How Do We Define A Bad Driver?

Back Window Body Count GraphicHave you responded to our provincial government's request for feedback on the setting of fair ICBC rates yet? The hope is to "introduce changes to the current system to make insurance rates more fair for British Columbians by making all drivers more accountable for their decisions and driving behaviour." The implication here is that bad drivers don't pay their fair share of insurance premiums.

That begs the not so simple question of just how do we define a bad driver?

Perhaps at the most basic level we have people who will never learn to be a good driver. For a multitude of reasons they will meet the basic level of obtaining a driver's licence but never progress from there. According to one ICBC driver examiner that I know, passing the test means that you possess sufficient skill to drive without being a significant hazard to others.

The expectation is that you will improve from there.

So, what have you done to improve other than gain experience by driving on your own? Some of us take training required by our employers. Car enthusiast groups promote skill improvement among their members. The rest of us? Well, maybe we're better than average drivers already and there is no need to improve.

I offered a free hour of driver improvement to DriveSmartBC visitors once and was not exactly inundated with people saying "Pick me!"

Again, for a variety of reasons, we may be a good driver but lose this ability, either abruptly or over time.

Maybe a good driver has a thorough understanding of the driving rules and always follows them. I'll ask the question again, are you smarter than a learner driver? My experience in traffic enforcement has shown me that many drivers have incomplete knowledge on that subject yet possess a clean driving record.

Do you think that a good driver never drives while their ability is impaired? Drugs and alcohol immediately come to mind here, but fatigue, illness, disabilities and emotion are all factors that can impair our ability to drive well.

What about attitude? Looking at others, I see a lot of "I'm important, you are not. I'm in a hurry, get out of my way!" when I drive. There are also drivers who will readily admit to acts of civil disobedience when the traffic rules don't suit them. Don't like it? Don't bother!

Do only bad drivers become involved in collisions? Hands up those of you among us who have never caused even the slightest damage let alone bumped into something that they should not have. I'm embarrassed to say it, but I lost the ability to do that while still in my teens.

Does being human automatically mean that you will always be a bad driver at some level? No matter how hard I try not to, eventually I make a driving error. Sometimes it is only luck or the skill of other drivers that prevents that error from becoming a collision.

It's easy to point the finger at others and much more difficult to examine the same thing in ourselves. So, honestly, how do you define a bad driver?


I believe what constitutes "good" and "bad" driving behaviours is a constant back-and-forth shift on a spectrum based on many variables.

"Good" drivers have some bad habits, and "bad" drivers may demonstrate good behaviours.

Wherever the line is drawn, there are going to be drivers who disagree.

I also think that defining a "bad" driver simply by their demerit points and the number of infraction tickets they have received is not going to be enough.

There are "bad" drivers out there who have none.

I don't think this about moral judgment at all.  A nice, clean line can be drawn between those who cause claims from harms and losses, and those who don't.  If you're in an at-fault MVA and you cause the ICBC to have to pay money out, then some sort of penalty can be paid by you to encourage you to take better care in the future.  Perhaps it was just a "moment of inattention", but why would you not take at least some personal responsibility for it.  Today, under ICBC we pay a minimal deductible to have our own damage covered when we're in an at-fault crash, and (as long as we've got a full safe-driver's discount) pay nothing for the compensation that ICBC pays to the other party who we negligently caused damage to - both in terms of property damage and personal injury damage.  There is little disincentive to driving carelessly or selfishly.  Enforcement isn't working - we don't have the resources to effectively enforce driving laws.  Driving behavior continues to be as bad as ever, if not worse with the introduction of distracting cel phones.

In insurance parlance it's called a deductible.  In my professional life, if a claim is made against me for negligence I pay the first $5,000 for any damages I cause.  My insurace premiums next year will reflect the increased risk that I pose for just a single successful claim against me.  This is private insurance coverage for professional negligence claims against me.  It is expensive insurance.

ICBC has not kept up with private insurance in assigning financial responsibility to poor driving decisions.  It has, historically, offered coverage to drivers who would otherwise not even be insurable in a privatized system.

I see unsafe and inconsiderate, discourteous driving virtually every day of my commute into Vancouver from my home in Delta.  Thankfully, most of the time this doesn't result in damage and claims.

I think that it's a fair assumption that if greater financial responsibilty for harms/losses was assigned to the people who caused the damage, there would be at least some improvement in driving behavior.  It might even result in some people putting away their phone(s).

Some might argue that such a move will result in even more hit and run type events - but with camera technology now available, and the immediacy of the abilty to record identifying information, I don't think it'll be much of an issue.

There’s objective and subjective labeling of bad drivers.

I prefer objective. For objective, ICBC has the data already and they’re fully aware of the correlation between violation tickets and other actions, which don’t necessarily result in tickets, with at fault collisions.

The DPP system needs a thorough overhaul so that points are assigned to correlate with risk and likelihood of involvement in at fault collisions. This way a proper determination can be made by both the public at large and ICBC, and those drivers can be targeted and removed as necessary. Why is it reasonable, as is the case today, that driving over freshly painted roadway lines results in the same two penalty points as running a red light which we all know is an offense which poses far greater risk?

Far better to assign a fine to the former offense and penalty points or a combination fine / points for the latter.

It appears that many drivers were given a license, having passed the driving test by the skin on their teeth. I know of 2 ladies who have both stated they can "do what they want", now they have passed the test. (no visible traffic law enforcement, and no desire on their part to improve their skills)

I realize it would be quite a deal, but I feel everyone should retest, at least every 10 years. 5 would be better, but I dont think thats possible.

As far as commercial drivers, each driver should have his own NSC #, and any tickets he gets in his lifetime, would be attached to his file, and that would form part of his profile. High risk should pay higher premiums. Right now, a drivers infraction is recorded against the carriers NSC#, which makes no sense at all.

and, now for your question. 

A BAD driver.

According to my exe wife, a bad driver is anyone other than herself.

I just wanted to see if you were still feeling generous, and ask if you'd do a driver improvement course with me. Whatever it costs, I will pay it.

You never know, I might learn something.


In reply to by JamesC

I used some of the Google Ads revenue from this site to buy an hour at the driving school of the winner's choice. The driving school involved graciously agreed to double the time in exchange for advertising here.

I'm not a driver examiner, so it's not something that I can do for you.

I believe that the answer can be found through TESTING. Think of the 20 most common causes of accidents. Now write a 10-question test chosen randomly that address 10 of those 20 issues. Now make it hard to pass, like 7 or 8 correct. After all, there are only 20 things you need to know. Now make your drivers license renewable every year and administer the test then. Track the wrong answers. There’re your bad drivers (and you may have prevented the worst from even getting a license). The questions can be easy. Make 5 variations of this test so you never know which 10 questions you’re going to get.

One feature about learning to drive is that basic handling skills and traffic laws can be learned quickly, whereas developing the perceptual and cognitive skills for recognizing hazards and effectively dealing with them takes longer. 

A second feature is that what constitutes being an average driver, in terms of collision involvement, keeps changing, whereas drivers’ perception of what is average, or better than average, doesn’t keep up based on the tendency of more than 50% of driver to consider themselves as being better than average.  While each driver likely has good reason to believe that they are much more competent now than when they first learned to drive, it’s also likely that they don’t have a good basis for comparing their performance with the average.

Several years ago, “An Overview of the 100-Car Naturalistic Study and Findings” was issued by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.  The document reported on an extensive experiment during which 100 vehicles were instrumented with detectors, cameras and recorders for a year.  The goal was to obtain pre-crash data about the causes of collisions.  About 43,000 hours of data for 240 operators who drove 2 million vehicle miles was obtained. 

Applying the findings of the study to the continuous improvement that occurs annually resulted in the following criteria for a teen novice driver to be no worse than an average peer driver over a lifetime:

  • Surprises:                                                                                        no more than 6 per year
  • Near-misses:                                                                                 no more than 1 every 4 years
  • Non-Reportable Property Damage Only Collisions:              no more than 1 every 20 years
  • Reportable Property Damage Only Collisions:                       no more than 1 every 40 years
  • Injury Collisions:                                                                           no more than 1 every 400 years
  • Fatality Collisions:                                                                        no more than 1 every 12,000 years.

Where the above events are defined as follows:

Surprise: if something suddenly appears in your driving arena, like a burst of sunlight when you turn a corner, an icy patch on the roadway ahead, a vehicle that is suddenly on your tail or an unexpected, immediate sharp turn in the roadway, there’s a good chance that you missed the early signs of a significant hazard.  Whatever it was, the configuration of the roadway, the sequence of a traffic signal, a blind intersection, the location of a stop sign, and so on, you need to remember it for the next time and watch out for similar situations elsewhere.

Near-miss: an event requiring a sudden evasive manoeuver by a given driver or other road user to avoid a collision with, by, or because of, the driver’s moving or waiting vehicle.  For the driver, this means turning, stopping or accelerating (even momentarily) at the maximum capability of the vehicle. 

Non-reportable property damage only collision: an at-fault collision involving one or more vehicles where no one is injured or killed and where the total property damage cost is less than $2000.

Reportable property damage only collision: an at-fault collision involving one or more vehicles where no one is injured or killed and where the total property damage cost is more than $2000.

Injury collision: an at-fault collision where a road user (vehicle occupant, motorcyclist, bicyclist, pedestrian, etc.) is injured and receives medical aid.

Fatal collision: an at-fault collision where a road user (vehicle occupant, motorcyclist, bicyclist, pedestrian, etc.) dies within 30 days of a collision due to injuries received during that event.

Based on the above criteria, a better than average driver could be defined as one currently having an incident frequency that is half each of the above whereas the record for a worse than average driver – a bad driver – could be defined as being at least twice as great as any of the above.

So is there a test? Raffle? Lottery?

or did I win already?

For me, a bad driver is anyone who takes risks while behind the wheel of a vehicle, no matter how large or small. Whenever any one of us gets into a car, truck or SUV and starts to drive there is an element of risk involved, but we all hope that if we drive carefully and responsibly and everyone else does the same, we will be relatively safe. I have now been driving for over 60 years and I am frequently horrified at the risks some drivers take when they are on the highway. So, for me, anyone who drinks alcohol, no matter how little, takes drugs or smokes marihuana, interacts with their infotainment system, talks on their cell phone or texts while driving is a bad driver. And, given the number of times I have witnessed drivers doing one or more of these things recently, I guess we shouldn’t be too surprised about the increase in ICBC rates!