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Why do drivers with DUIs pay so much more in insurance. It seems unfair if they haven't had an accident. Is there any proof that they'll cause more accidents? — Bill in Toronto.

Drunk driving is risky – and insurance companies say they don't like risk.

"In our view, an impaired driver is more likely to be a repeat offender and has an increased risk of causing a serious accident," says Glenn Cooper, spokesman for Aviva. "Those convicted of impaired driving, even if not involved in an accident, have made an unsafe choice putting many others at risk."

Like most private Canadian insurance companies, Aviva won't insure drivers convicted of impaired driving for three years after the conviction. Drivers who can't get insurance from a regular company have to move to facility insurance, "the market of last chance for drivers who cannot find insurance elsewhere," Cooper says.

That coverage comes with a price. It can cost up to $8,000 more a year than regular insurance.

Risky business

We asked several insurance companies for actuarial evidence to explain why the hike is so high.

Intact Insurance said their data shows that drivers with an impaired conviction are 30 to 40 per cent more likely to be involved in an accident.

"Why do drivers with an impaired conviction pay higher premiums? The obvious answer is because they're a higher risk," says CAA spokesman Kristine D'Arbelles. "We don't have any actual data that shows impaired drivers will reoffend one or two or three times, but impaired convictions tend to be a chronic issue."

MADD Canada says 30 per cent of drivers with an impaired conviction get another within 10 years.

If insurance is too high, some drive without it

Drivers with drunk driving convictions should be paying less than they're paying in Ontario, says MADD CEO Andrew Murie.

"In Ontario, a typical impaired conviction will move your insurance premiums from around $2,000 to between $8,500 and $10,000 a year – that's a lot of money," Murie says.

Because facility insurance is unaffordable for many drivers, some don't tell their insurance companies they've had a DUI, Murie says. Or, they drive without insurance entirely. Neither choice is good for the other drivers on the road, he says.

"If you don't tell them and just keep making your payments, the insurance company won't insure a crash if you have one," Murie says.

Insurance companies might not know you've had an impaired driving conviction until they check your abstract. And they don't do that as often as you might think. A 2013 U.S. poll from found that only 31 per cent of drivers saw their premiums rise after traffic tickets.

"We often find in cases where we discover an existing customer has a new conviction for impaired that he/she also had prior impaired convictions," says Aviva's Cooper.

A break for drivers with ignition interlocks?

Murie says private insurers should follow the lead of Canada's government-run insurance companies and allow drivers with DUI convictions to keep their insurance and pay an extra surcharge of up to $1,000 a year if they've installed an ignition interlock.

"We need to keep these people in the system," Murie says."If they're putting on this interlock which does not allow them to drive impaired, they should be eligible for a significant reduction."

The device is a breathalyzer that doesn't let your car start if your blood alcohol level is above a set limit. Drivers also need to give breath samples while driving to keep the engine going.

Ontario and every other province except New Brunswick and Newfoundland has an interlock requirement, Murie says.

"The data shows that this technology works, it's not like they'll have to wait 10 or 15 years for the data," Murie says. "It boggles my mind that they're not doing this."

MADD has asked insurance companies to offer a break for interlock users, Murie says, but they've had no takers.

"I don't think insurance companies will willingly do it on their own," Murie says, "It will have to be up to the Superintendent of Insurance."


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