Barbadians can expect a steep rise in motor and general insurance rates this year, a consequence of the number of serious road accidents, particularly the 14 fatalities so far, a top insurance official has warned.
President of the General Insurance Association of Barbados (GIAB) Davis Browne Wednesday put the country on notice that everyone would have to help foot the bill for the millions of dollars in death claims the insurance industry would have to pay out.
“Certainly, increased claims costs will have a trickle down effect on policyholders in general, and may not just be those persons who would have had accidents [who] will suffer the increase,” Browne told Barbados TODAY, adding that the frequency and severity of the injuries would have some impact on the industry.
Stating that it was too early to quantify the losses to the sector, the GIAB head said: “It is anticipated that it would be a significant increase in the amount of claims that insurance companies have to pay. Insurance is a pooling arrangement . . . policyholders contribute to that pool out of which losses are paid. So, any significant impact on that will have implications for those policyholders who are part of the pool.”
While road safety advocates and the authorities try to get a handle on the situation – speeding, recklessness, drink driving and poor lighting on the island’s roadways are some of the reasons advanced for the accidents – Browne appealed to drivers to exercise due care and attention.
“With the increase in accidents, and severe accidents as well, I think it is the attitude of drivers, the inattention of drivers on the road that we are particularly concerned about,” he stressed.
Minister of Transport and Works Michael Lashley promised this month during debate on the 2017/2018 Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure that improved road traffic legislation would go before Parliament by June, that would result in better monitoring and inspection of road users and improved tax collection.
Just short of four years earlier, in May 2013, the minister had told the Second International Road Federation Caribbean Regional Congress here that his ministry was in the process of amending the Road Traffic Act to include the wearing of helmets by cyclists, semi-annual inspection of public service vehicles, annual inspection of private motor vehicles over a certain age, speeding, and the use of communication devices while driving.
Lashley had also said last October that the vexing issue of motorcyclists performing wheelies would be prohibited under the revised Act, so too would be the use of mobile phones while driving.
“The motorcycles doing stunts on the road, that is also within this legislation. Driving with cell phones will now be an offence,” he had told a meeting of the St James South branch of the Democratic Labour Party .
Browne Wednesday said he was looking forward to the revised legislation, which he anticipated would address many of the insurance sector’s concerns.
However, he warned that little would change if the law were not enforced.
“I think enforcement is another big issue in what is happening,” he said, even as the insurance industry spokesman expressed concern about too few police officers on the roads.
“There need to be more vigilance on the road by police officers. Of course they might say a number of other events take up their resources. I think a greater police presence would be quite helpful in situations like these,” he suggested.
“There is the concern relating to the alleged racing on our roads, particularly the highway . . . . And lastly, there is the issue of using cell phones while operating a vehicle,” the president of the GIAB said, adding drink driving to the list of concerns. Browne also cautioned those who persisted with violating traffic regulations that they could lose their insurance cover, and expressed particular concern about the number of young drivers involved in serious and fatal accidents.
“As the information comes to hand, and we look at the statistics, I am sure that companies in the market would respond to the areas of risk to suit,” he said.
The number of road fatalities so far this year has surpassed the ten for all of last year, and match the 14 for 2014. There were 22 deaths on the roads in 2015.