January 1st 2003
- No-fault insurance penalizes responsible drivers and rewards bad drivers. Taking responsibility out of the system has been shown to increase accidents and fatalities in jurisdictions where it has been tried. Some would argue that it is unfair to penalize someone who causes an accident as a result of a momentary lapse of attention. However, most accidents are foreseeable and avoidable. Driving a vehicle is as dangerous as handling a loaded weapon and the highest attention and care ought to be demanded of drivers. The no-fault system does not hold drivers accountable for their actions.
- A number of U.S. researchers, including Professor George Priest of Yale Law School, have concluded that no-fault states in the U.S. have seen a negative change in the mix of drivers on the road due to the adverse incentives of no-fault.
- This would mirror the Canadian experience. In March, 1978, the province of Quebec introduced a pure no-fault auto insurance system. Professor Gaudry, at the request of Quebec government, conducted a study of the Quebec no-fault system and concluded that it had led to an 11% increase in accidents resulting in property damage only, a 26.3% increase in accidents resulting in personal injuries and a 6.8% increase in fatalities.
- In 1988, Professor Rose Anne Devlin presented an even more detailed study to the University of Toronto, finding that Quebec’s no-fault scheme had by that time led to a fatality increase of 9.62%.
- In examining the Australian experience, R. McEwin wrote in the Proceedings of the International Insurance Society that: “the abolition of the common law tort of negligent action was associated with a sixteen per cent increase in the number of road fatalities per head of population. The results should concern those who discount the role a negligent liability rule plays in promoting safety.”
- By imposing liability for dangerous and careless driving, negligence law seeks to eliminate or at least reduce the frequency of accidents. In a positive sense, the law seeks to educate and promote responsible values and conduct. As Mr. Justice Linden wrote in his text Canadian Tort Law (4th Edition, 1988) at p. 87: “Such laudable values as individual responsibility, concern for one’s fellow human beings, and respect for the dignity of the individual are embedded in the principles of negligence law.”