DNA replication in eukaryotic cells is tightly controlled by a licensing mechanism, ensuring that each origin fires once and only once per cell cycle. We demonstrate that the ataxia telangiectasia and Rad3 related (ATR)-mediated S phase checkpoint acts as a surveillance mechanism to prevent rereplication. Thus, disruption of licensing control will not induce significant rereplication in mammalian cells when the ATR checkpoint is intact. We also demonstrate that single-stranded DNA (ssDNA) is the initial signal that activates the checkpoint when licensing control is compromised in mammalian cells. We demonstrate that uncontrolled DNA unwinding by minichromosome maintenance proteins upon Cdt1 overexpression is an important mechanism that leads to ssDNA accumulation and checkpoint activation. Furthermore, we show that replication protein A 2 and retinoblastoma protein are both downstream targets for ATR that are important for the inhibition of DNA rereplication. We reveal the molecular mechanisms by which the ATR-mediated S phase checkpoint pathway prevents DNA rereplication and thus significantly improve our understanding of how rereplication is prevented in mammalian cells.