Driving Without a Licence

BC Driver's LicenceA reader has asked "What would happen to me if I was caught driving without a drivers licence?" It is a question that will expose serious consequences for you and the owner of the vehicle you are driving if it is not your own. I will confine my answer to the situation where you don't have a driver's licence either because you did not get one, it was expired or you did not have it properly reinstated after a suspension or prohibition.

Before The First Impound

Generally an unlicensed driver runs into trouble because they have done something to attract the attention of police. Most officers will write the ticket for that infraction and query ICBC records to determine the driver's status. If you are unlicensed and this is the first time you have been caught, you will also receive a ticket for driving without a valid driver's licence.

It will be the end of the trip as you will be prevented from driving further.

Police Must Impound the Vehicle

If you have had a previous conviction for driving without a driver's licence, your ICBC licence record will be flagged for a vehicle impoundment. If the flag is present on your driving record, police are required to impound the vehicle that you are driving by the Motor Vehicle Act, regardless of the fact that it might not be your vehicle.

Imagine having to tell the boss or a rental company that their business vehicle is not going to be available for a while.

Length of the Impoundment

If this is your first impoundment, the vehicle will be held for 7 days. If you choose to drive without a driver's licence again within a two year period, the impoundment length increases to 30 days for the second and 60 days for subsequent offences.

In addition to the impoundment, you will probably receive another ticket for not having a valid driver's licence.

Impoundment Costs

Responsibility for the payment of towing and storage fees belongs to the owner of the vehicle. If they were not the driver at the time of the impound, they may recover costs from the driver in the same manner as any other bad debt.

The cost of an impoundment varies depending on where it happens within the province due to the cost of storage. The vehicle impound refund calculator will give you an estimation of the costs involved.

Reviewing an Impoundment

A seven day impoundment is not subject to a review.

Thirty and sixty day impoundments may be reviewed for the following reasons:

  1. You did not give consent to use the vehicle to the person that was driving
  2. Your vehicle was stolen
  3. The driver renews their driver's licence
  4. Compassionate grounds ie: economic hardship

Denial of Insurance Coverage

A condition of your insurance contract is that the vehicle driver must be properly licensed. If not, the contract can be considered void and coverage in the event of a collision may be refused. This can be a complicated situation and if you are interested, you should discuss if with your insurer to determine what the outcome would be.

Driving without a valid driver's licence has many pitfalls regardless of whether you do so accidentally by missing a renewal, or deliberately through personal choice.

Allowing Others to Use Your Vehicle

If you lend your vehicle for any reason it is wise to be certain that the person who will be driving it has a valid driver's licence!

I have researched the consequences of driving without a licence, but I'd like to find out if there are further consequences with respect to driving without a licence with a baby or minor child in the vehicle. What are the implications and/or fines, and more importantly, what about the welfare of the child? Is this taken into consideration?

When someone's vehicle is subject to impound because they are unlicenced, it is up to the officer doing the impound to make sure that all vehicle occupants are taken care of:

104.1 (2) If a peace officer is satisfied that the impoundment of a motor vehicle under subsection (1) would

(a) jeopardize the safety of the occupants of the motor vehicle, or

(b) leave the occupants stranded,

the peace officer must arrange for transportation of the occupants of the motor vehicle to the nearest safe area where they can summon an alternative form of transportation.

The fine does not change if there is a baby or minor child in the vehicle.

Worth mentioning that many motorcyclists are in the "unlicensed" group, although they may have a valid Class 5 or other license,  because they've failed to undertake (and pass) the testing necessary to obtain a Class 6 (motorcycle) license.

Police sources I'm close to have told me that it is typical to estimate unlicensed riders at about 30% of the observed riders.

This relates well to the fact that unlicensed riders (in other jurisdictions where this is part of the data set publicly reported) make up over 20% of the rider fatalities.