Auto insurance

How does driving with a pet affect your auto insurance?

If you drive with your pet on your lap, you could face a hefty fine and demerit points, which could lead to increased car insurance.

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It’s not uncommon to see a dog’s head or nose poking out of the rear window of a passing car – embracing the rush of fresh air and absorbing the different smells. Some dog owners may even describe the car as one of their pet’s favorite places.

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A driver caught with a dog in his lap, on the other hand, could be in for a costly surprise. According to OPP Sergeant Kerry Schmidt, “there is no specific charge for a dog in your lap,” but, he wrote in an email, “the potential risk could be” the bulkiness of the driver’s seat “”.

Driver’s seat clutter: what are the penalties?

In Ontario, the imposition of an overcrowded driver’s seat falls under section 162 of the Traffic Laws: “No person shall operate a motor vehicle with persons or property in the front or in the driver’s seat positioned so as to interfere with the proper management or control of the motor vehicle.”

If found guilty, the drivers could receive three demerit points on their driving record, plus an $85 fine and an additional $25 fee, including a victim surcharge and court costs. If found encumbering the driver’s seat in a community safety zone, an area designated by the province with traffic signs, the fine could increase to $120, plus costs.

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In one case, the OPP Central Region issued an order from Caledon, Ont. driver a $110 ticket and three demerit points for driving with a poodle mix in his lap.

A few years earlier, a woman from Perth, Ontario. was fined for committing the same offense after driving with a parrot on his shoulder.

Many provinces have similar traffic laws, although fines vary. In fact, in Quebec, the law extends beyond vehicles to bicycles as well.

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Should you worry about demerit points?

A person charged with a traffic violation, such as “driver’s seat clutter,” will also receive demerit points, which will remain on your driving record for two years. While demerit points don’t directly affect car insurance rates, earning too many can lead to license suspension and, in turn, your car insurance provider can void your policy. Any gaps in coverage can increase your car insurance rates in the future.

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If you are a fully licensed driver, your license will be suspended for 30 days if you score 15 or more points on your driving record. A new driver only needs to receive nine points before their license is suspended.

According to the Ontario government, if you don’t surrender your licence, you could lose it for up to two years. Although this is the worst case scenario, it illustrates the importance of following the rules of the road.

Pets are your passengers, so it’s best to keep them in the backseat and your steering wheel clear to avoid a fine. Not only is driving with your pet in your lap (or over your shoulder) dangerous, it can lead to a higher car insurance premium.

How driving with your pet could increase your car insurance premium

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While owning pets won’t raise your car insurance rate, a conviction for “driver’s seat clutter” might.

When you receive a ticket, you have 15 days to dispute the charge. Failure to do so will likely result in a conviction for the offence, which may increase your auto insurance rate upon renewal, depending on the severity of the traffic conviction(s), whether minor, major, serious or criminal, and the number of tickets you already have on your driving record. According to the insurance company, even a minor violation can result in a 10% increase, and drivers with a major violation could pay 25% more in their premiums.

That said, some drivers who get just one minor conviction won’t see a rate increase. This could be for two reasons: the insurance company is more lenient or the driver has minor conviction protection coverage. In either case, the conviction would negate any non-conviction discount offered by the insurance company.

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Repeat offenders will usually see their rates go up, which can have long-term consequences. Traffic convictions remain on your driving record for three years; however, it could be longer if the conviction results in a license suspension.

Drivers with multiple serious offenses or convictions may be classified as high risk and find it difficult to find affordable auto insurance rates.

If your insurance premium goes up after a conviction, shop around to see if you can get a lower auto insurance rate.

LowestRates.ca is a free, independent rate comparison website that allows Canadians to compare rates from over 75 providers for various financial products, such as home and auto insurance, mortgages and credit cards.

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