News Local

Time to end the ICBC monopoly

By Ada Slivinski, 24 Hours Vancouver

BC GOVERNMENT

BC GOVERNMENT

B.C. has the most expensive publicly run car insurance rates in Canada — with average premiums now $1,550 annually, according to ICBC. And if the government approves ICBC’s request for a 4.9% hike, we will pay even more.

Driving experience and record affect rates and that makes sense. According to ICBC, “Drivers with more driving offences or convictions get involved in more crashes than other drivers.” But not all offences resulting in demerit points constitute dangerous driving.

Driving over newly-painted lines twice, for example, is worth two demerit points. Have a phone loose in a vehicle and not attached to yourself or the car? Four demerit points. You don’t even have to touch it.

So not only are B.C. drivers paying more on average, they must also shell out big bucks in additional fines associated with demerit points.

Once you have four or more points, you will be charged an annual “Driver Penalty Point Premium” — ranging from $175 to a whopping $24,000 for “50 or more points.”

Why the additional charge?

Under the Insurance (Vehicle) Act, ICBC has the right to “adopt or establish a point penalty system classifying drivers according to the number, nature and kind of violations or offences committed by them” and “assess and levy basic or additional premiums under the plan against drivers at the times and under the terms and conditions the corporation considers appropriate.”

Basically, they can do whatever they want.

If ICBC wants to raise rates by more than 1.5%, it must get approval. Not so with these point premiums.

Since ICBC has a monopoly on basic coverage (including injury and liability coverage), if you are levied a fee and want to keep driving you must pay it.

In other provinces, competition helps keep rates lower and penalty systems like this wouldn’t be possible.

So are all these convoluted fees actually helping keep B.C. roads safer? In March, a B.C. woman was still on the road after 14 tickets for distracted driving. In 2014, a Vancouver driver only had his licence suspended after 26 distracted driving tickets.

In Ontario, drivers are automatically suspended after 15 demerit points and could be after nine. In Alberta, suspensions occur after eight demerit points in a two-year period.

ICBC doesn’t suspend licences, but is able to essentially profit off of bad drivers.

Dangerous drivers should be kept off the roads and the rest of us should fight back against fees we didn’t sign up for.

Ada Slivinski is a communications consultant based in Vancouver. Contact her at ada@adaslivinski.com, on Twitter @adaslivinski and visit her website adaslivinski.ca  

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