Incentive to reduce accidents better than hiking ICBC rates

A report recently came out that ICBC will have to increase basic insurance rates up to 30 per cent over the next two years in order to meet its obligations for claims.

When I hear the report writers suggest photo-radar and changing red light cameras to catch speeders and hand out tickets, it tells me they are reaching into a pretty convenient bag of tricks to generate revenue. I'm not completely sure, but I'm guessing they did not consult with traffic professionals or anyone else who knows how a car works to come to their conclusions.

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Aside from the political finger pointing and reasons for the "needed" increase, I wish there were a more in-depth look at solutions to the problem. I don't believe we need to solve this problem with increasing insurance rates; I think a better approach is to reduce the number of accidents. That's easier said than done, as has been proven by the years of safe driving programs and commercials we've seen from ICBC.

Let me offer one possible solution - winter tires.

As hard as it is to think about winter at this time of year, it will return in a few months. All it takes is a minor snowfall for Vancouver to come to a grinding halt, and the subsequent reports the next day of increased claims made to ICBC.

This year was particularly bad; we got a real Canadian winter, not the usual winter-lite that comes around. Bet the people running the Winter Olympics were wondering why last year didn't happen in 2010 when they really needed it.

The report said the biggest problem was small accidents that lead to payouts. I can see how this happens. My car was in a minor accident during one of those snowfalls, ICBC wrote off the car and gave me a cheque. There wasn't that much damage, but the cost of repairing it was higher than the value of the car.

Small accidents in winter can be avoided with winter tires. I worked for a tire company and introduced a line of winter tires one year, so I know more about how winter tires work than anyone wants to hear. Winter tires are not necessarily for snow, they are to help you stop on ice.

The most dangerous time on the road is when the temperature is between -6 and zero, not the deep freeze experienced outside the Lower Mainland. And don't tell me you don't need winter tires, that your all-season tires are fine. They are, until you try and stop, because on ice, all-seasons don't.

Government's typical response is to make winter tires mandatory. I don't agree. Make them optional, but give a discount on your insurance if you have them on your car.

You have to prove you own them when you get your insurance, and if you get pulled over or into an accident during winter without them on, you get a fine and lose your discount.

It doesn't really cost people more, because now their allseason tires will last twice as long, since you only have them on half of the year.

Does everyone really need winter tires in Vancouver? The answer to that is clear when you have them on your car in a winter storm and others don't.

Brad Sherwin, MBA has over 25 years' experience in marketing, public relations and business strategy. He is currently the director of marketing for a national non-profit organization.

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