November 6, 2017 by Canadian Underwriter
The Government of British Columbia’s Ministry of Attorney General announced on Monday that it will work to designate distracted driving as a high-risk driving behaviour under the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia’s (ICBC) Driver Risk Premium program.
This means a driver with two distracted driving tickets in a three-year period will see their total financial penalties rise to as much as $2,000 – an increase of $740 over the existing penalties. This increase is in addition to their regular insurance premium, the Ministry of Attorney General noted in a press release.
The changes require modifications to the ICBC Basic Insurance Tariff. Government will issue directions regarding the changes to both ICBC and the B.C. Utilities Commission and the changes would be in effect for convictions beginning March 1, 2018.
“Distracted driving continues to put people in danger and significant pressure on insurance rates for all drivers,” Attorney General David Eby said in the release. “Today, we are taking action to curb the behaviour and improve safety for all B.C. road users. Once implemented, this change will treat distracted driving as the serious high-risk behaviour that it is; one that is on par with impaired driving and excessive speeding. Taking action to improve safety and penalize dangerous behaviours benefits all British Columbians and is another step in the right direction.”
Distracted driving is a factor in more than 25% of all car crash fatalities in B.C., killing an average of 78 people each year, according to the attorney general ministry. As well, there are currently about 12,000 drivers in the province that have multiple distracted-driving offences over a three-year period.
When fully implemented, the changes will result in about $3 million to $5 million in additional premiums collected annually, which will be used to offset ICBC’s overall basic insurance rate pressures, the ministry reported.
“B.C. already has some of the toughest distracted-driving penalties in Canada and these changes make our rules even tougher,” suggested Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General. “In the continuing fight against distracted driving, even a single death is one too many.”
The ministry noted that Driver Risk Premium charges are separate from Autoplan vehicle insurance premiums and are billed even if the individual does not own or insure a vehicle. For example, currently two distracted driving tickets in one year will cost approximately $1,256. With this change, the cost will be approximately $2,000. As is the case today, drivers with multiple distracted violations in any one year will continue have their driving record subject to automatic review, which could result in a three-to-12-month driving prohibition. Graduated Licensing Program drivers will also continue to face intervention after a first distracted driving offence and a possible prohibition of up to six months, the release added. Distracted driving relates to those drivers caught using a hand-held electronic device while behind the wheel. In other instances of distraction or inattention, police also have the ability to issue violation tickets for those offences, such as driving without due care and attention.
On Nov. 1, the Ministry of Attorney General said that it had selected PwC Canada to lead an operational review of ICBC to “identify waste, find ways to prevent fraud and overbilling, and identify opportunities for business reform at the Crown corporation. The review includes selecting 100 random files for a comprehensive review, similar to a financial audit, but directed at business practices and aimed at cutting waste, overbilling and poor cost controls, the ministry said in a statement at the time.
In conducting the review, PwC Canada will look at “all previous reports and recommendations related to ICBC’s operations over the last five years, and will review approaches in other jurisdictions and segments within the insurance industry related to ICBC’s various business lines,” the statement said. “PwC Canada will conduct interviews with current unionized and management staff from ICBC and review industry best practices.”
Eby said that “ICBC will not be back on the road to financial sustainability or in a position to provide affordable rates to British Columbians without major changes at every level.” A final report will be submitted to government in early 2018, when it will be made public.