Canadian Underwriter

Insurer ups distracted driving from minor to major conviction

July 6, 2021   by Greg Meckbach

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Nova Scotia motorists could be out of luck when they try to renew their auto insurance if they got caught more than once using a hand-held gizmo when they should be paying attention to the road.

In a ruling posted June 30, the province’s utility review board approved an application from The Dominion of Canada General Insurance Company to classify prohibited use of a hand-held device as a major offence. At the moment, when it comes to underwriting decisions, The Dominion considers it a minor offence if a Nova Scotia client is convicted of driving while using a handheld device.

This change, among others, takes effect Oct. 12 for new business and Nov. 14 for renewal business.

“The change may also make some currently written risks no longer eligible under [The Dominion’s] underwriting rules,” Nova Scotia Utility Review Board (NSRUB) member Jennifer Nicholson wrote in the June 30 ruling. “Dominion does not propose to exempt existing risks, but will apply the new classification and the associated treatment to all new business and renewing policies. The company notes it has less than 1% of risks with one or more of these convictions.”

Now owned by the Travelers Companies Inc., The Dominion uses three classifications for convictions: Minor, major, and serious. Each class includes different limits for how many convictions are allowed before the risk is no longer written, as well as the premium increases that apply in each category, noted Nicholson.

The Dominion is not the first to treat distracted driving more seriously. The same change in Nova Scotia for Northbridge clients took effect for for new business on Jan. 4 and for renewal business on Feb. 4. NSRUB approved the change for Northbridge and Zenith in a ruling released Nov. 13, 2020.

Distracted driving was a major agenda item in 2019 at Symposium West, a conference produced by the Insurance Institute of Canada.

“What we find out on the road is that the general population is not concerned about the ticket they get on the side of the road,” Ontario Provincial Police Sergeant Gord Keen said during Symposium West, held at the Cambridge, Ont. office of the Ontario Mutual Insurance Association. “What means something to them are points against the driver’s licence and how it affects their insurance rates.”

Keen suggested that if insurers can price motorists out of the insurance market, that could deter distracted driving.

“Sanctions should get harsh because this is an extremely high-risk behaviour,” Keen said.

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