In some cases, people were unable to drive for work and their employment was threatened. In most cases, nobody told them their licence had either been suspended or was under threat. Most important, the legal implications were enormous because unlicensed drivers usually don’t have insurance coverage, even though they are carrying a paid-up policy.
The office of Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca was contacted for comment on this story but none was forthcoming.
Monighan was an “over-the-road” long-haul trucker who drove tens of thousands of miles all over North America. In 2005, he sold his car and made two mistakes: He signed the ownership because the buyer said he would take it to a Service Ontario location and make the change. He never did. Nor did Monighan remove the licence plates.
He was in the weight-scale near Niagara when he was told his licence was under suspension for failure to pay parking tickets handed out to the fellow who’d bought his car. He had to call his employer to send another driver or else the truck and its load would have been impounded.
“I drove under suspension for 14 months,” he said. “I didn’t know. Nobody told me. I drove all over North America. By doing what they do (suspensions), they (the province) throw us into such chaos.”
Monighan, who’s now retired, was lucky he was in southern Ontario at the time and had an understanding employer. Take the case of Brock Watson, a contractor in the Bracebridge area, who forgot to pay a speeding ticket.
Several years ago, he was driving home from Saskatchewan when he was pulled over in northern Ontario, near Marathon, by an OPP who’d run his plate. Watson disputed that his licence was under suspension — he’d paid the ticket, albeit late, and been assured by the Provincial Offences Court office where he’d paid it that it hadn’t yet “sent in” the paperwork and everything was in order and his licence was valid — but that didn’t fly. The OPP ordered a tow truck and Watson had to have a friend travel by bus to Marathon to collect him and his vehicle and drive them both home.
He was eventually able to get everything straightened out, but the experience left a bitter taste. “I know that people think a driver’s licence is a privilege,” he said. “But in the rural areas of Canada, it is a necessity. To have a licence suspended or cancelled over something minor is cruel.”
Like Watson, Meliisa Fudge of Bowmanville also ran into what could be called carelessness on the part of some licencing people.
“I went to renew my driver’s licence and was told my licence has been cancelled for three years, 11 months and 2 days. Four years ago, I got a $40 speeding ticket and forgot to pay it. I paid $65 for the fine at the Provincial Offences Office and received a Notice of Reinstatement, effective Nov. 24, 2011. Now, almost four years later, I am being told this?
“Why does the system say I was cancelled on Nov. 24, 2011, when I have a notice saying I was reinstated the same day? There is something very seriously wrong with their system.”
Lisa Harper of Etobicoke was another who ran up against a system where the left hand often doesn’t appear to know what the right hand is doing.
“The licensing system does not talk to the ticketing system,” she said. “If you pay a ticket and then go to do your sticker close together, you may be charged for the ticket again because it takes weeks or months for the payment to work its way through the system. Then you have to take your receipt of payment to court to try and get the money back. It’s ridiculous.
“It’s 2017, not 1925. But they won’t fix it because they make money off of it.”
Bob Burns, a Toronto accountant, said he didn’t get his notice to renew his licence, but knew it was almost time so he went to a Service Ontario location.
“The girl says, ‘Your licence is suspended,’ and I say, ‘What for?’ She said, ‘You had an unpaid fine.’ I said, ‘I paid that.’ Then she says, ‘Actually, your licence is not suspended. It was cancelled.’ And I said, ‘But I paid the speeding ticket,’ and she said, ‘Well, there was a reinstatement fee.’ I said, ‘Who knew that?’ And she said, ‘Well, you had to.’ ”
Because his licence had been suspended for more than three years, he had to start over in the graduated licencing program. Burns says he’s laughing about all this now, although it wasn’t funny at the time. But then he got serious.
“My concern is that they don’t notify people,” he said. “I had been driving around for three-plus years without a licence. If I had wiped out a family of four, my insurance company would not have covered me. That is what is shocking to me.”
Peter Turford of Toronto, another long-distance truck driver caught up in an unpaid-ticket-leads-to-licence-suspension scenario, argues that a registered letter should be sent.
“I will be the first to admit my personal organizational skills suck, especially regarding hard copy correspondence, but that should not make me a criminal, he said. There is an easy fix here: Notify people by registered letter.”
Marilyn Reesor of Barrie, whose son’s licence was suspended, but he wasn’t notified till well after the fact, told the Star the system needs fixing.
“Sometimes people pay bills a little late. If a bill (hydro, water, credit card) is a month overdue, a percentage is added on to deter further neglect of payment. However, if a bill for an undisputed fine with the Ministry of Transportation is a couple of days late, the consequence is license suspension? He did not commit an offence worthy of a licence suspension such as driving 50 kms over, or dangerous or impaired driving, etc. He was simply late paying a bill.”
As Reesor wrote, some things defy reason. What happened to the Mader family of Toronto is incomprehensible.
Wrote Agnes Mader: “A valid licence is a condition of car insurance. In a bad accident, a driver without insurance could be personally liable for millions of dollars. How do I know? It happened to us.”
She said her husband was involved in an accident and the officer at the scene told him his licence had been suspended because of an unpaid traffic ticket (a prohibited right-hand turn).
After the wreck, the Maders notified their insurance company (Meloche Monnex) and were told, because of the suspension, that they were on their own, there would not be insurance coverage for the crash. They had been with the same company for 20 years. Following “a huge amount of arguing,” the company agreed to pay their car repairs: $2,000.
“We were lucky in the sense that the other driver was deemed 100 per cent at fault,” Agnes Mader wrote. “We were advised to sue the responsible driver, but considered they were elderly immigrants and the minivan was old, so decided not to pursue this.
“But they sued us for $1 million. The insurance company then again stated, ‘No insurance, due to driver suspension. You are on your own.’ What a nightmare.”
Acting on advice, the Maders asked for an extension to fight the original ticket and it was withdrawn, so no ticket, no suspension. “Meloche Monnex still balked (saying there was a recorded suspension at the time of the accident), but eventually agreed to defend my husband against the $1-million claim.”
Mader said that as well as causing extreme stress and health problems, the experience was disillusioning.
“I cannot believe that the consequences of a single unpaid ticket could potentially cause personal bankruptcy,” she said.