Hergott: ICBC rate hike reflects continually bad driving habits

Money talks. ICBC’s ‘worst case scenario’ rate increase of 42 per cent over the next four years is screaming out. Will we listen?

Last week, I shared my “Aha!” moment, that by treating only the symptoms of our road safety disease we are missing the mark.

I used seat belts as an example. Seat belts have done absolutely nothing to prevent crashes. I believe that they have actually increased crashes by contributing to our whimsical perception of safety in our vehicles.

Imagine a seatbelt prohibition law. Your level of driving awareness and caution would dramatically increase with your family sitting unbelted in your vehicle.

We have been led by the incredibly successful advertising campaign —Buckle Up Stay Safe to feel that if we buckle up, we will be safe in our vehicles.

Car manufacturers spend huge advertising dollars to convince us to buy their make of car. A key focus of that advertising is their vehicle safety features compared to the competition.

Images of cars crashing head-first into concrete barriers, crash dummies thrown into the pillowy softness of air bags, feeds the sense that we’re safe and secure in even the most horrific of crashes.

Car manufacturers inundate us with messages and images of “safe, safe, safe, safe.”

There’s more.

How many movies have you seen where there’s a horrific crash and the driver bounds out of his vehicle, carrying on as if nothing happened?

Our sense of reality in car crash consequences is skewed by those incessant, repetitive images.

It goes on.

While seat belts prevent hard tissue injuries like fractures, they actually contribute to soft tissue injuries like whiplash, where your torso is held in place while the rest of you is flung about.

Soft tissue injuries work like in the movies.

It takes hours, or perhaps overnight, for the damaged tissues to become inflamed, painful and restricted. Victims themselves don’t realize at the scene that they have been injured.

First responders, relieved to be called to a crash where the occupants walk away, report no injuries or minor injuries to the media. The media forwards images of crumpled cars with that incessant messaging.

Little wonder we are concerned only about detection (particularly so with those increased penalties), not about risk and danger, when we reach for our cell phones while driving.

Where is the ‘counter-terrorism’ advertising teaching us that British Columbians are continuing to be injured in crash after crash, often resulting in life long symptoms and functional limitations?

I have a theory. It’s a horribly cynical one.

A classic ICBC negotiation tactic is to minimize the seriousness of the very kinds of injuries seat-belted victims face. Their printed materials refer to soft tissue injuries as if they are insignificant.

Their frontline adjusters, trying to convince injured victims to accept their low ball settlement offers, do the same. They classically hire orthopaedic surgeons to write reports saying that soft tissue injuries should resolve within weeks, ignoring the scientific/medical reality that many are left with permanent symptoms and disabilities as a result of soft tissue injuries.

Is ICBC (and are other automobile insurers across the country) in a strange conflict of interest when it comes to road safety? Is that why we haven’t seen the critically important advertising messaging that we need in order to turn the tide on crashes?

How about we task our political leaders to strip away the whimsical notion that we are safe and secure in our vehicles? The more we learn about how vulnerable we really are, the more careful we will be behind the wheel.

Increasing penalties for specific dangerous driving behaviours is treating the symptom, not the disease. It’s regular, every day, inattention that causes the most crashes.

The only way to snap us to attention is to show us our vulnerability. Treat our driving disease and we will reduce crashes. Reduce crashes and our ICBC premiums will go down.