Failing to stop at a stop sign, going a little over the speed limit, or going through a red light or traffic signal when it is quiet doesn’t seem like a big deal in theory, but if you get caught and are given a traffic ticket for doing this, it could have negative consequences, including a mandatory court appearance. Whether you’re driving a motor vehicle around Barrie, travelling across Canada or crossing the border into U.S. states such as New York, disobeying a traffic control device could leave you with more than a speeding ticket—you could end up with a suspended driver’s licence. Learn more about this charge so you can make an informed decision about how to mitigate the potential damage of breaking traffic laws.
What is a Traffic Control Device?
When legal entities, insurance companies and government agencies use the words “traffic control device,” they generally mean any sign, signal, or device designed to manage the flow of vehicular, bicycle, and pedestrian traffic on public roadways. This is a broad category that can include street signs such as stop signs, road closure signs, traffic lights and other official symbols designed to inform drivers and others of how they can behave on the road and remain in compliance with the law, without police officers being present. Physical barriers such as traffic cones or road closure gates may also fall under the category of traffic control devices in some jurisdictions.
Disobeying a traffic control device is a charge associated with failing to comply with applicable signs and signals on the road. Running a stop sign, driving on a road marked as closed, or failing to yield right of way to pedestrians are all potential examples of actions that can bring on this charge.
The exact nature of the disobeyed traffic control device charge can vary by jurisdiction. Some provinces or states allow police officers to choose whether to write a ticket for disobeying a traffic control device or for a specific action such as failure to stop at a traffic light.
In Ontario, the term “traffic control device” isn’t used as a catchall term as frequently as it is in other parts of Canada and North America. Ontario’s Highway Traffic Act refers to stop signs and traffic control devices separately, for example. As you’ll see below, the driver’s licence demerit system classifies “signs,” “stop signs,” “traffic control stop/slow signs,” and “traffic lights” differently, though the latter three items in that list all carry the same potential penalty.
Further complicating matters, Ontario residents can incur penalties for failing to obey traffic control devices outside of the province. If you run a stop sign across the border in New York, for example, you could end up getting demerit points on your licence. Ontario is serious about drivers obeying all posted signs and signals and the consequences for violating these rules can be severe, particularly if you already have a lot of demerit points on your licence.
Consequences for Traffic Control Device Violations
If you disobey a posted sign or active signal in Ontario, driver’s license demerit points are your most likely consequence. The Government of Ontario has a set schedule for demerit points associated with specific violations. As of 2017, the consequence for “failing to obey a stop sign, traffic control stop/slow sign, traffic light, or railway crossing signal” is 3 demerit points, which are applied upon conviction.
Demerit points are applied to your licence and result in progressive penalties. For established drivers, 2–8 demerit points result in an official warning letter. If you rack up 9–14 points, you put yourself at risk for driver’s licence suspension and may have to attend an official meeting to discuss your driving record. This meeting comes with a fee of $50 and if you don’t pay, your licence is cancelled. At 15 points, your license is placed on a temporary 30-day suspension and you’re required to surrender it to the appropriate authorities or risk facing a 2-year suspension.
For new drivers, penalties start much sooner. You’ll have to attend a meeting at 6 points and incur a 60-day suspension at 9 points. This means that if you run just two stop signs as a new driver and are convicted, you can end up losing your licence entirely if you don’t take proper action.
Why You May Need a Lawyer to Dispute a Traffic Control Device Violation in Ontario
Demerit points can be deceptively reassuring. Different charges come with different demerit penalty weights and they can add up quickly. You can get 6 demerit points for careless driving, for example. If you disobey a traffic sign and then get pulled over for careless driving, you’ll be at the punishment phase if you’re convicted of both. If you’re a new driver, this is all it takes to get your licence suspended.
That’s why it’s a good idea to fight back against these charges whenever possible. It may not seem like such a big deal if you’re generally a cautious driver and happen to accidentally miss a stop sign right in front of a patrolling officer. But 3 demerit points carry significant weight. Demerit points stay on your licence for two years after they’re issued and they’re issued for speeding charges as well. It’s not impossible to imagine a scenario in which a good driver could end up with 9 or more demerit points over the course of three years.
Working with a Barrie trial lawyer can be helpful in mitigating the consequences of disobeyed traffic control device and other charges that may lead to demerit points. Under the right circumstances, a lawyer may be able to get charges against you dismissed. If you already have enough demerit points to face potential suspension, a lawyer can help you understand the process and may be able to assist you in avoiding the harshest possible punishment in this situation.
Don’t simply ignore the charges against you if you get caught accidentally or purposefully ignoring a traffic sign or signal. Failure to properly respond to these charges can have serious consequences and may even spell the end of your ability to drive legally in Canada. Contact the Law Firm of Ted Yoannou today and get the legal help you need to avoid further trouble.