Auto Insurance

How much will your auto insurance increase with a distracted driving conviction?

By: Lisa Coxon on December 9, 2019

A driver distracted by their cell phone is four times more likely to crash than one who’s not, according to Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation. In some parts of Canada, in fact, distracted driving is beginning to be even more deadly than impaired driving.

Meanwhile, more than 50% of Canadians admit to using their phone while driving, according to a recent Desjardins survey. Distracted driving convictions are up 42% in Edmonton over the last five years. And in 2017, distracted driving contributed to more than 15,000 crashes in Manitoba, and killed 30 people.

We know that distracted driving is dangerous. But do we ever consider how expensive it can be?

Fines and penalties for distracted driving have increased in many provinces. And we’re also seeing hikes in auto insurance premiums or even flat-out coverage refusals for those convicted of distracted driving. The cost of the conviction isn’t just the fine you get from police; it’s how much your auto insurer decides to jack your rates, too, once they find out.

We decided to use our car insurance quoter to find out just how expensive a distracted driving conviction can really get. Here’s what we discovered: the lowest rate someone with a clean driving record could get on our site increased between 4% and 24% once a distracted driving charge within the last year was brought into the mix.

It’s no mystery that a distracted driving charge is going to cost you. The question is: how much?

The fine itself

Every province penalizes distracted driving differently. On top of the fine you receive, you could also face a licence suspension, demerit points, penalty premiums, and in provinces where auto insurance is administered by the government, move into the negative ratings of a driver safety scale, which could result in additional financial penalties.

For the sake of our report, we’re going to focus solely on the monetary penalties you’ll receive in each province for driving distracted.

Here’s how the fines break down by province:

Ontario: $615 to $3,000 (depending on whether it’s your first, second or third offence and if a summons is received, or if you try to fight the ticket in court and lose).

Manitoba: $672, and move five levels down the Driver Safety Rating scale, which, if starting from 0, would result in a one-time annual $450 fee, known as a driver premium, which drivers have to pay on top of their regular insurance premiums.

Saskatchewan: $280*, and move four levels down the Safe Driver Recognition (SDR) scale, which, if starting from 0, would result in a one-time $200 penalty. That penalty could increase or decrease depending on where on the scale you started.

*Effective Feb. 1, 2020, the fine for a first offence increases to $580. A second offence within a year of the first results in a fine of $1,400, and a third offence within a year of the first results in a fine of $2,100. On second and third offences, a driver’s vehicle is impounded for seven days, and drivers will be responsible for the towing and impound fees.

Alberta: $287 (It’s worth noting, too, that Alberta’s distracted driving legislation includes not only electronic devices but also eating, reading, writing, grooming, and drinking while driving).

British Columbia: $578 for the first offence, which includes a $368 fine plus a $210 Driver Penalty Point premium.

Two or more convictions within a three-year period will result in the driver being charged a Driver Risk Premium of $533. The DRP is billed annually on top of the driver’s regular auto insurance premium, and it increases with each conviction.

Quebec: $300 (but a repeat offence within two years will double that, and result in a $600 fine)

Newfoundland and Labrador: $300 to $1,000 (depending on whether it’s your first, second or third offence and if a summons is received, or if you try to fight the ticket in court and lose). All fines are subject to a 30% provincial victim fine surcharge.

Nova Scotia: $233.95 (first offence); $348.95 (second offence); $578.95 (third offence)

Prince Edward Island: $575 to $1,275 (a police officer can only fine you the minimum portion of this range; the higher fine can only be imposed by a judge if, for instance, someone pleads not guilty, goes to court and loses, or if the officer leaves the dollar portion of the ticket blank and the driver has to appear before a judge, who will assign the fine amount).

New Brunswick: $172.50

Northwest Territories: $322 (that increases to $644 for distracted driving in school and construction zones)

Yukon: $500

Nunavut: No formal penalty for distracted driving as of yet, but $115 was the last estimate for what the fine could be until one is introduced.

The insurance hike

On top of the fine for distracted driving, you’re almost certainly going to face higher insurance premiums, too. This is where things can get really costly.

In order to find out just how much someone’s annual insurance premium could spike with one distracted driving conviction, we ran some test quotes on our auto insurance quoter.

Now, because car insurance is privately run in some provinces and publicly run in others — and because we don’t have live data for Northwest Territories, Yukon, or Nunavut — we were only able to use our auto insurance quoter for seven provinces. 

The lowest rate someone with a clean driving record could get on our site increased between 4% and 24% once a distracted driving charge was brought into the mix

We also can’t use our quoter for provinces that have government-administered insurance — Saskatchewan, Manitoba and British Columbia — so we reached out to Saskatchewan General Insurance (SGI), Manitoba Public Insurance (MPI) and the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC) to find out how a distracted driving conviction would affect rates in those provinces.

Our hypothetical driver is a 29-year-old male driving a 2018 four-door Mazda CX-5 GS with all-wheel drive (purchased in March 2019), living in the downtown area of a major city in each province. He has his G licence or equivalent, depending on the province, and has been listed on an insurance policy consistently since 2006. He’s been with his current insurance company for two years, and received a distracted driving ticket (referred to on our list of offences as “prohibited use of hand-held device”) in June of this year.

Here’s what happened to his premiums:

Ontario (downtown Toronto)

  • Lowest rate without distracted driving charge: $2,303 a year
  • Lowest rate with one distracted driving charge: $2,708 a year

That’s a 15% increase, and would mean monthly premiums go from about $191 to about $226.

  • Lowest rate with a second distracted driving charge within the same year: $3,695 a year

That’s a 27% increase from the last hike, and would mean monthly premiums go from about $226 to about $308.

Alberta (downtown Calgary)

  • Lowest rate without distracted driving charge: $2,239 a year
  • Lowest rate with one distracted driving charge: $2,938 a year

That’s a 24% increase, and would mean monthly premiums go from about $187 to about $245.

  • Lowest rate with a second distracted driving charge within the same year: $3,250 a year

That’s a 10% increase from the last hike, and would mean monthly premiums go from about $245 to about $271.

Quebec (downtown Montreal)

  • Lowest rate without distracted driving charge: $2,167 a year
  • Lowest rate with one distracted driving charge: $2,284 a year

That’s a 5% increase, and would mean monthly premiums go from about $181 to about $190.

  • Lowest rate with a second distracted driving charge within the same year: $2,446 a year

That’s a 7% increase from the last hike, and would mean monthly premiums go from about $190 to about $203.

Newfoundland and Labrador (downtown St. John’s)

  • Lowest rate without distracted driving charge: $1,443 a year
  • Lowest rate with one distracted driving charge: $1,602 a year

That’s a 10% increase, and would mean monthly premiums go from about $120 to about $134.

  • Lowest rate with a second distracted driving charge within the same year: $2,694 a year

That’s a 41% increase from the last hike, and would mean monthly premiums go from about $134 to about $225.

Nova Scotia (downtown Halifax)

  • Lowest rate without distracted driving charge: $1,468 a year
  • Lowest rate with one distracted driving charge: $1,634 a year

That’s a 10% increase, and would mean monthly premiums go from about $122 to about $136. 

  • Lowest rate with a second distracted driving charge within the same year: $1,786 a year

That’s a 9% increase from the last hike, and would mean monthly premiums go from about $136 to about $149.

Prince Edward Island (downtown Charlottetown)

  • Lowest rate without distracted driving charge: $972 a year
  • Lowest rate with one distracted driving charge: $1,010 a year

That’s a 4% increase, and would mean monthly premiums go from about $81 to about $84.

  • Lowest rate with a second distracted driving charge within the same year: $1,087 a year

That’s a 7% increase from the last hike, and would mean monthly premiums go from about $84 to about $91.

New Brunswick (downtown Fredericton)

  • Lowest rate without distracted driving charge: $1,261 a year
  • Lowest rate with one distracted driving charge: $1,319 a year

That’s a 4% increase, and would mean monthly premiums go from about $105 to about $110.

  • Lowest rate with a second distracted driving charge within the same year: $1,436 a year

That’s an 8% increase from the last hike, and would mean monthly premiums go from about $110 to about $120.

Manitoba (downtown Winnipeg)

Using Manitoba Public Insurance’s Insurance Rate Calculator, if our hypothetical driver starts from scratch with MPI, with no eligibility for a discount, he would pay around $2,125* annually for Autopac insurance, for monthly payments of $177. (This quote is taking into account a $300 deductible, $1,000,000 third-party liability, no extension loss of use coverage, new vehicle protection coverage, and 12 pre-authorized payments on the vehicle, which is worth $29,000.)

*Effective March 1, 2020, that annual premium will rise to $2,210, for monthly payments of $184.

If our driver is convicted of using an electronic handheld device while driving, his annual premium wouldn’t change but he would move down five levels on MPI’s Driver Safety Rating (DSR) scale, to -5, which would result in him paying an annual $450 driver premium on top of his base insurance rate and $20 annual licence cost. He would continue to pay that driver premium until he moved up on the scale. According to MPI’s media spokesperson Brian Smiley, it typically takes around one year of conviction-free driving to move up on the scale.

If our driver got a second distracted driving charge while at -5, he would then move to -10 on the scale, and that driver premium would increase to $1,000.

Saskatchewan (city not a factor in determining base rates)

Using SGI’s rate calculator, the cost of insurance for our hypothetical driver starting at “0” on SGI’s Safe Driver Recognition scale was: $1,432.22 a year.

Similar to in Manitoba, in Saskatchewan the annual insurance rate is based on the vehicle, not the driver. So, according to SGI media spokesperson Tyler McMurchy, a distracted driving charge wouldn’t make someone’s base premium increase, but it would knock them down four points on SGI’s Safe Driver Recognition (SDR) scale, resulting in a one-time financial penalty of $50 per point — so, $200. It could also result in the driver no longer being eligible for a discount on their insurance, if that was the case prior to the conviction.

For example, a driver who was previously at 0 on the SDR scale would move to -4 after receiving a distracted driving ticket, resulting in a one-time penalty of $200.

If the same driver got a second distracted driving charge while at -4 on the scale, they’d then move to -8 and face a $400 one-time penalty.

British Columbia (downtown Vancouver)

According to ICBC’s website, “Serious driving convictions such as Criminal Code offences, impaired driving, excessive speeding and distracted driving, will result in increased premiums after the first conviction.”

However, after multiple attempts to reach ICBC and gain more information on how much auto insurance premiums could rise after a distracted driving charge, we unfortunately did not hear back. 

According to ICBC’s website, there’s no driver risk premium associated with a first offence, but a DRP of $533 kicks in after a second distracted driving charge, and continues to increase with every subsequent conviction.

Some key findings:

Total cost of one distracted driving ticket broken down by province (Note: this includes the fine for a first offence and either the hike in annual auto insurance premiums or the addition of another premium. It also assumes the ticket is not fought in court.):

Ontario: $1,020

Manitoba: $1,122 (if driver started at 0 on scale)

Saskatchewan: $480 (if driver started at 0 on scale)

Alberta: $986

British Columbia: $578 (for fine only, since car insurance hike is unknown)

Quebec: $417

Newfoundland and Labrador: $459

Nova Scotia: $399.95

New Brunswick: $230.50

Prince Edward Island: $613

Note: We haven’t included the Yukon, the Northwest Territories or Nunavut in these key findings since we can’t use our quoter to determine how much someone’s auto insurance would increase after a distracted driving ticket.

Methodology
In order to find out how much someone's insurance could increase after a distracted driving ticket, we ran test quotes on our auto insurance quoter using the following parameters:

  • 29-year-old male (DOB Jan. 4, 1990)

  • Single, employed

  • Living in downtown of major city

  • Driving a 2018 Mazda CX-5 GS 4DR AWD (not leased)

  • Purchased vehicle in March 2019

  • Winter tires

  • Street parking

  • G licence (or provincial equivalent)

  • Insured consistently since 2006

  • With current insurance company for two years

  • Drives 10km daily to and from work

  • Drives 30,000 km in a year

  • Wants comprehensive and collision coverage

  • Policy to start ASAP (either October or November 2019, depending on when we ran the quotes)

  • No cancellations; no time without insurance coverage (clean driving record)

 

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