The topics in the Dial-A-Law series provide general information on legal issues within the Province of Alberta. The purpose of this topic is to inform you of your legal rights and responsibilities. This is not legal advice. If you require legal advice, you should contact a lawyer.
This topic will discuss your rights and responsibilities as a driver of a motor vehicle. In Alberta the age of majority is 18 years. This means that your parents or guardian have some responsibility for your actions until you reach that age.
If you are 14 years of age you can get a learner’s permit (Class 7) to drive. You cannot drive with a learner’s permit unless you have an adult, 18 years or older, sitting next to you and teaching you while you drive. There are strict conditions attached to a learner’s permit. For example, you are not allowed to drive between midnight and 5 a.m., and you are not allowed to have any alcohol in your system when you are driving. Once you are 16 years of age you can get a probationary driver’s license. To obtain a driver’s license, you must pass both d a road test. You must also have your parent’s or guardian’s consent to get the driver’s license. If you are married or self-supporting, you do not require your parent’s consent. There are also strict conditions attached to a probationary driver’s license.
At any time that you are stopped by the police you must produce your driver’s license, and valid registration and insurance cards of the vehicle you are driving. Any type of motor vehicle you drive including, for example, motorcycles, boats, or mopeds, must be insured. If you injure someone or they suffer property damage because of your driving, the insurance is required to cover any injuries or damage caused. Driving without insurance is a serious offence and the fines are severe. If you drive without insurance on any type of vehicle, you will be charged with an offence under the Traffic Safety Act. This includes driving someone else’s vehicle with or without their permission. It is your responsibility to check that any vehicle you are driving has valid registration and insurance coverage.
A vehicle you drive must also be in safe working condition. The police have authority to ask you to perform certain safety tests on your vehicle for safety. Failure to make the necessary repairs when ordered to do so may result in a fine or in being ordered to take the vehicle off the road.
If you are found guilty of certain driving offences, such as speeding, you will incur demerit points to your license in addition to any other penalties you could face as part of a youth sentence under the Youth Criminal Justice Act. If you accumulate too many demerit points, you may lose your license. After 15 demerit points are accumulated, your license will be suspended for a period of time.
It is against the law to drink and drive or drive while impaired by alcohol or drugs, and you may be charged with a criminal offence even if you drank or consumed drugs some time before driving. You may also be charged even if you are not driving, by sitting where you are considered to be in the “care and control” of the motor vehicle, such as the driver’s seat of a vehicle. As soon as you are charged, your driver’s license will immediately be suspended for a minimum of 90 days, and potentially suspended until the criminal case is finished. If you are found guilty of an impaired driving offence, you will have a criminal record. You will also lose your license and receive a fine or jail time. If you injure someone because of your impaired driving, there are serious penalties which may include imprisonment. For second and subsequent impaired driving convictions, the penalties are more severe and you are more likely to receive a jail sentence.
If you get into an accident, you must remain at the scene of the accident unless the other party needs medical assistance, but you must return as soon as possible. You must give the other driver all the information concerning your name and address, phone number, license number, and information on the registration and insurance of the motor vehicle that you were driving. If you hit a parked vehicle, you must leave the driver with the same information. If the driver is not around, leave a note on the windshield. If you fail to leave information, you may be charged with a hit and run offence.
If you lend someone your vehicle, and that person is in an accident, then you are responsible for the damages even if you are not present. If you have insurance then you may be protected, however your insurance premiums may increase.
Dial-A-Law is a Calgary Legal Guidance public service project funded in part by the Alberta Law Foundation.