Some Ontarians may be surprised to learn they have been driving around with expired licences, plates and health cards after the Ontario government halted most mail reminders last March.
“We’ve seen a real dramatic increase in people not renewing their licence plates,” said Sgt. Rob Cairns with the Ottawa Police Service’s traffic services unit.
“We’re also seeing an increase in people not being correctly licensed — in the fact that they haven’t renewed their licence.”
The Ontario government has stopped mailing out paper renewal notices for driver’s licences, licence plate stickers, and health cards that expired on or after March 1, 2022, except to specific groups.
Last year, the province also scrapped fees for licence plate renewals — but people still need to renew their plates.
Last Wednesday, Ottawa police conducted the third in a series of blitzes to catch drivers with expired licences and plates. In less than three hours, officers handed out 54 tickets, including 38 for having expired plates and two for driving without a valid licence.
During a similar campaign last month, police ticketed 74 drivers — 52 for expired plates and four for lacking valid licences.
Cairns said many people who are pulled over by police are surprised to discover their licence has expired and plead ignorance because they didn’t get the reminder.
That’s not a good excuse, he said.
“It’s not the obligation of the [Ministry of Transportation] to remind you,” said Cairns. “It’s down to the individual to ensure the car is properly licensed and they also have a current driving licence.”
Health cards also expired
CBC also called multiple doctor’s offices across Ottawa to get a sense of whether patients were renewing their health cards.
Some clinics said the problem is rampant, with up to 50 per cent of patients not realizing their OHIP card is no longer valid.
One receptionist told CBC staff are taking the brunt of patients’ frustration when they find out their health card has expired.
Other clinics, however, said they haven’t yet seen an increase in the number of people turning up for appointments with expired health cards.
Both the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Transportation (MTO) said people can sign up for email or text reminders. Some people will also still receive notices by mail, including anyone over the age of 70.
MTO did not provide statistics on the number of expired driver’s licences or licence plates in Ottawa and said CBC would have to submit a freedom of information request for that data — which often takes weeks if not months to process.
Forgetting to renew can also be bad news for your wallet.
The fine for an expired plate is $110 in Ontario, which rises to $325 for an expired licence. If you’re caught driving with an expired plate across the border in Quebec, that fine is a whopping $495.
If getting a steep fine wasn’t enough, insurance premiums can also take a hit.
“You could see an increase in your premium if your licence has expired [or] has been expired for too long,” said Anne Marie Thomas, director of consumer and industry relations with the Insurance Bureau of Canada.
“If you’re involved in an accident, you have the potential of a claim being denied because your licence is suspended.”