This article is a part of our guest post project which allows copywriters to spread the word about the automotive industry.
New York is a popular road trip destination for Canadian drivers from Quebec and Ontario. For some, the state is a quick drive over the border. Unfortunately, the slightly different driving rules (and units used to measure speed) can sometimes turn that “quick drive” a costly traffic ticket – and few drivers realize just how costly a NY traffic ticket can be.
It can be intimidating to try to fight a foreign traffic ticket – not to mention impractical – depending on how far you live from the border and/or the town where the ticket was issued. Not knowing what else to do, many Canadian motorists simply plead guilty and pay the ticket by mail. Paying the ticket seems like the easiest way out. However, pleading guilty to a New York traffic ticket can be very expensive for Canadian drivers, and can have far more serious consequences than you think.
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What a New York Traffic Ticket Costs Canadian Drivers
The cost of a traffic violation in New York varies depending on the type and severity of the violation. For example, a typical speeding ticket in New York will start at $150 USD plus a mandatory New York State surcharge of $93 USD which totals just over $300 CAD! However, get hit in the highest speed category and you are looking at a total fine/surcharge of $693 USD which equals more than $850 CAD!
Canadian drivers could also find themselves on the hook for a Driver Responsibility Assessment (DRA). Most traffic tickets also come with an established amount of points (similar to the demerit system used in Ontario and Quebec). Drivers who accrue six points or more on their license in 18 months will be required to pay a DRA of US$100 ($C126) per year for the next three years – even if that person never drives in the U.S. again! Every point after six adds another US$25 (C$31) per year. A driver convicted of a drug- or alcohol-related offense, or who refuses to submit to a chemical test, will be assessed US$250 (C$314) per year.
NY Traffic Tickets Impose Demerits on a Canadian Driver’s License
Believe it or not, a NY traffic conviction can directly impact a Canadian driving record. The Ontario Ministry of Transportation (OMT) and the Société de l’assurance automobile du Quebec (SAAQ) will assess demerit points against Canadian drivers for various NY traffic violations that have an equivalent to a traffic offense in Ontario or Quebec as if the offence had occurred in the province (including, but not limited to speeding). So for example, a speed of 21mph over the speed limit equates to roughly 33km/h over the limit. This would be 6 demerit points in NY and also result in 4 demerit points in Ontario and 3 demerit points in Quebec.
Ontario drivers who receive six demerit points receive a notice of warning in the mail. The same occurs at seven points for Québécois. Drivers from either province who reach nine points will have to argue to keep their license. When 15 points are amassed, driving privileges are suspended.
Losing Driving Privileges in New York
Canadian drivers who accrue 11 points or more based on the NY point system will lose their New York driving privileges. For example, a driver who is found guilty of speeding 41 miles over the posted speed limit (11-point offense) or gets convicted speeding 21-30 miles over the limit (six points) and texting while driving (five points) will be temporarily barred from driving in the State of New York.
A NY traffic ticket conviction stays on a driving record until January 1 of the fourth year following conviction – in other words, if a driver who is convicted of speeding in NY in August 2017, the violation will stay on his/her license until January 2021.
Fortunately, a suspension of NY driving privileges does not necessarily mean a suspension in Quebec or Ontario but can be a hinderance for individuals who are looking to drive in NY for work, pleasure or any other reason.
NY Traffic Tickets Impact Canadian Auto Insurance
Drivers with an Ontario or Quebec license could see their auto insurance impacted by any traffic convictions in the U.S. since Canada and New York share driver information. That means pleading guilty to a traffic violation that (which you do when you pay the ticket) or a conviction in court can be noted on a Canadian driver’s license. Serious violations, such as drunk driving, can cause Canadian auto insurance premiums to as much as double. Even two minor violations (such as running a red light and speeding less than 20 mph over the limit) can raise rates by as much as 20%. This can be serious for drivers from Ontario, who already pay some of the highest insurance rates in Canada, with the average rate being more than C$1,500 per year.
What Should Canadian Drivers Do?
As mentioned above, if you have a Canadian driver’s license and you receive a ticket in NY, pleading guilty is the worst thing you can do. The best solution is to hire an attorney who has experience fighting tickets in New York State. It may seem like a lawyer would cost more than the ticket, but in many cases, that’s not so. In the case of a speeding ticket for 22 mph (35 Km/h) over the limit, the cost could be as much as C$682! This includes the possible fine of about C$188 ticket, plus a C$116 surcharge. As a six-point violation, it would also mandate a DRA of C$126 each year for three years (C$378 total). That’s not even including the potential impact on auto insurance premiums.
In many cases, a lawyer can negotiate a ticket down to a lower offense that will have little or no impact. The above example of a 22-mph speeding ticket could be negotiated down to a 9-mph (14Km/h) violation. In addition to a possible reduced fine, this would also roll back the number of NY points on your license from six to three. Moreover, in this scenario drivers from Ontario would go from facing four demerits on their license to none. Lastly, any impact on your auto insurance could be mitigated or avoided altogether.
Another benefit of hiring a lawyer: You may not have to make a court appearance yourself. This could save you a lot of time traveling back and forth over the border, as well as the stress of having to navigate a foreign court system.