Are You an Albertan – Speed Racer ?

Interestingly enough, when you move North or South of the US/Canadian border to live you must hand over your legal drivers license for replacement. How do I know this? Because I had to turn in my US Driver’s License when I came into Canada to live several years back. Thankfully, I did not have a vehicle for a long period of time here in Canada. Therefore I was not really concerned about traffic violations until recently.

About 15-months ago, I purchased my first Canadian vehicle; It is a 2009 Toyota Corolla Sport complete with sport suspension and a 5-speed manual transmission. In my book if its a car, it has to be a clutch… because driving is all about performance. And shifting is all about putting your car’s engine to the limits. It’s all about timing, torque and horsepower! (except that’s another article at another time)

Back to what I was saying… traffic violations.

Over the last 15-months I have accumulated a nice stack of Photo-Radar speeding tickets. The nice thing about Photo-Radar tickets is you just smile about it, pay your fine and that is the end of it. No demerit points dinged on your license. However, if you are stopped by a humanoid also known as a Police Officer, Peace Officer or RCMP (here in Canada) then not only do you receive a nicely hand written ticket but you also gain demerit points against your license!

The facts are… these…

My collection of speeding tickets in 2012 were typically 110 to 120 kilometeres per hour in a 90 to 110 kilometer per hour zoned area. The price per ticket was between $90 and $150. I believe I accumulated just shy of $500 throughout the year. Thankfully during this time I only had one actual ticket from a live RCMP officer.

Also, by being ticketed I learnt how the Albertan Police perform their traffic cop duties. Especially when it comes to Photo-Radar. In the city of Edmonton and towns of Spruce Grove, Stony Plain our local cops like to set up random vehicles on the sides of roads and point a gigantic photo-radar lens out a window. Thereby nabbing anyone who doesn’t see said vehicle/cop sitting on the roadway picking people off. These clever cops have even gone as far now, as being set up on top of over-passes. As you going speeding underneath them… they clock you. And you receive a nice letter in the mail.

What worried me about all these Speeding Tickets, was not the fact that I was spending money frivolously on speeding tickets. But that I did not know until a few days ago how the demerit system in Alberta works?

Unlike back in the United States, where you are given a set of points on your license. I believe its something like 12 to 15 points on a full automobile license in the states of Colorado, Arizona and Washington. As you receive tickets your demerits are reduced from this number until you have zero points on your license. At which time your license can be suspended for a period of time.

Well… Canada not being America. And Canada not ever doing anything remotely similar to America. Does just the opposite. You start with zero points on your license. And each time you are pulled over by a humanoid police officer and given a hand written ticket, your license gains demerit points.

Also, interesting here in Alberta, is once you reach more than 8-points but less than 15-points the Motor Vehicle Division will send you a courtesy letter stating you have reached or exceeded the 8-demerit point level. And if your demerit points go over 15-points then your license will be suspended for 1-month.

The following bullet point list from Transportation Alberta explains how the demerit point system works against your operators license. And the chart below gives you the demerit points you will gain for each different traffic violation you commit.

Demerit point system for fully licensed drivers

Demerit points are recorded against an operators licence.

  • When a total of eight or more but less than 15 points have accumulated, you are mailed a courtesy notice of point standing.
  • When an accumulation of 15 or more points occurs within a two-year period, your licence is automatically suspended for one month.
  • When the suspension is the second demerit suspension within one year, your licence is suspended for three months.
  • When the suspension is the third or more demerit suspension within two years, your licence is suspended for six months. In addition, you may be required to appear before the Alberta Transportation Safety Board.
  • There is no remedy or appeal against a demerit point suspension, unless it can be proven the demerit points were assigned in error. You may request to review your driving record on these grounds by making a written submission to the Driver Fitness and Monitoring Branch.
  • When a demerit point suspension has been served, the licence is reinstated with seven points. These points remain on your record until a period of two years from the assessed date has passed.
  • When two years have elapsed from the date of a conviction, the number of points assessed for that conviction are removed from your record. Remember, the date of conviction is the date that you actually pay your fine or are found guilty in absence, not the date that you received the fine.
  • If an approved defensive driving course has been successfully completed prior to accumulating 15 or more points, a maximum of three demerit points may be removed from a driving record once every two years.

Demerit point schedule

Failing to remain at the scene of an accident

7 points

Careless driving 6 points
Failing to stop for a school bus 6 points
Racing 6 points
Failing to stop at a railway crossing
   – school bus or vehicle carrying explosives, gas or flammable liquids 5 points
Failing to stop for a peace officer 5 points
Failing to yield right-of-way to a pedestrian in a crosswalk 4 points
Following too closely 4 points
Driving left of centre 3 points
Driving on the wrong way of a one-way highway 3 points
Failing to report an accident 3 points
Failing to stop at a stop sign 3 points
Failing to stop at a red light intersection 3 points
Impeding passing vehicle 3 points
Improper passing 3 points
Stunting 3 points
Failing to obey instruction of traffic control device 2 points
Improper backing 2 points
Improper turns 2 points
Improper turns – U turn 2 points
Traffic lane violation 2 points
Speeding – exceeding limit by more than 50 km/h 6 points
Speeding – exceeding limit by more than 30 km/h but not more than 50 km/h 4 points
Speeding – unreasonable rate 4 points
Speeding – exceeding limit by more than 15 km/h but not more than 30 km/h 3 points
Speeding – exceeding limit by up to 15 km/h 2 points

Now… what you might not know is there are ways within the system to reduce the amount of demerit points against your license! Yes. It is certainly another way for someone to make money off your misfortune of obtaining handwritten traffic violations. But it is still a way to reduce the number of demerits against your license and get you further away from the 15-point threshold and a suspended license.

Online Defensive Driving Courses

Alberta’s Online Registry Service… has partnered with Fleet Safety International to offer online defensive driving courses. There is a 6-hour Defensive Driving Course which upon successful completion by the participant you will receive 3-demerit points reduced from your current driving record.

Alberta Motor Association (AMA)… offers defensive driving courses geared towards people who want to improve their driving skills. They have several courses designed for a variety of age groups and skill levels.

The ‘good news’ in all of this is you no longer have to sell your automobile because you, like myself like to collect speeding tickets. At the very least we both now know, there are ways to reduce the number of demerit points against our licenses. And we understand how the demerit point system in Alberta functions. However, I must say the exceptional part of reading all this information is you can get 1,000 speeding tickets by Photo-Radar and never lose your license.

Be safe out there. Be respectful of others. And remember a safe defensive driver always makes it home after each and every journey.

Being a defensive driver will reduce your traffic violations.
Being a defensive driver reduces your traffic violations.