Cross-border traffic between the U.S. and Canada is very common, and many Canadians visiting the U.S. choose to drive over the border rather than fly, especially if visiting a border state. If you’re heading over the border to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday with family or friends, there are a few important things to know. Traffic laws in the States are relatively similar to those in Canada, and Canadian drivers licenses as well as Canadian car insurance are valid in the U.S., so you can cross the border without needing extra coverage. But what happens if you get a ticket?
There was a time when getting a traffic ticket in the United States would not affect the driver’s record in Canada. In fact, there was nothing to stop a driver from walking away from the ticket without paying the fine or bothering to contest it. Today, what will happen depends on where the ticket was received and the agreement that state has with your home province.
Reciprocal Agreements Between States and Provinces
Some states and provinces have reciprocal agreements through which information is exchanged regarding traffic tickets. If your home province and the state you received the ticket in have such an agreement, the ticket will be reported to your province’s driver licensing agency and you may see demerit points on your license as a result. This could in turn affect your insurance premiums. If you receive a ticket, you should get insurance quotes from other insurance companies to find the lowest rate available for your driving profile.
While some progress has been made towards creating an agreement that covers all of the states and provinces, currently there is no one agreement in place that encompasses every possible location. Individual states and provinces have instead worked out their own agreements. It is likely that an agreement encompassing both nations will become a reality in the future.
Do You Have to Pay U.S. Fines?
If you receive a traffic ticket in the United States that comes with a fine, you should either pay the fine or arrange to attend traffic court in order to dispute the ticket. For some people this can be complicated – if you are not planning to be in the state long enough to attend court, for example.
For most traffic tickets, there is not much in the way of recourse if you choose not to pay that ticket. Bear in mind however that if you choose to ignore a traffic ticket, you may find yourself facing much more serious legal consequences if you return to that state at another time in the future. If that state does have a reciprocal agreement with your home province, you may receive the demerit points whether or not you pay the fine. If you do successfully fight the ticket, you could avoid the demerit points.
If you have broken the laws of the state in which you are driving, it is in your best interest to pay the fine and accept the responsibility. Even if there is no agreement and it does not affect your license, there could be legal consequences in the future if you fail to pay a fine.
Be Aware of the Law
As a driver entering another country, it’s your responsibility to know the laws of the road in that location. You can’t be expected to know every detail of the law, but be sure that you pay attention to speed limits and follow all posted street signs. Drive carefully and cautiously, and you shouldn’t find yourself facing a traffic ticket at all.
Remember that if you are pulled over by an officer of the law in the United States, you should behave in the same manner that you would at home. Don’t argue a ticket on the scene, be respectful of the officer, and accept responsibility. You can look into your options in regards to fighting or paying the ticket after the traffic stop is completed.
Before you head across the border to celebrate Thanksgiving with loved ones to the south, make sure you have a general idea of the rules of the road in any state you plan to cross through or spend time in. The best way to avoid dealing with a traffic ticket in the U.S. is to make sure you don’t break any rules and therefore don’t get pulled over in the first place.