Commuters will see a 6.4 per cent increase to their basic vehicle insurance rates this year, with optional coverage rates increasing up to 9.6 per cent to stem record losses at the Insurance Corporation of B.C.
The basic rate increase takes effect in November and translates to $57 a year more for the average B.C. driver on basic insurance. For drivers who also have ICBC’s optional insurance coverage, a series of quarterly increases in those rates mean the average driver will be paying $130 a year more by next year.
Drivers with at-fault crashes will also face steeper rate increases than are currently assessed.
Attorney General David Eby announced the increases Tuesday, along with what he called “drastic action” to fix financial problems brought about by the previous government’s mismanagement of ICBC. The B.C. Liberals’ pre-election budget projected a $25 million loss for ICBC this year and it now is projected to be 14 times as high, Eby told a news conference in Vancouver.
“The insurer that we inherited has the greatest loss in its history, and has been raided of capital” to the tune of $1 billion that should have been left for investment income in the Crown corporation, Eby said. ICBC recorded a loss of $500 million last year.
B.C. Liberal critic Andrew Wilkinson said the problem today is a surge in accidents and claims that led to a $2.4 billion being paid out in 2015 alone. Some of the actions Eby announced are contained in a review commissioned by the B.C. Liberal government, he said.
”British Columbia has the toughest drunk driving laws, increased penalties for distracted driving, has doubled premiums on high-end luxury vehicles, shrunk the ICBC executive team and transferred money from optional insurance to keep the basic insurance costs low,” Wilkinson said.
Eby announced a series of measures to stem accidents and soaring vehicle and injury claim costs, including an increase in operating hours for red light cameras. Currently running six hours a day at high-crash intersections, the cameras will go to 12 and then 24-hour operation as monitoring staff are added.
Another system being studied is the use of motion sensors to disable mobile phones for people with a history of using them while driving. A cap on soft tissue injury claims is also being studied, but Eby reiterated that drivers will not lose their right to sue ICBC via a no-fault insurance scheme that sets payouts for injury claims.
Eby rejected the idea of privatizing ICBC or opening up competition for basic insurance. Ontario has an all-private system and drivers there pay the highest insurance premiums in the country, he said.