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The Insider – May 2009

May 6, 2009


In May 2009′s Insider, you’ll find

  • How bad driving penalties affect your rate:
    Bad driving penalties can send your insurance rate skyrocketing. Here’s what you need to know.
  • Legal or illegal?
    Driving without your glasses, talking on your cell phone, driving without insurance – find out what’s legal and what’s not.
  • Is it worth the fight?
    You’ve gotten a ticket for bad driving. Why you should fight it, or not, for the sake of your car insurance rate
  • Plus don’t forget to check out our newest feature, Did you know?, at the end of the Insider.

Introduction

Welcome to the May 2009 edition of InsuranceHotline.com’s Insider newsletter.

Nobody’s perfect behind the wheel. You might have a speeding infraction you wish you could take back, or a parking ticket you know you could have prevented. After getting slapped by the law and cursing at the fine you have to pay, what’s the next thing that always pops into mind?

“How is this infraction going to affect my car insurance rate?”

In May’s Insider, we look at the law, car insurance and how the two are closely linked. Bad driving penalties can have a negative effect on your rate, so we cover what you need to know to help ensure your rates stay low. We also bust some common driving myths and tell you what is – and what isn’t – illegal behaviour on the road. Plus, if you have a driving infraction and are wondering if you should fight it for the sake of your car insurance rate, we can help by telling you what scenarios are worth going to the courts for.

If your car insurance rate has increased as a result of a driving infraction, visit InsuranceHotline.com. We can help by finding you the lowest rate available from over 30 competing insurers and connecting you with our network of licenced insurance professionals.

How bad driving penalties affect your rate

You may have heard of this recent happening: a driver in Kitchener, Ont. is facing seven charges in a stunt-driving investigation. Doing 145 km/h in a 90 km/h zone, the driver, in a sedan, is facing charges that include stunt driving (driving at a rate of over 50 km/h), speeding in a 90 km/h zone, driving with a blood alcohol concentration level over zero (he was a Class G2 licence holder), producing false evidence and knowingly having false insurance.

With his licence suspended for 90 days and his car impounded for seven days, the court hassles, charges and impact on his record are just the start – there’s the fact that this 20-year-old driver will now face severe repercussions when it comes to obtaining future auto insurance coverage.

So what’s the lesson here? Breaking the law while on the road means more than just getting fined and having your license revoked – it means immediate consequences, insurance wise.

Here are illegal driving actions that come with the added repercussion of automatically affecting your auto insurance rate:

  • driving without a licence
  • driving without insurance
  • driving while impaired (this includes drugs and alcohol)
  • racing or stunt driving
  • failing to remain at the scene of an accident
  • failing to stop for a school bus
  • driving with a suspended licence

To ensure you pay the lowest possible premium, always heed the rules of the road. Remember that even if a minor action only costs you a small fine and no immediate change in your current rate, you may still face higher premiums when changing insurance companies or renewing your policy. Events like this change your driving profile, which insurance companies use to determine your rate. This is why you should always shop around for the lowest rate available.

InsuranceHotline.com can help by allowing you to quickly and easily compare rates from over 30 competing insurers for free.

Legal or illegal?

If you drive a car, then it’s inevitable: you probably have a couple of bad habits. Nobody’s perfect and while it’s tempting to start multitasking, speed or even try to finish getting ready for work in the car, know that you could be setting yourself up for trouble.The Ontario provincial government is cracking down on distracted drivers, with new legislation, which will ban handheld devices as of fall 2009, under Premier Dalton McGuinty’s new distracted driving law, Bill 118.

As Minister of Transportation Jim Bradley puts it, “We want drivers to focus on the task of driving: driving safely must always be a driver’s primary task and responsibility: anything less is unacceptable. Eyes on the road, hands on the wheel – it is one of the basic tenets of safe driving.”

So just what’s legal – and illegal – behaviour on Ontario’s roads right now? Here’s a selection of common scenarios and the facts.

Driving alone with a G1 licence: ILLEGAL

Are you a new driver? Going out for a drive without a licenced driver who has at least five or more years of driving experience by your side in the passenger seat? Yes, you’re breaking the law. One of the terms and conditions that come with the Graduated Licensing System in Ontario is that while you hold a G1 licence designation, you must be accompanied at all times with a seasoned driver when behind the wheel.

Eating or drinking food: LEGAL

There is no mention of this being illegal in the Highway Safety Act. However, if you do cause an accident while trying to eat a bowl of chili in your car, you could be charged for careless driving, which could result in six demerit points and a fine, which could lead to a rate increase. Eat your meals at your table, not behind the wheel and stay safe and focused while driving.

Talking on your cell phone: ILLEGAL

Well, technically it’s still legal – for now. But as of fall 2009 it will be illegal to drive while using a handheld device. This includes talking, texting and emailing while using a handheld device such as a cell phone, handheld GPS device (unless mounted to the dashboard, which is acceptable), entertainment (video or music) device or personal messaging device. Breaking this law could earn you up to a $500 fine. It will not be illegal to plug your MP3 player into your car’s sound system.

Tip: This law will exempt 911 calls. Emergency services vehicle drivers will also be exempt. You can use a headset and do voice dialing as well.

Taking off your prescription glasses: ILLEGAL

If you’re driving without sunglasses, well, that’s perfectly legal, but if it’s explicitly stated on your driver’s licence that you require prescription eyewear to operate your vehicle, then you must wear your glasses at all times. If you don’t, you may face a fine and possibly the loss of your licence.

Removing your seatbelt while parking: LEGAL

You must wear a seat belt when operating a vehicle. However, there is an exception to this rule according to the Highway Safety Act: when you are reversing your car, you can remove your seatbelt only for the duration of the maneuver. Once you are done reversing, the seatbelt needs to go back on. Also, if you are a legally qualified medical practitioner or, for medical reasons or your physical gait, as stated on an official certificate, you can’t wear a seat belt, you may be exempted. Always wear your seatbelt, even when reversing if you can, as it’s there for your safety.

Warning other drivers of police presence: LEGAL

This is a popular myth – high-beaming another driver to let him or her know that a speed trap is coming up is illegal. Not so! In fact, police want all drivers to be aware of speed traps, as this encourages people to follow the law. Flashing your headlights to warn other drivers of upcoming speed traps and radar set-ups is not an offence under any provincial legislation.

Plus, on an interesting aside, the Ontario Provincial Police recently returned to the traditional white-and-black paint scheme on their cruisers so that they’d be easier for motorists to spot.

If in doubt about any driving activity, it’s a good idea to contact the Ontario Ministry of Transportation.

If you have been fined for an illegal driving habit and your auto insurance policy’s premiums have gone up, make sure you shop around for the lowest rate available from over 30 competing insurers and get connected with a network of licenced insurance professionals at InsuranceHotline.com.

Is it worth the fight?
You’ve been slapped with a fine for a driving infraction – now what? Should you just pay the ticket and forget about it? What about demerit points and how they will affect your driving record, not to mention your auto insurance rate?

Sometimes it’s best to pay and sometimes it’s best to fight. Here are three scenarios that each call for a different course of action:

Scenario one: You parked in a no-park zone without noticing the sign and got a $30 dollar ticket.

You may or may not want fight this one. The amount is paltry and you’re best off just paying it in full. Plus, parking tickets fall under the jurisdiction of your municipality’s bylaws, and bylaws have no effect on your auto insurance rate.

Scenario two: You were doing 96 km/h in an 80 km/h zone and the officer who stopped you gave you the highest fine, plus you acquired three demerit points.

If you have a half-day available, you will want to fight this. Since you were over 15 km/h, you’ll automatically gain three demerit points and you will be fined – that’s the law. However, you may be able to get the fine lowered or possibly even demerit points removed if you plead your case. It’s always a good idea to keep your record as clean as possible for the sake of your auto insurance rate.

If this is your first ticket, know that most insurance companies may let you off the hook for your first minor offense, meaning that your auto insurance rate may not be affected. If, however, you choose to change companies, know that the infraction may be taken into consideration and you may not get the best rate possible, as every provider has its own set of rules and rates. To always ensure you have access to the best rate, you’ll want to practice good driving habits, keep a clean driving record and shop around, checking out the prices offered by different insurance companies.

Scenario three: You were found at-fault for a collision that caused damage to both your car and the other driver’s vehicle. The other driver was found not at-fault. However, the other driver cut you off, causing you to rear-end his car. You got fined, acquired points and now have a mark on your record.

You may want to fight it. If you feel that there were extenuating circumstances or that you were in the right, then take the half-day and go to court so you can plead your case. At the very least, you may have the fine reduced, decrease the number of demerit points applied and hopefully have the charge reduced as well. If you were found at-fault for careless driving, this will gain you six demerit points. However, if you can get it lowered to a charge of following too closely, then this could be reduced is four demerit points.

If you get it reduced to a lesser charge, then your policy will take less of a hit. For example, careless driving could be a 50 per cent surcharge on your premium as a result. However, following too closely gets you a surcharge of only 15 per cent.

If you do find yourself in a situation where you are wondering if you should fight a driving infraction, consider contacting Pointts or No Points Traffic Tickets to speak to a legal representative who specializes in cases involving demerit point and legal charges.

Quote Unquote

Q) I was involved in an accident and the police officer didn’t charge me with anything. This means that my insurance company will not increase my rates because of the claim, right?
A) Not necessarily. A police officer does not always place a charge against people involved in an accident. Sometimes, there are circumstances that add to the accident (road conditions, bad weather, etc.) that a police officer will take into consideration and thus decide not to hand out a ticket.However, this does not mean your insurance company will automatically consider you to be “not at fault” in the accident.

There is a specific set of rules insurance company adjusters use that govern who is at-fault at the time of an accident. For the province of Ontario, these are “The Fault Determination Rules”, as set out under The Insurance Act. You can find these at InsuranceHotline.com.

Have a question you’d like answered? Please send us an email at quoteunquote@insurancehotline.com.

Check back every month for new Quote Unquote questions and answers about insurance from readers just like you.

Did You Know?

The scenario: You’re in another city on business and rented a car for the week. After a meeting, you’ve returned to the spot where you parked the car only to discover it’s gone. Turns out somebody stole the car. You’re already picturing the fit the customer service representative is going to have when you go back to the rental location to explain …

So what Ontario Policy Change Form (OPCF) provides you with the ability to add extra insurance to your Ontario auto policy coverage for this situation?

The form: The OPCF 27 is the right choice for this scenario. Also known as the “Legal Liability for Damage to Non Owed Autos”, the OPCF 27 provides you with physical damage coverage (collision and comprehensive coverage) for you and your spouse, including all listed drivers on your policy, in the event of loss or damage caused to all rented and non-owned vehicles.

Details of the OPCF 27 include:

  • This form will extend your policy to cover third-party liability, accident benefits, uninsured automobile and direct compensation-property damage coverage whenever driving the rented vehicle.
  • The OPCF 27 will cover you anywhere in Canada and the continental United States.
  • You will need to already have physical damage coverage on your auto insurance policy in order to purchase the OPCF 27.
  • This form carries a policy limit ranging between $25,000 and $50,000.
  • The cost of the OPCF 27 ranges from $30 to $50 for a one-year policy term.