CASE LAW - Winthrope v Superintendent of Motor Vehicles
Marika Winthrope obtained her class 7 novice driver's licence in 2012. Due to the cost, she never attempted to obtain her full class 5 licence. In 2015 she received a speeding ticket and what the court surmised was a one month prohibition resulting from it in 2016.
This case arose from a distracted driving ticket issued on May 24, 2017 when Ms. Winthrope used her cellphone to call 911 while stopped at a red traffic light for a medical issue concerning her mother who was at home.
Ms. Winthrope told the court that she had intended to dispute the ticket but had been told by her insurance agent that the ticket would have to be paid before she could renew her insurance. She paid the ticket, renewed her insurance and did not dispute.
Subsequently the Superintendent issued her with a notice of prohibition for 3 months based on the distracted driving conviction. She applied to have the decision reviewed. The review confirmed the prohibtion, which she chose not to acknowledge. In January 2018 Ms. Winthrope was stopped by the police and issued a driving prohibition on behalf of the Superintendent.
She requested a further review and an interim stay of the prohibition was agreed to.
The adjudicator decided to uphold the prohibition due to the ticket conviction. The conviction requires the adjudicator to assume that the ticket had been validly issued. The court is also bound by this requirement.
Ms. Winthrope then applied to the Supreme Court to have the prohibition reviewed.
Mr. Justice N. Smith examined the law on making 911 calls while driving and observed that the call Ms. Winthrope had made was not illegal based on the circumstances.
He also looked at whether the Superintendent was justified in making the prohibition based on a bad driving record and the public interest. His opinion was that there was no basis for this and ordered the termination of the prohibition.
From my point of view, the moral of this story may be that one should treat receiving a traffic ticket with care. Insurance agents are not required to insist on payment of traffic tickets before issuing insurance unless there has been a conviction and the fine is due. It is possible that Ms. Winthrope intended to dispute, did not and was deemed convicted. This would trigger the requirement of payment prior to obtaining insurance.
The cascade of events that followed might have been avoided entirely if the ticket had been disputed and dismissed in the first place.
This can also serve as an example of the consideration that one should make when deciding to keep a class 7 driver's license instead of obtaining a full privilege class 5. The Superintendents guidelines for driving prohibitions are less stringent for class 5 drivers.