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11 Months as a Motorcycle Apprentice in Quebec: Ending the Confusion

Finally! You have just successfully completed your practical exam on the Société de l’assurance automobile du Québec’s (SAAQ) closed circuit and obtained your class 6A apprentice driver’s license! You can now ride the wind on Quebec’s public roads!
But before you can pass your practical on-road exam, obtain your full license and ride on your own with the big kids, you’ve got to be accompanied while riding for at least 11 months.
And while this might seem simple, confusion abounds among motorcyclists as to what you can and cannot do, both as an apprentice and as an accompanying rider. So, to help you out, here are explanations from a lawyer and and an apprentice biker!

Demystifying the Law

In Quebec, it’s the Code de la sécurité routière (CSR) that sets forth the applicable rules motorcyclists must follow at each step, from their first theoretical exam all the way to their final practical exam on the road.
More specifically, article 100 of the CSR states that:

  • The apprentice must be accompanied at all times when he or she rides on public roads.
  • The apprentice cannot transport a passenger.
  • The accompanying rider must have had his or her full class 6A license for at least two years.
  • The accompanying rider must be able to provide help and assistance to the apprentice.

In the event of an infraction, an apprentice could be fined from $200 to $300 and lose 4 demerit points (section 140.1 CSR). That will likely also come with an increase in the price of his or her insurance premiums and the cost of his or her registration with the SAAQ.
An accompanying rider who fails to comply with the provisions of the Act can be held liable and fined from $30 to $60 (section 137.1 CSR). And for those who thought they could pass under the radar with ease, be advised that with the arrival of plate readers on police vehicles, the police can spot an apprentice from miles away.

What the SAAQ Court Says

While the SAAQ is quite firm on its recommendation of a one-to-one ratio, that is, one accompanying rider who guides a single apprentice, section 100 of the CSR does not address this issue, nor have the courts done so to date. What seems obvious however, is that an accompanying rider is not “in a position to provide assistance and advice” to an apprentice if he is accompanying, for example, four apprentices without any experience all at once.
There are a number of court decisions that can guide us further regarding the role of the accompanying rider. A number of decisions indicate that the accompanying rider must be in the vicinity of the apprentice rider, and behind him or her to be able to observe and guide. For example, in one case, an apprentice motorcyclist was punished because his accompanying rider was too far ahead of him. Another decision, however, moderated this interpretation by stating that it is not necessary for the accompanying rider to be behind the apprentice at all times to comply with the law.
The debate has begun, but in my opinion, obliging the accompanying rider to ride behind the apprentice doesn’t make sense. Every motorcyclist knows that having the accompanying rider in front means the apprentice, who’s already focused enough on the essentials of riding, doesn’t have to worry about which direction to take, allowing the accompanying rider to inform him or her in advance of lane changes, sudden turns, or times when it’s necessary to slow down, and so on.

The Abolition of Article 100 CSR: Coming Soon?

For some time now, there’s been uproar among bikers regarding the need to have an accompanying rider for the 11-month period. Officials has taken notice and there seems to be an openness on the part of the SAAQ and the government in power to abolish this rule in favour of a more moderate solution, as in Ontario, where an apprentice may travel alone by day.
I share this point of view completely. The obligation of accompaniment for an apprentice biker doesn’t make sense as it prevents the apprentice from being able to rely on his own skills and abilities during the learning curve to deal with emergencies. It’s a bit like a driving instructor in a car taking the driver’s seat and the student becoming the passenger.
If you want to know more about this, learn more about your rights as a biker, or to contest a ticket, feel free to reach out!