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driving concerns

I've heard that when you turn 25 years old and have had your full G level drivers license for few years, tickets you have on record affecting your insurance are removed and you start fresh with a clean record. Is this true? – Brian, Toronto

Your Ontario driving record isn't erased when you turn 25, but you could still get lower insurance rates.

"The age of 25 is cited and used for lower rates," said Pete Karageorgos, director, consumer and industry relations with the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC). "Typically, this is based on claims data, and drivers under age 25 usually record more crashes than drivers 25 and over."

In Ontario's most recent road safety annual report, 3.75 per cent of drivers between 25-34 were in collisions, compared to 4.3 per cent of drivers under 25, Karageorgos said.

But that doesn't mean you'll pay less on the day after your 25th birthday – it depends on the insurance company. If your company does offer lower rates for drivers over 25, it won't happen until you renew your policy.

"If your insurer has lower rates for those aged 25 and over, the renewal following your 25th birthday would see the related rates drop," Karageorgos said. "Assuming nothing else changed – no new convictions or at-fault collisions – and the vehicle and distance driven are the same."

How much lower could they go? We contacted insurance companies and didn't get an answer by deadline.

But, in an extremely unscientific study, we looked up rates online for a driver with a 2010 Honda Civic, a clean record and years with a full G licence and insurance who's driving 20,000 kilometres a year.

When we inputted that the driver was 23, the lowest rate was $3,586. When we changed it to 26, it dropped to $2,971.

Insurance rules vary by province. For example, the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia bases rates on how long you've been driving and your record for the past three years.

The idea that your poor driving record might disappear isn't completely out of left field – there's supposed to be a time limit on how long convictions and collisions affect your insurance.

The Ontario Application for Automobile Insurance Owner's Form (OAF 1) requires consumers to list previous accidents and insurance claims for the last six years. And they have to list convictions, including traffic tickets for the last three years, said the Financial Services Commission of Ontario (FSCO), which regulates insurance.

"Typically, if no accidents or insurance claims have occurred in a six-year period, then the insurer can remove any previous accidents or insurance claims from the consumer's record," said Malon Edwards, spokesman for the Financial Services Commission of Ontario (FSCO), in an e-mail. "Also, typically, once a conviction is over three years old, it is no longer used for insurance rating."

So, if your last accident was on your 19th birthday, it could stop affecting your insurance rates after your 25th birthday. But, again, it's up to your insurance company, Karageorgos said.

"Each insurer handles their own underwriting practices, and some may adjust the premiums when the conviction falls off on the next renewal," Karageorgos said. "So if your conviction passes the three-year mark on April 15, but your policy was renewed on Jan. 15, then the adjustment may happen next Jan. 15."

But, some convictions stay on your insurance company's books longer?

"It varies by insurer," Karageorgos said. "But an example is impaired driving or fraud in connection with automobile insurance, which could impact a premium for up to 10 years."

If your insurance company doesn't give you big breaks because you're older or because past tickets and accidents have fallen off your record, shop around for a new one.

And, regardless of what you tell your insurance company, you still have an official driving record with the Ministry of Transportion (MTO).

"Under Section 205 of the Highway Traffic Act, it is the responsibility of the Registrar of Motor Vehicles to record convictions and suspensions on the driver's licence record," said Bob Nichols, MTO spokesman, in an e-mail. "While they will always remain as part of the official driver's licence record, there are time limits on any conviction and suspension information that appears in publicly available driver record products."

For example, Ontario Highway Traffic Act convictions and suspensions show up in searches for three years, while federal Criminal Code convictions show up for five.

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