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Number of uninsured drivers on B.C.’s roads is on the increase

Police report that numbers have jumped since B.C. did away with insurance decals in 2022
This is not something you want to see in your mirror, particularly if your vehicle isn’t insured. (Photo credit: BC Highway Patrol)

The number of uninsured drivers on B.C.’s roads appears to have increased since the province dropped the need for drivers to put insurance decals on their licence plates.

In May 2022, B.C. ended the use of insurance decals, and announced that police would instead rely on automated plate recognition to detect uninsured vehicles. The equipment, meant to free up police resources, can read up to 3,000 licence plates per hour.

Last week, however, RCMP in Kootenay announced that they had found a “shocking” number of drivers operating vehicles without valid insurance. From Dec. 1, 2023 to Jan. 11, 2024, BC Highway Patrol (Kootenay) identified 177 drivers operating uninsured vehicles. Each driver received a violation ticket for no insurance for $598 dollars.

Other police forces are also reporting an increase. Coquitlam RCMP issued 24 tickets for no insurance in the first 18 days of 2024, compared with only 11 for the entire month of January 2023. A spokesperson for the Saanich Police Department noted that their traffic unit and patrol division saw a “significant increase” in the number of no-insurance violation tickets issued after the decals were dropped. In 2022 Saanich police officers ticketed 198 drivers without insurance; a number which jumped to 283 in 2023.

However, ICBC’s Greg Harper says that the end of the decals hasn’t changed what’s happening on the road.

“We estimate that there are less than one per cent of uninsured drivers on the road in B.C., and this hasn’t changed since the requirement for the decal was removed in May 2022,” he said.

Police all over B.C. report that many drivers tell them the lack of decals is the reason they forgot to renew their insurance. Harper said “We share the concerns of police when it comes to uninsured vehicles on our roads and encourage every driver in B.C. to take a moment to consider when their vehicle insurance is due for renewal and get in touch with an insurance broker.”

Based on their experiences, BC Highway Patrol has compiled the top 10 excuses they hear when they pull over an uninsured vehicle:

- ICBC never sent me a reminder

- I am on the way to purchase insurance right now

- I forgot

- I don’t have a decal anymore

- My insurance is paid for automatically, so I thought I didn’t need to renew

- The registered owner is my mom (or dad or friend) and it’s their job

- This is a company vehicle

- My vehicle is actually insured, but I don’t have the documents

- I cancelled the credit card that was making the preauthorized payments

- I know I don’t have insurance, but I really needed to go somewhere

“Drivers should think about the risks of operating without insurance, which include paying a significant fine, being financially responsible for a collision, and expensive towing costs,” says the officer in charge of Kootenay Highway Patrol, Insp. Chad Badry. “There is a risk of a driver’s licence suspension or increased sanctions in court for repeat offences.”

Owners must renew their own insurance, as it is not automatically renewed, and drivers should check the expiry dates on their vehicle’s documents before driving. Documents must be kept in the vehicle or drivers may receive an $81 fine.

Insurance can often be renewed online or over the phone. If you have to renew in person, and your vehicle’s insurance has already expired, do not drive the uninsured vehicle to the insurance broker’s in order to renew. Instead, arrange for a ride with a friend or find alternative transportation if driving to renew your insurance is your only option. It may cost you a few dollars, but it’s cheaper than a $598 violation ticket and towing costs.

Barbara Roden

About the Author: Barbara Roden

I joined Black Press in 2012 working the Circulation desk of the Ashcroft-Cache Creek Journal and edited the paper during the summers until February 2016.
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