Q&A - Too Deep in Debt to Drive

ICBC LogoQuestion: I am an employment counsellor with a First Nations Employment Service in BC.  Many of my clients were young and foolish when they started driving and got caught without a license or insurance and they kept doing this until they were in debt for thousands of dollars.

This problem is interfering with their ability to earn a living as adults. Is there a process whereby they can make payments to get their license back?

Please let me know what I can do to help them with this problem.

image of hand erasing the word debt


ICBC debt is different from most other debts. If you owe ICBC money or have specific debts with the provincial government you must pay them. If you do not, ICBC can refuse to issue or renew a driver's licence.

Vehicle licensing transactions may be refused as well.

Continuing to drive will likely result in further debt and being subject to vehicle impound action.

Perhaps the worst that could happen is being denied insurance coverage if you cause a collision.


This is something that I have no experience with so I contacted ICBC directly and asked. Here is their response:

If the counsellor’s clients phone our Account Services department to verify their identities, they can discuss the clients’ accounts and payment options with them.

Their numbers are:

Greater Vancouver: (604) 661-2723
Elsewhere: 1-800-665-6442

They are open Monday to Friday, from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm (Pacific Time).


It appears from a bit of research on the internet that some ICBC debt can be cleared by declaring personal bankruptcy. This may not apply to penalty points, driver risk or multiple crash premiums.

The Credit Counselling Society is a non-profit that may be able to provide assistance as well.

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If it's an insurance debt, it'll get wiped in 7 years as long as they don't make payments or sign promissory notes.

However the fines will not get wiped, nor will ICBC make any bargains on those.
If somebody owes more than they can pay, "well it's too bad, driving's a privilege, duntcha ya know?".

From my experience, the only way around this I know of, comes from an acquaintance of mine, who (probably by breaking several laws/regulations/conditions), went to Alberta about 14 years ago, legally changed his name with the help of his mother's maiden name on his birth certificate, applied for a licence using new name there, transferred the licence to BC and voila a new ICBC account with a clean slate. Not really a "viable solution" and maybe DriveSmart can comment on the implications of such actions - I honestly don't know.

"Driving's a privilege"

The problems that stem from the "driving's a privilege" mantra tie in directly into livelihood on many levels.
Check CraigsList - lots of $15+ jobs require valid DL + clean record.
Taking transit takes 2 hours out of your life every business day (up to ~20 days are spent living on transit per year)
Driving typically shortens the trip by half, ergo - if you don't drive, you lose 10 days of YOUR life per YEAR.
By the age of 54 a continuous year of your life would have been spent "on a bus".
We don't have to discuss the "social aspect" of not driving, since, you know, it's a privilege, and nobody should care about social status, and people shouldn't discriminate against you based on what you have (if this was practically true - iPhones wouldn't be THAT popular, and girls would let you fondle them in the prickly bush just as likely as the back of a hot Chevy - NOT)

Driving is about options, and is socially positioned as a guarantee of the lifestyle that you are "expected" to maintain (via commercials, common perception, consumerism), and no matter what anyone says, there IS a large portion of population that feels uneasy, ashamed or inadequate about their inability to drive. But let's just trample those people's insecurities - cause driving's a privilege - furthermore, let's just use their insecurities against them - "What are you going to tell the family or the co-workers once you are taking the bus?" (Line from a counter-attack ad)

On the flip-side what is the threshold of "Too Deep"?
Certainly a $2k is a good number to make an intervention at - if one were to keep driving the way that keeps getting one pulled over, I think it's a good idea to stop at $2k in fines - I just don't see anyone getting pulled over "by bad luck" that much - must be the way they are driving. In my opinion one could physically drive in Lower Mainland with-out getting pulled over for years.
Dare I say driving in "these" circumstances should be all the "road civility" training one requires for the rest of their life.

It's understandable that some individuals come from different (and sometimes underprivileged) backgrounds, but where does the "test of human will" stops and wrongful leniency begins? In reality, if they were made/taught to be prudent citizens, they would be disputing (or should be disputing to be truly prudent) every fine that comes their way - to protect their good name, and a chance at saving some money.

Again, if it's insurance dept - those roll over under statutory limitations of 7 years.
If one accumulates over $2k in actual motor vehicle fines - well then it's triple the reason to halt driving for the next little while. And if it's way over $2k... then the Alberta oil-field will pay $30+ to anyone with-out a DL, for as long as they are willing to brave the cold and the hard work. No way around that I can see - can't pay - move.