Canadian Underwriter

How this insurer detects distracted drivers

January 11, 2019   by Greg Meckbach

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Canada’s largest property and casualty insurer is checking to see whether some of its auto insurance clients are using their phone while driving.

If your auto client is insured by Intact under its My Driving Discount program, Intact can detect mobile phone use, company officials told Canadian Underwriter.

“There are different levels of phone usage that we can monitor,” Julie Nolette, Intact’s vice president of personal lines, said in a recent interview.

My Driving Discount is a mobile app which was not created specifically to monitor people’s cell phone usage. Instead, it is used for telematics – to monitor driving behaviours such as the time the vehicle is driven, rapid acceleration hard braking and speeding. Cellphone use is one of the behaviours that My Driving Discount detects.

In Ontario and Alberta, insurers can base rates on telematics, though they may only give discounts for good behaviour rather than surcharges for risky behaviour.

Intact led the Canadian P&C market in 2017, with 17% market share and $8 billion in direct premiums written, according to Canadian Underwriter’s 2018 Statistical Guide. Aviva and Desjardins are in second and third place with premiums in 2017 of $5.1 billion and $4.3 billion respectively.

Intact started offering telematics in 2014. Intact’s My Driving Discount monitors how drivers use their phone when driving, such as hands-free calls, hand-held calls and active phone use -such as texting, tapping and swiping, an Intact spokesperson said Friday.

“We are monitoring distracted driving and sending notices or giving a score to drivers so they can improve on their driving behaviour and be rewarded for safe driving,” Nolette said in an interview.

She was commenting on distracted driving penalties that took effect Jan. 1 in Ontario.

Four years ago, the minimum fine for distracted driving in Ontario was $60 while the fine was $500.

The minimum fine for a first offence is now $500. Motorists in Ontario who are caught driving while distracted also face three-day licence suspensions.

“We really welcome the measures that the Government of Ontario has put in place as of January 1,” Nolette said. “The increase in penalties will, hopefully, make drivers think about their behaviour behind the wheel.”

The licence suspensions for distracted drivers “adds an extra element that wasn’t there before,” CAA SCO government relations manager Elliott Silverstein told Canadian Underwriter earlier.

Distracted drivers who are caught a second time face a one-week licence suspension and repeat offenders with more than two distracted driving charges face 30-day suspensions of their driver’s licences.

Maximum fines are now $1,000 for a first offence, $2,000 for a second offence and $3,000 for a third offence.

The Highway Traffic Act prohibits drivers from holding or using a device that is capable of receiving or transmitting telephone communications, electronic data, mail or text messages.

Ontario law also considers it distracted driving if the motorist is holding or using a hand-held electronic entertainment device if the primary use is unrelated to the safe operation of the vehicle.

There are exceptions, such as GPS devices and certain commercial vehicle delivery devices.

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7 Comments » for How this insurer detects distracted drivers
  1. Sam Mansour says:

    I totally support higher penalties for drivers using hand held device
    while driving and also suggest one year license suspension and even jail
    for 6 months and No car insurance for one full year.

    • Lance says:

      Traffic infractions are not criminal code offenses and based on your line of argument people who speed ought to be sent to prisons as well! Speeding too is a huge factor in accidents. How about 20 years to life for speeding 10 kph above the posted speed? Wouldn’t that save lives? It’s also ironic how they say driving while using a handheld device is like somebody who’s completely drunk and out of his mind yet when i operate city owned vehicles equipped with radios suddenly I’m allowed? When I leave the municipal vehicle and hop into my personal car and use my cell phone I’m then magically drunk-like again. This is why they call the law “an ass”. It’s constantly contradicting itself with provisions that make exemptions. Ok, tomorrow I’ll be driving a municipal vehicle and will be on the radio phone….OMG! STAY OFF THE STREETS!

  2. Jason says:

    Intact wants to know what time of day you drive, annual kms, acceleration and deceleration rate, and credit score. Very soon maybe they’ll be asking for stool samples. No thanks, I’ll insure with ICBC – its super fast and easy! One day hopefully Intact wakes up and realizes that the public wants quick and efficient service and not be on the phone answering endless questions about our life history. Now that would be truly innovative!

    • Shaun says:

      ICBC is a government run company, so you couldn’t insure with intact in BC. Good luck with the 1.2 billion dollar deficit that it’s running on. The tax payers are on the hook.

  3. Jimmy says:

    It would be nice if Intact was up front about what they track through the program and app before sign up. I support the abolishment of distracted driving but their customers still have a right to know.

    • Colin says:

      Lifted straight from Intact’s website:

      “information we use or may use in the future to calculate your my Driving Discount: vehicle location (GPS), GPS speed, average speed, average acceleration, distance travelled, elapsed time of travel, accelerometer and gyroscope data (acceleration, deceleration, cornering events), start and end date of travel, start and end time of travel, mileage, road type, weather conditions, traffic conditions, speed limits, screen on time (e.g. use of your smart phone while driving), activation/deactivation duration of mobile device, start/stop of location services (GPS), GPS maps of detected trips, information relating to tagged/untagged trips and other information relating to your driving behaviour;”

      Seems pretty clear to me.

  4. Hmm. Where is the distinction should a driver leave his cell plugged into the car’s USB port to play music or run maps/traffic programs and be accessed only from the safety of the passenger seat?

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