Canadian Underwriter

What distracted driving conviction can mean on renewal

September 6, 2019   by Greg Meckbach

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For your Ontario auto clients, distracted driving convictions carry a greater risk of higher rates on renewal.

“Now that distracted driving is with many carriers a major conviction, I think we can translate that for brokers [so] that they quickly understand what that is going to mean for customers when they get their renewal,” said Donna Ince, senior vice president for personal lines at RSA Canada.

“It’s significant and it should be making people pause,” Ince said during the leadership panel at the recent Symposium West.

“There is more we can do to help brokers have that data in front of them on what that impact is,” Ince said during the panel, alluding to the fact that a distracted driving conviction can result in fines, demerit points, suspensions and higher rates.

In the eyes of insurers, driving infractions are typically divided up into three types of categories: minor, major, and criminal, says Insurance Hunter, an online brokerage owned by Hub International.

Many times a minor conviction will not result in a rate increase. But one major or criminal conviction normally will result in a rate hike, Insurance Hunter suggests.

“This is a personal issue for the industry, particularly accident benefits claims adjusters, who are really front-and-centre with all of these issues,” Ince said of injuries resulting from distracted driving. “We just can’t put people back together again. You can do that for fire. You can do that for thefts. I can’t put someone back together again when they are a quadriplegic.”

Another panelist suggested the authorities should consider requiring motorists convicted of distracted driving to sit down with accident victims – even if those motorists did not cause an accident.

“Maybe people need to be shocked into understanding that yeah, maybe it didn’t happen to you but it happened to your neighbour or the guy you worked with or his sister’s uncle – whoever it is,” said Tracey Medeiros, senior vice president of national operations at Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. Canada and a former  member of the senior leadership team at Stevenson Hunt in London, Ont.

So perhaps people convicted of distracted driving should be required to meet with have to people who have lost family members or who have become permanently injured, suggested Medeiros. “Maybe we need to get in their face and say, ‘Here is the result of texting. Here is what it did to this family. Here is what it did to these people’s lives.”

Symposium West was held Aug. 22 at the Cambridge office of the Ontario Mutual Insurance Association. It was produced by the Insurance Institute of Canada.

Moderating the leadership panel was insurance defence lawyer Kadey Schultz, partner with Schultz Frost, which sometimes provides legal defence for motorists who drive distracted and cause accidents. “We go to discoveries, and in those moments when we are defending a liable driver who has, through a choice, completely devastated their their own family, their own bodies or someone else’s body or family, and we sit through their experience, it is incredible to be in that moment when they absolutely know that what happened could have been prevented,” said Schultz.

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