BY MARYAM SHAH, TORONTO SUN
TORONTO – Changes to auto insurance benefits for motor vehicle accident victims passed in the Ontario legislature Wednesday as part of the provincial budget.
“God help us all,” Tammy Kirkwood said upon hearing the news. “We’re getting a lot less coverage for a lot more money and I’m not sure why.”
Kirkwood was one of hundreds of protesters at Queen’s Park rallying against reductions in auto insurance benefits which they say will have the most effect on victims with catastrophic injuries.
The 47-year-old Orillia woman said protesters were “flabbergasted” that the provincial government “was trying to disable our resources and our funding to recover.”
Part of the changes to auto insurance rules under the new budget mean that combined coverage for medical, rehabilitation and attendant care benefits for the catastrophically injured will be cut in half from its current cap of $2 million to $1 million.
Kirkwood survived a 2008 collision when a dump truck hit her car. She had to be pried free from her vehicle by firefighters, and was deemed catastrophically injured.
She says she was only able to move forward because she had access to the services she needed.
Unable to return to work, Kirkwood now volunteers as an advocate with FAIR Association of Victims for Accident Insurance Reform.
New Democratic Party MPP Jagmeet Singh spoke at the rally in support of their cause.
The cuts affect “the most vulnerable people,” such as people with brain and spinal cord injuries, he said.
“They need benefit coverage … to live an at least somewhat decent life,” Singh pointed out.
A spokesman for Finance Minister Charles Sousa said the government is “working hard to create a fair and affordable insurance system” for the province’s 9.4 million drivers.
Ontario is “the only province in Canada to offer exclusive catastrophic coverage,” Kelsey Ingram said in an e-mail.
“Catastrophically impaired claimants will also continue to be able to sue an at-fault party to recover damages for health-care expenses and potentially other claims,” she added.
The provincial government is also committed to making sure any savings from these changes do not result in “excess profits” for insurance companies, Ingram said.
“This is about lowering premiums while providing support and protection for all Ontario drivers,” she said.
For high school seniors, grad celebrations and one last summer of carefree fun and parties remain before they move onto the next chapter of their lives. It’s an exciting time for grads and ICBC is asking parents to make sure their teens have a plan to get home safely from all of their celebrations and parties.
Every day from June to August, 19 youth are injured in crashes in B.C.
The number of youth killed in crashes increases by nearly 30 per cent in July and August in B.C. with an average of 10 youth killed. Speeding, impaired driving and distracted driving were the top contributing factors for young drivers in these fatal crashes.
Top five tips for parents:
Know the plan every time. Talk to your teen about all of their plans for grad celebrations and parties and how they’ll be getting home from each of them. Many grads treat themselves to a limousine – make sure it’s scheduled to drive them home. If they could end up going to multiple parties in a night, make sure they plan safe rides for that too.
Backup plans. Review a few scenarios with your teen in case their safe ride home falls through so they’re prepared and discuss alternatives whether it’s transit, a taxi or calling a family member for a ride. Ask your teen to program local taxi companies’ phone numbers into their phone, look up transit information in advance and set aside money for transit or a taxi just in case.
Call for help. If you haven’t already, consider letting your child know that they can call you at any time if they ever need a ride. If they do call you for assistance, be supportive and consider saving your questions for the next day or at least until you’re home. If you aren’t able to pick your teen up yourself, you can always call a taxi to get them home safely.
Designated drivers. If your teen is going to be the designated driver, remind them that a designated driver does not drink at all and use real-life scenarios to encourage an open discussion about not allowing passengers or peer pressure to influence their choices.
Take a stand. If your teen will be getting a ride with a friend, remind them to ask the driver if they’ve had anything to drink before getting into the vehicle if they aren’t sure. Even if you’re confident that your child is going to make the right choices, talk to them about looking out for their friends, especially those they know are easily influenced by others. Your teen’s choices can have a significant influence on their friends and make it easier for them to take a stand too.
On average, 71 youth are injured in crashes each month from June to August on Vancouver Island.
On average, 97 youth are injured each month from June to August in the Southern Interior.
On average, 28 youth are injured in crashes each month from June to August in the North Central region.
Learn more about ICBC’s road safety speakers who have been touring the province sharing their personal, heartbreaking stories to thousands of students to motivate them to think twice before taking risks while driving. You can also find more helpful road safety tips on icbc.com.
*Fatality data based on police data from 2009 to 2013. Injury data based on ICBC data from 2009 to 2013. Youth defined as aged 16 to 21.