Growing number of Albertans driving with no insurance

Some Alberta drivers opt out of insurance, would rather pay fine.

Some drivers in Alberta are opting out of insurance instead of paying steep premiums.

The RCMP say they are pulling over a lot more people who aren't carrying any insurance.

"We're starting to find people that are producing (insurance) cards that aren't valid. They've missed a payment or they've stopped paying...or they've cancelled their insurance policy."

The courts are now filling up with more people being pulled over with invalid or no insurance.

Brian Bernhardt, a former RCMP officer, represents people in traffic court. He says he's getting seven to 10 calls a week.

"I would say the majority of them, they simply couldn't afford to buy the insurance, to pay for the insurance, so they take the chance," says Bernhardt.

The Insurance Bureau of Canada says 10 per cent of Alberta drivers are uninsured and few are ever caught.

Many drivers say they'd rather risk getting a $2,500 to $10,000 fine than pay for insurance.

"I know a guy I work with, to get his 16-year-old son insured, cost him $5,000," says one driver.

Alberta Transportation says close to 17,000 drivers were convicted of an insurance violation in 2001. The department has since asked police to step up their checks.

"Even if you're stopped and you produce a valid (insurance) card, chances are (we) are going to phone your insurance company to make sure that policy is valid," warns Crawford.

The RCMP is pushing for an insurance database so police can easily verify whether a person is insured.

Premier Ralph Klein has promised to do something about rising premiums. His government is looking at standardized rates and for drivers to be rewarded or penalized for their driving performances.