Canadian Underwriter

How Saskatchewan auto insurer approaches distracted driving

March 8, 2018   by Greg Meckbach, Associate Editor

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Saskatchewan motorists caught using wireless devices while driving could be hit by the province’s auto insurer with a $200 penalty; second-time offenders could lose their vehicle for a week, Saskatchewan Government Insurance warns.

A distracted driving ticket costs a Saskatchewan driver four demerit points on his or her “Safe Driver Recognition” record with SGI, the insurer’s media relations manager, Tyler McMurchy, told Canadian Underwriter Tuesday. Although that does not result in additional auto insurance premiums, SGI has the power to impose penalties above and beyond provincial fines for certain driving offences.

The monopoly government-run auto insurer in Saskatchewan assigns each driver points on its safety rating scale. Drivers in the “safe zone” are rated on a scale of 0 to 25. The higher the score, the greater the insurance discount. Drivers in the “penalty zone” are rated on a scale down to negative 10.

Drivers in the penalty zone are assessed a one-time $50 penalty, payable to SGI, for every point they lose. So motorists in the penalty zone who are caught driving while distracted could be forced to pay a $200 penalty to SGI, in addition to a $280 provincial fine.

Canada-wide, “many insurers are unable to consistently identify distracted drivers and adjust their premiums accordingly,” the Canadian Coalition on Distracted Driving and TIRF said in an earlier report.

In Saskatchewan, drivers convicted the second time in a year of holding, using, manipulating or viewing a handheld electronic device face a vehicle impoundment of seven days, McMurchy said Tuesday.

Distracted driving is SGI’s “March Traffic Safety Spotlight,” the insurer announced March 1.

Insurers are concerned about distracted driving because “an increasing number of jurisdictions across the country report that distraction is a leading factor in road fatalities” the Co-operators Group Ltd. and the Traffic Insurance research foundation said Jan, 18, 2018 in a release.

“Consider that a driver traveling at 100km/hr travels the length of a hockey rink within just two seconds while distracted,” stated Rob Wesseling, president and CEO of The Co-operators, in January.

In Saskatchewan, police “will be using a variety of tactics to catch distracted drivers in the act, including surveillance from unmarked vehicles and plainclothes officers on the sidewalks,” SGI said March 1, 2018.

Ontario raised the minimum fine for distracted driving from $60 to $300 in 2015.

Insurance Corporation of British Columbia wants to reduce claims costs by reducing distracted driving. ICBC, a government auto insurer like SGI, announced March 2 it is testing telematics devices designed to block the use of their handheld devices while driving. Two vendors, Cellcontrol  and Keeping Roads Safe Technologies Inc., are participating in that trial.

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