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Sask. motorcyclists react to proposed insurance rate hike

Elimination of cap could see rates rise an average of 73 per cent
Reported by Bryn Levy
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The province's motorcyclists are expressing shock with an SGI submission to the Saskatchewan Rate Review Panel that could see their insurance costs go up by an average of 73 per cent. 

SGI made a presentation on their proposal on Friday.  

Motorcycle owners found themselves potentially the hardest-hit by a list of measures that could see rates rise for many drivers of conventional vehicles as well.

While other vehicles have caps on how much insurance rates can increase for them in a given year, SGI is calling for the removal of a similar cap on motorbikes.

With the removal of the cap, riders would see rate increases averaging 73 per cent with some makes and models hit even harder.

Don Fuller, of Regina, Sask. with one of his collection of five motorcycles.  Photo courtesy of Don Fuller. 

 

Don Fuller, a Regina  motorcycle enthusiast who has been riding since 1968, said he had a look at information provided on SGI's website to determine what the changes might mean for his five bikes.   He was especially stunned at the proposed rate for a Ducati streetbike in his collection, which he could end up paying up to two-thirds of the resale value to insure. 

"One of my motorcycles (the Ducati) went from... (about) $1300 a year to $5300," he said, adding: "that's unprecendented in the history of Saskatchewan, for a Crown corporation to put out a rate increase equivalent to over 200 or 300 per cent."

That was a sentiment echoed by Guy Lumsden, a product specialist at the Redline Harley-Davidson dealership in Saskatoon.

"If a raise is needed, I could see them doing it but I just don't think it should be a 73 per cent jump right at the start. I mean, if they did that to your power bill or your gas bill or your phone bill I don't think anyone would be very happy," he said.

SGI is justifying the proposed rate hike for motorcycles by saying there is a wide gap between what they take in from motorcyclists in fees versus what they pay out for their at-fault collisions.  Information on the company's website says the shortfall is essentially being subsidized by operators of other vehicles.

Fuller said he would like to see more data provided by the insurer on how they are coming up with that shortfall.  He said he just doesn't see riders as a group involved in that many collisions where they are to blame.

"Generally, accidents are caused by four-wheeled vehicles, especially making left turns.  They don't see riders and turn, or change lanes right in front of them.  I've lost two friends that way," he said, adding that the SGI collision data he found online seems dated.

Another place where Fuller and Lumsden disagree with SGI's reasoning is on the issue of whether or not bikes are a truly 'recreational' vehicle.

They were described as such in comments made by SGI president and CEO Andrew Cartmell in Friday's presentation.

Fuller said in a normal year, he rides from mid-to late April until early October, only using a regular vehicle on days where the weather is bad.  "And there's still lots of guys that will ride in the rain," he added.

Lumsden also said it wasn't really accurate to call his bike a purely recreational vehicle along the same lines as a quad or a motorhome.

"I drive my bike in the summertime as soon as the snow goes away, every day until it snows.  You know, that's my daily driver," he said. 

Fuller said that at 62 years of age and retired, he is going to be forced to take a long hard look at just how he'll go about pursuing his nearly 45-year long passion for motorcycles if the rate increases go ahead as proposed, he did say it would be unthinkable to stop altogether.

He said it's early days yet, but the province's motorcyclists are a fairly tight-knit community, and he's hopeful they'll their message out to the public and to their MLAs before the Rate Review Panel makes a decision this summer.

He also pointed out that SGI needs to look at the potential harm to dealerships and other retailers who supply the province's large market for after-market parts and accessories.

Lumsden said he's hopeful the rate hike will be either scrapped or at least reduced, but said regardless, he'll still be hitting the road this summer.

"I think those of us that ride, it just becomes part of your life.  I think you're just going to pull the money from somewhere else and keep riding," he said.

The Saskatchewan Rate Review Panel is expected to come to a decision on SGI's proposal in June, with consultations to be held before then where people can make their views on the subject known.  Any rate changes would not go into effect until Aug. 31.

blevy@rawlco.com

Follow on Twitter: @BrynLevy