ICBC seeks 5.2 per cent hike in basic auto insurance rates

Distracted drivers' use of personal electronics cited as factor in injury claims rise

ICBC will send refunds totaling $38 million to customers it overcharged since 2008.

ICBC is asking regulators to approve a 5.2 per cent increase in basic auto insurance rates.

The public auto insurer said the rate hike would cost the average customer an extra $40 per year if approved by the B.C. Utilities Commission.

The rate hike is to take effect Nov. 1 on an interim basis while the BCUC reviews the application.

A previously approved 5.2 per cent rate hike that took effect in 2013-14 means drivers will soon be paying 10.4 per cent more than they did in 2012 for basic coverage.

ICBC blamed the latest increase on a continued rise in injury claims costs paid to crash victims for pain and suffering, future care and lost wages.

Bodily injury claims hit $1.9 billion in 2013, up $73 million from 2012 and by more than $500 million from five years earlier. Legal and medical costs are also up.

Drivers’ rapidly growing use of cellphones and other personal electronic devices behind the wheel is one of the factors ICBC cited for the rise in injury claims.

Distracted driving is the second leading cause of fatal car crashes in B.C. – killing 88 people a year – and is the leading cause of rear-end crashes that often cause injuries, spokesman Adam Grossman said.

A new campaign against distracted driving is to roll out in September.

Grossman was unable to provide details justifying why basic rates should be 10.4 per cent higher than 2012 when the injury claim cost increase from 2012 to 2013 was only four per cent. The full rate hike application is to be filed Friday.

Consumers Association of Canada president Bruce Cran said it continues a pattern of steeper increases in basic rates on which ICBC has a monopoly but more restraint on optional coverage rates where it must compete.

He also took aim at the provincial government’s continued raiding of ICBC coffers for general revenue.

The province has budgeted to pull $200 million from ICBC this year, $155 million next year and $125 million in 2016, down from $237 million in 2013 and $576 million in 2010.

Cran said he doesn’t “give a damn” about ICBC and government claims the yearly dividends to the province come only from the optional side and don’t affect basic rates.

“We see it a as one corporation,” he said. “As long as they’re stealing our money by the million by transferring it into government revenues, no matter which division they claim it from, we are being gouged as a public.”

Cran called it a stealth tax on people who drive vehicles that is “absolutely disgraceful.”


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