Accidents happen, even to the best of drivers. As well, there are other regrettable moments on the road… not accidents, exactly. But incidents of note. Whether the police are involved or not, such incidents can impact your insurance rates — and, more importantly, your insurability.
To drive a car in Canada, you must be insured. But if you rack up enough accidents or traffic incidents, you might find it hard to purchase insurance in what is known as the regular or common market. That means you’ll have to find specialty insurance, which could cost several times the regular rate.
WHO’S FAULT IS IT?
You might think an accident is not your fault — and, so, your rates won’t go up and your record will not be affected.
But this is not always the case.
“There’s a major misconception that someone is in an ivory tower making pronouncement about who’s at fault in an incident. But there are very detailed rules — fault determination rules — under the insurance act. There are illustrations that show various scenarios, and who’s at fault,” says Fernand Vartanian, general counsel for Onlia Insurance.
Say you get hit from behind. That’s not your fault. But if you get hit from behind, and that impact causes you to hit the car in front of you… guess what? You’re at fault for hitting the person in front. Why? Because maybe you should have left more space. Maybe you were distracted.
Here’s another example. You’re at an intersection waiting to turn left, and as the light turns yellow, you make the turn. And someone runs the light and hits you. You’re at fault. You should have yielded. Or not made the turn.
“These scenarios are common,” says Vartanian. “And it’s pretty much codified as to who’s at fault. There’s not much discretion.”
Sometimes. Sure, there might be “he said she said” or “she said he said” and you can take it to the Collision Reporting Centre. But at the end of the day there are only so many accident scenarios and they’ve pretty much captured all the ways things can happen. It’s been studied and measured.”
Determination of fault is important. If an incident is not your fault, your rates should not be affected.
“Even if you get rear-ended four times in a year, they can never increase your premium because it’s not your fault. If it’s not your fault, the deductible is waved, and you don’t get charged for a rental.”
But, if you are found to be at fault, there will be a deductible and a cap on the rental.
IS IT THE MOOSE’S FAULT?
And then there are one-party accidents.
“If you hit a moose or object on the highway, depending on the insurance company, these incidents can be handled differently.”
Maybe it was the moose’s fault. But maybe you were going 150 in an 80 zone at the time, leaving you little room for maneuvering or braking.
“They’ll know that based on the damage if you were speeding. And the black box in vehicle can give information about force, time, speed, etc. They can pretty much figure out if you did something wrong.”
- You hit someone from behind, it’s your fault.
- You’re turning left at a green light, and someone hits you, it’s your fault (you should have yielded!).
- You have a collision in a private parking lot, you share the fault 50-50 with the other driver.
Fernand’s strongest piece of advice — as told to him from his dad — always keep two to three car lengths in front of you.
“All the rules from Young Drivers of Canada and the Safety Council of Canada… those are good rules,” he says. Most of all, don’t assume that you have the right of way and don’t assume that the other driver will stop, get out of your way, or miss you. The risk is not worth it.
“And that’s why we have red light camera — don’t assume someone is going to stop,” says Vartanian.
- It’s not enough for you to pay attention. You need to constantly check your mirrors and blind spots and pay attention to your surroundings.
- Don’t be distracted… Most people know not to use their phone in the car. But our studies have shown that even if you’re on Bluetooth you are still distracted — and our app will penalize you to some degree.
- Don’t put makeup on or eat food while driving. It still counts as a distraction!
WILL MY RATES GO UP?
Minor infractions might cause your rates to go up temporarily if you are determined to be at fault.
“But red-light camera and speeding cameras, these will not affect your premiums, as they can’t prove who was driving. So, it’s a monetary fine — and typically those fines [from cameras] are more than if you got pulled over, to send a message.”
The consequences of being involved in a major infraction are more severe than many people realize, but even minor incidents can add up and cause trouble.
“If you get three minor convictions within a three-year period, your insurance provider may not renew your policy. For some insurance companies, after two minor convictions, they won’t renew your coverage.”
So, it’s important to stay aware of the volume of incidents.
“Even one ticket will affect your premium, but if you have three, it will impact your ability to get insurance from a common market,” says Vartanian.
“If you are pulled over driving a friend’s car or whatever, it’s on you. If convicted, your insurance will be impacted.”
An at-fault conviction stays on your record for six years, and that starts from the date of conviction, not the date of the infraction. Vartanian advises that if you get a ticket, the best thing to do is immediately attempt a plea and reduced fine. You want to take care of it right away.
DON’T EVEN THINK ABOUT DOING THIS
“God forbid you are charged with driving under the influence or dangerous driving or stunt driving. These are criminal code infractions, and you’ll never get regular insurance again. You will have to get insured through the insurance industry association — known as ‘facility insurance’ — and that can be several times the Ontario average of $2,500 a year.
You will be penalized for many years, Vartanian says. “So, get used to bikes and transit – or very expensive insurance.”
Insurance comes in handy when you need it the most- so it’s important to make sure you have the right coverage. Providers like Onlia offer premium coverage at standard prices, and filter out the insurance jargon so you don’t have to; you’ll always know what you’re buying. Get a quote today and be protected as soon as tomorrow.