A Few Thoughts on Traffic Tickets

Violation Ticket TopArrest someone, fight with them, throw them in jail and see them through to penalty in criminal court seems to be business as usual for the police, but write someone a traffic ticket and it's like you've called their mother a bad name. Very few drivers hang their heads, apologize for their mistake and said hand over my ticket, I'll do better next time. Those people do exist and probably receive the benefit of a doubt more often but those that don't wind up asking me for dispute advice.

Drivers who admit to an error are willing to pay the price of the ticket as long as they don't get any penalty points. This is often heard prior to the commencement of traffic court if the issuing officer makes inquiries among the disputants. The trouble is, if you plead not guilty and are found to be, the justice presiding has no control over penalty points. They are assessed by ICBC in response to the conviction.

The only way to avoid penalty points is to be convicted as the registered owner of the vehicle involved in the offence rather than as the driver. Police officers write tickets to drivers rather than registered owners for a good reason. Bad driving behaviour deserves to be recorded so that the driver can be dealt with appropriately if they continue disregard the rules. Registered owner violations are not recorded so there is no continuing accountability. Penalty points are incidental to the driving record.

Many drivers hope to successfully dispute a violation ticket for reasons including such things as the officer not asking them to sign the ticket, that vehicle details have been left blank or or incorrect in some way, the radar reading was not recorded on the ticket or a spelling error has been made. In most cases, these things are not immediately fatal to a successful prosecution.

Now that electronic tickets are being issued, no signature is required from either the officer or the driver.

On the face of all violation tickets is the advice “Shaded areas of this ticket are not part of the offence charged.” Errors or omissions in these blanks will not invalidate the ticket outright.

The Offence Act allows two methods for amending a ticket, prior to trial or after the prosecution's evidence has been given at trial. I have always found that the justice is reluctant to grant an officer's request for an amendment. The sentiment expressed seemed to be that if you can't write it correctly in the first place, don't try to fix it now.

The most effective method for an officer to use to overcome a mistake caught before trial is to simply issue a new ticket. This will “repair” errors or even correct an improperly chosen charge. The initial ticket is cancelled through notification to ICBC or having the justice dismiss it on the trial date. The limitation of action in the Motor Vehicle Act allows a ticket to be served within one year of the date of the offence.

There is plenty of advice and misadvice on the internet to use in planning a ticket dispute. Consider your research source carefully before you decide to rely on it. Give preference to trusted sources such as web sites for BC law firms and avoid information from the United States or counsel from discussion topics written by people with unstated qualification. Better still, take advantage of the Canadian Bar Association's Lawyer Referral Service. It is educated and economical.

Interesting that drivers are asking how they can avoid points for traffic violations. I have been driving for 5 decades and consider myself fortunate that I have only only had 2 tickets and 1 minor accident. I drive defensively but  have been very lucky , on ticketing and accidents.How many honest drivers would admit the they have made plenty of mistakes and not been caught or crashed-many I expect. How many times are drivers surprised by a school zone or play ground sign and rarely is there an RCMP or city Policeman to remind them of the limit change. And Yes , always it is embarrassing to be pulled over. After all, British Columbians have rights. Indignant that we were caught out of bounds.

We live in the west-sometimes the wild west. Getting to be more so with high way speeds  allowed at 86 mph-one of the highest in world! Allowed because there is little enforcement,and the maximum is not the maximum.

Last week,I had an interesting discussion on lower mainland drivers and driver licensing. My friend said drivers on the mainland are terrible and some buy their license as they did some time ago in an ICBC scandal. So I checked the ICBC website and indeed the licensing process is carried out in 11 languages with an interpreter. So I’m wondering if the person  is an ICBC employee accountable for the standards.Also I noticed that imports from a number of countries can exchange their license for BC Driver licenses with out testing.

Other countries not withstanding, I have noticed that drivers with Alberta plates, almost always miss the the “maximum” posted speed limit-celebrating the old west –the wild west on BC roads.

Me again.  Let's consider this statement:

 I checked the ICBC website and indeed the licensing process is carried out in 11 languages with an interpreter. So I’m wondering if the person  is an ICBC employee accountable for the standards.

It's probably immediately not evident from this section on the ICBC Website, but the facility to do a Knowledge Test at an ICBC License Office is actually designed to eliminate the necessity for an interpreter; it's just the 'Applicant vs Machine' process (available in 11 languages) that english speaking caucasians go through.

'Why would ICBC offer this service?' you might ask.  I'll offer you my opinion, and that's all it is, I don't work for ICBC these days; but let's play 'Let's Suppose' for a moment.

Let's suppose that, on average, ICBC Knowledge Tests have around an 80% Pass Rate.  As in, for every 50 teenagers (for instance) who take their Class 7 Knowledge Test, 40 will be successful and 10 will fail and be sent away to study some more and scrounge up another $15 to pay for the next one.

Let's suppose that, on average, ICBC Knowledge Tests conducted with an Interpreter explaining the meaning of the questions and answers have around a 99% Pass Rate.

Surely, there can only be one of two conclusions; either your average new Canadian is way smarter than your average Canadian High School student, or them there Interpreters are providing more than an explanation of the questions and possible answers available.

And let's suppose that within an ethnic community, some Interpreters are most likely to receive good references and endorsements from satisified customers - would this happen to those with a high success rate, or those with absolute integrity?  Hmmm.

And in the meanwhile, where an Interpreter is actually required to assist the Applicant's understanding, it should come as no surprise to know that the entire Knowledge Test will be taped, audio and video, so that the actual nature of the conversation will be verifiable later.

You don't need to be able to speak English to drive a car; but you do have to understand the rules of the road, just like everybody else with a license.



You've made some comments there that should be addressed; and while I'm not the world's greatest fan of ICBC in some respects, and feel that they may at times bend to political will, there's no doubt in my mind that they are deeply committed to integrity in their licensing system.

Last week, I had an interesting discussion on lower mainland drivers and driver licensing. My friend said drivers on the mainland are terrible and some buy their license as they did some time ago in an ICBC scandal.

The way that this is phrased is misleading, I think. For the sake of clarity, take the time to read this quite thorough newspaper story about Dragon Driving School in Richmond, and Crispina Diaz, the ICBC Driver Examiner involved. (This link no longer exists)

Note please, that the story is from 2008, and makes mention of an earlier attempt (which was also uncovered and properly addressed) in 1993.  Not a frequently successful scam. This is not to say that drivers don't at times attempt to bribe ICBC employees - see this CBC story from a couple of years back, and you'll realize it's not uncommon.  

But for anyone to state that 'some buy their license' as though it's some kind of every day activity is utterly misleading!

People love to hate ICBC employees sometimes, but people love to hate Police Officers too sometimes. Doesn't mean it's justified. How do RCMP officers feel about colleagues who have taken bribes, or misused their authority?  Accepting, or disgusted?  Eager to get in on the action, or outraged with their colleague's behaviour? Well let me tell you, if any ICBC Driver Examiner had any suspicion about a fellow DE accepting bribes, they would be outraged and honour bound to report their concerns to their Supervisor.  Those men and women take their jobs seriously, they have integrity, and nobody should be in doubt of this.  A rogue DE is a rare thing, you better believe it!

Did you know that Driver Examiners don't get to 'pick and choose' the Applicant they're going to test, there's an inbuilt randomization in the system in the license offices these days to prevent it?

Did you know that while at one time, an Applicant lacking the proper identification when they presented themselves for the Road Test could (upon successful completion) take their completion papers away with them and later return with the proper ID to the same or another license office in order to finalize the photo/signature process, this is now strictly forbidden in order to avoid fraud?  (If you don't have the ID with you, then you don't get to do the test, period.)

Human nature being what it is, attempted fraud and/or bribery on the part of applicants will probably never cease; but ICBC are simultaneously ongoing with processes and systems to prevent it; they have to be, it's part of their purview as this province's licensing authority, and they have absolutely nothing to gain - but potentially, a lot to lose - if they don't do so.

There are a couple of other things I'll also respond to shortly, but in a separate post.

Registered owner violations are not recorded so there is no continuing accountability.


Apologies for resurrecting an older thread.

I was curious about the quoted comment that registered owner violations are not recorded. Can you elaborate on this statement?

Does that mean that the data for registered owner violations are not stored at all? Or does it just mean that the violation ticket is not associated with the registered owner's driving record?

Are registered owner violations included in ICBC and police violation ticket stats? If not, where do they go?

I had previously just thought that a registered owner violation (like getting a ticket from a red light camera) would just lead to a fine but no points; otherwise, I thought the other details would be the same as any other violation ticket.

Thanks for the clarification.