 28 and there will be your reference to the appropriate Section.

It does seem weird, that violating an amber or red light only carries 2 demerits, it's so dangerous!  But I guess a cop could always slap a Section 144 Careless Driving charge on the more egregious violations.

Effective June 1, 2016 there will be a new category of four penalty points for drivers who are convicted for distracted driving offences such as texting and driving.

Yeah, that new 4-point category caught my eye, being a whole new penalty.  But what if we look at things this way?  It's a more severe ticket than anything else other than the Table 3 & Table 4 offences, and those are aimed at pretty outrageous behaviour behind the wheel, particularly drivers taking deliberate risks and thus potentially endangering other road users.

But, look at the double-whammy under ICBC Penalty Point Premiums.  The driver not only has to pay the ticket, but those 4 points also mean that he/she has to pay a penalty point premium in addition, which would not have been the case under Table 1 or Table 2 (I guess they'll call this one Table 2.5 or something ha ha).

People may agree with it, some may not, but I can undertand what I believe to be the rationale behind this.

My only issue with the new law is that there still isn't any provision for the police officer to take away the cell phone for a finite period.  How come the authorities may, in some cases, take away and impound an entire automobile - but they can't just yank somebody's cell phone right here right now and impund that for a month?  Two months for second offence.  Four months for third.  And so on ...

That's always seemed a bit strange to me, as well.  A vehicle runs a red light at a major intersection and 2 points ?  But running a stop sign 3 points ???

The only difference, I can see is if we believe that the accused accidentally (ie, didn't just intentionally do it) disobeyed each, is that, stop signs don't change, they always mean stop.  A traffic light changes, it's green it's yellow and changes to red.

Distracted driving is another kettle of fish.  There has always been an offence for driving while distracted.  It just wasn't as direct.  It was also a more appropriete number of points, six. 

The section, which still exists, is "Driving Without Due Care and Attention", and encapsulates a number of things a driver could do (or not do) that would constitute driving in such a manner.

It was also the old "catch all" for some police, investigating collisions.

In my opinion it really was intended for a driver committing multiple violations.

But, what about a person driving along eating a bowl of corn flakes ?  Shaving ?  Putting on makeup ?  Reading a map ?  They would all fall under the original "distracted driving" section.

What the government has done is explicitly described one act and basically said "if you do this you are distracted" (and guilty).

It would be like saying "if you have consumed any alcohal within two hours of driving you are guilty.  With no allowance for the quantity, a sip, a glass, a bottle, doesn't matter, guilty.  It would certainly make it easy to convict and remove any grey area.

Naming an exact act without any interpretation brings the act to the forefront in the minds of the motoring public and makes it easy to convict.  Either you did or you didn't.

As for the point system it, has two functions.  Points are assessed and points are dropped off, the balance gives a numeric indicator for the RoadSafetyBC to assess who needs further attention.

The second reason and this is missed by many.  In BC we have government auto insurance.  In areas where private auto insurance is the norm, when one gets a ticket or two, their annual auto insurance goes up.  That doesnt' happen in BC.  There is no increase in your annual premium if you get a couple of tickets.  Have a couple of at fault claims, oh yes it will go up, but tickets, no.

BUT those tickets don't just cost their face penalty value.

Each driver who gets over 3 points during a scan period has to pay ICBC a penalty.  So in effect, the driver's auto insurance company does collect for violations (and other more serious offenses), but that "fee" isn't attached to the driver's annual insurance premium.

Probably a little more efficient and fair, in that every BC licensed driver pays ICBC for those points, where in a private insurance situation, if you don't insure a vehicle (you borrow, rent, or just drive company vehicles) your tickets only cost their face value, no surcharge. 

In the private auto insurance areas, the person who insures a vehicle and gets multiple tickets pays more and the person who doesn't insure a vehicle doesn't.

I'm amazed at the 14 distracted driving tickets accumulated by the lady on the lower mainland.Amazed that she was observed and stopped that many times.Obviousl cash penaties had no impact on this driver. Fortunately she is not driving ,at least legally at this time.

The point system makes sense to me , but what are the chances of  intercepting an impaired or excessive speeding driver? A fine example is the Malahat which has been shut down several times with fatal crashes. Millions have been spent to improve the road, but little is being done to adress the high risk drivers who travel at excessive speed on this road. Every RCMP IRU speed campaign results in the towing of a number of excessive speeders. "Once in  a while" camapign do not work.

Camapaign don't worrk -there need to be a continual presence to motive  high risk drivers.

Excessive speeders, impaired and distracted driver continue to put themselves and others at risk because the chances of getting caught are so low. The use of speed mointoring technolgy is required.

I agree with Phil. The chance of getting caught breaking the law is so low, that it is of no concern to anyone. (and like I mentioned elsewhere, when people DO get caught it is only a few dollars anyhow, no big deal.) The punishments do not match the crime in this province. I figured that out when the drunk driver who killed my brother in law, walked out of court a free man.

In my opinion, NONE of the points, fines, or prohibitions....are relevant. Higher penalties are needed to deter (somewhat) the devil may care attitude I see everywhere.

I get really riled up, pretty easily, on this topic. ICBC has divorced John Q Public from the consequences of his actions. And, IF and when he is caught doing something, the price he pays, is (again, in my opinion) a paltry sum.  

In my opinion, NONE of the points, fines, or prohibitions....are relevant. Higher penalties are needed to deter (somewhat) the devil may care attitude I see everywhere.

I think I get where you're coming from. But what 'higher penalties' do you suggest? We can't just shoot the bastards ...

Personally, I think the necessary system is already in place, using penalty points and consequent fines/prohibitions. However, the seeming disinterest on the part of the police (or their practice of predominantly using passive radar 'enforcement' whilst ignoring failure to signal, or following too closely) is the essential issue. It didn't used to be like this, you know! Time was that if a pedestrian jaywalked in Vancouver, they would be ticketed; these days, it happens at every damn intersection on every traffic light sequence, but the VPD are 'busy' nailing speeders in the longest Playground Zone known to mankind along Pacific Avenue instead.

It should be simple enough. You ignore the rules (failing to use your turn signals like you did to pass your road test for a license being the most obvious example) and if that's your habit then it should eventually catch up to you. Acquire enough penalty points and never mind how much you have in your bank account, you lose your license for a finite period.

We can wish for better drivers, we can promote driver education, but the fact is that many of the idiots behind the wheel don't know and/or don't care unless there is a personal negative consequence to their actions that will 'smarten them up' (yikes I think I'm showing my age).

Much better though if the system can appeal to a driver's self-interest, than relying on their good nature.

The system in place is motivated by revenues and targets, not by results. And as I've said before, if you're not part of the solution then you're part of the problem; and that goes for the cops just as much as anybody.

CompetentDrivingBC  I have grown to value highly your views on many issues presented here, and every once and a while, your high brow wit comes into play, affording us little gems such as the one below.

I think I get where you're coming from. But what 'higher penalties' do you suggest? We can't just shoot the bastards ...

As the hippies used to say...."I dig the space you're coming from".

Seriously though, I have felt that if you cause an accident where someone is killed, that should be a 5 year prohibition right there. If you cause an accident, you should be required to take some training related to your mistake, and then retest. These minor offences, like fail to produce, and your car being impounded the second time, I like that. You had 2 chances, you obviously don't give a shit if you are getting a second citation. 

Driving is such a huge responsibility, it needs to have serious and thought provoking deterrents associated with it....because so many people think its a right, and I see people all the time who treat it like a lark. It should be hard to obtain a license, there should be regular checks on a persons abilities, and mistakes should be costly and perhaps they should give a person some pedestrian experience while they think about what they've done, and maybe they'll appreciate what its all about a bit more.

I wonder why ICBC will increase premiums on optional insurance as a consequence of too many penalty points.  Surely the penalty points are indicative of expected risk and that should be applied to the basic liability policy.  Some people, perhaps those high-risk drivers might not be inclined to purchase optional insurance and hence avoid the increased premiums their behavior justifies.

On a related topic of seemingly permanent concern to your readers is the fact that risky driving behavior is just not being caught at the time.  I think most tickets for this are given following a crash.  Risky drivers just don't think they will be caught, and that is a reflection of the lack of dedicated traffic enforcement in this province.  Even if there is a ticket issued the penalties are not seen as significant enough to deter future risky behavior.  We need greater certainty of being caught and of being punished at an appropriate level so the behavior is rewarded with meaningful consequences. We have a great political reluctance to pay for enforcement.