Insurance premium more than $100,000
Mike Sadava, edmontonjournal.com
Published: Monday, December 10
EDMONTON - Barbara Wellensiek knew her son's insurance bill would be steep because of his driving record, but when the renewal notice arrived she was shocked to see the annual premium was $104,566.63.
"I thought it was a typo," Wellensiek said today. "I didn't panic - I thought it was a mistake."
When she phoned her insurance broker, Access Insurance Group, she got confirmation that the figure on the notice was accurate, the rate having been hiked from $1,300 per month.
"I just about fainted - how could this be?"
She calculated that her son, Janson Towers, would have to work full-time all year and earn $55 per hour just to pay his auto insurance premium.
Towers has all the factors going against him that add up to a high premium, even under the new grid system brought in when auto insurance reforms took effect in 2004.
He's 19, and has a "tendency to speed," Wellensiek said.
He got his first car at age 16. His licence was suspended twice. Since May 2005 he has received 10 speeding tickets, and has been in two minor "fender benders" and a rear-ender that totalled his car.
Though the insurance industry has complained that the grid system rewards bad drivers, an insurer could charge even more.
When the details of Towers' driving record were put into the auto insurance rate calculator on the provincial government website, the maximum allowable charge that came out was $122,727.42 per year.
Wellensiek went to another insurance company, Morgex, which quoted her $50,000 for a premium on her son's Nissan 240.
She has chipped in on his premiums before because of his need for a car. He has been playing junior football in Kelowna, taking physiotherapy because of football injuries, working part-time and is about to start attending Okanagan College.
But there's no way the family can afford $50,000.
"If he can't drive, I'm sure he'll accept it. He'll just have to wait until the convictions fall off."
Towers said he's moving permanently to British Columbia and is optimistic he can insure his car there for about the same rate he was paying in Alberta last year. If that doesn't work out, he'll have to ride his bike.
"I'd rather buy a house than pay that ($104,000)," he said.
He's still shocked by the invoice, and says that most of the speeding tickets clocked him going just a few kilometres per hour over the limit.
Alison Gates-Kriston, spokeswoman for Alberta Finance, said there are three factors on the insurance rate grid: number of years of driving, accident claims and convictions.
"Your grid rating is a reflection of your driving record," Gates-Kriston said. "It's the driver's decision as to whether they want to be insured or whether they want to stop driving."
An official with Access Insurance Group, which quoted the $104,566.63 premium, said the company can't comment because of privacy legislation.
Michael Debolt, government affairs manager for the Alberta office of the Insurance Bureau of Canada, was surprised by the amount of the premiums allowed under the grid rules, but said his industry is still opposed to capping rates under the grid system.
"We don't believe in the grid at all - we believe an individual's insurance premiums should reflect the risk they carry," he said.