An elderly Ontario driver is trying to lower his auto insurance rate, and his quest could affect rates for older drivers across the country.
Ninety-two-year-old Denis Olorenshaw of Toronto decided to launch a human rights complaint after he was quoted an insurance premium in 2009 that was $250 higher than a rate quoted for his 62-year-old daughter, even though they each drove an identical make of car purchased at the same time.
Olorenshaw contends that charging higher premiums for drivers in the 80-plus age category amounts to age discrimination. The case before the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario could not only affect insurance rates for thousands of Ontario seniors, but could have implications for senior drivers across the country.
The insurance company, Western Assurance, bases its charging of higher rates for elderly drivers on a 1992 Supreme Court of Canada ruling which said an insurance company was permitted to charge higher premiums for single male drivers under age 25. The high court found the higher rates justified because of the higher accident risks associated with male drivers under 25.
Olorenshaw argues the insurance company hasn't shown that drivers in the over-80 age group pose greater risks than younger seniors between 65 and 79. In a Canadian Press story, he noted that older drivers often display better judgment based on their many years of driving experience, and they usually don't drive the distances that younger drivers do.
It's an interesting case and one which has the potential to influence insurance rates for senior drivers across the country. There are arguments to be made on both sides of the issue. A January 2012 article for Statistics Canada titled "Profile of seniors' transportation habits," by Martin Turcotte, noted, "Although most seniors drive carefully, statistics show that people aged 70 or older have a higher accident rate per kilometre driven than any other age group except young male drivers . . ."
But do drivers in their 80s show a noticeably higher accident rate than drivers in their 70s? That seems to be the point of Olorenshaw's challenge. Not all insurance companies charge higher premiums for drivers over 80. One company even offered him a lower premium quote than for his daughter.
The Supreme Court ruling that supported higher insurance rates for young male drivers made sense because not only is that age group shown statistically to be at higher risk, but they are less experienced behind the wheel, and that in itself suggests more potential risk.
By contrast, elderly drivers have the benefit of decades of driving experience, as Olorenshaw suggests. That should count for something, particularly for drivers who have an exemplary driving record. It seems unfair to automatically impose a higher insurance premium on a proven good driver once they reach age 80.
Perhaps the solution is to be found in a proposal by the Canadian Automobile Association with regard to licensing of older drivers. The CAA website notes that the organization "supports strategies that take into account our aging population, including, developing an ability-based licensing program, rather than one based solely on age."
That sounds like a good way to determine auto insurance premiums, too, instead of a blanket approach that targets older drivers specifically.
Comment on this editorial online at www.lethbridgeherald.com/opinions/.