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BC Government wants your opinion on ICBC rates

Ambulance called to a crash scene

First, a bit of background.  ICBC is in dire financial straits. Back in 2016, ICBC applied to the BC Utilities Commission for permission to raise its rates by 4.9%.  This publication posted an article by Dermod Travis of Integrity BC on ICBC’s request. Travis unpicked the rationale for the proposed increase in rates, delved into ICBC’s arguments in favour of the increase and found them a bit misleading: according to Travis’s analysis, they seem manipulated to present only some of the facts, and not the most relevant ones.

According to other analyses, part of the problem was that the previous government required ICBC to keep rates low for its own purposes, while at the same time raiding its reserves so that ICBC could not comply with the legal requirement that it keep enough in reserves to cover claims.

In January this year, the Vancouver Sun published an article reporting that the previous government had not only ignored key recommendations in a 2014 report from Ernst & Young about measures that would help keep ICBC solvent, but had redacted seven pages of the report containing the recommendations. The article also referred to the previous government’s practice of draining ICBC’s reserves by “siphoning off” money from its earnings. Attorney General David Eby says that the government will not continue raiding ICBC’s reserves, though he was quoted by the Vancouver Sun as calling it “excess capital” and one wonders how it can be “excess” if taking it away causes a financial crunch.    

Some drivers have noted that increasing the speed limits on several stretches of BC highways may have contributed to the increase in the number and severity of crashes, and have suggested that those speed limit increases should be rolled back. Speed is listed by ICBC as a contributing factor to many crashes, and many think it’s a factor even when a high rate of speed is permitted and encouraged by a high speed limit. If vehicles’ high speeds on our roads are increasing the number of crashes and the amount of injury and damage they do, then those high speeds are also increasing insurance claims and costs. Not to mention loss of productivity, and more pain, suffering, and grief.

Driving too fast on the highways costs significantly more than driving at more moderate speeds, too, especially now that the price of gas has jumped. Driving at 120 km/h instead of 90 km/h can use up to 20% more fuel.  Idling is also a fuel-waster, and bad for the engine too.

CBC published an article last  month opining that “average speed cameras” could make BC’s roads safer by discouraging speeding. Those cameras have been used successfully in Scotland; the Scottish Minister of Transportation credits them with saving lives – not just money.

The province recently announced a crack-down on distracted driving, in an attempt to reduce crashes.

Back to the issue of ICBC’s rates, and what should determine who pays how much. Should insurance rates increase for the owner of a vehicle that is involved in a crash, or for whoever is driving it when it crashes, if those are different people?  Or both? How much should rates increase for drivers with bad driving records? The BC government is asking members of the public to complete a survey, to provide our opinions on proposed measures to make insurance rates better reflect drivers’ performance on the road. Readers can find the survey at this link:  http://engage.gov.bc.ca/ratefairness/

Our region seems to include more crash-prone drivers than any other region in BC, so all drivers should have an interest in who bears more of the expense for our many crashes – and in staying safer on the road.