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Ontario is one of the provinces in Canada with a diverse culture and landscapes. The population estimated at about 13.5 million is rapidly growing by the day. A huge proportion of about 85% of the residents populate the urban areas. Driving and operating a car is a way of life for many Ontarians. If you own or operate a car then you are required to purchase car insurance as per law in this province.
The Financial Services Commission of Ontario ( FSCO) is responsible for regulating the auto insurance sector in Ontario. This commission has a 3 part structure for enacting the legislations for the province as follows:
- Superintendent of Financial Services & Staff
- Financial Services Tribunal
All the insurance companies licensed to operate in Ontario have to comply with FSCO regulations for insurance business and underwriting.
The province of Ontario has a no-fault basis for the insurance system. So, in the event of a collision, the victim may file a claim with own insurer rather than deal with the other party or insurer. The auto reforms introduced in 2010 helped to stabilize insurance rates to a great extent. Another vital change was in the impact of an at-fault accident on the insurance rates. As per this reform, there were no changes to rates if the fault for the accident was assessed at less than 25%. The rules for assessing fault did not consider road or weather conditions as factors for causing the accident as drivers in Ontario are expected to adapt to safe driving at all times.
The private insurance system is very competitive and provides a huge range of selection of coverage. In order to drive on the roads it is mandatory to carry the following:
- Valid driver license
- Copy of ownership/permit, valid license plate, and active insurance with minimum coverage
The car insurance coverage is mandatory to all motorists in Ontario. As per law, the following coverage is standard on an auto policy.
- 3rd Party Liability: This coverage protects against losses due to damages caused to third parties that lead to an injury or death. The lawsuits for such accidents could be for huge amounts and this coverage helps to claim for those costs. The minimum limit that is mandatory on the auto policy is $200,000. There are options to increase this coverage limit to $500,000, $1m or $2m as per the requirements.
- Accident Benefits: The coverage helps to claim for losses for injury due to an accident. Medical bills, rehabilitation costs, caregiver costs, income replacement and non- earner benefits can be claimed under this coverage. It makes no difference as to who was found as faulty for the accident.
- DC-PD Coverage: DC-PD coverage helps to claim for damage to the vehicle, its contents or loss of use of either or both. You could claim from your insurer directly and it does not matter who was found as faulty for the damages. There are some conditions for claiming under this coverage. The accident should have happened in Ontario and the accident must involve at least 1 other vehicle. It is also a requirement that at least 1 vehicle has car insurance from a company with Ontarian license or has FSCO agreement signed to provide coverage.
- Uninsured Automobile: This protects the insured against damages due to injury in an accident caused by a driver with no car insurance. This coverage is used to claim for damages due to an accident by an uninsured identified driver.
Along with the standard coverage on auto policies, it is possible to purchase more coverage for additional protection. Some of the optional coverage are:
- Specified Perils : This coverage protects against losses due to fire, lightning, theft/ attempted theft, windstorm, hail, earthquake, rising water, explosion, riot, civil disturbance etc.
- Collision: This can be used to claim for damages due to colliding with an object, vehicle or rolls over as a result of the collision.
- Comprehensive: The losses caused due to perils not covered by Collision coverage can be claimed under this coverage. This also included special perils, falling objects etc.
- All Perils: There is an option to combine comprehensive and collision coverage to get All Perils coverage. Also, when someone living with you in your home tries to steal your vehicle, then this coverage helps to claim for that loss.
The 6 common auto policy endorsements in Ontario are:
- Leased or Rented Vehicles (OPCF5)
- Replace of Transport (OPCF29)
- Liability for damage to automobiles that are not owned (OPCF27)
- Removal of Deduction for Depreciation (OPCF43)
- Protection for Family (OPCF44R)
- Offset Tort Deductibles (OPCF48)
In Ontario, it is strictly against the law to drive uninsured. It is a punishable offense and invites fines ranging from $5000 to $50,000. There could also be a suspension of driver license and vehicle impoundment. In case you are convicted of driving uninsured then, that may have a serious impact on your auto policy rates. You would get classed as high-risk and insurance companies may either deny coverage or increase rates.
Other impacts include loss of income replacement benefits and you may not sue the at-fault driver for any injury compensation. If you caused the death or injury to someone by driving uninsured then their medical bills and other losses would be your responsibility.
Ontario has zero tolerance towards impaired driving under the influence of substances. Drivers aged 21 or more and new drivers of any age have to abide by 0 BAC level while driving. In case a driver is caught driving with BAC more than 0 then their driver license will be suspended for 24 hours. If the driver is convicted then the suspension would extend for 30 days and the penalty would be $60 to $500. A novice driver license may get canceled altogether for this offense and the driver has to complete the program again and also pay the fees too.
If the BAC level of a driver is .08 or more or refuse breathalyzer test
- Driver license will be suspended for 90 days
- Fine $180
- Vehicle will be impounded for 7 days
If the driver repeats the impaired driving offense twice in a year, within a duration of 10 years then it is mandatory to install ignition interlock device in the car.
In Ontario, it is strictly banned to use or operate any handheld device while driving. This is against the distracted driving law. These handheld devices may be for entertainment or communication purposes such as cell phone, music player, DVD player, e-reader etc. Using a cell phone to text or operating GPS device is also banned. Drivers having licenses in A to G series may have to face serious punishment when caught in violation of this rule. They may end up paying a fine of at least $490 to $1000 and get 3 demerit points added to the driver license. Drivers holding novice license and M series license may have same levels of punishment for distracted driving conviction. But there would be no demerit points added for these drivers.
The penalties for novice drivers for distracted driving are as follows:
- 30-day suspension of driver license for 1st conviction
- 90-day suspension of driver license for 2nd conviction
- Cancellation of license and the driver has to redo the graduated licensing program for 3rd conviction
Careless driving is a serious offense and if a driver gets convicted then the following penalties apply.
- 6 demerit points added to the driver license
- $2000 or more fine
- Up to 2 years suspension of license
Dangerous driving is a serious criminal offense under the criminal code and may invite heavy penalties. Jail time may be for up to 10 years for causing injury and up to 14 years for causing fatality while driving under impaired conditions.
Ministry of Transportation of Ontario has promoted safe practices for the overall welfare of all road users. These include complying with seatbelt laws, checking blind spots, using child car seats and booster seats, yielding to other road users and observing speed limits. The transportation ministry also manages a traveler information service web site Ontario 511 to help provide details of road conditions. The website is very user-friendly and there are links to check the traffic volume in different areas of the province that may or may not have a traffic camera. Knowing the road conditions before starting on a trip helps a driver to be prepared and have a safe journey.
The Ontario Ministry of Transportation completed a century of successful transportation governance in 2016. Today the roads of the province are considered one of the safest and largest networks of transportation in the world. The multi-modal system of road structure has connected Ontario to other provinces seamlessly. The building of 29 airports, bridges, GO transit initiative, ferry systems, HOV lanes, compass traffic management system is just some of the achievements by Ontario transportation department. There have been many efforts to reduce traffic congestion for better movement.
There is ORSAR or Ontario Road Safety Annual Report prepared by the Ministry of transportation every year. This safety report help to sum up the data for injuries, fatalities and property damage incidents that occurred in that year. These may include data of collisions involving motor vehicles, pedestrians, cyclists and other road users. The report also includes details of the type of vehicles that were involved in the collision, location of the collision and information of conviction of the offender/s.
In 2015, Ontario province passed legislation to make the roads safer to ensure they are the best in North America. The new act is known as ‘Making Ontario’s Roads Safer Act’ and is intended to reduce injuries, collisions, and deaths in the provincial roads. Some of the main focus areas of this act are as mentioned below:
Fines will be increased for distracted driving in Ontario
Raise the fine amounts for distracted driving offenses. Currently, the fines range from $60 to $500, the act will increase the amounts to $300 to $1000. This is aimed at deterring distracted driving which has been one of the major causes of a collision. Also, there will be 3 demerit points added to the driver license and novice drivers may face higher penalties.
Impaired Driving Sanctions
The act will aim at applying equal sanctions for alcohol-impaired driving to offenders of drug-impaired driving too. Also, there will be measures to penalize drivers who repeat the offense of impaired driving under the influence of alcohol.
The drivers are required to patiently wait before the stop line to allow pedestrians to safely cross the road completely. These are particularly important at school zones and crossovers for pedestrians.
It will be a requirement for drivers to keep at least a 1-meter distance when passing cyclists. Instances of causing damages to cyclists by suddenly opening the vehicle door will invite more fines and demerit points will be added to the driver license too.
Enforcement of fine payments
There are many drivers who refuse to pay fines for committing provincial road traffic offenses. The act will allow municipalities to deny license plates to offenders who had not paid fines.
There would be stringent measures taken to report and identify drivers who are not fit to drive on the roads due to medical conditions. The range of healthcare professionals may be broadened to help with this exercise to avoid mishaps due to a medically unfit driver behind the wheel.
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