REPORT: Does distracted driving increase your insurance in Canada?

REPORT: Does distracted driving increase your insurance in Canada?

The cost of conviction isn’t just the fine; it’s how much your auto insurance provider decides to jack your rates, too. We've used our car insurance quoter to find out just how expensive a distracted driving conviction can really get.

This article has been updated from a previous version.

The cost of conviction isn’t just the fine; it’s how much your auto insurance provider decides to jack your rates, too. We’ve used our car insurance quoter to find out just how expensive a distracted driving conviction can really get.

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.

What’s more, careless driving in Ontario impacts insurance rates. We know that distracted driving is dangerous. But do we ever consider how expensive it can be?

Fines and penalties for distracted driving have continued to rise 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?

Distracted driving fines by province

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 zero, 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: $580, and move four levels down the Safe Driver Recognition (SDR) scale, which, if starting from zero, would result in a one-time $200 penalty. That penalty could increase or decrease depending on where on the scale you started. 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: $300 (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: $620 for the first offence, which includes a $368 fine plus a $252 Driver Penalty Point premium.

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

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: $280.

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

Yukon: Up to $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.

How does a distracted driving ticket affect insurance rates

On top of the fine for distracted driving, you’re almost certainly going to face a higher insurance premium, 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.

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, 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 a hand-held device”) in June of this year.

Here’s what happened to his premium:

Ontario (downtown Toronto)

One distracted driving charge: 15% increase in the lowest rate being offered on our site.

Two distracted driving charges within the same year: 27% increase from the last hike.

Alberta (downtown Calgary)

One distracted driving charge: 24% increase in the lowest rate being offered on our site.

Two distracted driving charges within the same year: 10% increase from the last hike.

Quebec (downtown Montreal)

One distracted driving charge: 5% increase in the lowest rate being offered on our site.

Two distracted driving charges within the same year: 7% increase from the last hike.

Newfoundland and Labrador (downtown St. John’s)

One distracted driving charge: 10% increase in the lowest rate being offered on our site.

Two distracted driving charges within the same year: 41% increase from the last hike.

Nova Scotia (downtown Halifax)

One distracted driving charge: 10% increase in the lowest rate being offered on our site.

Two distracted driving charges within the same year: 9% increase from the last hike.

Prince Edward Island (downtown Charlottetown)

One distracted driving charge: 4% increase in the lowest rate being offered on our site.

Two distracted driving charges within the same year: 7% increase from the last hike.

New Brunswick (downtown Fredericton)

One distracted driving charge: 4% increase in the lowest rate being offered on our site.

Two distracted driving charges within the same year: 8% increase from the last hike.

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 will pay around $1,995 annually for Autopac insurance, for monthly payments of $166. (This quote is taking into account a $300 deductible, $1,000,000 third-party liability, no extension loss of use coverage or new vehicle protection coverage, and 12 pre-authorized payments on the vehicle.)

If our driver is convicted of using an electronic hand-held device while driving, his annual premium won’t change. Still, he would move down five levels on MPI’s Driver Safety Rating (DSR) scale to -5, which would result in him paying an annual $470 driver premium on top of his base insurance rate. 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 $1,020.

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 before the conviction.

For example, a driver who was previously at zero 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.” And while there’s no driver risk premium (DRP) associated with a first offence, a DRP of $533 kicks in after a second distracted driving conviction and continues to increase with every subsequent conviction.

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

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 downtown in a 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 the 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
  • No cancellations; no time without insurance coverage (clean driving record)

About the author

Lisa Coxon

Lisa is an Editor and Writer for LowestRates.ca. Her work has appeared in Reader’s Digest, Toronto Life, Canadian Living and TVO. As a child, she diligently hoarded the $50 bills that fell out of her Christmas cards. Adult Lisa is working hard to resurrect those stockpiling tendencies. 

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