Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum! While perhaps it's a popular refrain for current big-screen pirates, mixing alcohol while behind the wheel - any wheel on land or on water - is never a good idea. Unfortunately, based on the results of last week's Canada Road Safety Week, it seems that drivers are taking the popular pirate catchphrase to heart and getting behind the wheel after having a few too many.

According to the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP), this year's 2007 campaign showed increased bad behaviour across the board compared to last year. There was:

  • a 40 per cent increase in impaired driving charges
  • a 51 per cent increase in seatbelt charges, and
  • a 38 per cent increase in speeding charges.
At 11,314, the bulk of the charges this year were for speeding, while there were 1,565 for seatbelts and 248 impaired charges.

If you were stopped and ticketed by the police, what can you expect when it comes to your auto insurance?

To show how greatly insurers can differ in their response to these types of charges, online car insurance quotes were obtained from www.kanetix.ca in May 2007, shortly after the end of Canada Road Safety Week. For comparison purposes we used the same driver in Toronto; a 35 year-old driving a 2005 Toyota Corolla. First, quotes were obtained for this driver without any tickets, then with the addition of each of the three types of charges focussed on by the OPP.

To begin, twelve insurers provided instant online quotes to this driver. Of that 12, we then compared the lowest online quote obtained for the driver without any charges against each scenario where charges were laid. The following are the sobering results:

  • If charged with a minor speeding infraction (less than 45 km/hr over the posted limited) the lowest online quote increased by 6.8 per cent.
  • If charged with failure to wear a seatbelt the results were the same, the lowest online quoted increased by 6.8 per cent.
  • The big one, however, is if charged with impaired. In this case, the lowest online quoted obtained was 386 per cent higher than the driver without any convictions.

You'd have to find a pirate's treasure chest buried in the backyard to get over a sudden increase in auto insurance premiums if caught drinking and driving. So why take the chance? But when it comes to a conviction for something like a minor speeding or failing to wear a seat belt, we're really only talking about a difference of $76 per year in this example. This difference is likely due to the loss of discount for previously being conviction-free; an unfortunate reality for getting any type of ticket.

Don't walk the plank into the depths of high auto insurance rates

Many people have visions of huge auto insurance rate increases after getting a ticket, but for most this is often not the case. It all depends on your insurer. That's why it is so important to shop around for your auto insurance every year; drivers change as do insurance rates.

If you have just been caught speeding, driving without a seatbelt, or worse, fear not-even if your current insurer raises your rate, you can still get a good rate on your car insurance elsewhere. Other insurers might not increase your rate at all (in the case of speeding or seatbelt infractions), or might not raise your rate as much, if charged with impaired. The secret is to shop around and compare car insurance rates from several insurers. Don't assume that your current policy with your existing insurer will always be the best deal.

Do you think shopping around is for people with tickets or accidents only?

This is a huge misconception and it could be costing you money, each and every year. Even with a conviction-free driving record, you may be paying too much for car insurance because auto insurance rates vary wildly between companies, all for the same coverage.

What's an even bigger myth then "shopping for auto insurance is only for drivers with bad records"? It's the one where drivers think it doesn't matter which insurance company they have auto insurance with, they'll end up paying the same rate.

Don't believe the myth. Set sail for the land of savings by visiting www.kanetix.ca today to compare instant, online auto insurance quotes!

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