Driver Risk Premium: The New War on Traffic Tickets

Canadian Biker Magazine, January/February 2008

By Daryl Brown

Do you receive traffic tickets with any frequency in British Columbia? If you do, you will be paying a lot more under the new Driver Risk Premium (DRP) program. The Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC) is phasing out the Driver Penalty Point (DPP) program beginning January 1, 2008 and drivers convicted of moving violation offences will now pay over a three-year period rather than just one year. Offences include those listed under the Motor Vehicle Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 318, such as an improper lane change and speeding to driving offences set out in the Criminal Code of Canada like dangerous or impaired driving. The reason for implementing the DRP is to raise additional revenue by impugning drivers for accidents they might cause in the future and use these funds in a “revenue neutral” manner to reduce the annual insurance rates for drivers not causing accidents. This reasoning sounds justified at first but it penalizes those who receive tickets even if they do not cause an accident. Nor does it consider the actual cost increase imposed upon an accident free driver who receives a moving violation even after receiving a break on insurance rates. Furthermore, it is certain that motorcyclists in general receive more tickets than justified, which will ensure they are harder hit under the DRP than most other drivers.

One of the most often cited factors for contributing to accidents is speed. Currently under the DPP, a convicted driver accumulates ‘points’ to their driver’s licence for each moving violation. Points are assessed a value of either two, three, six or ten based on the seriousness of the offence. For example, two penalty points are attached for an unsafe lane change, three for speeding and impaired or dangerous driving are ten. The ‘penalty point premium’ or fine is calculated based on the points received between one birthday and the next. The premium is not calculated if a driver has less than four points. If a driver receives four or more points in a year, they are required to pay the calculated annual premium for that year on their birthday. In the following year, a new calculation is made based on the number of points received in that year. In addition to the premium, the driver is responsible for the fine levied on the face of the ticket.

Under the new DRP, violators will still pay the fine levied on the face of the ticket but rather than assigning penalty points, a specific premium is attached to each offence. The seriousness of the violation determines the amount of the premium and would remain payable each year for three years. For example, a driver will pay a premium for three consecutive years if convicted of a single Criminal Code offence, a single excessive speeding violation, two roadside driver’s licence suspensions or a combination of any three moving violations listed under the Motor Vehicle Act. The corresponding fine is attached to each of these offences set out in the table below.

Conviction Count
Three or More Convictions
Criminal Code of Canada Convictions
Roadside Suspensions
Excessive Speed
1
0
$905
0
$320
2
0
$3,760
$370
$370
3
$350
$8,160
$430
$430
4
$400
$14,560
$490
$490
5
$460
$24,000
$560
$560
6
$530
$24,000
$640
$640
7
$610
$24,000
$740
$740
8
$700
$24,000
$850
$850
9
$810
$24,000
$980
$980
10
$900
$24,000
$1,130
$1,130

To understand the affect this will have on the average motorcyclist who might acquire a speeding ticket annually, a comparison of the two programs is required. Under the DPP, a rider would first pay the fine levied for the ticket itself. A ticket for speeding against a highway sign commands a fine of $138 to $196 and three points. Since the rider is only assigned three points per year, no premium is due because only an accumulation of four or more points prompts a calculation. Over a three-year period, three speeding tickets would simply cost ($138 to $196 x 3) or $414 to $594. Comparatively, under the DRP, the same three tickets will still net the rider $414 to $594 for the fine owed on the face of the tickets but no points. It will cost however, $350 per year for three years ($350 x 3) or $1,050 in addition to the tickets for a total of ($414 to $594) + $1,050 or $1,464 to $1,644. Similarly, if a rider received one excessive speeding ticket (driving 40 kilometers or more over the limit) in a three-year period under the old program, a $368 to $483 fine is due on the face of the ticket. Three points are assigned to an excessive speeding ticket and therefore no penalty points are calculated. Under the new program, the same $368 to $483 is owing on the face of the ticket in addition to $320 per year ($320 x 3) or $960 over three years for a total of ($368 to $483) + $960 or $1,328 to $1,443.

The concern for motorcyclists surrounding this new program is threefold: First, it might be safe to suggest those who continually speed may eventually meet with an at-fault collision but it is not safe to suggest that just because someone receives a speeding ticket or other moving violation they will eventually cause an accident. That logic only fuels suspicion amongst the paying public. This in a time when the Motor Vehicle Department has been absorbed by ICBC, who coincidentally, is the provincial monopoly for auto insurance. Meanwhile, the DRP is expected to target 5% of all drivers, up from 1.5% currently caught under the DPP. Interestingly, ICBC’s Traffic Collision Statistics 2005 indicate of the 2.9 million licenced drivers in British Columbia, only 50, 573 or 1.7 percent, were involved in an accident in 2005.

Second, the DRP is expected to generate an increase of $40 million and $60 million per year in revenue and will be used to reduce insurance rates for drivers not causing accidents. According to Factors Affecting Rates 2007, insurance rate reductions from 2006 to 2007 was $8 to $45. When compared to $960 for receiving a single excessive speeding ticket, the expected refund is trivial for someone not causing and accident. ICBC has recently raised basic rates citing increased costs associated to bodily injury claims stemming from accidents. According to ICBC News Release, March 2007, however, insurance rates for optional insurance (collision, comprehensive and specified perils) are down by 3.8 percent in 2007, basic insurance up by 3.3 percent and overall, rates are lower than the rate of inflation with a combined average increase over the last five years of 2.2 percent.

Third, increasing the cost of fines only prejudices a community already scrutinized by insurance companies and law enforcement agencies. In British Columbia, riders insuring their machines are charged a surplus as motorcycle insurance is much more expensive than car insurance. The only discount is afforded for lower engine displacement. Moreover, some police officers will stop a higher ratio of motorcyclists per capita than car drivers. Under cross-examination recently, one member of the Queen’s finest testified that waiting for motorcyclists on a busy street was a good way to fill his quota as it usually presents an opportunity to charge a rider with a moving violation, invalid licence or mechanical defect. His testimony was provided in a matter where an off-road rider was charged after being stopped with a group of cruisers. Clearly, the off-road rider was not part of the cruiser group but was caught in the same net that corralled every rider for simply rolling down the road.

Finally, alcohol related tragedies happen far too often across the country. Anyone convicted of operating a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol should be prosecuted. Given the foregoing however, one might question the need for increasing penalty premiums if only 1.7 percent of all drivers are involved in an accident. Further, it would appear with the help of individual police officers, riders are already forced to pay an increased premium without changing the program. My forecast is the DRP will slow the traffic court process as more riders start to fight their tickets. And why not? The cost of doing so just got cheaper. 

– Daryl Brown is a lawyer (www.motorcyclelawyer.ca), former motorcycle safety instructor and past Canadian Motorcycle Drag Racing Association Modified class record holder.

Note: This site is for information purposes only and is not meant to be construed as legal advice or motorcycle riding instruction. Circumstances concerning proper riding technique are subject to change with conditions and experience. Contact your local riding school for more information. For legal consultation, contact Motorcycle Lawyer, Daryl Brown @ 400-713 Columbia St., New Westminster, BC, 604-526-1821 or 604-612-6848. Content provided by Motorcycle Lawyer.ca is not to be reproduced without authorization. Motorcycle Lawyer.ca is a pending trade mark and any unauthorized use of the name or likeness is prohibited.

Daryl Brown

Daryl Brown

Personal Injury Lawyer at MotorcycleLawyer.ca
As a motorcycle accident lawyer, Daryl Brown’s main objective is to serve the motorcycle community where he has been involved for so many years. As a trial lawyer, he understands the needs of his clients and can apply his knowledge and experience to your advantage.

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