It’s a bad time to get caught speeding.
Each year, police hand out millions of dollars in fines for Highway Traffic Act offences like speeding, running a red light, and other driving offences. Starting in May of 2017, the provincial government of Ontario will grant municipalities the power to deny licence plates to people who have unpaid traffic tickets.
The change comes as part of the Making Ontario’s Roads Safer Act, legislation passed by the Ontario Liberals in 2015. The Act also increased fines for distracted driving and introduced penalties for drug-impaired driving.
Of course, this isn’t the first time the government has pursued individuals who don’t pay their traffic tickets. “Forgotten” fines can already result in licence suspension by the Ministry of Transportation. However, the threat of losing one’s licence isn’t enough to deter some people from ignoring their fines.
While the Ministry of Transportation administers Ontario’s licence regime, the responsibility of collecting unpaid fines falls to the municipalities. Today, municipalities across the province lose out on a collective $1.4 billion in unpaid fines for provincial offences. That includes speeding tickets and other Highway Traffic Act offences. Unpaid fines from the last seven years alone total $500 million.
That’s why Lynn Dollin, president of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, welcomes this change. “If those fines aren’t paid, it’s you and I covering those administration costs out of our property taxes, so we want to make sure that we’re getting the full bang for the buck and everything that we’re entitled to is coming to us,” she said.
Transportation Minister Steve Del Duca echoes her approval. “With any system that government puts in place there will always be those who will find creative ways to avoid playing by the rules,” he says. “This is another opportunity for us to be able to get those fines collected and make sure people get a clear message that they can’t continue to act in this way.”
In short, the province hopes that licence plate denial will be an added incentive to those who refuse pay up.
What does that mean for you? If you have an unpaid fine from the last seven years, you won’t be able to get or renew your licence plate. However, this doesn’t apply to jointly-owned vehicles or vehicles registered to a company. And fines more than seven years old are in the clear – so long as you can avoid that licence suspension.