I read that a guy in Halifax lost his car insurance after receiving two tickets for skateboarding without a helmet and a ticket for driving without a seat belt. I'm all for safety, but the skateboarding tickets seems crazy. How can my car insurance be affected by something that has nothing to do with driving?
– Kristen, Toronto
It might sound a little hardheaded, but a ticket for skateboarding without a helmet shows risky behaviour, says the Insurance Bureau of Canada. And insurance companies don't like risks.
"Helmet violations, like seat belt violations, are an indicator of risk taking behaviour which might reflect on the driving patterns of the insured," wrote IBC spokesman Steve Kee in an email.
CBC news reported last month that a 25-year-old Halifax man with a clean driving record was told he was getting dropped by TD Meloche Monnex for a seat belt fine –and two other $141.16 tickets for skateboarding without a helmet in a designated skateboarding area. Halifax police said parents could be ticketed – and have their rates suffer – if their kids under 16 are caught on bikes or skateboards without helmets.
What's going on? Well, insurance companies set rates by looking at your driver's abstract, issued by the ministry of transportation in your province or territory. It lists the tickets for violations you've received in the last three years. Parking tickets don't count.
Generally, any violation that appears on your driver's abstract can affect your insurance rates. And for skaters or cyclists, that could include fines for not using helmets.
Each insurance company makes its own decisions on how each violation affects rates, Kee said.
"With this story, we learned that different companies deal with motor vehicle act violations in different ways," Kee said. "We recommend that at the time you do receive a ticket for not wearing a helmet, it's a good idea to call your broker or agent to let them know it was a skateboard helmet infraction, and to see how that may impact your auto policy – if at all."
And if your insurance company holds it against you?
"You always have the option of changing insurers by shopping the market," Kee says.
When asked for an interview, a spokesperson from TD Meloche Monnex referred me back to the IBC.
So can your coverage be hurt by hitting the half-pipe without a helmet if you live somewhere else in Canada? Good question. Kee says he's only heard of this happening in Nova Scotia.
Only British Columbia, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island have provincial laws requiring helmets for all ages.
"The bigger issue here is one of public safety," Kee said. "The insurance industry is a proponent of any initiative that will keep people in the communities we live and work in safe."
Send your auto maintenance and repair questions to firstname.lastname@example.org