More motor accidents, but insurance claims are down

The morning peak hour heavy traffic along Braddell Road.
The morning peak hour heavy traffic along Braddell Road.PHOTO: ST FILE

Surge in private-hire cars could have contributed to anomaly, industry body says

The number of motor accidents in Singapore rose sharply last year, but the total value of motor insurance claims actually fell.

In trying to reconcile the two contrasting trends, the General Insurance Association (GIA) suspects that the rise of private-hire cars may have played a part.

Their drivers may have contributed to more accidents. Also, since they typically pay higher amounts out of their own pocket while making a claim, they are unlikely to claim for minor accidents.

The GIA said yesterday that motor accident reports in 2016 soared to a five-year high of 161,361 - nearly 8 per cent higher than the 149,511 reports made in 2015.

To the GIA's surprise, despite more accident reports, the total value of motor insurance claims fell 8.5 per cent to $494.4 million. The total vehicle population also slid a little to 956,430 as of the end of last year, from 957,246 in 2015.

The association said it is investigating the reasons behind the higher number of accident reports.

GIA chief executive Derek Teo noted that there are more private-hire cars on the road and many of their drivers are young and inexperienced.

"This emerging trend could contribute to the increased number of accident reports. We will find ways to capture data relating to this segment of drivers.

"If our suspicion is right, we will engage with relevant stakeholders and the authorities to address the issue," said Mr Teo.

In recent years, the number of Uber and Grab drivers has soared.

The insurance excess, or the sum the claimant pays when making a claim on a car insurance policy, is usually high for private-hire cars. The sum ranges between $2,500 and $5,000, compared with between $750 and $3,000 for normal cars. This may discourage some private-hire cars owners from claiming for minor accidents.

The GIA said it is unlikely that the rise in accident reports will lead to higher premiums for all motorists.

Mr Teo said: "We will find out what are the trigger points for the increased number of accident reports and apply pricing changes for the specific segment of drivers, if necessary."

Ms Koh Yen Yen, Sompo Insurance Singapore's chief distribution officer, said that drivers who intend to use their cars for private hire must ensure that the insurance policy allows the vehicle to be used for hire and reward.

The motor insurance industry stayed profitable, with underwriting profit at $87.4 million, down 27.7 per cent from 2015. The motor loss ratio was 53.9 per cent, meaning that, for every dollar of earned premiums, 53.9 cents were paid out in claims last year.

This has remained relatively stable for the past three years, as a result of insurers managing claims better, said the GIA.

Motor premiums rose 1 per cent to $1.15 billion last year. Overall, the general insurance industry pulled in total gross premiums of $3.66 billion last year, up 0.6 per cent from 2015.

But underwriting profit fell by 17 per cent to $257.6 million.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 15, 2017, with the headline 'More motor accidents, but insurance claims are down'. Print Edition | Subscribe