What to do if you get a traffic ticket in the U.S.
What to do if you get a traffic ticket in the U.S.

Did you know two-thirds of Canadians live within 100 km of the southern border? It’s pretty convenient to take a quick road trip to our neighbours down south – maybe you’re going shopping, cheering on your favourite sports team, or visiting the relatives. Whatever the reason, you want to come back home with some good memories. So, if there’s a bump in the road (in the shape of a traffic ticket), here’s what you need to know.

Does getting a traffic ticket in the U.S. really affect me?

If you get a ticket in the U.S., chances are you’ll be wondering about what this means for your driving record. You might think you could simply ignore it, come back into Canada and pretend it never happened…right?

A few years ago, back when the Internet was still dial-up, you’d probably have gotten away with it (just being honest here!). However, with the progression of technology, data can be shared much more easily and the days of outrunning U.S. tickets are long gone. Many Canadian provinces and U.S. states now have official agreements to share information about speeding tickets and any other unpaid traffic tickets to ensure they’re resolved.

What can happen if I get a ticket in the U.S.?

If your home province and the state you got a ticket in have an agreement, you could receive demerit points – and demerit points mean your insurance premium could be affected. Some of the most common traffic tickets that affect your insurance premium are caused by dangerous driving. Always drive safely!

What if there’s no agreement between my province and the state I got my ticket in?

Even if there’s no arrangement in place, you’re not completely in the clear. If you forget to pay for a ticket, you might be in trouble if you get pulled over in that state again. And yes, that includes unpaid parking tickets! Depending on the ticket, you could even find yourself with a suspended licence in that state, which could result in an even bigger fine.

How should I handle a U.S. traffic ticket?

If you get a ticket, you have three options:

  • 1 Pay the ticket.
  • 2 Fight the ticket by hiring a U.S. attorney who specializes in local traffic violations to represent you in court.
  • 3 Fight the ticket by representing yourself in court.

Paying the ticket is the most straightforward. Fighting the ticket can be inconvenient and even more expensive than simply paying, an attorney can be pricey and, if you choose to fight it alone, you’ll have to trek back to the state on your court date.

Before you cross the U.S. border, learn the local rules of the road.

We’ll end with an obvious pointer here: it’s definitely better to know the rules of the road and avoid getting a ticket, rather than figuring out what to do after you’ve got one.

Before you set off, brush up on some safe driving tips to remind yourself of the easily forgotten basics. While you might be a confident driver in your neighbourhood, new surroundings require a lot more consideration (think about being faced with an unfamiliar obstacle, like a roundabout). While you’re on the road, make sure you’re keeping to the local speeding limits and follow all street signs. It’s a good idea to get yourself educated on the conversion of km/h to mph too!


Make sure you’re covered wherever your road trip takes you. Get a quote.


Statistics Canada