Most motorists know the law when it comes to owning a driver’s licence; it’s a privilege, not a right.
But when it comes to officers with the Ponoka Integrated Traffic Unit, there are daily occurrences where motorists don’t have the appropriate licence to be on Alberta’s highways. This could be placing other motorists at risk.
Speaking to the issue is Sheriff Jon Walker who said just about every day he patrols the Highway 2 corridor from north of Red Deer to the Wetaskiwin exit he finds someone driving without a proper licence.
The issue, says Walker, is that not having an appropriate licence can be an added risk to the driver and to those around them. “If you hurt somebody, and then their insurance is affected because of you.”
Further to that a person without the right licence may face issues of insurance coverage if they get into a collision while driving. To combat those issues fines for having no insurance are high, up to $2,300, and if a person is stopped with a suspended licence they face a mandatory court appearance.
Where things get tricky is if a person has an international licence. There are some exceptions — international students being one — but once a person is a permanent resident for 90 days, or a year of living in Alberta, their current licence becomes invalid. This means they have to change their licence to an Alberta one.
Walker recently stopped a driver he had ticketed before who had an international driver’s licence. Through some investigation by sending the documents to a special investigations unit, it was determined the licence was forged.
Officers have little recourse but to continue to write tickets to the individuals; it’s only when they actually go to get a licence that they have to pay the accumulated tickets.
Sheriffs have some discretion in how to deal with a person caught speeding or breaking a road rule, explained Walker. They could be given a mandatory court appearance and face a judge who will order a payment. If money can’t be paid that person could spend time in jail.
There are other areas where Sheriffs have seen people avoid obtaining their licence: moving from another province to Alberta, having a Class 8 identity card to avoid getting a licence, failing to renew due to a medical reason or because they can’t pass a written or road test. Or they could just forget to renew their licence.
The risks of this course of action is that if a person sees an officer about to pull them over, they may act irrationally by fleeing the scene or failing to stop for officers.
Walker advises those new to the province to take their drivers test so that they are aware of the rules of the road, this helps ensure everyone follows the same rules, which in turn keeps people safe.