British Columbia

350,000 crashes in 2017 mark an all-time high: ICBC

ICBC is launching an online tool to refresh drivers' knowledge in the wake of stats that reveal crashes in B.C. are at an all-time high.

Public auto insurer says cost of claims in 2017 totalled $4.8 billion or $13 million a day

Collisions in B.C. increased by 25 per cent from 2014 to 2017. (Shane MacKichan)

ICBC is launching an online tool to refresh drivers' knowledge in the wake of stats that reveal crashes in B.C. are at an all-time high. 

The Drive Smart Refresher Test cheekily advises users that if they "remember cruising to Led Zeppelin, pumping gas in neon spandex or rocking frosted tips," they're likely due for a refresher.

The free test quizzes motorists on scenarios such as what to do when stopping behind a school bus with its red lights flashing, or when an ambulance with flashing lights approaches from behind. 

Bad driving habits have been a headache for the public auto insurer, which is facing a $1.3 billion financial loss from a surge in expensive crash claims.

The cost of claims in 2017 totalled $4.8 billion, or $13 million a day, ICBC revealed Tuesday. 

And there were 350,000 crashes that year or 960 crashes a day — a 25 per cent increase from 2014. There were 3.25 million insurance vehicles on the road in 2017.

"I'm not happy to share this," said Lindsay Matthews, ICBC's interim vice-president responsible for road safety. 

"The reality is, people of every age and gender ... can cause crashes in B.C."

ICBC was dubbed a 'financial dumpster fire' by B.C. Attorney General David Eby. (Christer Waara/CBC)

Bad driving habits

A survey conducted for ICBC's road safety campaign also found that two-fifths of respondents admitted that they've likely forgotten some rules of the road.

About 75 per cent of respondents say they displayed bad driving habits on the road. And 60 per cent said drivers are worse today, particularly when it comes to:

  • Distracted driving (41 per cent).
  • Lack of respect for driving rules (22 per cent).
  • Speeding (16 per cent)
  • Aggressive behaviours, like cutting someone off (12 per cent). 

"It's not always because of the high-risk behaviour," Matthews said.

"It's the seemingly small things sometimes — a slight bend of the rules or a slight inattention. When repeated again and again, only time will tell when that rolling stop leads to a crash." 

57 per cent passed knowledge test

Yet motorists still hold their driving skills in high regard, said Mario Canseco, a spokesperson for Insights West, which conducted the survey. 

Two-thirds of respondents said they believed their skills are above average. And 88 per cent said they would pass the written test if they had to take it again. 

Matthews says collisions are sometimes caused by a moment of inattentiveness. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

In reality, only 57 per cent of the 258,000 people who took the road knowledge test in 2017 passed.

However, Canseco said, 71 per cent of respondents said they would happily take a test if it could improve their driving knowledge.

Jerry Boal, a driver's licensing supervisor for ICBC, defended the province's Graduated Licensing Program as one of the "most stringent in North America." 

"Once they leave our doors ... it's up to the person to be keeping up to the standard," he said.

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