Traffic Stop Do’s and Don’ts

Driving is a privilege that requires knowledge of and adherence to various traffic laws designed to ensure the safety of everyone on the road. One of the most common interactions between motorists and law enforcement officials is the traffic stop, which can cause stress and confusion if you’re unsure what to expect or how to behave. Understanding what to do and what to avoid can make this experience less stressful and help prevent avoidable complications. 

What is a Highway Traffic Act Offence? 

Ontario’s Highway Traffic Act (HTA) is a comprehensive set of laws designed to regulate the province’s roads. It covers everything from the rules of the road and equipment requirements to driver’s license regulations and penalties for traffic violations. 

Highway Traffic Act offences, then, violate this Act’s provisions. They can range from minor infractions, such as failing to signal a turn, to more serious ones, like dangerous or impaired driving. 

A Highway Traffic Act offence is typically categorized as a provincial offence. While not as severe as criminal offences, provincial offences can still lead to significant fines, demerit points, license suspensions, and even jail time in extreme cases. 

Common Offences Under the Highway Traffic Act 

There are numerous offences under the Highway Traffic Act in Ontario. Some of the most common ones include speeding, failing to stop at a red light or stop sign, distracted driving, and driving without a valid license or insurance. 

Among these, speeding is particularly prevalent. It’s important to note that even minor speeding offences can result in significant fines. For instance, a speeding ticket for going 15 km/h over the limit in Ontario can cost you approximately $95. 

Another common offence is driving with a headlight out. Not only does this decrease your visibility and increase the risk of an accident, but it can also lead to a ticket. In Ontario, driving with a headlight out can result in a fine of $110. 

Handling a Traffic Stop: The Do’s 

When you see those flashing lights in your rear-view mirror, your first instinct may be to panic. However, knowing what to do can help you stay calm and handle the situation appropriately. 

Do Pull Over Safely

When you realize a police officer is signalling you to pull over, do so as safely and promptly as possible. Use your turn signal to indicate your intentions to other drivers, and find a safe place to stop that won’t obstruct traffic. 

Do Remain Calm and Courteous

Feeling anxious during a stop is normal, but try to stay calm. Be polite and respectful towards the officer. This will help keep the situation from escalating. 

Do Provide Required Documentation

In Ontario, you must provide your driver’s license, proof of insurance, and vehicle registration when asked by a police officer. Have these documents easily accessible to avoid unnecessary complications. 

Do Follow Instructions

The officer will guide you through the traffic stop. Listen carefully to their instructions and follow them accurately. This could include stepping out of the vehicle if requested. 

Handling a Traffic Stop: The Don’ts 

Just as there are steps to follow during a traffic stop, there are also things you should avoid. 

Don’t Argue

Even if you believe the traffic stop or potential charge is unjust, arguing with the police officer on the roadside isn’t likely to help your case. If you wish to dispute the charge, the appropriate place to do so is in court, preferably with the assistance of a lawyer. 

Don’t Make Sudden Movements

For their safety, police officers must be cautious during traffic stops. Avoid making sudden or suspicious movements that could be misinterpreted as a threat. 

Don’t Refuse a Breathalyzer

If a police officer suspects you’ve been drinking and asks you to provide a breath sample, you must comply. Refusing a breathalyzer in Ontario carries serious consequences, similar to impaired driving. 

Understanding the Implications of Refusing a Breathalyzer in Ontario 

Refusing to provide a breath sample when requested by a police officer during a traffic stop is a severe offence under Ontario’s Highway Traffic Act. If you refuse, you can be charged and face the same penalties as if you were found guilty of impaired driving. 

These penalties can include a minimum one-year driving prohibition for a first offence, a fine, and even jail time. Moreover, a conviction will give you a criminal record, which can have lasting implications for employment and travel. 

If you’re asked to provide a breath sample, complying is the best course of action. If you believe the request was unjustified or the procedure was mishandled, consult a lawyer specializing in DUI cases. 

Bayne Sellar Ertel Macrae: Your Legal Advocate After a Traffic Stop 

Traffic stops and subsequent Highway Traffic Act charges can be stressful and confusing. However, you can navigate these situations more effectively with the proper legal support. 

Bayne Sellar Ertel Macrae, a reputable law firm based in Ontario, has a team of skilled lawyers well-versed in handling Highway Traffic Act offences. Whether you’re dealing with a simple speeding ticket or more serious charges like refusing a breathalyzer, our team can provide the legal representation and advice you need. 

From helping you understand your charges and potential consequences to representing you in court, we’re committed to advocating for your rights and working towards the best possible outcome. 


Navigating a traffic stop doesn’t have to be a stressful experience. By understanding what to do and what to avoid, as well as the implications of Highway Traffic Act offences, you can be better prepared to handle these situations. 

Remember, if you’re charged with a traffic offence, seeking legal advice is crucial. The Bayne Sellar Ertel Macrae team is here to help, providing expert legal representation to those facing traffic charges in Ontario.


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