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How long do accidents stay on your driving record?

Car body shop buffing car door

December 2, 2019.

Do accidents affect your driving record?

In addition to being potentially dangerous, stressful to deal with, and possibly getting you a traffic ticket, an accident can stay on your record for 6 years. In Alberta, each traffic conviction ranges from 2-7 demerit points and a fully licensed driver will have their license suspended when they accumulate 15 demerit points. Whether you get any demerit points and how many depends on the circumstances of your accident.

Will getting into an accident raise your insurance rate?

Your car insurance rate is based on many risk factors, such as the age and type of vehicle you drive and how much you drive, and of these, your driving record is the most important. Your rate may be adjusted when your insurance is renewed and it can take years for your rate to be lowered again. Your insurer takes into account several factors when deciding whether to raise your rates after an accident.

  1. Your driving history is the biggest factor when determining your rates. If you have a clean record and this is your first accident, your rate may not increase.
  2. The severity of the accident helps your insurer determine the risk level of insuring you. It might not raise your rate if it was a minor fender bender.
  3. Whether you were at fault is a factor in deciding if your premium will go up. It most likely will go up if you were at fault, but other factors, such as your driving record and the circumstances of the accident, will be considered.
  4. The details of your insurance policy make a difference. Some policies are more tolerant of accidents than others and take fault into account while others may cause your rate to go up regardless of who was at fault. If you have accident forgiveness on your policy it is possible that your rate will not increase.

How is fault determined?

Whether you were at fault is determined by the insurance companies, not the police, but they will take into account information gathered by the police. The police decide whether there will be any charges laid and the insurance companies determine fault. Often both drivers will be found to be at fault by their insurers and you will get an explanation of the findings from your insurance provider.

Do not admit fault at the scene of an accident and stick to facts; there may be factors that you are not aware of. Let the police and insurance companies reach an objective conclusion even if you think you were at fault.

Do you have to report an accident?

If there are no injuries or significant damage you can choose not to report an accident to avoid the hassle of making a claim and the risk of a higher rate. But be aware that in Alberta you must report a traffic collision to the police if you were the victim of a hit and run, if there are any injuries, or there is damage exceeding $2000 and you will get 7 demerit points for failing to remain at the scene of a collision. Never leave an accident without getting the other driver’s information and if the other driver leaves make sure to get their license plate number.

What can you do to avoid a rate increase?

Because your rate is not going to increase until your annual insurance renewal date, you will probably have time to shop around to see if you can get a better rate with another company. Find out the details of your policy and how much the accident is going to impact your rate and then get a few quotes to see if you can get a better deal with another insurer.