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Aviva fraud investigation reveals urgent need to reform auto insurance

Wednesday, March 14th, 2018

| Mar 13, 2018 |
Auto insurance fraud is estimated to cost Canadians more than $2 billion every year. Today, the shocking results of a new Aviva investigation designed to determine the impact of auto repair fraud on insurance consumers highlights the urgent need to reform the auto insurance system. Through this investigation, Aviva estimates that auto repair fraud across Ontario costs consumers approximately $547 million annually. A year-long secret operation by Aviva’s fraud investigation team set out to discover what really happens during the auto repair process when auto body shops and tow truck drivers encounter vehicles involved in collisions on Ontario’s roads. Throughout 2017, Aviva purchased ten cars which investigators and automotive experts deliberately crashed and damaged. Experts retained by Aviva carefully examined and assessed each car to calculate the actual extent and cost of repair. Equipped with hidden cameras, the damaged cars were positioned near provincial highways at random locations in the Toronto area to simulate collisions. Undercover investigators posing as drivers equipped with recording equipment waited for assistance. The investigation recorded and tracked the entire process from the time assistance arrived at the collision scene, until damaged cars were repaired and invoices submitted. Evidence gathered during the investigation revealed nine out of ten cases involved fraud. In this investigation, Aviva found:
  • Substantial level of fraud: An average of 57% of total repair costs invoiced to Aviva were fraudulent.
  • Additional deliberate damage: Hidden camera footage caught auto body shop employees deliberately causing damage to cars.
  • Wrongful billing and repairs of car parts: Auto body shops billed for new car parts, but installed used parts, or did not replace the parts at all. Additionally, parts that were not damaged were itemized on the final invoice as repaired.
  • Billing for services not provided: Tow truck operators invoiced Aviva for towing and storage services that did not occur.
  • Consumer abuse: Tow truck operator offered incentive for tips on accidents requiring towing services, discouraged driver from using Aviva’s accredited auto body shops, towed vehicles without proper permission and asked a driver to sign a blank work order.
Watch this video of the evidence found in Aviva’s fraud investigation.   Commenting on the investigation, Gordon RasbachAviva Canada’s Vice President of Fraud Management, said: “This amounts to a national scandal. However, we recognize that not every tow truck operator or auto body shop is fraudulent. As for those who are taking advantage of the system, government and the insurance industry must collectively act against auto insurance fraud by tackling the root causes that have led to a broken and dysfunctional system. The way forward begins with government – that is why we are proposing a 5-point action plan on behalf of honest consumers.” Aviva calls for 5-point action plan In Ontario, Aviva is pleased to see progress on implementation of The Marshall Report and the Serious Fraud Office, but more needs to be done. For years, insurers have suspected fraudulent activity coming from the automotive repair industry. Aviva believes provincial regulators should have a clear mandate to regulate the insurance industry to identify, deter and prevent fraud. To that end, Aviva is calling for a 5-point action plan from government to:
  1. Ban referral fees to take unnecessary cash out of the system (these fees benefit third party suppliers but not consumers).
  2. Prohibit blank work orders to ban any supplier from asking consumers to sign them.
  3. Allow discounts to customers who agree to use an insurer’s accredited repair network.
  4. Force insurers to report all identified fraud and investigation outcomes so that data is shared.
  5. Increase penalties for suppliers of goods and services to insurance claims who abuse consumers or defraud insurers
Gordon Rasbach continued: “The video footage and clear evidence of fraudulent invoicing shows just how pervasive the problem of fraud is in Canada. We predict that Canadians are paying more than $2 billion a year for auto insurance fraud. They have told us that enough is enough. Honest drivers who may have been a victim of fraud without their knowledge, or are paying for it through higher premiums deserve better.” For more information on fraud and how to solve it, visit: https://www.avivacanada.com/fightfraud/ Notes to the editors: Assessing the damage
  • All damaged vehicles were assessed by an independent appraiser prior to beginning the investigation
  • Of the nine vehicles where fraud was eventually identified, the original assessment for total damages was $27,657.15.
  • After the shops completed work on those same nine vehicles, the total billings came to $58,328.40
  • Following those repairs, we re-inspected each vehicle to assess the work that was actually done against what Aviva was billed. This revealed that $33,179.74 of the $58,328.40 (57% of total cost) was fraud – either because the parts and labour were not installed or completed as invoiced, or because the parts and labour were attributable to additional deliberate damage caused by the shop itself.
  • For the one non-fraudulent case:
    • $2,366.03  = Total independent appraisal before the staged collisions
    • $2,475.01 = Total invoice (parts and labour) submitted by the auto body shop

ICBC spends $800,000 in damage claims for Ferrari that crashed into pole

Wednesday, March 14th, 2018

| Mar 13, 2018
By Amy Smart THE CANADIAN PRESS VANCOUVER _ British Columbia’s public auto insurer says it has spent $789,375 in damage claims for a Ferrari that crashed into a pole. The Insurance Corp. of B.C. is embroiled in a court battle over the claims and repairs, which it says could cost more than $982,000 in total. According to documents filed in B.C. Supreme Court, the plaintiff accidentally drove the 1990 Ferrari F40 into a utility pole on Sept. 9, 2012, leaving it badly damaged. The repairs have yet to be completed according to a judgment in the case, though ICBC said it’s done its part. The driver argued in the documents that ICBC breached an implied duty to process his claim and carry out the repairs in good faith and a timely manner. “He alleges further that ICBC acted in bad faith in refusing, at least for a time, to approve and arrange the needed repair work and that delay has caused him various kinds of harm,” a judgment in the case reads. Following an investigation, ICBC eventually admitted coverage and agreed to cover most of the cost of repairs. But it said it already paid enough toward the claim, since its payments exceed the cash value of the car which an arbitrator pinned at $696,061 in 2014. The case is ongoing. Kris Sims, B.C. director for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, said the case is a perfect example of why the province should do away with the Crown corporation and leave auto insurance to private companies. “We end up with this swamp of ineptitude and delays. This perfectly highlights it here we’ve got someone who has $900,000 worth of repairs needed and a government monopoly not equipped to do it,” Sims said. She said private insurers are better equipped to insure cars because competition gives them incentive to expediate both claim and court processes, with legal teams, estimators, repair specialists on hand. Taxpayers should be responsible for neither the damage claims nor the court costs, Sims said. “We’re unfortunately all in this together, whether we like it or not,” she said. Last week, the province introduced an online survey on major shifts being considered to modernize ICBC. The provincial budget forecast a $1.3-billion deficit at the Crown corporation this year and Attorney General David Eby described the situation as a “dumpster fire” he said he inherited from the former Liberal government. An Ernst and Young report commissioned by the Liberals last year suggested charging higher rates for luxury vehicles, among a suite of options for reducing losses at ICBC.

January winter storms, floods caused more than $54 million in insured damage

Wednesday, March 14th, 2018

| Mar 10, 2018 |
Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) reports that a significant winter storm event which affected parts of OntarioQuebecNew BrunswickPrince Edward IslandNova Scotia, and Newfoundland and Labrador, resulted in more than $54 million in insured damage, according to Catastrophe Indices and Quantification Inc. (CatIQ). From January 11-14, 2018, a low pressure system brought high temperatures and heavy rains to much of Eastern Canada. Melting snow, ice jams, and rainfall caused flooding in several parts of the region. Nearly $33 million in insured damage was reported in Quebec and over $12 million in Ontario. The remainder occurred in the four Atlantic Provinces. “Climate change is causing severe weather events to happen more frequently and with greater intensity, especially storms involving floods. While the insured damage from these floods is significant, the total economic cost to homeowners and government is not yet known,” said Craig Stewart, Vice-President, Federal Affairs, IBC. “Because flooding can cause significant damage in a very short amount of time, it is critically important for consumers to know what their policies cover and whether they have overland flood protection. Consumers should check with their insurance representatives to see what options are available to them.” For more information on how to protect property against floods and other disasters please visit IBC’s website. About Insurance Bureau of Canada Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) is the national industry association representing Canada’s private home, auto and business insurers. Its member companies make up 90% of the property and casualty (P&C) insurance market in Canada. For more than 50 years, IBC has worked with governments across the country to help make affordable home, auto and business insurance available for all Canadians. IBC supports the vision of consumers and governments trusting, valuing and supporting the private P&C insurance industry. It champions key issues and helps educate consumers on how best to protect their homes, cars, businesses and properties. P&C insurance touches the lives of nearly every Canadian and plays a critical role in keeping businesses safe and the Canadian economy strong. It employs more than 120,000 Canadians, pays $9 billion in taxes and has a total premium base of $52 billion. For media releases and more information, visit IBC’s Media Centre at www.ibc.ca. If you have a question about home, auto or business insurance, contact IBC’s Consumer Information Centre at 1-844-2ask-IBC. About CatIQ Catastrophe Indices and Quantification Inc. (CatIQ) delivers detailed analytical and meteorological information on Canadian natural and man-made catastrophes. Through its online subscription-based platform, CatIQ combines comprehensive insured loss indices and other related information to better serve the needs of the insurance and reinsurance industries, public sector and other stakeholders. To learn more, visit www.catiq.com. SOURCE Insurance Bureau of Canada

The Not-So-Professional Driver

Wednesday, March 14th, 2018

| Mar 9, 2018 |
I’m one of those odd drivers who tries their best to drive at or below the posted speed limit. I include the word below here as sometimes there is a need to slow down to less than the posted speed limit for safety reasons. This often has consequences for me when I have to share the road with other drivers who do not subscribe to my philosophy on road safety. A good example of this is looking in my rear view mirror and finding the Volvo logo on the grille of a heavy transport truck following me closely enough that I could count the bugs stuck to it. This incident occurred on the Trans Canada Highway westbound between the Alberta border and Golden on a relatively long and steep downgrade while I was returning home from a family wedding in Banff. Road conditions were not the greatest as the winter damage had been done and road maintenance had not yet caught up. The shoulders were gravel covered, the lane markings were poor or non-existent and the road surface itself was uneven in places. My preferred solution to this is to simply pull over and let the offender by. Better to inconvenience myself than to become involved in a collision. In this case, I had to wait to find a good place to do this and sweat out having that Volvo logo looming large behind me. The truck passed me before I was able to do so, but I was able to read the company name off the door of the truck cab. If you are not content to just shrug your shoulders and mutter something about the driver’s ancestry under your breath, what can be done about incidents like this one? Google is your friend. Most trucking firms today have a web site with contact information on it that you can use to telephone or send e-mail. A company that cares will listen to your side of the story, speak to their driver about it and take action that is fair and in their best interest. Repeated complaints about the same driver could result in dismissal. Commercial Vehicle Safety and Enforcement (CVSE) will accept complaints about commercial vehicle driving. Your complaint will be directed to the regional CVSE manager where the incident occurred. The manager has two options open to them, contacting the company and advising CVSE personnel in the region to keep the company in mind. This may have more weight than your personal complaint to the company as a clean National Safety Code record is important to a reputable trucking firm. The police can take enforcement action based solely on your complaint if it is a credible one and likely to result in a conviction in traffic court. Take a look at the article on how to make an effective driving complaint to the police for more information. Like CVSE, the police are going to need either the licence plate information or company name on the truck itself. The licence plate information from the trailer is helpful, but much less useful for follow up. The biggest hurdle with enforcement action is that you will be required to travel back to the jurisdiction of the incident to supply witness testimony if the ticket is disputed. The courts will not cover your travel expenses so it will be up to you to foot the bill. Changes are on the horizon. When traffic court is replaced with adjudication by RoadSafetyBC witness information could be supplied in writing or by teleconference. Phase one of the two stage change process is currently under way and that is the implementation of electronic ticketing and fine payment. When that is completed, the shift to adjudication will occur, but there is no time line information available for that change. Enabling provisions for the system were added to the Motor Vehicle Act in 2012. Cst. Tim Schewe (Ret.) runs DriveSmartBC, a community web site about traffic safety in British Columbia. For 25 years he was an officer with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, including five years on general duty, 20 in traffic and 10 as a collision analyst responsible of conducting technical investigations of collisions. He retired from policing in 2006 but continues to be active in traffic safety through the DriveSmartBC web site, teaching seminars and contributing content to newspapers and web sites. “Like” us on Facebook | Follow us on Twitter | Sign up for our free daily insurance Newsletter

B.C. to upgrade red light cameras to catch speeders at crash prone intersections

Wednesday, March 14th, 2018

| Mar 9, 2018
VICTORIA _ Red light cameras are being upgraded around British Columbia to help identify vehicles speeding through intersections. The provincial government says the new technology will be installed on cameras at intersections where there are a high number of speed-related crashes. Officials will analyze data from crash-prone intersections to decide which cameras will be upgraded for speed enforcement. Signs will warn approaching drivers of the enhanced enforcement. The Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General says an average of 84 crashes occur at red light camera sites every year and speed is one of the main factors, with an average of 10,500 vehicles travelling at least 30 kilometres per hour over the posted speed limit through each location. Four other provinces already use automated speed enforcement cameras, and the ministry says the devices are a common practice internationally. Mike Farnworth, the minister of public safety and the solicitor general, says the upgraded cameras are aimed at making everyone safer by slowing the fastest drivers at problem intersections. “There is very little public sympathy for those who flout the law and speed excessively through known, high-crash intersections. The signs will be there to warn you. If you ignore them and put others in danger, you will be ticketed,” Farnworth said Thursday in a news release. The ministry says the upgrades are more transparent than the provincial photo radar program that ended in 2001, which used unmarked vans in random locations, issued tickets at low speeding thresholds and tied up police resources with two officers staffing each van. Neil Dubord of the B.C. Association of Chiefs of Police says the new enforcement will be effective at multi-lane intersections where it is difficult to safely stop speeders. Ministry data shows 700 million vehicles travelled through 140 intersections around B.C. where red light cameras are located and, of those, 120-million vehicles were speeding, and 1.5 million were travelling 30 km-h or more above the limit.

$85,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment For Chronic Wrist Injury

Wednesday, March 14th, 2018

| Mar 8, 2018 |
Today’s guest post comes from B.C. injury claims lawyer Erik Magraken Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Victoria Registry, assessing damages for a permanent wrist injury sustained in a vehicle collision. In today’s case (Fatin v. Watson) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2014 collision.  The Defendant disputed fault but ultimately was found 75% to blame. The Plaintiff suffered a variety of injuries the most serious of which affected his wrist and was expected to be permanent. In assessing non-pecuniary loss at $85,000 prior to apportionment of damages Mr. Justice Grauer provided the following reasons:

[28]         Dr. Fatin suffered a blow to his head and his left shoulder, but neither of these caused any lasting injury.  The significant injury was to his right wrist.  He suffered, and continues to suffer, from a condition called “SLAC wrist”.  SLAC is the medical short form for scapholunate advanced collapse, and comprises injury to the right scapholunate ligament leading to intercarpal and radialcarpal osteoarthritis.

[29]         This injury has had a marked effect on Dr. Fatin’s lifestyle.  Although retired from medicine for some years, he has been very active in carrying out extensive renovations and landscaping to the homes and recreational properties in which he and his family have lived, and was active in activities such as golf and bocce.  He can no longer lift a heavy item, wield a hammer, drive a screw, swing a golf club or put a backspin on a bocce ball.  He wears a brace on his right wrist to minimize the pain that comes with movement. 

[30]         The injury itself and the wrist osteoarthritis were not caused by the motor vehicle accident, but were pre-existing degenerative conditions that were asymptomatic.  It is not contested that the collision caused the osteoarthritis to become symptomatic, and that he will have a permanent disability in the form of pain, decreased wrist movement and decreased strength in the right upper limb. 

[31]         No one can say whether or when it would have eventually become symptomatic but for the accident.  His treating plastic surgeon, Dr. Slobodan Djurickovic, who has a special interest in hand and wrist surgery, wrote in his report:

It is impossible to know whether or not he would have had significant wrist pain had he not been involved in an accident.  It is my opinion that he likely would not have developed severe wrist pain.  He had significant arthritic changes and no pain into his 75th year and was able to golf etc.  As a result I feel he would have likely had only mildly painful wrist arthritis at the most if it weren’t for the motor vehicle accident.

[32]         I accept Dr. Djurickovic’s opinion.  It is consistent with the opinion of the defence orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Brenda Markland, who wrote in her report:

It is likely that Dr. Fatin would eventually have become aware of the osteoarthritis in his right wrist, but it is difficult to predict exactly when that would have happened.  After all, he made it to the age of 75 years without any symptoms, and might have lived out the rest of his life without knowing that the problem existed.  However, a fall on the outstretched hand or the strenuous activity involved in renovations might have brought out the symptoms earlier, or the progression of the degenerative changes over time might have given him gradually increasing pain.

[33]         Accordingly, I find that the motor vehicle collision caused Dr. Fatin’s pre-existing osteoarthritis to become symptomatic to the point where it became disabling, and that he would not have suffered that degree of disability but for the accident.

[34]         The only potential treatment is surgical: either a wrist fusion, which would likely relieve pain but completely limit movement, or a wrist joint replacement (arthroplasty), from which, according to Dr. Djurickovic, Dr. Fatin could expect a reasonable result, with reduction in pain, increased range of motion, and more comfort in activities of daily living, lighter duties and hobbies.  It is not clear that Dr. Fatin would be able to resume golf or undertake renovations, and he would be advised to continue wearing a splint for anything more than light activities.

[35]         Given Dr. Fatin’s age and physical demands, as well as the fact that he is right hand dominant, it is Dr. Djurickovic’s recommendation that he undergo the wrist replacement procedure.  Dr. Fatin is still considering his options…

[40]         Dr. Fatin is a man who took great satisfaction from his ability to carry out manual tasks at which he was very good.  These included, as I have noted, renovating his several houses, extensive maintenance, repair work, landscaping and gardening.  He engaged in these all his life, including in his retirement.  He has been considerably more active than many of his age.  All of this has been greatly impaired by his injury.  In addition, the leisure activities he has enjoyed in retirement have also been affected, particularly golf.  For him, the loss of independence that we all face as we age has been greatly accelerated.  Dr. Fatin has faced this stoically, but not without real frustration.

[41]         There is no doubt that his injury is permanent.  It is possible that wrist replacement surgery would improve things, but it would not cure the condition.  Dr. Fatin has expressed some reluctance to proceed with such surgery because of experience he has had from procedures in the past where he has suffered side effects usually limited to 1% or so of the population.  There nevertheless remains, I find, a real and substantial possibility that he will choose to undergo such a procedure, if for no reason other than to reduce pain and relieve frustration, and I assess the likelihood at 50%.

[42]         Taking all of these factors into account, I assess Dr. Fatin’s claim for non-pecuniary damages at $85,000. 


‘Water is the new fire,’ says the Insurance Bureau of Canada

Wednesday, March 14th, 2018

By  Paving over porous paradise, or any absorbent ground, increases the risk of basement flooding, say researchers using City of Toronto data. Their study could help GTA homeowners make sense of the sometimes-ridiculed notion that the amount of land people cover with buildings, parking pads, parking lots and more, is linked to the costly rising tide of urban flooding that is expected to worsen in coming years. “From what we have seen, areas with less green space — mostly developed areas, without any consideration for pervious or green areas — are more likely to have this kind of basement flooding,” says Yekenalem Abebe, a University of British Columbia engineering PhD candidate who co-authored the study with UBC civil engineering professor Solomon Tesfamariam and Golam Kabir, a University of Windsor assistant professor in engineering. Other factors make basements prone to invasion from “pluvial” flooding — rainwater unable to soak into the ground, as opposed to “fluvial” flooding, which occurs when bodies of water overflow. They include aging, deteriorating sewer pipes and other infrastructure meant to steer rainfall away from homes. In Toronto, some of those pipes are more than a century old and, when overwhelmed by big storms, send untreated sewage from downtown into Lake Ontario. Images of residential flooding, including Brantford in recent weeks, Toronto Islands last summer and across the U.S., are becoming more common.
The researchers didn’t get all the data they wanted while developing a “flood vulnerability index” that any city can use. But even if they had, Abebe said, “I would still expect pavement and impervious surfaces to be one of the most important factors,” in basement flooding risk. Urbanization is accelerating the loss of absorbent ground, communities are being hit more frequently with intense storms, and costly-to-replace infrastructure is failing to handle the runoff. The researchers divided Toronto into 760 “grid cells,” each about one square kilometre. Using city data they assigned each grid a probability of risk. At “very high risk” for basement flooding, according to the study, is an area spreading north from Humber Bay and widening to include neighbourhoods around High Park, Swansea and The Junction, and the downtown core. Safest is the high ground in Scarborough from the Bluffs north.
The findings of the study, published late last year in the Journal of Cleaner Production, come as no surprise to Shawna Peddle, a director of Partners for Action, which promotes flood resiliency and is based at the University of Waterloo. “We’re definitely seeing an increase in urban flooding everywhere — it’s not just Toronto, it’s everywhere across the country and it’s because we are paving over what would normally soak up the water — the water has nowhere to go,” Peddle said in an interview. “Even if we’re having just a little more rain than we used to, the water ends up in basements and flooding roadways, flooding parks. The weather is changing, we are seeing more rain events more often. That combined with increased development, infrastructure that’s aging, us paving over areas that used to be able to soak up the water — the result is more (flood) events and bigger losses, too.” Partners for Action offers homeowners tips, including how to check on the flood risk for their homes, on keeping valuables upstairs and checking with their insurance companies on the kinds of water damage they cover. Cities are encouraging green roof construction, which sees rooftops covered with vegetation, downspout disconnections, and the use of porous hard surfaces and cisterns to capture and reuse rainwater. They are also trying to figure out where to find the canyons of cash needed to replace and upgrade storm sewer systems and fund flood-risk-reducing incentive programs. Toronto last year paid $7.1 million just to subsidize homeowner installation of backwater valves and other measures to reduce the chance of residential basement flooding, up from $3.1 million in 2013. Two years ago, Mississauga added a stormwater charge on Peel region water bills ranging from $50 to $170 per year, depending on the size of the roof and runoff potential. More than $30 million in annual revenues are being pumped into a dedicated fund to pay for stormwater infrastructure maintenance and upgrades. Torontonians pay for pipe replacement and other parts of a stormwater management plan through water consumption fees. City staff had suggested shifting more of the costs to home- and business-owners with the biggest hard surfaces, including parking lots and roofs. But last May, Toronto Mayor John Tory’s executive committee shelved indefinitely a staff recommendation to propose options for a stormwater charge. The idea of such a charge had been ridiculed by councillor Giorgio Mammoliti and former councillor Doug Ford, who is now seeking the leadership of Ontario’s Progressive Conservative party, as a “roof tax,” an attack on suburban homeowners and “a measure to get into people’s pockets.” For basement damage, the cost is borne by homeowners and their insurers. A massive thunderstorm that hit Toronto in July 2013 became one of Canada’s most expensive insured losses at almost $1 billion, mostly from sewer backup claims. The head of one of Europe’s largest insurers recently warned the World Economic Forum that, if climate change advances, basements in some cities could be uninsurable, Bloomberg news agency reported. But GTA homeowners have more options for flood coverage than ever because the risk is top of mind, according to the Insurance Bureau of Canada. “Water is the new fire because, in the past, fire damage to someone’s home used to be the predominant peril or event that people wanted to protect their property or homes from,” said Pete Karageorgos, the bureau’s Ontario director of consumer and industry relations. “Now it’s water damage of all sorts, from plumbing fixtures and internal leaks, but now more so from external type of water,” that might require special coverage. “People are recognizing there are severe weather events such as rainstorms that are occurring that are depositing larger amounts of rain in shorter amounts of time and impacting our communities.”

Close Call at the Crosswalk

Wednesday, March 14th, 2018

| Mar 6, 2018 |

The traffic signal turns green and the pedestrian signal turns white. No longer needing to stop, the driver turns right as the pedestrian starts to move ahead. Were it not for the crosswalk obstruction caused by incomplete snow removal making it difficult to push the stroller ahead, it’s entirely possible that I would have watched a collision occur. Section 132 of the Motor Vehicle Act sets out the rules for pedestrian signals. It says in part that:
When the word “walk” or an outline of a walking person is exhibited at an intersection by a pedestrian traffic control signal, a pedestrian may proceed across the roadway in the direction of the signal in a marked or unmarked crosswalk and has the right of way over all vehicles in the intersection or any adjacent crosswalk.
It looks fairly promising for the pedestrian at first glance, doesn’t it? Right of way over all vehicles in the intersection should mean pedestrians first, shouldn’t it? The driver was not in the intersection yet, but section 127 covers this situation:
A pedestrian facing the green light may proceed across the roadway in a marked or unmarked crosswalk, subject to special pedestrian traffic control signals directing him or her otherwise, and has the right of way for that purpose over all vehicles.
Finally, section 181 puts a further onus on the driver:
A driver of a vehicle must exercise due care to avoid colliding with a pedestrian who is on the highway
The sidewalk is part of the highway. Clearly, this driver was required to yield to the pedestrian, but should she have moved to cross? Having the right of way is not a physical protection from harm. The painted lines of the crosswalk don’t help either as they are not a barrier. She has a duty of care to both herself and the child to insure that it is safe before she proceeds. Had a collision occurred and a hearing to decide liability held, the justice would have reminded her of this and apportioned some of the blame to her for relying solely on right of way rules. Let’s take a look at crosswalks that don’t involve any traffic lights while we’re on the subject. If you take ICBC’s on line practice test for drivers, one of the questions shows two pedestrians standing on the sidewalk, mid block, each facing the other across a marked crosswalk and asks what the driver must do. According to the test, the driver must stop and let the pedestrians proceed. Our rulebook takes a slightly different view in section 179:
The driver of a vehicle must yield the right of way to a pedestrian where traffic control signals are not in place or not in operation when the pedestrian is crossing the highway in a crosswalk and the pedestrian is on the half of the highway on which the vehicle is travelling, or is approaching so closely from the other half of the highway that he or she is in danger.
As I learned to my chagrin in court one day, the driver does not have to yield unless the pedestrian is actually in the crosswalk. Standing on the sidewalk looking across does not qualify. A pedestrian must carefully step into the crosswalk and wait for a driver to yield before crossing in this instance. Keep section 179 in mind though, as you must wait until it is safe to do so:
A pedestrian must not leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a vehicle that is so close it is impracticable for the driver to yield the right of way.

If you’re on your phone, you’ll never see them coming

Wednesday, March 14th, 2018

Mar 6, 2018 |
SGI: News release Hey, feel like flushing $280 down the drain? Of course not. So put down the phone and #JustDrive. Because police are really good at catching distracted drivers, with between 400 and 600 drivers every month fined for being on their phones or being distracted in other ways. Distracted driving is the March Traffic Safety Spotlight and police across the province will be using a variety of tactics to catch distracted drivers in the act, including surveillance from unmarked vehicles and plainclothes officers on the sidewalks. If you’re on your phone, you’ll never see them coming. “Some people actually say it’s okay for them to text and drive because ‘I’m an experienced driver’ or ‘I’m good at multi-tasking,’” said Penny McCune, Chief Operating Officer of the Auto Fund. “Sorry, it just doesn’t work that way. If you text and drive, you are 23 times more likely to be in a collision. Police know how big a problem distracted driving is and have significantly upped their efforts when it comes to catching drivers. It isn’t a matter of if you’ll be caught – it’s a matter of when.” If caught using, viewing, holding or manipulating a cellphone while driving, drivers face a hefty $280 fine. You can also be fined for distracted driving if you’re distracted by something other than using a cellphone. So don’t do anything else behind the wheel if it takes your attention away from the safe operation of a vehicle. That can include things like eating, reading grooming, adjusting the radio, and tending to children or pets. Don’t you have better things to do with that $280? You could pay for a week’s worth of groceries, a night at the spa, a couple of dinners at a really nice restaurant with that special someone, or make a car payment. You could buy more than 100 double-doubles, or around 40 cartons of gourmet ice cream. On top of the initial $280 fine, each distracted driving ticket also costs you four Safe Driver Recognition (SDR) points – that means additional financial penalties or a loss of insurance discounts. If you’re in the SDR Penalty zone, each lost point costs you $50. But wait… there’s more! If the first ticket and SDR demerits don’t teach you a lesson and you receive a second cellphone ticket within a year, you get a one-week vehicle seizure, and you’ll foot the bill for towing and storage costs. (As hard as it is to believe, this actually happened 37 times in 2017. #SMH) In 2016 in Saskatchewan, 42 people were killed in collisions where distracted driving was a factor, and more than 1,200 people were injured. Statistics aren’t available yet for 2017, but if you take a look around in traffic, it’s clear there are still way too many people who haven’t gotten the message to not check their messages while driving. (It’s still a no-no even if you’re stopped at a red light – you can be ticketed. Resist the urge!) Experienced drivers can only use a cellphone if it is mounted to their visor or dash, and they use the voice-activated or one-touch function. Learner and novice drivers are not allowed to use a cellphone of any kind, not even hands-free. SGI will be running ads throughout the year reminding drivers of the importance of putting aside those distractions and just focussing on the road: Be part of the movement. Be part of the change. When you’re behind the wheel, #JustDrive. Real talk: the phone can wait. You don’t need to be plugged in at all times, and no one expects you to get back to them if that means risking your life or the lives of your passengers. Lead by example and demonstrate to your friends and family that you care more about their safety than being on your phone while driving. Follow these tips to keep our roads safe:
  • Don’t use your cellphone, even at a red light – the law applies whenever you’re in control of a vehicle on a public road.
  • Engage the “do not disturb while driving” feature – so those trying to reach you know you’re behind the wheel and can’t get back to them.
  • Put the phone away – out of sight, out of mind. Silence your phone and put it out of reach.
  • Delegate the distraction – let your passenger reply to messages and operate the radio and GPS.
  • Call out friends and family – if you see them using a cellphone behind the wheel, speak up! It may save their life.
  • #JustDrive – limit other distractions like eating and grooming.

ICBC and police introduce new measures to combat distracted driving this month

Wednesday, March 14th, 2018

Mar 6, 2018

Tougher penalties for distracted drivers take effect this month, alongside the piloting of new technologies, in support of B.C.’s latest enforcement and awareness campaign against this high-risk driving behaviour. Enhanced police enforcement on distracted driving will also take place across B.C., including a province-wide blitz today.

ICBC, the provincial government and police are working together in a commitment of doing more to combat this dangerous driving behaviour that claims 78 lives each year.* Distracted driving is any activity that impacts a driver’s ability to focus on the road and is one of the top contributing factors in police-reported injury crashes in B.C. Research shows that electronic device use is the most common distraction that drivers engage in behind the wheel.**

Starting March 1, 2018, ICBC’s Driver Risk Premium (DRP) program will include convictions for distracted drivers who continue to put road users at risk by using electronic devices while driving. As previously announced, drivers with two convictions for the use of electronic devices while driving over a three year period will now face added and higher premiums. They could pay as much as $2,000 in penalties – an increase of $740 over the previous penalties –in addition to their regular vehicle insurance premium.

Two pilot projects exploring how technology can help combat distracted driving in our province are also underway, as announced in the fall. ICBC is working with 139 volunteer drivers from across the province on a three-month pilot. Drivers will share feedback about their experiences with a small telematics device installed in their vehicle which blocks the use of their handheld phone when the participant is driving.

Starting this month, police will also begin to test new distracted driving scopes with further abilities to capture dangerous driving behaviours. Police will be testing the units for usability and effectiveness in all weather and traffic conditions.

The recent changes to the DRP program and the technology pilots are just some of the many actions that government, police and ICBC are taking to make roads safer for all road users in British Columbia. The results of the pilot projects will be reviewed to determine next steps in a thoughtful examination of the role technology can play in preventing distracted driving.

Drivers can do their part by avoiding distractions while driving and encouraging others to do the same. Activate Apple’s Do Not Disturb While Driving feature or what’s similarly available on other devices or third-party apps. Free ‘not while driving’ decals are available at ICBC driver licensing offices and participating Autoplan broker offices for drivers to support the campaign and encourage other road users to leave their phones alone.

Quotes:

David Eby, Attorney General

“Distracted driving endangers the lives of British Columbians with devastating effects for families and communities. It also puts significant pressure on insurance rates. Improving road safety is key to creating a sustainable auto insurance system with more affordable rates for B.C. families. We must see cultural shift that sees distracted drivers put down their cell phones and drive.”

Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General

“Distracted driving is a preventable behaviour that has caused too many people and their families to suffer. We’re taking action to make some of the toughest distracted driving penalties in Canada even tougher. The changes to the Driver Risk Premium program mean distracted drivers with multiple distracted driving offences will now face added and higher penalties, over and above their regular vehicle insurance premium.”

Superintendent Davis Wendell, OIC E Division Traffic Services and Vice-Chair of the B.C. Association of Chiefs of Police Traffic Safety Committee

“Since 2010, police have issued more than 300,000 tickets for electronic device use, which tells us that distracted and inattentive driving continues to be an ongoing issue on B.C. roads. In fact, police report that driver distraction and inattention is the leading contributing factor in injury crashes in B.C. And those are all preventable incidents. While driving, there’s no task more important than the one right in front of you – leave all distractions out of driving.”

Lindsay Matthews, ICBC’s director responsible for road safety

“These distracted driving technology pilots will enable us to better understand the role that technology can play in preventing distracted driving and reduce overall crashes in B.C. But safer roads start with every driver making a conscious decision to drive smart and distraction-free. We can all do simple things like letting calls go to voicemail or programming your GPS before your journey.”

Regional statistics*:

  • Every year, on average, 27 people are killed in distracted driving-related crashes in the Lower Mainland.

  • Every year, on average, 9 people are killed in distracted driving-related crashes on Vancouver Island.

  • Every year, on average, 30 people are killed in distracted driving-related crashes in the Southern Interior.

  • Every year, on average, 13 people are killed in distracted driving-related crashes in the North Central region.