Being young and driving with a G2 license in Ontario: What the law says

This is Part Three of a three-part series on the law around novice driving and graduated licensing in Ontario. To see the scenarios on which this part is based, click here and here. The legal info was written by JFCY. 

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Novice Drivers in Ontario

Before getting behind the wheel, youth novice drivers should be informed of various different laws, including the G2 License rules, the Highway Traffic Act, the Liquor Licence Act and the Criminal Code ofCanada.  

G2 License rules and possible offences

The G2 License rules come from regulations under the Highway Traffic Act, specifically the Regulation called Driver’s Licenses, which sets out most of the rules regarding G2 licenses.

Number of Passengers:

Novice drivers must be careful about following the rules on number of passengers allowed while driving with a G2 license. During the day, the number of passengers is limited to the number of working seatbelts. However, at night the rules are more restrictive.

If a novice driver has had their G2 license for less than six months and is aged 19 and under, s/he cannot carry a passenger aged 19 and under between midnight and 5 a.m. After the first six months, G2 drivers aged 19 and under cannot carry more than three passengers aged 19 and under between midnight and 5 a.m.

These restrictions do not apply to a G2 driver aged 19 and under if the G2 driver is accompanied by a G class driver in the front seat, or the passengers are immediate family members.

Under the graduated licensing system, what are the consequences of drinking and driving for novice drivers?

Drinking and driving leads to accidents, including death and injury.  It can also lead to charges being laid against the driver, fines and license suspensions, and the impoundment of a vehicle.

In Ontario, if you are age 21 and under, there is a zero blood alcohol concentration (BAC) rule while driving.  (See s. 44 of the Highway Traffic Act) This means that regardless of which kind of licence you have (G, G1, G2), if you are caught with any alcohol in your blood, you will receive an immediate 24-hour roadside driver licence suspension.  You will likely then be charged with impaired driving.  If you are convicted of the charge, you can be fined between $60 and $500, and your licence can be suspended for 30 days. There are also possible criminal charges (see below). 

If you are a young driver with a G1 or G2 licence, you can face even stricter consequences, including being returned to the start of the Graduated Licensing System.  For example, this means that if a young person has her/his G2 and is caught drinking, s/he may lose her G2 licence (which allows her/him to drive her friends unaccompanied by an adult) and be returned to the start of the licensing process.

Higher BACs (between 0.05-0.08, and above 0.08) lead to even more severe consequences.

Criminal Code offences

Across Canada, it is a criminal offence to operate a vehicle while impaired by alcohol or drugs and/or while having a blood alcohol content of 80 milligrams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood or more (called “0.08”).

With high blood alcohol levels, adults and youths may be charged with impaired driving. Impaired driving, which means driving while your ability is affected by alcohol or drugs, is a crime under the Criminal Code of Canada under Section 253(1)(a). Driving with a blood alcohol content of 0.08 or more is also a crime under Section 253(1)(b). Your vehicle does not even have to be moving; you can be charged if you are impaired behind the wheel, even if you have not started to drive. If convicted or found guilty, you will be sentenced by a court.  

It is also a criminal offence to refuse to provide a breathalyzer sample without a reasonable excuse. Not knowing you have to provide a sample, or saying that a lawyer told you not to blow for a breathalyzer are NOT reasonable excuses. This is covered by Section 254 of the Criminal Code which also explains how the breathalyzer process works.

If the person being charged is between the ages of 12 and 17, the Youth Criminal Justice Act will apply to them.  As a result it is not possible to predict as clearly what sentence he could get if found guilty. However, this also changes the way the police officer must interact with these young people. For example, s. 146 of the YCJA imposes a different standard for obtaining evidence, not binding youth to certain written and/or oral statements that were obtained when the youth didn’t have the opportunity to speak with a parent and/or alawyer.  Also, police must speak to youth using words that the youth is able to understand.  

Liquor License Act offences

It is an offence under s. 32 of the Liquor License Act to operate a motor vehicle while there is open alcohol in the car.  You can be charged even if you are not the person drinking and even if you have had nothing to drink at all.

Caught in a bind? What are some other options?

Sometimes youth and novice drivers chose to drink even though they had agreed to be the designated driver.  Now they have another decision to make: drive home or find alternative options.  If an impaired person chooses to drive home, they risk the safety of themselves, their friends, and others on the road.  They also risk being caught driving while impaired, either because of an accident or because they are stopped by a police officer, which could have a serious impact on their ability to drive in the future.  If they drive home drunk, they may also have to consider what will happen if their parents/guardians find out about what they have has done.

Instead of driving home, drivers who have been drinking can find out whether one of their friends has a parent or sober friend who would be willing to pick them up.  They can pick up the car in the morning.  If one of their friends lives nearby, everyone might be able to stay there for the night.  Or, they and their friends friends can share a cab – 1-888-TAXIGUY is a toll-free number which is available in 250 towns and cities across Ontario.  It connects callers directly to a partner taxicab in their city. 

This post was written by JFCY.