Manitoba Public Insurance wants to raise rates by 3.4 per cent this year, citing a record number of collision claims this past winter.

The province's public auto insurer says the crash-riddled winter, and an overall increase in collision claims and claims costs, have forced it to ask the Public Utilities Board (PUB) for the overall rate hike.

"Manitoba had a long winter with severe driving conditions, resulting in claims costs jumping 13.5 per cent," MPI president and CEO Dan Guimond stated in a news release Monday.

Guimond also blamed the proposed hike on a $114.6-million increase in net claims incurred this year compared to last year, as well as external factors such as inflation and increasingly complex vehicle repairs.

The PUB is expected to rule on MPI's rate application in December.

If approved, the rate hike would take effect on March 1, 2015, but some Manitobans may not see the increase until they renew their policies after that date.

"I think in general, people will understand that we had two bad winters in a row," Guimond told CBC News.

"When they look at it, at the end of the day, over 50 per cent of our customers will pay $20 or less."

MPI tax hike

MPI said the average claim collision cost for 2013-14 was about $3,000 (Bert Savard/CBC)

About 2.4 per cent of the proposed increase would be directed to basic insurance, while the remaining one per cent would help replenish MPI's Rate Stabilization Reserve Fund, which helps cover unexpected cost increases.

Guimond said the reserve fund has been depleted from $200 million to $60 million, and a couple of bad hail storms could wipe it out altogether.

"It would be below the amount where it is safe, because let's say we would have two hail claims, or let's say there is a market adjustment in equities and so on. You can easily find yourself in the tank."

The rate increase, if approved, would be only the second increase in the past 10 years, he said.

MPI says a total of 168,000 collision claims were opened last year, compared to 160,000 the year before.

As well, it says the average claim collision cost for 2013-14 was about $3,000, which is a 9.12 per cent increase over the previous year.