New Brunswick drivers are being urged to watch out for double digit auto insurance increases of 20, 30 even 50 per cent when their policies come up for renewal over the next several months — and to hunt hard for better prices if that happens.
“We try to tell the consumer to shop around and see,” said Michele Pelletier, New Brunswick’s consumer advocate for insurance, on Wednesday about drivers beginning to call her office to complain about stiff rate hikes.
“I hope it’s going to stabilize pretty soon but it’s hard to predict.”
New Brunswick is in the middle of a three-year long escalation of auto insurance rates that has been hitting drivers in different ways, with some of the largest increases still on the way.
Last week the online auto insurer Sonnet, which serves just over 3,000 New Brunswick drivers, filed a request for an average 50.3 per cent rate hike in 2020 for new and existing customers.
It’s the single largest increase applied for by any auto insurer in New Brunswick over the last three years.
Sonnet is owned by Economical Insurance which covers nearly 55,000 New Brunswick drivers. It raised rates in the province 14 per cent this year and has applied for an 11.9 per cent increase for next year.
No choice but to increase rates
In an email, company executive vice-president Paul MacDonald said neither company has a choice.
“Our proposed rates are calculated based on industry realities, and are a move to get to a more cost-appropriate position for both Economical and Sonnet, which have historically been underpriced in New Brunswick,” said MacDonald.
Insurance records show auto accident claim expenses among private passenger cars in New Brunswick in 2018 reached $380.2 million, a $147.3 million increase over six years.
Auto insurance premiums grew by $49 million during the same period and insurance companies say the large increase in their rates in New Brunswick is meant to close that gap.
“They’re saying they are losing money,” said Pelletier.
Sonnet’s proposed increase for next year is the most dramatic response by the industry yet, but other significant increases are also pending.
Others waiting for approval
Unifund Assurance, which covers just over 24,000 New Brunswick drivers, is currently waiting for a ruling from the New Brunswick Insurance Board on its request for an average premium increase of 24.5 per cent beginning later this fall.
But that is an average increase and 7,000 of those customers are facing much higher increases of between 30 and 35 per cent if Unifund’s plan is approved.
Pelletier said consumers need to look at their annual auto insurance renewal documents carefully the next time they arrive to understand what is happening with their own rates because companies often treat individual customers much differently from one another.
Earlier this year, New Brunswick’s largest auto insurer Wawanesa won approval for an average increase on its then 85,000 customers of 11.7 per cent. But that included 7,000 Wawanesa customers who saw rates jump 25 per cent.
This year Wawanesa has applied for another 8.6 per cent average increase which includes 25 per cent increases on about 4,000 of its policy holders.
Customers who have been issued traffic tickets or had accidents can guess why they are being singled out for large increases but Pelletier says for others, the reason can be a mystery and should be better explained.
“Some companies should be more transparent and if they’re charging me 35 per cent more with my premium they should send me a letter — not only my bill — but say ‘Hey Miss, (here’s why),'” said Pelletier.
Pelletier is worried more and more New Brunswick policy holders will be looking for that kind of an explanation over the next year although most insurance companies have not yet filed applications for their 2020 rates.
Distracted driving is responsible for more than one in four fatal crashes on B.C. roads, which is why ICBC, police and government continue to combat this dangerous driving behaviour that claims 77 lives each year.*
Crashes reached a record high in 2017, with many of these caused by distracted or inattentive driving. While cellphone usage rightly gets a lot of the attention, distracted driving includes any activity that impacts your ability to focus on the road while in control of a vehicle.
The B.C. government, police and ICBC conduct two distracted driving education and enhanced enforcement campaigns every year. The campaigns also include advertising and social media support.
This month, drivers will be hearing one message – take a break from your phone when you’re behind the wheel. Research shows that taking your eyes off the road for as little as two seconds is strongly correlated with crashing.
Enhanced police enforcement of distracted driving will take place across B.C., including a province-wide blitz on Friday, and community volunteers are setting up Cell Watch deployments to remind drivers to leave their phone alone when driving.
Drivers can do their part by avoiding distractions while driving and encouraging others to do the same. Activate Apple’s Do Not Disturb While Driving feature or what’s similarly available on other devices. Free ‘not while driving’ decals are available at ICBC driver licensing offices and participating Autoplan broker offices for drivers to support the campaign and encourage other road users to leave their phones alone.
As part of the commitment to make roads safer, ICBC is currently inviting eligible drivers to participate in a telematics pilot project. The goal is to determine whether using this technology can improve road safety and driving behaviour for inexperienced drivers in B.C.
Chief Constable Neil Dubord, Chair of the BC Association of Chiefs of Police Traffic Safety Committee
“Distracted driving is the number one cause of serious crashes in our province and it continues to be a growing safety concern. To combat this problem, police will be out on the road – in every community – making sure people leave their phones alone while driving.”
Lindsay Matthews, ICBC’s Vice-President Public Affairs
“Our telematics pilot project will help us better understand the role that technology can play in reducing distraction and preventing crashes for inexperienced drivers. But safer roads start with every driver making a conscious decision to focus on the road and leave their phones alone. Let’s all do our part to create a safer driving culture in B.C.”
Every year, on average, 27 people are killed in distracted driving-related crashes in the Lower Mainland.
Every year, on average, 10 people are killed in distracted driving-related crashes on Vancouver Island.
Every year, on average, 28 people are killed in distracted driving-related crashes in the Southern Interior.
Every year, on average, 13 people are killed in distracted driving-related crashes in the North Central region.
*Police data from 2013 to 2017. Distraction: where one or more of the vehicles involved had contributing factors including use of communication/video equipment, driver inattentive and driver internal/external distraction.
We’re flying to Newfoundland in September and renting a car there for three weeks. My husband and I aren’t sure if we should buy the expensive insurance they sell at the counter. I think we’re fine with our credit card’s insurance – it’s a fancy points card so I’m assuming it covers rental car insurance. But my husband thinks we should buy the extra insurance just to be safe. – Briana, Toronto
Before you charge off in a rental car without buying their insurance, check with your credit card company to make sure you’re covered.
“Not every card has collision and damage protection but most premium travel ones do,” says Matt Hands, senior business unit manager of insurance at Ratehub, a rate comparison site. “It’ll say in the pamphlet that came with the card, or you can call and actually ask somebody.”
Buying the insurance they sell at the rental counter can cost $35 (or more) per day, depending on what you get, and a lot of people just buy it to be safe – even though they may already be covered by credit cards or their car insurance, Hands says.
So what do rental car companies offer? It varies. Budget Canada, for instance, sells a collision damage waiver (CDW), personal effects and accident benefits insurance and liability insurance.
A CDW covers the damage to the rental car. Otherwise, you’re on the hook for it.
Accident benefits insurance covers death or dismemberment. Personal effects insurance covers personal items, like cameras or laptops, that may be damaged or stolen.
Liability insurance covers you if you cause injury or damage to property, including another vehicle, over the amount included in the rental agreement.
Canadian rental companies provide some liability coverage, but companies in other countries might not.
Typically, you’ll get the minimum amount of liability coverage required by the province – in Ontario, it’s $200,000 – included in the rental price. At the counter, you can buy more.
Michael Liedtke and Tom Krisher, The Associated Press
SAN FRANCISCO — Tesla owners in California can now buy insurance from the electric car company in what may be the first step toward the unconventional automaker providing coverage for a fleet of driverless taxis.
The expansion announced Wednesday comes four months after Tesla CEO Elon Musk told analysts the company would branch into insuring its own cars for people who buy or lease them.
Musk believes Tesla has learned so much about its cars that it will be able to offer rates 20% to 30% below those offered by traditional insurers. That will likely to appeal to Tesla owners who have been complaining about being charged too much for coverage.
Although the insurance is only being sold in California to start, Tesla plans to offer coverage throughout the U.S. at a later undisclosed state.
The policies will only be for personal usage of the Tesla cars, but the Palo Alto, California, company also wants to eventually offer commercial policies.
It’s a move Tesla may have to take if Musk is to deliver on his promise to begin selling Tesla vehicles capable of navigating roads without a driver behind the wheel within the next 16 months. Self-driving car experts believe that is unlikely to happen, but Musk has promised to have a fleet of robotic Teslas operating as part of a ride-hailing service by the end of next year.
To make that vision a reality, the driverless cars will need commercial insurance — something no company but Tesla may be willing to provide, given it probably will be exploring uncharted territory if it’s able to dispatch fully autonomous vehicles to pick up passengers.
Selling insurance will also provide Tesla with another source of revenue as it tries to prove it can consistently make money. The company was profitable during the last half of last year — the longest stretch of prosperity in its history — but has lost another $1.1 billion during the first half of this year. Those losses could rise even higher if Tesla miscalculates the risks of selling auto insurance.
Tesla’s disappointing financial performance and escalating doubts about its future prospects have caused its stock to plunge 35% so far this year.
Tesla believes it has learned so much about the technology, safety and repair costs of its cars that it will be able to figure out the proper prices to charge for each policy. Its electric cars are equipped with so many sensors that the company could theoretically monitor whether the drivers are prone to chronic speeding or habitually engaging in other risky behaviour, but Tesla says it won’t do that.
Whether you’ll be driving a car or riding a motorcycle over the long weekend, ICBC is asking you to share the road and do your part to drive smart.
Every Labour Day long weekend, approximately five people die and 610 people are injured in 2,200 crashes across the province.*
On highways, expect to see many RVs, motorcyclists and trucks. If you’re staying in town, expect more pedestrians and cyclists on the road. The key to sharing the road safely is to stay focused on driving and look out for the road users around you. Avoid distractions which will take your eyes off the road and your mind off driving.
ICBC’s drive smart tips for sharing the road:
You can only see motorcycles when you really look for them so make a game of it. Ask every passenger to guess how many motorcycles you’ll see during the drive and then count them as you travel. Leave plenty of space when passing a motorcycle and allow at least three seconds of following distance.
Crashes with trucks and RVs are usually much more serious due to their sheer size and weight. Keep clear of their blind spots – when following, you should be able to see both mirrors of the RV or truck in front of you. If you’re behind a slow moving RV or truck climbing up a hill, leave extra space and be patient as they’re probably trying their best to keep up with the flow of traffic.
Most crashes with cyclists and pedestrians happen at intersections so always look for them – especially before turning. Make eye contact if you can, so they can anticipate your next move.
Check road conditions at drivebc.ca before you leave. Be realistic about travel times and accept delays that may arise. Don’t rush to make up time – slow down to reduce your risk of crashing and arrive at your destination safely. You also save fuel by driving at a safe and steady speed.
Over Labour Day weekend, on Vancouver Island, on average, 71 people are injured in 320 crashes every year.
Over Labour Day weekend, in the Southern Interior, on average, 77 people are injured in 330 crashes every year.
Over Labour Day weekend, in the North Central region, on average, 19 people are injured in 120 crashes every year.
Over Labour Day weekend, in the Lower Mainland, on average, 440 people are injured in 1,400 crashes every year.
*Based on five-year averages. Crash and injury data is based on ICBC data (2014 to 2018). Fatal data is based on police data (2013 to 2017). Labour Day long weekend is calculated from 18:00 hours the Friday prior to the holiday to midnight Monday.