Drivers could have safer roads and more savings in their pockets — at least that's the argument being made by Manitoba Public Insurance if they get the green light to invest in some road infrastructure projects.

"People will understand why we're interested in doing this if ultimately it saves in costs, in terms of claims costs, which could be reflected in lower premiums and perhaps rebates down the road," MPI spokesman Brian Smiley said Wednesday.

The investments being considered would not be major undertakings like bridge construction but projects like "rumble strips along the shoulder of a road, perhaps additional lighting at an intersection, maybe a merge lane, a meridian," Smiley said.

"Those are some of the items being looked at in terms of trying to make, perhaps the road safer," he added.

Idea immediately criticized

The proposal was recently presented at a public uitilties board hearing.

But the Opposition Progressive Conservatives and the Consumers' Association of Canada's (CAC) Manitoba branch immediately criticized the idea as ill-conceived and deceptive.

"When we pay our taxes, we assume it's going for safer roads. When we pay our auto insurance bill, we expect it to go to our auto insurance," said Gloria Desorcy, the CAC Manitoba branch's executive director.

They say MPI's role is to be the provincial Crown corporation that provides auto insurance. Period.

Otherwise, it's a tax, "and Manitobans don't need more taxes," said Reg Helwer, the Tory critic responsible for MPI.

Positive results in B.C.

MPI, however, has noted the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC) has done something similar with positive results.

In 2011, the ICBC, a Crown Corporation that provides vehicle insurance and registration and driver licensing services, invested $6.5 million on more than 200 road improvement projects across the province.

The result was a 20 per cent reduction in crashes.

Smiley said it's too early to say how much MPI wants to invest in road projects across the province.

As well, the Public Utilities Board would have to approve MPI's plan before anything goes ahead.

The board is expected to make a decision in the summer of 2013.