Distracted and impaired drivers to be hit hard by ICBC optional insurance changes

WATCH: Beginning Monday, a variety of driving infractions could boost drivers' insurance premiums immediately. Richard Zussman has the details.

ICBC will be cracking down on impaired and distracted drivers under new optional insurance changes introduced on Thursday.

Starting Monday, any serious driving conviction will lead to a substantial increase to ICBC optional insurance rates. Those rate increases will come on September 1 even though the convictions could have happened months earlier.

“Using driving convictions to price optional insurance is long overdue,” ICBC President Nicolas Jimenez said. ‘It’s an important change that will benefit the vast majority of British Columbians, and is part of a series of changes we’re making to evolve B.C.’s insurance system so that it works for our province.

“This will make sure that higher-risk drivers are held accountable for their decisions by providing a financial incentive for them to improve their driving.”

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The changes are part of a massive overhaul at the public insurer that includes moving to a basic insurance model that is more driver-based. This means crashes follow the driver, not the vehicle, to ensure drivers are more accountable for their behaviour on the road.

The province is anticipating that approximately three-quarters of ICBC’s customers will either pay the same or less under the new system.

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The optional insurance rate changes can potentially have a substantial impact on premiums. The premiums will escalate in line with the frequency and seriousness of the convictions.

The province competes on the optional insurance side but often offers less expensive rates than private companies. ICBC has a monopoly on basic insurance in B.C.

The public insurer says it will not factor in any serious driving convictions prior to June 10, 2019 as part of the new optional insurance rate changes as it did not want to penalize drivers for something they were unaware of and ensure drivers have a “clean slate.”

ICBC will ultimately scan back over a three-year period for driving convictions by June 10, 2022.

“Today, about 10 per cent of ICBC’s optional customers have a record of multiple or serious driving convictions, yet pay the same optional premium as a customer with no convictions — this isn’t right,” Attorney General David Eby said.

“Many auto insurers – and certainly private insurers – already use driving convictions as a factor in pricing their premiums, so I applaud ICBC’s move to ensure those who are higher-risk are no longer being subsidized by the overwhelming majority of lower-risk drivers.”

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Serious driving convictions such as Criminal Code offences, impaired driving, excessive speeding and distracted driving, will result in increased premiums after the first conviction.

Minor offences such as speeding, failing to stop or yield, and not wearing a seatbelt will only result in increased premiums if there are two or more convictions during the scan period.

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During the government’s 2018 public engagement on changes to ICBC’s rate model, the majority of respondents agreed that drivers with serious or multiple minor driving convictions should pay higher premiums.

The public insurer has lost more than $2 billion over the last two years. The hemorrhaging of cash at ICBC comes as the cost of claims – particularly litigated injury claims – continues to escalate.

In April, the province brought in sweeping changes to change settlement payouts for what they describe as soft-tissue injuries. The B.C. Trial Lawyers Association is taking the province to court over the changes. The province is forecasting the changes will save more than $1 billion a year.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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