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The topics in the Dial-A-Law series provide general information on a wide variety of legal issues in the Province of Alberta. This service is provided by Calgary Legal Guidance funded in part by the Alberta Law Foundation.
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 and passed a written driving test, you can get a learner’s permit to drive. You cannot drive with a learner’s permit unless you have an adult, 18 years or over, sitting next to you and teaching you while you drive. Once you are 16 years of age you can get a driver’s license. To obtain a driver’s license, you must pass both a written test and 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.
At any time that you are stopped by the police you must produce your driver’s license, and the registration and insurance cards of the vehicle you are driving. Any type of motor vehicle you drive must be insured. For example, you require insurance on all motorcycles, boats, or mopeds. If you injure someone or they suffer property damage because of your driving, the insurance is required to cover any injuries or damage caused. If you drive without insurance on any type of vehicle, you will be charged. This includes driving someone else’s vehicle when they haven’t given you permission to do so. Driving without insurance is a serious offence and the fines are severe. The vehicle 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, demerit points will be assigned to your license in addition to 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 time.
It is against the law to drink and drive or drive while impaired by alcohol or drugs. You may 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. If you are convicted you will have a criminal record. You will also lose your license and receive a fine. If you injure someone because of your impaired driving, there are serious penalties which may include imprisonment. For a second and third time, the penalties are severe and you may be 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 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 will increase.