For many Québécois, New York State is a relatively short drive away, making it a popular tourist destination. Whether enjoying the scenic attractions of Upstate New York or the world-renowned sites of historic New York City, the slightly different driving rules (and units used to measure speed) can sometimes trip up Quebec drivers, resulting in a costly traffic ticket.
One might think that due to the fact that the US is a different country a Québécois ticketed in one of the contiguous U.S. states would suffer little or no consequences if they receive a ticket in New York. But New York and Quebec actually have a reciprocal agreement for traffic violations. This means Quebec drivers cannot just ignore a New York traffic ticket without facing serious consequences. Conversely, Québécois who pay a New York ticket will see the conviction show up on their Quebec driving record which in most cases will lead to points and increased auto insurance.
That is only the beginning. To better understand how New York traffic tickets affect Quebec drivers, read on.
NY Traffic Tickets Mean Demerits on Quebec Licenses
Much to the dismay of Quebec drivers, the Société de l’assurance automobile du Quebec (SAAQ) will assess demerit points against licenses for most NY traffic violations that have an equivalent traffic offense in Quebec as if the offence had occurred there. For example, a ticket for speeding of 21 mph over the speed limit is considered a six-point violation in New York. This equates to roughly 33 km/h over the limit in Quebec, which is worth three demerit points. These demerit points will compound with any other demerit points already on the license.
Quebec drivers must remember that getting seven demerit points means receiving a notice of warning in the mail. Those who reach nine points will have to argue to keep their license. When 15 points are amassed, Québécois can lose their driving privileges.
Of course, Quebec drivers must be aware that while New York cannot assess its own point system on Quebec licenses, the point value of a traffic violation still matters. Quebec drivers who pay or are convicted of traffic infractions worth six points or more will have to pay additional fines. Those who are convicted of violations totaling 11 points or more will have their right to drive in New York suspended. Three regular speeding tickets or two work zone speeding tickets within 18 months will lead to a revocation of New York driving privileges.
NY Traffic Tickets Are Way More Expensive
The cost of a traffic violation in New York varies depending on the type and severity of the violation. For example, the above-mentioned speeding ticket for 21 mph over the limit would cost US$300 plus a mandatory New York State surcharge of US$88 or US$93. This is equivalent to about C$500 for what would cost just C$135 at home!
And since the ticket is worth six points, a driver who pays it would also be on the hook for a Driver Responsibility Assessment (DRA) fee. A DRA costs US$300 ($C$384) plus US$75 (C$96) for each point over six. Speeding 21 mph over the limit is a six-point offense, automatically qualifying a driver for a DRA, making the possible final cost of the one ticket C$892.
Losing Driving Privileges in New York
As mentioned, Quebec drivers who are convicted of 11 points or more worth of New York infractions can 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 mph over the limit (six points) and texting while driving (five points) will be temporarily barred from driving in the State of New York.
That’s not the only way to lose one’s right to drive in NY. The state will also suspend driving privileges for anyone who ignores or fails to pay a traffic ticket (including a DRA). Likewise, NY can issue a suspension following a conviction for drunk driving, racing, or driving without auto insurance.
Fortunately, a suspension of NY driving privileges does not necessarily mean a suspension in Quebec, but it could. However, the suspension will still be recorded on one’s driving record, which can impact auto insurance premiums. It can also be a hindrance for individuals who are looking to drive in NY for work, pleasure or any other reason.
NY Traffic Tickets Can Impact Canadian Auto Insurance
Drivers with a Quebec license could see their auto insurance impacted by any traffic convictions in the U.S. 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%.
Quebec Driver May Not Have to Return to the U.S. to Fight NY Tickets
It should be clear by now that paying the ticket does not get a driver out of the ticket; in fact, it is what causes the bulk of the problems that can result from a ticket. However, it’s understandably intimidating to try to fight a foreign traffic ticket–not to mention impractical. The good news is that drivers who hire a qualified NY traffic ticket attorney may not have to return to New York at all. Depending on the case, an attorney is allowed to appear in court in lieu of the driver—including a Canadian driver.
Is it Worth it to Hire an Attorney to Fight a NY Traffic Ticket?
Absolutely. In addition to the extreme costs associated with most NY tickets, a conviction can mean paying hundreds of dollars in hiked up auto insurance premiums. An attorney can negotiate a ticket down to a lower offense that could have a much smaller fine. A skilled attorney will also know how to mitigate or eliminate points (and their associated demerits). Qualified attorneys will also be able to assess the risk of a suspension and develop a strategy to avoid it. Lastly, drivers can rest assured that they will not have to drive all the way back to the county where the ticket was issued and attempt to navigate a foreign court system—the attorney can handle it all while the driver remains at home.