Cost of car insurance going up in New Brunswick

Cars

The cost of driving is about to go up, way up. 

This time it's not the price of gasoline that will hit drivers in the pocketbook -- it's car insurance premiums.

"If you don't pay it, you can't drive," says motorist Wayne Doucette.

Doucette says car insurance is one of the bigger bills his family receives on a monthly basis.

"I've got two vehicles," he said. "One is a lease and the other is my wife's car and it's $180 a month. That sounds significant? It's a cost but again, we have to have it, and I tried all different insurance companies and it's all the same."

For thousands of New Brunswick motorists, that cost is only going up.

New Brunswick's Insurance Board has received applications from several insurance companies for rate increases. Most are in the double digits, like 12 per cent, though some are well into the double digits like 22 per cent, and there's at least one application for a fifty percent rate increase.

Consumer advocates say it's part of a trend that began a few years ago.

"We've seen eight, 10, 12, 15, and this year, there's companies that have even been asking for higher increases than 15 per cent," said Michelle Pelletier, the New Brunswick Insurance Consumer Advocate. "Companies did receive a 22 and 24 per cent increase that were put in place this weekend."

Pelletier says insurance companies are getting more claims from accidents caused by distracted driving.

"You're looking at your cellphone," Pelletier said. "You're texting or answering it. You're definitely taking your eyes off the road."

The number of distracted driving charges laid by Kennebecasis Valley Regional Police went up more than 240 per cent last year, following similar increases in previous years.

The cost of repairs is increasing too.

"In years gone by, you'd go to a collision and the report we did was whether it was under a thousand or over a thousand dollars damage," said Sgt. Evan Scott of Kennebecasis Valley Regional Police. "But nowadays when you go to a collision, there's not much under a thousand dollars."

Doucette agrees. He got into a minor accident last year.

"The front bumper? 95 hundred dollars alone," he said.

Higher insurance costs are not confined to New Brunswick.

The insurance industry says rising premiums are part of a nationwide trend that will eventually hit drivers in every province.

(With files from CTV Atlantic's Mike Cameron)