New Brunswick auto insurers seek largest rate hikes in 16 years

Excerpted article as written by Robert Jones · CBC News

A group of New Brunswick’s largest automobile insurance companies is applying for the steepest rate hikes in 16 years.

But bigger bills won’t be hitting drivers until weeks after New Brunswick’s provincial election at the end of the month — making the topic unlikely to rile up voters like it has in previous campaigns.

“Increases will be significant,” said Michele Pelletier, New Brunswick’s consumer advocate for insurance.

“They say, ‘OK, we’re having some really big losses,’ that’s what they’re telling us and they’re asking for bigger increases.”

Rising auto accident claims in New Brunswick, in part caused by more generous government rules around what accident victims can claim compensation for, has turned the province from what used to be the most profitable jurisdiction in Canada for auto insurance companies — into one of their most troublesome financial sinkholes.

According to Canada’s General Insurance Statistical Agency [GISA], auto accidents in New Brunswick generated $376.9 million in claims in 2017. That’s a $144 million — 62 per cent — more than five years earlier with no increase in premiums to pay for it.

GISA numbers show between 2012 and 2017 the average premium paid by drivers in New Brunswick actually fell 53 cents to $803.15 per vehicle.

Pushing drivers to pay more

Pelletier said it was only a matter of time before companies started pushing for drivers to pay more.

“None of us want to have higher premiums. I’m the first one to say I’m paying enough,” said Pelletier.

“But there were signs, we could see signs.”

The New Brunswick Insurance Board is starting to hear applications from insurance companies seeking rate hikes to deal with surging claims costs. (CBC)For insurance companies, surging claims crashing into stagnant premiums has splattered red ink all over their New Brunswick business and sent them speeding to the province’s regulator — the New Brunswick Insurance Board — to apply for higher rates.

Next month the board will hold hearings into an application from New Brunswick’s largest auto insurance company — Wawanesa — to raise its premiums on more than 85,000 provincial policy holders by an average of 11.7 per cent. This includes increases of 17 per cent of about 30,000 of those drivers.

The company wants approval to begin charging new customers elevated prices on Jan. 1, and then pass the increases onto existing customers throughout next year whenever drivers’ current policies come up for renewal.

Pelletier and the province’s Office of the Attorney General are both intervening in the Wawanesa hearing on behalf of consumers, but it will be an uphill fight to derail the application.

Low auto insurance rates

New Brunswick has some of Canada’s lowest auto insurance rates, 30 per cent less than in Alberta and more than 40 per cent cheaper than in Ontario.

In a hearing into an eight per cent rate hike application by the Dominion of Canada General Insurance Company earlier this summer, Pelletier and the Office of the Attorney General both intervened and then withdrew when it became apparent the increase was justified.

Former premier Bernard Lord won a narrow election victory in 2003 after widespread anger over skyrocketing insurance premiums became a campaign issue. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)In a ruling two weeks ago the Insurance Board granted Dominion’s application in full.

But Wawanesa and Dominion are not alone.

Economical Insurance, which covers more than 44,000 of New Brunswick drivers, has applied for a 14 per cent increase on 38,000 of those customers with lesser increases for the rest.

Allstate, which covers 33,000 New Brunswick drivers, has applied for an average rate increase of 9.9 per cent on its customers for the second year in a row.  That includes 15 per cent increases on 5,000 of its policy holders.

Pembridge has also applied for an average 9.9 per cent increase on its 17,000 New Brunswick clients with Aviva asking for 10 per cent increases on roughly 14,000 of its more than 25,000 provincial policies.

The province has not experienced auto insurance increases of that size since 2002 and 2003 when rising accident claims last triggered major premium bumps.

Widespread public anger nearly toppled Bernard Lord’s government in the 2003 provincial election.

 

ICBC reports ‘high volume’ of claims after acid spills on B.C. highway

TRAIL, B.C. _ A major mining company has apologized after two acid spills earlier this year damaged a large number of vehicles in southeastern British Columbia.

Teck Resources says the two spills of sulphuric acid happened on April 10 and May 23, along a busy commuter route in Trail, after the company sold the acid and it was being moved.

In the first spill, about 220 litres of acid leaked as a truck travelled a 16-kilometre stretch of highway, and in the second, about 70 litres dripped from the truck over six kilometres along the same route.

Teck says both spills were cleaned up, no acid seeped into area waterways and there is no damage to roads or bridges.

But the Insurance Corporation of B.C. says it is dealing with “an extremely high volume of claims” from vehicle owners.

It has set up a dedicated phone line for drivers who may have travelled the road and an adviser who answered the line says the acid has the potential to corrode vehicle undercarriages, especially brake lines and brake systems.

Teck says the spills are unacceptable and the company is “working with the parties involved in acid transportation to prevent any recurrence.”

ICBC: Drivers & parents need to help keep kids safe as school returns

Every year, 380 children are injured in crashes while walking or cycling and six are killed throughout the province.* In school and playground zones, 86 children are injured every year.**

These figures are too high – and we need drivers and parents to help reduce the risk for children so they stay safe around our roadways.

With children returning to school next week, roads will be very busy. ICBC is asking drivers to give themselves extra travel time so they aren’t rushing and more likely to speed. Drivers should be completely focused on the road and be watching for children, especially in or around school zones.

Last year, 7,900 drivers were ticketed for speeding in school and playground zones in B.C. Police and Speed Watch volunteers will be closely monitoring drivers’ speeds in school zones to help children get a safe start to the school year.

Parents are encouraged to review ICBC’s tip sheet with their children and go over their daily route to and from school with them.

ICBC’s Drive Smart tips for drivers:

  • When you’re dropping off your children in school zones, allow them to exit the car on the side closest to the sidewalk. Never allow a child to cross mid-block.
  • If a vehicle’s stopped in front of you or in the lane next to you, they may be yielding to a pedestrian, so proceed with caution and be prepared to stop.
  • Watch for school buses and when their lights are flashing, vehicles approaching from both directions must stop.
  • Before getting into your vehicle, walk around it to make sure no small children are hidden from your view. Always look for pedestrians when you’re backing up.
  • In residential areas, a hockey net or ball can mean that kids are playing nearby. Watch for children as they could dash into the street at any moment.
  • Remember that every school day, unless otherwise posted, a 30 km/h speed limit is in effect in school zones from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. In playground zones, a 30 km/h speed limit is in effect every day from dawn to dusk.

Regional statistics:

  • In the Lower Mainland, three children walking or cycling are killed and 260 are injured in crashes every year. In school and playground zones, 51 children are injured in crashes every year.

  • On Vancouver Island, two children walking or cycling are killed and 57 are injured in crashes every year. In school and playground zones, 14 children are injured in crashes every year.

  • In the Southern Interior, one child walking or cycling is killed and 42 children are injured in crashes every year. In school and playground zones, 13 children are injured every year.

  • In North Central B.C., 14 children walking or cycling are injured in crashes every year. In school and playground zones, eight children are injured in crashes every year.

ICBC provides free road safety educational materials to B.C. schools to help students from kindergarten to grade 10 learn about road safety topics unique to their grade level using fun and interactive activities.

Notes about the data:

Children defined as age five to 18. Pedestrian includes a person in or on a wheeled recreational device or wheeled toy. This includes rollerblades, a skateboard, scooter, unicycle or similar wheeled device.

*Crash and injury averages based on 2012 to 2017 data reported by ICBC. Fatal averages based on 2012 to 2016 police-reported data.

**School/playground zone injury averages based on police data from 2012 to 2017.

Media contact:

Lindsay Wilkins

604-982-4759

Over 45,000 British Columbians jump to challenge & take the Drive Smart Refresher Test

August 3, 2018

In less than three weeks, over 45,000 British Columbians logged on to check their driving knowledge through ICBC’s Drive Smart Refresher Test, and the results show that we could use some improvement. If the refresher test were treated like the knowledge test which requires a minimum score of 80 per cent to obtain a learner’s licence, over 18,000 (40 per cent) would have failed.

Based on the completed tests, drivers had the most difficulty with what to do around emergency vehicles, minimum following distances, and the meaning of road signs.

Interestingly, questions related to texting while driving had near-perfect scores, yet over 34,000 drivers were ticketed for using an electronic device in 2017.*

“What’s just as important as knowing the rules of the road is putting them into practice whenever you drive,” said ICBC’s interim vice-president responsible for road safety, Lindsay Matthews. “No matter how many years of experience you have under your belt, we can all benefit from shedding bad driving habits and refreshing our knowledge.”

Here are some of the top questions that were answered incorrectly:

  • When approaching a stopped emergency vehicle with flashing lights on highways with speed limits of under 80 km/h, in addition to changing lanes, drivers must slow to: 40 km/h
  • When approaching a stopped emergency vehicle with flashing lights on highways with speed limits of 80 km/h or over, in addition to changing lanes, drivers must slow to: 70 km/h.
  • The minimum following distance when behind a large vehicle or a motorcycle on a high speed road, should be: 3 seconds.
  • The minimum following distance in bad weather or slippery conditions on high speed roads, should be: 4 seconds.
  • Drivers are required to yield to a public transit bus that is signaling to enter traffic: on all roads where the speed limit is 60km/h or lower.​

  • This sign means: school crosswalk, yield to pedestrians; if there is a crossing guard follow directions.

  • ​This sign, without a speed tab below, means: school zone – reduce speed when children are present.
 
 
 
  • This sign means: obstruction – keep left.

The number of crashes in B.C. peaked in 2017, with 350,000 crashes happening in the year, or 960 a day. The total cost of claims in 2017 was $4.8 billion, equivalent to $13 million a day.

Drivers are encouraged to take the Drive Smart Refresher test at icbc.com/drivesmart. Other resources to help improve driving knowledge, such as driving guides, and a road signs practice test, are available on icbc.com.

*Based on 2017 data, as reported by police.

Think a police officer can’t tell if you’re driving stoned? Think again!

Think a police officer can’t tell if you’re driving stoned? Think again!

August’s Traffic Safety Spotlight focuses on impaired driving

“I drive better when I’m high!”

“They’ll never catch me!”

“Pffft. That will never hold up in court!”

Sound familiar? There are plenty of misconceptions floating around regarding marijuana use and driving. The truth is that it’s illegal and will continue to be illegal in Saskatchewan to drive while impaired – whether by drugs or alcohol – even once marijuana use becomes legal in Canada on Oct. 17, 2018.

Think about it: people don’t smoke marijuana so they can feel the exact same. It is an impairing substance that alters your perception – and it increases your chances of being in a crash.

“To put it simply, impaired is impaired,” said Penny McCune, Chief Operating Officer of the Auto Fund. “Any substance that alters your thinking will impact your ability to drive safely. If you smoke marijuana, you should not get behind the wheel until you’re sure the effects have fully worn off.”

Smoking marijuana affects judgment, reaction time, motor coordination and ability to make decisions. It can also cause paranoia, drowsiness, distorted perception and a sense of disorientation – all of which could cause you to lose control at the wheel. Mixing drugs and alcohol increases impairment even more.

If you think police won’t be able to tell if you’re driving while high, think again. Weaving within a lane, following a vehicle too closely, making unsafe turns – these can all be indications that a driver is high. Marijuana can also be detected by odor and by the driver’s physical appearance – including dilated pupils, poor balance and co-ordination.

If the police suspect that a driver is impaired by a drug or alcohol or a combination of both, they can make a demand that the driver take a standardized field sobriety test at roadside. If the officer has reasonable grounds to believe that a driver is impaired by a drug, they can make a demand that the driver submit to an evaluation conducted by a Drug Recognition Evaluator (DRE).

“Drug Recognition Evaluators undergo extensive training and use a rigorous, scientific 12-step procedure in performing the evaluation,” said Cpl. Brian Ferguson, Provincial DRE Training Coordinator. “The evaluation must show impairment, signs and symptoms consistent with one or more drug categories, and the evaluator’s findings must be supported by the toxicology.”

More and more police in Saskatchewan are being trained to recognize signs of impairment from drugs. There are currently 74 DRE-certified officers in the province, with 20 to 40 new officers trained each year.

But will these tests hold up in court? Absolutely. Drug recognition evaluations have been accepted by Canadian courts as legally binding evidence in impaired driving cases for many years.

So, don’t drive high. It’s not worth it and you’re going to get caught. Impaired drivers in Saskatchewan face some of the toughest administrative sanctions in the country, with immediate licence suspensions and vehicle seizures at roadside. Upon conviction, further penalties imposed by the courts may include fines, jail time and long-term driving restrictions.

Follow these tips to keep you and yours safe:

  • Be a Good Wingman – don’t let impaired friends drive.
  • Don’t drive high – weed increases your chances of getting into a collision and when combined with alcohol, impairment increases significantly.
  • Plan a safe ride home – impaired driving is 100% preventable.
  • Remember – it is illegal to operate any kind of motor vehicle while impaired by any substance. Police are trained to check for and recognize drug impairment.Hashtag alert! A ticket you’ll WANT to getWhile police will be looking for impaired drivers throughout August, some will also be handing out “positive tickets” to drivers who aren’t impaired. Any driver who receives one can post a picture of it on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter and use the hashtag #CareAboutImpaired to be eligible to win one of 25 $150 Visa gift cards. This is one of five new impaired driving initiatives being piloted in Saskatchewan this month. #HowAreYouGettingHomeOur friends at MADD Canada are partnering with a number of organizations to raise awareness over the August long weekend on the dangers of impaired driving. You can be a part of the conversation by following @Sask0804 on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and using the hashtag #HowAreYouGettingHome.

And, since you’re online anyway, visit SGI’s website at www.sgi.sk.ca for more information about impaired driving consequences. Follow SGI on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram for safety tips to #TakeCareOutThere.

Watch for warning signs of drowsy driving this long weekend

Driver fatigue related crashes soar in August

July 31, 2018

As temperatures rise during the summer months in our province, so do driver fatigue-related crashes. By August, these incidents peak with one person killed and 88 people injured in 110 crashes for the month despite fatigue being underreported.*

Hot summer weather and long drives can be a dangerous combination that can cause fatigue. Startlingly, over every B.C. Day long weekend, about 600 people are injured and three are killed in 2,200 crashes.**

If you’re hitting the road this long weekend, ICBC is asking you to make sure you’re properly rested, hydrated and taking breaks from driving every two hours to reduce your risk of crashing.

Driving while fatigued is an impairment which can be just as deadly as any other. It slows reaction time, decreases awareness and impairs judgment. Even a slight decrease in your reaction time can greatly increase your risk of crashing especially when travelling at highway speeds.

Warning signs of fatigue and ICBC’s Drive Smart tips:

  • Fatigue can sneak up on you when you’re driving. It’s important to learn the warning signs:
    • You don’t notice a vehicle until it suddenly passes you.
    • You don’t recall driving the last few kilometres.
    • You’re yawning or daydreaming.
    • Your speed creeps up or down.
    • You find yourself wandering into the next lane, shoulder or centre line.
    • Your eyes feel heavy or you have difficulty keeping your head up.
  • Travel in the morning. Drivers are prone to drowsy driving in the late-afternoon and at night when the body’s circadian rhythm dips.*** Avoid driving during the night when you’d normally be asleep.

  • As soon as you become sleepy, the key is to stop driving. Let a passenger drive or pull over when it’s safe, turn off your car and take a nap. The only cure for sleepiness is sleep. Opening a window, blasting the air conditioning or turning on music are not effective ways to keep you awake while driving.
  • Leave enough following distance to give yourself time to react in case another driver on the road is impaired by fatigue. You can also look for warning signs such as a vehicle wandering out of its lane or its speed creeping up and down.

Regional statistics:

B.C. Day long weekend:

  • Over the B.C. Day long weekend, on Vancouver Island, an average of 67 people are injured in 310 crashes every year.
  • Over the B.C. Day long weekend, in the Southern Interior, an average of 97 people are injured in 370 crashes every year.
  • Over the B.C. Day long weekend, in the North Central region, an average of 25 people are injured in 130 crashes every year.
  • Over the B.C. Day long weekend, in the Lower Mainland, an average of 410 people are injured in 1,300 crashes every year.

Driver fatigue:

  • On Vancouver Island, on average, one person is killed and 100 are injured in 140 crashes involving driver fatigue every year. In August, 15 people are injured in 20 crashes.
  • In the Southern Interior, on average, five people are killed and 160 are injured in 210 crashes involving driver fatigue every year. In August, 25 people are injured in 30 crashes.
  • In the North Central region, on average, two people are killed and 92 are injured in 110 crashes involving driver fatigue every year. In August, 14 people are injured in 16 crashes.
  • In the Lower Mainland, on average, one person is killed and 270 are injured in 390 crashes involving driver fatigue every year. In August, 33 people are injured in 42 crashes.
  • In B.C., on average, nine people are killed and 620 injured in 850 crashes involving driver fatigue every year. In August, one person is killed and 88 are injured in 110 crashes.

*Based on five-year averages. Police data 2012 to 2016. Driver fatigue is defined as incidents where one or more of the vehicles had the contributing factors extreme fatigue or fell asleep.

Driver fatigue is underreported as it’s difficult to measure and police don’t attend all crashes.

** Based on five-year averages. Crash and injury data is based on ICBC data (2013 to 2017). Fatal data is based on police data (2012 to 2016). BC Day long weekend is calculated from 18:00 hours the Friday prior to the holiday to midnight Monday.

***Source: Transport Canada.

 

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