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John Ducker: Insurance dodgers hit us in our pocket

Decals are a pain in the rear, though they created another small piece of vehicle owner accountability
The Dodge Charger’s inclusion on a list of deadliest vehicles on the road is understandable, John Ducker writes. TRIBUNE NEWS SERVICE

In the middle of a beautiful August, some random thoughts around safe driving during this glorious summer:

Last year, I couldn’t decide if the B.C. government’s plan to dump insurance decals on our licence plates was a good or bad idea. A news release from Westshore RCMP last week still gives me some pause. According to Const. Nancy Saggar, mounties issued 65 tickets for driving without insurance this July — up from 21 violations last year.

In other words, triple the number of people driving in that area without insurance. To be fair, that’s a small sample size. These numbers might also be just a spike because of a big increase in local enforcement, coupled with the new efficiency of advanced licence plate readers. Year over year, ICBC stats show that only around 1% of all B.C. drivers are found driving without insurance.

Decals are admittedly a pain in the rear. I felt though, they created another small piece of vehicle owner accountability — visible reminders of an important deadline that helped us be more aware about the legal requirements of driving. ICBC’s 2022 stats showed that in the six months following the dropping of insurance decals, no-insurance offences increased from 4,561 (Jan-Jun) to 5,571 (Jul-Dec).

A longer look at this is needed to make any solid connection to decals, but what is certain is that those people who forget or ignore their own vehicle insurance responsibilities are just putting costs onto the rest of us.

I wrote a while ago about the trend for vehicle manufacturers to keep building larger, higher and heavier SUVs and pickup trucks — those “bro-dozers” we see out there every day. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety recently released a three- year study of the deadliest vehicles on the road and — no surprise — big trucks lead the way.

Here’s the list of vehicles with the highest number of crashes causing other-driver-deaths:

1. Dodge Ram 350 Crew Cab Long Bed

2. Dodge Charger Hemi

3. Ford F350 Crew Cab

4. Dodge Ram 2500 Mega Cab

5. Kia Optima

6. Kia Rio

7. Dodge Ram 2500 Crew Cab

8. Ford F250 Crew Cab

9. Dodge Charger

10. Dodge Ram 1500 Crew Cab

Dodge Chargers making the list are understandable. After all, Dodge’s tagline for the Hellcat Charger on its Canadian website reads: “Just when you thought there couldn’t be any more horsepower, we added more horsepower”.

Their 2023 Super Stock and SRT Hellcat “Redeye” and “Jailbreak” models, with their 6.2- litre supercharged hemi, now offer 807 horsepower for your daily commute — or drag race.

Cars with monikers such as “Redeye” and “Jailbreak” being on this list are completely understandable, but I’m going to dig a little deeper to find out about how the Kia Optima and Rio made it in there.

The other day, I walked past a young woman changing a tire on the side of the street. I asked if she needed some help but I quickly saw that wasn’t necessary. She knew what she was doing, which was great to see.

I’ve written before that there is going to be a handful of times you won’t be able to call for help, either because of weather, no cell coverage or some kind of local disaster. Learning some basic emergency procedures, such as how to change a tire, is a part of being a good driver.

It wasn’t a perfect story for the woman, however. Returning from my errand, I saw she had removed the spare from the trunk only to find it had a gash in it — way bigger than the hole in the first tire. Tires are not cheap, but if you have to drive, there’s no alternative.

That situation made me think of an article I read this week from Transport Canada which found that 6.6 million vehicles operating on Canadian roads were deemed to be unsafe.

This pertains mainly to manufacturers safety recalls, which owners either ignore or are unaware of because the car was purchased as a used vehicle.

Transport Canada estimates from their analysis last June that one in five of the 33 million vehicles registered as of 2019 have outstanding recalls yet continue to operate on our roads, potentially endangering all of us.

They are proposing legislation to require manufacturers to prominently post active recalls on their websites to better boost public awareness.

Aside from recalls, this small moment shows how important it is to be proactive about the overall mechanical condition of our cars — recalls and otherwise. Breakdowns hardly ever happen in your driveway, nor in front of a mechanic shop. They happen at the worst possible place and time.

Proactive maintenance is cheaper in the end, saves fuel, keeps your car value up and makes things safer for everyone on the road.

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