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DUE TO CIRCUMSTANCES BEYOND MY CONTROL I

Due to circumstances beyond my control I’ve been advised that this will be my last column in this paper. If you want to read more I suggest you buy my book Steering You Right Greatest Stories available at Chapters, Coles, Indigo and on my web site www.steeringyouright.com.

 

I enjoyed sharing my family stories with you as well as those of my good friend Peter and all the other characters that have populated this column for the past 11 years. I hope you had a laugh or two at Peter’s experiences and if you accidentally learned something that will save you from getting a ticket in the future…. well that’s all right too.

 

Thank you for all your positive feedback and support.

Jordan W. Charness

 

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WINTER WONDERLAND

Bah! Humbug! I admit it.  When it comes to winter I’m an absolute curmudgeon.  With what appears to be record snowfalls and nonstop winter storms right across the country I’m sure I’m not the only one who has already had his fill of the fluffy white stuff smacking him square in the face and making driving, walking, and getting around treacherous, distasteful, annoying, irritating, exasperating, aggravating, and just plain cold!!!

 

While it’s tough on us humans, winter is even tougher on our automobiles.  One winter storm dumping 40 cm or more of snow in less than one day plays havoc with our entire transportation system.  When a storm hits, those of us with a possibility to do so head for the nearest warm shelter and wait out the storm praying that electricity does not cut out sending us back to the Middle Ages sitting in the dark relying on candles and fireplaces for heat and light.

 

Our cars on the other hand are for the most part stuck outside braving the storm without even a little bit of shelter.  Car shelters inCanadatend to come in three varieties.  1) none at all, 2) a temporary little outside shelter, 3) or a nice warm toasty indoor garage.  Each one of the shelters comes with their own legal problems and issues.

 

The “none at all” variety of shelter means that your car sits outside slowly turning into a great white igloo that only vaguely resembles a car.  More than one unfortunate car owner has cleared off the snow from his or her car was nothing more than bare hands and a credit card only to find that the car that they thought was their own was not.  All igloo shaped cars look pretty much alike.  While legally there is a principle that no one else is allowed to benefit from your hard work without paying you for your efforts the chances of collecting on this type of debt are about as likely as a snowstorm in July.

 

The same snow-covered vehicles are easy prey for accidental clipping by snow removal vehicles who fail to differentiate or navigate between your car and the snow bank that they’re trying to clear.  In general if your car is damaged by a snow removal vehicle, the entity in charge of the snow approval is responsible to pay for damage caused to your car.  If you car has to be towed away in order to facilitate street snowplowing, the city is responsible to make sure that their contractors do the job without damaging your car.

 

I’m told that after a major snowstorm several thousand vehicles are towed by the city in order for them to be able to properly clear the streets of snow.  While this drastically hampers snow removal efforts it’s probably a lot easier to let the city tow your car away and pay the tickets than it is to dig it out using your bare hands and a credit card.

 

Some municipalities allow temporary parking shelters that kind of look like overgrown tents to be erected on private property.  While the shelters are not legal everywhere even when they are legal they do present their own problems.  I recently heard of the case where there was a common driveway between two houses used by both owners.  One of the owners put up a temporary car shelter on his half of the driveway.  The other owner was parked next to it using the “none at all” method of car sheltering.  In the last big storm the car shelter collapsed tipping over and landing on Mr. none at all’s car causing $3000 worth of damage.

 

Mr. car shelter tried to avoid paying for the damage by claiming that the storm was an act of G-d and therefore was not his fault.  While the storm may not have been his fault he is responsible for any damage caused by items that he owns including collapsing temporary car shelters.

 

A heated garage of course may provide you with a toasty warm car to get into but you still have to navigate the snow-covered driveway to reach the street.  In many municipalities it is illegal to clear the snow from your driveway and dump it on the street and you have to blow or push all that snow onto your own property where it creates a giant mountain hiding your house until the snow melts many moons from now.  Explain it to me again…. why do some people like winter?

 

 

Q. E.F. 27

Harry can be a little bit pushy sometimes.  The other day he cornered me and absolutely insisted that I write the column that he had in mind immediately if not sooner.  He had just had a revelation that he felt I should bring to everyone’s attention.  Harry thought this topic was hot particularly as people were heading off for the winter vacations and searching for warmer climates.

 

I always like it when people suggest columns to me and was happy to hear him out.  While his “brilliant idea” was not exactly earth shattering it was worth following up on.  Apparently Harry had just renewed his automobile insurance and his insurance broker was proud to point out that his new policy, just like his previous policy, contained a QEF 27 endorsement.

 

This means that in addition to his regular coverage he was also covered for “civil liability for damage to nonowned automobiles”.  In other words he was covered for rental cars as well as any other car that he might borrow up to the limits of the policy.  Third-party damage was covered for up to $1 million while loss or damage sustained to the rental car or borrowed car was covered up to a maximum of $75,000.  Not all insurance policies are created equal and some may have different terms and conditions than listed above.

 

One thing they all have in common is that “this endorsement is invalid when the vehicle is used without the consent of the person who owns it or the lessee.”  In other words if you steal a car and damage it your insurance is not going to cover the damage.

 

Harry was all excited to hear that he had this type of coverage and would no longer have to pay the extra 10 to $15-$20 per day for collision insurance when renting a car.

 

As usual Harry is both right and wrong.  While it is true that the QEF 27 endorsement does mean that it is not necessary to purchase additional insurance when renting a car it also means that any accident that you may have with your rental car will be paid for by your insurers and be added to your driving record.  This could lead to an increase of premiums in the future if the accident is deemed to be your fault.

 

Paying the additional charge per day for added collision insurance might be worth it if you are driving an unfamiliar type vehicle in unfamiliar territory or anywhere else are you may be likely to have an accident.  Since an accident could happen anywhere the added protection may be the way to go.

 

Many premium credit cards also come with rental car coverage at no additional charge.  Make sure you check out the policy that comes with your card to make sure it adequately meets your needs.  Different credit cards provide different coverage and sometimes the type of vehicle you rent may not be covered at all.

 

Your credit card coverage may not be available in all countries while your QEF 27 endorsement will most likely be good anywhere in the world.

 

On the other hand this endorsement will completely cover you when you borrow a friend’s car with his or her permission up to the terms limits of the policy.  This endorsement is not always free nor does it come with every single insurance contract but it is useful to have, usually reasonably priced and well worth having.

A READER’S STORY

Fortunately I get all kinds of letters from my faithful readers.  Whether by regular mail or by e-mail I welcome them all.  Although it is not possible for me to answer each and every one of them, some of them do make it into this column and the following letter tells quite a story:

 

Hello !

I’m sure you receive plenty of emails and so I’ll try to refrain from
taking up too much of your time. I recently bought a used car but got more than I bargained for.

The car I bought last Wednesday, had not yet passed their inspection due to their time constraints.


I was told I could have it by Friday. Friday came and almost went when I
decided to call them since they hadn’t called me. I was told the car
wasn’t ready and that it wouldn’t be until Monday. I told them that this
was unacceptable based on their promise and that if it was the case, they
could keep it and I would buy something else on the following Wednesday.
In the end, they provided me the car but informed me that I would have to
come back on the Tuesday to have the rear drums changed because they hadn’t had the time to do it.

I took the car. Before even driving a total of 130 km, the engine started
smoking, there was an intense burning smell, the steering was aloof and
the odometer was producing a high pitched squeal and was at the 200km mark.

Naturally, this was unacceptable to me. It was obvious the car was NEVER
inspected properly. I went back on the Monday at lunch claiming that I
believed the car unsafe to drive. The service Manager came out checked my
liquids, said it was safe since all of my fluids were as they should be and
that nothing was being burnt as I suspected.

I went in Tuesday morning as agreed, to have the drums done and all of my
other complaints checked.


I got the car back on Tuesday night, NO work done, they claimed the parts
never came in and that I would have to come back on Wednesday. The service Manager did confirm though that there was a hairline crack on an engine valve that when heated up, the oil was spilling out and that was the cause of the smell and the smoke. He also confirmed that there was a either a
loose or broken tie-rod which is why the steering was all funny. I was
furious ! I explained to him that there was NO way this vehicle had been
inspected and that if it had, it was never inspected properly. Naturally,
he couldn’t really agree.

After MUCH debate, the service Manager agreed to take the car back again on Wednesday to perform all repairs and to have the car inspected
a second time including a detailed report to be given to me. This was
agreed to under my insistence. After nothing short of at least 20 calls
today and being passed from one person to the next, I was told that my car
was ready but that no inspection had been done.

 

I was told I could bring it back the next day and that they would inspect it then as a favor to me. At this point, I told them to keep it. I explained to the
sales agent that after everything that had transpired, that I didn’t trust
him, his garage or his company. I told him that under no circumstances was I picking up the car and that the next time we saw each other it was so that he could refund me. He smugly reminded me that I had already driven the car off the lot and that it was undoubtedly mine!

 

This rather detailed letter raises several important facts to consider when buying a used car.  As a general rule, the Consumer Protection Act requires that all vehicles sold to the consumer must be “good for the purpose for which they were intended”.  In most cases this would mean that the car you bought will drive reasonably well given its age and the price that was paid for it.  It is not however, a guarantee of receiving an old car in perfect condition.

 

Nonetheless if part of the sales agreement was that the car would be inspected and that all the broken parts would be repaired prior to turning over the car, The Consumer Protection Act also requires that the merchant keep this promise as well.

 

Once a car has been sold it is very difficult to just give it back at very least without going to court to receive a judge’s order requiring that both parties be put back into the state that they were in before the transaction occurred.  Although the law does allow this as a possible ending to a scenario like our readers it is rarely put into effect by the courts.  In this particular case however our reader may have a good chance, since she never really did take possession of the car and never really drove it so giving it back would give the merchant pack a car in pretty much the same condition that it was sold in plus or minus a couple of hundred kilometers.

 

A LITTLE BIT COUNTRY

I guess the truest truism in life is that as you get older things change.  Although as far as I can tell from my inside looking out I’m pretty much the same as I once was, apparently from the outside looking in I’ve matured a bit since I was a teenager.  Although I firmly believe in growing older without growing up I must admit that even I have noticed a drastic change in the area that I never thought would change.

 

First it was a nagging suspicion but now I actually have to admit it to myself.  I like Country Music!  It started slowly when we got satellite radio for the car which included those great all country stations.  Throw in the fact that I now exercise every morning while watching the country music station on TV and I’ve noticed my seismic shift in taste.  For a guy who grew up on KISS Alice Cooper and Aerosmith, believe me, this is quite the change!

 

One thing I’ve noticed is that many country songs are actually good stories set to a good beat. Many of the stories revolve around trucks and cars and very few have anything to do with Cowboys.  One song in particular caught my eye as a list of everything not to do with car and to a car.

 

Carrie Underwood’s hit single “Before He Cheats” tells the story of a furious and jealous ex-girlfriend whose guy cheated on her.  “Right now…. he’s probably slow dancing with a beached blond tramp……”.  She’s really not happy about all this but smiles to herself because:

 

And he don’t know………..

 

That I dug my key into the side of his pretty little souped up four-wheel-drive, carved my name into his leather seat…… I took a LouiseVille slugger to both headlights, slashed a hole in all four tires…….”

 

While it makes for a great video attacking someone else’s car is illegal, immoral, and just plain stupid.  Cars can’t protect themselves and are very often someone’s pride and joy.  Even if they aren’t there are still likely to be the second most expensive purchase made by people during their lifetimes.

 

Beating  the heck out of a car may have made Carrie in the video feel better but it is actually considered a crime called mischief (vandalism) and punishable by a criminal record as well as a jail term of up to 10 years.

 

Carved my name into his leather seats” will certainly help the police track down the perpetrator but even if you’re not that obvious it’s very likely that someone else will have seen you commit the crime and will turn you in.

 

Just “keying” a car by running a key through the paint and scratching it is also considered vandalism and is as much of a crime as taking a baseball “bat to the front headlights”.

 

Going onto someone’s private property to beat up the car will add trespassing to your list of criminal offenses and will tack on an extra fine as well as the possibility of spending another six months in jail.  Getting a friend to help you out or just watch out for others will expose him or her to the exact same penalties that you face.

 

While Carrie seems to feel that she’s doing the world a favor because “I might have saved a little trouble for the next girl.  Maybe next time he’ll think before he cheats…….” she’s wrong.  Save yourself the trouble and no matter how angry you may be don’t take it out on the car because no matter how badly you were wronged you will never be found innocent in a court of law.

MUFFLER SYSTEMS

Being a parent of a teenager is no easy task.  When our children are young we like to think we can protect them from just about anything, but as they age they are faced with more and more situations where parents are almost helpless to interfere.  Toss the car into the mix and all kinds of things can happen as this next letter just received reveals:

 

“Dear Mr. Charness

 

My son, who is 19 years old, was issued a ticket in Montréal for a noisy muffler.  My son has a 1998 Hyundai Tiburon and I agree his muffler makes a small rumbling noise, but nothing compared to a Harley-Davidson or an 18 wheeler.

 

In the past they used to issue a warning but now it is a ticket worth $176!

 

My son is a good driver and to date has not been issued any speeding tickets but has received two other tickets, one for crossing a solid white line on the highway (by the way, the policeman was two cars ahead of my signed and yet he noticed the infection in his mirror.  My son told me that he may have crossed the line at the very end but how could this policeman have detected that?  Doubtful, but as a good citizen he paid the ticket.)  And the second, more recently when he got a ticket for turning left on a street that you can only turn on at certain hours of the day.  I would think that it is more prudent to watch where you’re going rather than checked the time to see if you can make the turn.

 

My son has had his license for nearly 3 years and these are the infractions that they come up with for a young driver rather than giving him the benefit of the doubt by issuing a warning.  He is a college student that needs a car to get to school, but rather than giving him a break they penalize them for minor infractions.

 

I’m upset enough with the noisy muffler faction that I’m going to court with him.  I am enclosing a copy of the ticket and I would like to have your comments and also ask what I can bring in his defense.

 

Thank you

 

My son’s mom.”

 

As a father of two teenage drivers I can sympathize with my reader but only up to a point.  In case number one above our reader’s son admitted that he did indeed cross a solid line which is indeed an offence under the Highway safety act.  Obviously the police officer could see that the infraction had been committed because he was ticketed for it.  Paying the ticket was the right thing to do.

 

The second ticket for making an illegal turn due to the hour of the day was a thoroughly justified ticket.  Part of the responsibilities of driving is to have full situation awareness at all times which includes knowing the time of day and knowing enough not to make a turn at a time or place that is prohibited by law and indicated by a street sign.

 

The muffler ticket is a different situation entirely.  At a quick glance I found over 30 different cases reported on the topic.  Most of them have to do with modifying the exhaust system of Harley-Davidson motorcycles to make them louder.  A very few cases were reported about automobile exhaust systems.

 

The law and regulations combined make it illegal to install any type of exhaust system that is not considered to have the same specs as those of the stock system.  Driving a vehicle with a nonstock system does indeed lead to an expensive ticket but no demerit points.

 

It is however up to the crown to prove that the exhaust system is not stock or does not meet manufacturer’s specifications.  (The manufacturer is the vehicle manufacturer and not the muffler system manufacturer.)  If neither our reader’s son nor any of the previous owners made any changes or modifications to the exhaust system it will be difficult for the crown to get a conviction.  If it was changed along the way to make it sound louder and nonstock, then the ticket will stick.

SPEED LIMITS

You know the feeling.  There you are driving comfortably down a highway listening to your favorite tunes and generally enjoying a beautiful sunny day with a clean clear road ahead of you.  To ease your burden you have set your cruise control for 119 kph which you figure should be safe enough.  All of a sudden you see a police cruiser on the side of the road so you tap your brakes to slow down.  You take a deep breath and hold it all the while praying that the police car will not come after you.

 

Suddenly the cruiser comes to life.  It’s lights turn on and it hits the road.  Your stomach immediately begins to knot while you keep an eye on the cruiser in both your rearview and side view mirrors.  The police siren comes on and you hold your breath even tighter all the while thinking over and over to yourself “please not me!  Please not me!”.  But of course the cop was indeed after you.  You pull over and wait for a police officer to come to your car.  “License and registration please……….”.

 

Then you write to me, as several of you have complaining that you got a thoroughly unjustified ticket because after all aren’t the police supposed to tolerate a little bit of excessive speed on the highway?  Depending on who you are, you think that the police tolerance is either a) 10% over the speed limit b) 120 kph in a 100 kph zone or c) whatever speed everyone else is driving.

 

Unfortunately the real answer to this little quiz is d) none of the above.  The speed limit as posted is the law on a clear road in optimal weather conditions.  The police are under no obligation to ignore someone who is speeding even 1 kph over the speed limit.

 

Although, as a practical matter the police will often tolerate a slight excess of speed, depending on traffic conditions there is no fixed percentage over that will always be allowed.  Several times a year the police conduct campaigns aimed at excessive speeders where they enforce the speed limit to the letter.  Sometimes these campaigns are published in advance and sometimes they’re just one day or half-day affairs aimed at controlling a particular problem in a particular area.

 

Since you do not always know when and where these campaigns are being held, any time you drive over the speed limit you’re really doing so at your own risk.

 

Speed limits do get changed from time to time.  Most highways in the United States used to have a maximum speed limit of 55 mph until several years ago when many of the states decided to increase the maximum speed limits to 65, 70, or in some places even 80 mph.  Our highway speed limits are usually set at 100 kph but the road you’re on may not always qualify as a highway.  While it may look like a highway to you, the province may consider it a road of a different category with the speed limit of 90, 80, or even 70 kph.

 

To add to your confusion the same road may change the limits several times depending on provincial regulations and the amount of traffic and how built up the area is, also known as the degree of urbanization.  The onus is always upon the driver to check for the speed limit and to read each speed limit sign as he or she passes it by.  “I didn’t notice that the speed limit changed” will rarely be accepted in court as a valid reason for speeding down the road and triggering the sirens and lights of the local constabulary.