Canadian Underwriter

How insurers view Quebec’s new tough-love drunk driving laws

November 27, 2019   by Jason Contant

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Drivers in Quebec who are found guilty of a second impaired driving offence will be required to drive vehicles equipped with an alcohol ignition interlock device for the rest of their lives, the province’s government-run accident benefit provider said Monday.

What effect will this have on insurance rates or claims in the province?

“Of course, if someone has a DUI, it strongly affects the premiums, and we can even refuse to insure someone with such a record,” said Valérie Lamarre, a spokeswoman for Canada’s third-largest insurer, Desjardins.

It’s difficult to say how this measure will affect insurance. “There’s really no available data that would allow us to even remotely speculate,” Pierre Babinsky, a spokesperson for Insurance Bureau of Canada’s Quebec region, told Canadian Underwriter Wednesday. “The data that’s available is not necessarily insurance data; it’s police data or the number of tickets given for different causes.”

The Société de l’assurance automobile du Quebec (SAAQ) unveiled the new road safety measure Monday. It is aimed at combating impaired driving for those found guilty of a second offence as of Nov. 25. (In Quebec, SAAQ provides public auto insurance for personal injuries, while private insurers cover auto-related property damage.) The measure is in addition to existing penalties, which include licence suspension, vehicle seizure and criminal sanctions, under the Highway Safety Code and Criminal Code.

Drivers would have to equip their vehicles with an alcohol interlock device, a breath-testing device that prevents the vehicle from starting if the results show a breath alcohol concentration above a certain pre-set limit (usually corresponding to a blood alcohol concentration of .02), according to the Traffic Injury Research Foundation (TIRF).

While drinking and driving has declined in recent years, SAAQ reports about 100 people were killed and 220 were seriously injured in alcohol-related accidents between 2013 and 2017, according to the Canadian Press. Babinsky said speed is the Number 1 cause of severe and deadly accidents in the province, followed by distracted driving and impaired driving.

Reporting on the specific cause of deadly accidents is not an exact science, as Babinsky notes, which makes the claims impact of the new measure difficult to predict. “It’s difficult to answer because in Quebec, the only time when the cause – in terms of whether it’s impaired driving or something like that – is identified is when there is a deadly crash or with a severe injury,” he said. “In a lot of cases, if police are not involved, it’s voluntary reporting. So, we certainly can’t rely on any data like that. No one is going to admit to their insurer, ‘Well, I had too much too drink.’

“This apparatus is one way to control people who’ve had several convictions. But it won’t help for first offences or those that could result just as easily result in a deadly crash or very serious crash.”

Ward Vanlaar, chief operating officer at TIRF, told Canadian Underwriter that several recent studies “confirm that interlocks are not only effective to reduce recidivism, but also alcohol-related crashes and fatalities.”

For example, TIRF research from 2016 found a small, “significant permanent” decrease in the number of fatal and serious injury alcohol-related crashes following the implementation of an alcohol ignition interlock device program in Nova Scotia.

A U.S. study used data from 1999-2013 to compare alcohol-involved crash fatalities between 18 states with all-offender mandatory interlock participation and 32 states without all-offender laws.

“Results indicated that if impaired drivers installed the device on their vehicle, the program would reduce drunk-driving fatalities by 15%, and an estimated 2,500 lives would be saved annually across the U.S.,” the report concluded.

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1 Comment » for How insurers view Quebec’s new tough-love drunk driving laws
  1. william hazelton says:

    While reducing and eliminating impaired driving, is a great goal, I can not help but think that this is political overkill.

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