TRAFFIC TICKETS AND INSURANCE RATES

By Jonathan van Ekelenburg

One of the most common questions asked by someone who’s received a traffic ticket is “How will this affect my insurance?” The way that insurance rates are calculated is a mystery to many people in Ontario, and it can be a great cause of stress. Even for the most careful driver who remains free of convictions, insurance premiums can be a great expense, and can take only one conviction on your record for your rates to start to climb.

All insurance providers have different policies about convictions and their effect on premium rates, but in order to give you an idea of the effects, we spoke with Lino D’Intino, an insurance broker for Young’s Insurance Brokers in the Niagara region. D’Intino has been an insurance broker since 1995, when he started with TRG Insurance Brokers, which was purchased by Young’s in 2008.

Road Warriors: How much are insurance rates predicated on the system of convictions from the provincial offences courts?
D’Intino
: Obviously it’s a very important relationship. Insurance rates are very much affected by a driver’s convictions or lack thereof. There are many factors that go into the rating of an insurance policy in terms of premium, but certainly convictions are one of the key factors!

RW: How do insurance companies vary in how they treat a driver’s convictions?
D’I
: Convictions affect all drivers and all insurance policies differently. Some people have a clean record and feel that one ticket should not have an effect on their rates, yet they may lose their “conviction free” discount, and they will indeed see their rates go up. For a driver that already has two convictions, for example, the third minor conviction may be the one that sees the insurance company non-renew the driver and the end of the term. That driver would then be looking to the high-risk insurance markets.

RW: Is there any truth to the assumption that some insurance companies might give someone a “freebie” minor conviction that won’t have an affect on their insurance rates?
D’I
: There are some instances where some companies will not change rates based upon one minor conviction; however, if I were to guess, I would say that this is the minority of the time. Most companies offer an additional discount for being free of convictions, so while your rates wouldn’t go up, per say, you would still end up paying more because you lost that discount.

RW: How do minor convictions like speeding 15 km over the limit or fail to drive in marked lane affect insurance rates? Are there big differences between different types of minor offences are far as insurance rates go?
D’I
: There is no difference to the insurance companies in terms of minor convictions. If they appear on your Motor Vehicle Report, they count, and they all count the same. Even those that some people wrongly assume will not affect their rates, such as late plate registration, not having your driver’s license or ownership, etc., will have the same effect on your rates as any other minor conviction.

RW: In terms of speeding tickets, does the difference in speed matter for insurance rates?
D’I
: For the most part, anything under 50 km over the limit is a minor charge. Some companies do, however, use 40 km as their minor conviction ceiling. Speeding over these amounts is considered a major conviction, which can have a whole different effect on your insurance.

RW: How do major charges, like careless driving, driving under suspension or speeding 50km over the limit affect insurance rates?
D’I
: Major and criminal traffic tickets are a very serious matter. Anybody in Ontario that is convicted of a major or criminal offence will be non-renewed by the standard market companies. No exceptions. The driver will have no choice but to acquire insurance in the high-risk market. Not only will they pay the already-higher rates that these companies charge, but these types of convictions carry with them huge surcharges!
Careless driving, for example, carries a 50% surcharge. Impaired driving could be up to 100%. This is assuming there are no other convictions. Once you are in surcharge territory, every additional conviction could add to the surcharge. Careless driving charges are now regularly handed out by police to the at-fault driver at the scene of an accident. I cannot stress enough the type of impact this will have on a driver’s insurance.

RW: Do demerit points have any effect on insurance rates?
D’I
: Demerit points generally have no effect on your insurance. It’s strictly based on number of convictions and the types of those convictions, whether minor, major or criminal. God bless our police officers, but sometimes they tell drivers that a conviction will carry no demerit points and therefore not affect insurance rates, but that’s just not true. All convictions affect insurance rates.

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