As we saw in the last round of winter weather, ICBC is once again swamped with dial-a-claims. Record breaking snowfall in the lower mainland has taken a toll on driving conditions. The auto insurance monopoly of British Columbia reported 21,254 calls in the first six days of February this year, in comparison only 17,820 were made last year on the same calendar days. Sam Corea with ICBC, "we've seen a 20 per cent increase in calls when comparing the two months." "February 6th was one of the busiest days so far this winter so far with 5463 calls," beating out the just over 5000 claims submitted during the heavy snow December days of last year. However, there has been no ICBC claims submitted related to the "snow bombs" from the Alex Fraser or the Port Mann bridges. Which just indicates how many more driving accidents occurred during this past week. The snow bombs were chunks of falling snow which fell from the top of the Alex Fraser and Port Mann bridges which damaged windshields and the hood of vehicles transversing on these bridges.
ICBC is in the process of expanding its optional comprehensive coverage to include windshield repairs. A service that the public auto insurance company used to offer but abandoned in 2001, which forced drivers to pay a $200 deductible for a new windshield even if it was just a small repairable chip. More than 2.5 million of the 4.6 million BC residents buy their optional comprehensive coverage from ICBC. ICBC comprehensive insurance covers non-collision loss or damage to a vehicle from theft, vandalism, falling or flying objects, hitting an animal, weather, fire, earthquake or explosion. The initiative has been implemented in the spring, there will be no deductible to having a rock chip repaired and the repair will not affect a driver's claim history or deductible amount going forward.
In 2016 the average cost to replace a windshield was $820. It costs approximately $70 to repair a rock chip. The new initiative is expected to save the insurance company $8 million per year, where windshield repairs costed the company $90 million. And it will also prevent an estimated 8000 windshields from going to the landfill each year. ICBC is asking drivers to be prepared for unpredictable weather this long weekend. Last year, more than 2000 crashes occurred during the long weekend with 540 people injured. And with the trend of this year and the unusual harsher than normal winter weather, more accidents are bound to happen this year. The heavy snowfall over the last few days will not have disappeared by the long weekend and road conditions are bound to be covered in snow, sleet, rain and even fog possibilities.
The City of Vancouver itself is in motion. The city is reviewing if they should have the ability to ticket drivers of vehicles that aren't winter-ready. Chief Engineer of the City of Vancouver Jerry Dobrovolny said he has seen his share of delays caused by vehicles that are not winter ready: two cars with summer tires that got stuck on a slope, blocking two out of three lanes. "It's very frustrating for people who have properly prepared, have proper tires and are suffering major waits because of others who haven't," said Dobrovolny. Although winter tires are not mandatory in BC some roads and highways do require them. If caught on these roads without winter tires, drivers may face a fine and may be forced to turn back. Driving without winter tires will not void your insurance if you have a claim, according to ICBC. It also won't mean you're automatically at fault in a crash. However, if you do get into an accident where winter tires could have prevented or limited the damage, not having them may affect whether, or how much, you are at fault.