British Columbia

Dial-a-claim calls to ICBC spike as wintry weather blankets Metro Vancouver

ICBC received more than 3,500 dial-a-claim calls from people in the Lower Mainland on Monday, as winter weather swept across the region.

More than 3,500 dial-a-claim calls came from Lower Mainland on Monday, up 22%

A damaged vehicle is covered in snow in a City of Vancouver Bylaw Impound Lot on Thursday. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

The winter weather blowing across Metro Vancouver this week has left many drivers with damaged vehicles, according to ICBC, which is reporting a big spike in the number of dial-a-claim calls.

The insurer received more than 18,000 calls from across the province in the past week — more than 12,500 of those from the Lower Mainland. Not all those calls will result in an insurance claim, but the high numbers paint a picture of trouble on the roads.

"Whenever there's a significant weather event, we're going to see an increase in claims," said Paul Goodman, ICBC road safety coordinator for Vancouver. "Most of those claims are rear-end type collisions."

Monday saw the greatest number calls — in fact, with 5,075 from across the province, it was the busiest dial-a-claim day in more than two years, and more than 2,000 calls above average.

In Metro Vancouver alone, there were 3,539 dial-a-claim calls on Monday — a 22 per cent increase from the previous week.

Interestingly, by the time the heaviest snow day hit the region on Wednesday, the number of calls from Metro Vancouver saw a massive drop to 1,882.

Cars left at home in worst weather

Goodman said the considerable drop on the messiest day on the roads is likely because people took the advice of officials to either stay home or find alternative ways to get around, leaving their cars at home.

Drivers can also make claims online or in person at an authorized autobody shop. And claims aren't necessarily made the day of the collision.

Paul Goodman, ICBC road safety coordinator, says rear-end collisions make up a big part of the spike in winter-weather-related collisions this week. He says they can be avoided by driving for the conditions, with proper winter tires, and leaving lots of space in front of your vehicle. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

Vern Campbell with Busters Towing in Vancouver said his drivers noticed fewer calls for service this week than they were expecting. According to Campbell, the company had braced itself for the weather, gearing up with more crews, but the calls didn't materialize.

"The people out on the road believe the media coverage of the problem, and the recommendation to stay home ... worked," he said.

Much of Busters' work involves enforcement during rush hour or at private lots, so fewer cars on the road meant fewer infractions. But Campbell said even private calls from motorists with damaged vehicles were down this week.

He said many of the calls Busters did receive involved inadequate tires.

Winter tires called that for a reason

In many South Coast municipalities, drivers can legally keep summer tires on their vehicles all year.

B.C. Attorney General David Eby was asked on Thursday whether the province would consider making winter tires mandatory across the province. Eby said he was frustrated to see drivers without winter tires sliding around and getting into collisions this week.

"It's certainly something I'll be asking ICBC about, following some of what I saw on the road over the last couple of days, and I'm sure many British Columbians would nod along with that idea," he said.

According to Goodman, proper winter tires are one of the best ways to avoid the type of rear-end collisions ICBC has been seeing on the slippery streets.

He said giving the vehicle in front of you more space, slowing down and making sure your view of the street isn't obstructed are all important factors to avoiding rear-end collisions.

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Follow Rafferty Baker on Twitter: @raffertybaker


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