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Cyclists can't rack up demerit points

Q: I received a $110 ticket for "failing to come to a complete stop at a stop sign" while I was riding my two-wheeled, 10-speed bicycle (pedal-power only, no motor).

Published November 22, 2008
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Q: I received a $110 ticket for "failing to come to a complete stop at a stop sign" while I was riding my two-wheeled, 10-speed bicycle (pedal-power only, no motor).

The officer stated the charge includes three demerit points which would go against my motor vehicle driving record.

Although I must pay the fine (or contest it in court), I thought I can't get demerit points since my bicycle is not a motor vehicle.

A: Ontario transportation ministry spokesperson Bob Nichols replies:

Bicycles are not included in the definition of "motor vehicle" under the Highway Traffic Act. As such, and in relation to section 210 of the HTA, convictions for offences that occurred on a bicycle are not recorded by the ministry (on an individual's driving record) and the Demerit Point System does not apply.

Eric Lai adds:

The same is true for skateboards and other non-motorized vehicles.

Section 210 HTA specifies that only convictions for offences committed by means of a motor vehicle, streetcar or motorized snow vehicle are recorded by the ministry – and thereby incur demerit points on your driver's licence.

Incidentally, while a justice of the peace does have the power to suspend a fine, they cannot "waive the points" when issuing a conviction for a motor vehicle offence.

Demerit points are automatically added by the ministry upon notification of the conviction.

No DriveClean exemption in Ontario for older cars

Q: At what age are vehicles free of Drive Clean testing? My 1989 Buick Century just passed its emission test for this year. Will it require another in 2010?

A: The Drive Clean program originally exempted vehicles from testing once they reached 20 years of age.

However, due to complaints from newer car owners who didn't like that older car owners got a "free ride" – and their vehicles were much more likely to be polluters – the exemption was eliminated a few years ago.

Vehicles of the 1987 model-year or earlier that had already attained exemption remain excluded from emissions test requirements.

All other motorists will just have to bear with Drive Clean for as long as they own their vehicle, or until the government changes or eliminates the program.

Here's how to spot

counterfeit cash

Q: How do I spot counterfeit money? I'm an independent gas retailer and, due to fakes, we've now stopped accepting $100 bills, which has upset many customers.

A: The Bank of Canada advises that no special equipment is required to check money. They recommend retailers and consumer alike familiarize themselves with the security features of current-issue Canadian bills. Once you know what to look for, you can routinely check all incoming bills in just seconds.

Verify at least two security features and refuse any suspect bills. (Ultraviolet lights, used by many retailers, check only one of many security features of Canadian bills.) For online information on identifying security features of Canadian money, or to order free booklets or retailer training materials, visit: bankofcanada.ca/en/banknotes or call toll-free 1-888-513-8212.

Usually, only a single party is charged in a collision

Q: A recent article noted that "under the provincial Highway Traffic Act, a left-turning driver involved in a collision may always be charged – even if the oncoming through-driver runs a red light (who may then also be charged)."

I was involved in an accident in 2006 and was given a ticket for running a red light. The oncoming driver turning left was not charged because of poor witness testimony.

I settled for a reduced ticket and no demerit points. Do I have any recourse based on your article?

A: The key word in the passage you quoted is "may." Police investigate collisions and then "may" opt to lay charges against any or all parties involved. In reality, it's usually just one person who gets charged, since the other involved driver is generally required by police as a witness to prove the charge.

Note that whether or not any driver is charged or convicted has no bearing on fault determination by insurance companies.

Sgt. Tim Burrows of Toronto Police Traffic Services adds:

Although police do typically need the other driver, or at least an independent witness, to assist in the court prosecution, if both drivers can be charged and the evidence supports it, this may occur.

In most cases, only one person is charged because that driver can be identified as having made the error that led to the collision.

Put some thought and care into an emergency kit

Q: I'm putting together a car emergency kit with first aid supplies, flashlight, spare fuses, fire extinguisher, etc. Do you have any recommendations?

Have you tried crank flashlights? Do they work?

How long are road flares good for before they must be replaced?

A: Whether you purchase a pre-packaged first aid kit or put together your own, make sure everything is kept dry inside airtight sealable baggies.

Make sure your fire extinguisher is vehicle-rated and properly secured, so it won't become an airborne projectile in a crash.

I have tried crank flashlights; these have a permanent battery that you recharge by turning a hand crank.

The unit I bought had a 3-LED (light-emitting diode) light and a built-in radio. After a year, the flashlight part worked fine, but the battery no longer stored enough juice for the radio to work properly.

I've since replaced it with a Stanley LED tripod flashlight in my car. It's the same size as a standard flashlight, but can also be used hands-free with the built-in tripod legs extended – which is ideal for emergency roadside repairs or tire changes.

With fresh alkaline batteries, it's rated for several hundred hours of run time.

As for road flares, I store mine inside a tied plastic newspaper bag to keep them dry and, during the big blackout a few years back, my 12-year old flares lit on the first try.

Email your non-mechanical

questions to Eric Lai at

wheels@thestar.ca.

Please include year, make, model and kilometres of autos cited, plus your name, address and telephone number.

Letters may be edited.