#RoadSafety: Little Things Can Make Big Differences

ExclamationI’ve been riding as a passenger in heavy traffic this past week and have had time to watch and think about what is going on around me. There are many small things that a driver should do out of habit to minimize their chances of being involved in a collision.

In no particular order of importance, here are my suggestions.

Signal! The bulbs are good for more than 3 or 4 blinks too. Nothing tells others what you would like to do better than a well used signal light lever. There are polite drivers out there who will actually see your signal and help you accomplish what you want to do.

When you stop in traffic, you should see pavement between the front edge of your hood and the bottoms of the back tires of the vehicle in front of you. If you don’t, you are too close.

The extra space may prevent you from being pushed into the vehicle in front of you if your vehicle is hit from behind. It also gives you room to move if an emergency vehicle approaches.

Stop before the sidewalk when you are entering a street, not on top of it. Pedestrians really appreciate your consideration.

Maintain an appropriate following distance for the conditions. When you do this, you control your own safety margin and to some extent that of the driver behind you. They will have more time to realize that something is happening and can then avoid colliding with you.

Leave yourself an out, especially around heavy commercial vehicles. Having a space to move into on your left or right if something happens may mean avoiding a crash.

Use some lane discipline. You are entitled to one lane and have to stay between the lines of that lane.

If you don’t know where you are going, stop and figure it out. Better still, plan before you leave. If you don’t have GPS in your vehicle, cell phone or tablet, the internet is full of useful resources.

Don’t commit random acts of driving by ignoring traffic controls when you decide you’ve chosen incorrectly.

Remember that there are drivers behind you that will become impatient and try to pass by. Pull over, stop, let them by and then continue at reduced speed as you try to locate the address you are trying to find.

Scan around and well ahead of your vehicle. Preparation is preferrable to surprise.

Early detection of obstructions ahead allow you to plan to avoid them rather than react in a place where you may not have a choice.

Anticipate the traffic lights. Braking lightly and coasting to a stop saves wear and tear on your vehicle. Aside from being safer, it also saves you money on maintenance and fuel.

Screaming up to the red light and braking heavily at the last second invites the driver behind you to join you in a collision, especially if they are not paying attention or are momentarily focused elsewhere.

If another driver insists on infringing on your right of way, let them have it. It’s better to maintain as much control of the situation as you are able to rather than insist on being part of the incident.

None of these things are difficult to do and are simple habits to develop. The choice to be safe is always yours.

Thousands of Smart cars recalled in Canada over fire risk

Mercedes-Benz points to insulation mat in engine compartment of 2008-09 vehicles

Susan Burgess · CBC News 

Mercedes-Benz is recalling tens of thousands of Smart cars because of a fire risk associated with an insulation mat in the engine compartment.

The recall comes after the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) began investigating unexplained engine compartment fires in 2008 and 2009 Smart vehicles.

Several such fires have also been reported in Ontario, including Ottawa.

n October, Aurélie Rossier, a Swiss woman studying in Ottawa, was heading west on Highway 417 near Bronson Avenue when the 2008 Smart car she’d borrowed from a friend burst into flames.

CBC later learned of four other unexplained fires in Smart cars in Ontario, at least three of which happened in 2008 vehicles.

Insulation at risk of deteriorating

Documents from the NHTSA say the rear insulation mat in the engine compartment of 2008 and 2009 vehicles “may deform, deteriorate and loosen over time, allowing the mat to contact hot exhaust system components.”

The safety authority says Mercedes-Benz USA will notify car owners and dealers will replace the rear insulation mat with an improved one, free of charge.

It says the potential number of vehicles affected in the States is 42,781.

The recall also affects Smart car owners in Canada. Transport Canada has posted notice of the recall on its website, which says 7,028 cars are affected.

In an emailed statement, Mercedes-Benz Canada said it would also mail affected customers, who should contact a Mercedes-Benz service partner to make an appointment to replace the mat.

‘We’ve waited forever’

Valerie Hovinga Bisset of Elmira, Ont., received an email notice of the recall on Thursday from the NHTSA, having made a report to the U.S. authority as well as Transport Canada after her car caught fire last July.

“I thought, it’s about time,” she said. “It seems like we’ve waited forever for something to be done about this.”

Hovinga Bisset had already assumed the insulating mat in her 2008 Smart car was the culprit because staff at an auto repair shop discovered the material was smouldering.

She’s had new material installed by a mechanic unaffiliated with Mercedes-Benz and continued to drive the car without incident.

As was the experience of other Smart car owners interviewed by CBC, Mercedes-Benz denied having ever heard of such a fire when she reported her incident, Hovinga Bisset said.

“When I first called them, I was quite clear that we knew exactly why there was smoke that day coming out of my car, and it was the insulation that was burning,” she said. “I don’t know why they didn’t think that was a serious incident.”

In the course of her research, Hovinga Bisset had also discovered she wasn’t alone in her concern about that insulating fabric.

A man who identifies himself as the owner of a 2008 Smart car posted a video to Youtube in 2011, outlining his concerns and suggesting a do-it-yourself solution.

Auto safety advocate welcomes recall

George Iny, director of the Automobile Protection Association, said he was “very happy” to hear about the recall, describing it as a welcome about-face by Mercedes-Benz.

“We have received sporadic reports over the years of fires in Smart vehicles, and Mercedes Canada, who distributes the Smart vehicles here, were absolutely unheeding in the cases that came to our attention,” Iny said.

The recall could prevent future fires, Iny said, though he said his group has heard reports of suspicious fires in Smart cars beyond the 2008 and 2009 model years which were included in the U.S. investigation.

The defect identified in the recall may also not explain all the fires in 2008-2009 vehicles.

Marion Wyatt, the owner of a 2008 vehicle that burned in the middle of the night in Brockville, Ont., in 2010, said she found defective insulation an unsatisfying explanation for her case, in which the car had been parked for several hours before it exploded.

“There wouldn’t have been any hot exhaust to contact anything,” she said.

No compensation promised

As for people whose Smart cars were destroyed by fire, it’s unclear whether Mercedes-Benz will compensate those whose insurance didn’t cover the loss.

Mercedes-Benz Canada declined to address that matter in its response to CBC, even though the question had been directly asked.

The best recourse for those car owners is likely a lawsuit, Iny said, but it may be difficult for them to prove that the cause of their fire was the defect identified in the recall.

He said the carmaker could also be sued by insurance companies who have compensated people whose Smart cars caught fire.

The Trailer Pre-Trip Check


Ubilt Utility Trailer

There’s nothing like a beautiful spring day to bring out the trailer that has sat unused since last fall. A lot can happen to a trailer while it sits idle waiting to be useful again. Lighting connections corrode, tires lose pressure, reflectors are broken, brakes need service along with many other possibilities for wear and malfunction.

Are you tempted to just hook the trailer up, eyeball the tire pressure and take off? Look around you in traffic, you’re not alone!

If you pull a heavy recreational trailer, you will have learned all about the necessity of a pre-trip inspection check when you were studying for your heavy trailer licence endorsement. This examination is just as important for drivers who tow light trailers.

The hitch ball must be the proper size for the coupler. Attaching the trailer to a ball that is too small is just asking for trouble!

All trailers that connect to the tow vehicle with a hitch ball require a safety chain (or chains) that are equal in strength to the coupler. These chains must be free of abrasion damage and attached to form a cradle under the hitch to support it if it fails.

Lights and reflectors are next and it is not sufficient to simply shrug and say that everyone behind me can see the lights on the back of my tow vehicle. Tail, brake, signal, licence and marker lights must all be present and functional along with the appropriate reflectors. Plug them in and test them before every trip. If they don’t work, make the repair before driving away.

The tires must have sufficient tread, be properly inflated and capable of carrying the weight that you are going to put in the trailer. While you’re at it, check the wheel nuts to make sure that they are tight too.

Overloading a utility trailer is a common practice. I watched a man load his trailer last fall during firewood season. The sidewalls of the tires were compressed and bulging but he had made it home like that before so he didn’t think that it was worth worrying over.

If you are stopped by the police for being overweight, you will be expected unload the extra weight before you move again.

Finally, let’s take a look at the brakes, if they are required they must be adjusted and working properly.

My experience has taught me that surge brakes are the most neglected part of any trailer. At roadside checks I used to hand an adjustable wrench to the driver and ask them to demonstate the brake fluid level in the reservoir. The cap was either solidly corroded in place or was destroyed in the attempt. Yes, we checked the brakes before we left officer…

Surge brakes are relatively simple to check, just pull the breakaway brake cable until it locks the lever and try to drive forward. If there is no resistance, chances are good that the brakes are not working.

Electric brakes are a bit easier to test. Just apply them from the controller at the driver’s seat and make sure that they are adjusted properly and resist forward movement.

Is the battery for the breakaway brake system charged and will it hold the trailer stopped for at least 15 minutes? This is usually not an issue on RV’s as the trailer battery is used for other purposes, but on utility trailers it is often dead or missing.

Before we leave the subject of brakes, remember that if your tow vehicle is a pickup truck, you may be required to stop and check the brakes at the top of steep hills just like the drivers of heavy commercial vehicles.

This is not a complete list of considerations but should serve as a good starting point for a safe trip.

Cst. Tim Schewe (Ret.) runs DriveSmartBC, a community web site about traffic safety in British Columbia. For 25 years he was an officer with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, including five years on general duty, 20 in traffic and 10 as a collision analyst responsible of conducting technical investigations of collisions. He retired from policing in 2006 but continues to be active in traffic safety through the DriveSmartBC web site, teaching seminars and contributing content to newspapers and web sites.

ICBC and police launch high-risk driving campaign

ICBC and police launch high-risk driving campaign

High-risk driving behaviours, like speeding, increase your chances of crashing. In 2016 alone, there were 330,000 crashes in B.C. – that’s 900 crashes per day. And the number of crashes and claims have been growing steadily over the years.

On top of that, the costs of those claims are ballooning and injury claims costs alone are now close to $3 billion a year.

These numbers are not sustainable. One way ICBC, police and the B.C. government are tackling the issue is through ongoing road safety. May 1 marks the launch of a month-long campaign urging drivers to slow down.

Police will be targeting speeders during the month of May, including a province-wide enforcement blitz on May 19.

ICBC will be working with Speed Watch volunteers, who will also be set up in B.C. communities to encourage drivers to slow down.

The campaign also includes radio advertising and social media.

High-risk driving behaviours, like speeding, distracted driving and running red lights, are a concern for all demographics of drivers. Everyone has a part to play in keeping our roads safe—if we want everyone else to drive smart, we first need to start with ourselves.

Learn interesting facts, get tips and more on icbc.com.


Chief Officer Neil Dubord, Chair of the B.C. Association of Chiefs of Police Traffic Safety Committee

“Speeding, failing to yield and unsafe lane changes are high-risk driving behaviours that put everyone at risk. Drivers have to be responsible for their actions, pay attention and focus on driving. Police will be out in full-force across the province this month looking for drivers who feel the rules don’t apply to them.”

Lindsay Matthews, ICBC’s acting vice-president responsible for road safety

“We’re at a point today where the number of crashes across our province, and the number of claims we’re receiving, are growing by the thousands every year. We can all do our part by slowing down to make roads safer and save lives.”

Regional statistics*:

  • On average, 43 people are killed every year in the Lower Mainland from crashes involving high-risk driving.*

  • On average, 16 people are killed every year on Vancouver Island from crashes involving high-risk driving.*

  • On average, 42 people are killed every year in the Southern Interior from crashes involving high-risk driving.*

  • On average, 23 people are killed every year in North Central B.C. from crashes involving high-risk driving.*

* Averages based on police-reported data from 2012 to 2016.

High-risk driving includes speeding, failing to yield right of way, following too closely, ignoring a traffic control device and improper passing.

Should you fix up or break up with your car?

Should you fix up or break up with your car?

By Philip Reed


You’re looking at a $1,200 repair estimate for your ailing car when an ad catches your eye: a brand new set of wheels for a mere $450 a month.

At first, dumping your old car might seem like a no-brainer and you can’t help picturing how good you would look in that new car. But automotive experts say you’ll almost always come out ahead at least financially by fixing old faithful. There are, however, other important considerations when deciding whether it’s time to say farewell.


“Even though the repair cost might hurt, you really have to think about buying a new car as a tremendously more expensive proposition,” says Jim Manelis, head of direct lending for Chase Auto Finance.

At the very least, for a reliable used car, expect to spend a minimum of $2,000, plus tax and registration fees, says Mark Holthoff, editor at Klipnik.com, a community website for used car enthusiasts. Depending on the severity of your car’s problems, “You can buy a lot of repairs for that kind of money,” Holthoff says.

Of course, there does come a point when it isn’t worth pouring money into a beater.


“Start with the scale of the repair,” Manelis says. “Is it a $1,200 fix or is it a $5,000 fix?” Then, look up the current value of your car using an online pricing guide like Kelley Blue Book.

When repair costs start to exceed the vehicle’s value or one year’s worth of monthly payments on a replacement, it’s time to break up with your car, according to automotive site Edmunds and Consumer Reports, the product review site. As an example, say you’ve already spent $1,500 on repairs and now need a new engine for $3,500, and instead you could get a new or more reliable used car for $400 a month ($4,800 a year).

Beyond repair costs, Consumer Reports says to factor into your decision the savings from a new car with better fuel efficiency and the new car’s loss in value over time. Manelis also suggests thinking about your current car after repairs. Once it’s fixed up, what will it be worth and how long will it continue to run reliably?

To help answer the question of fixing a car or buying a new one, do a cost-per-mile comparison with the “Fix-it or Trade-it” calculator created by the Automatic Transmission Rebuilders Association.

However, Ron Montoya, senior consumer advice editor at Edmunds, says there’s another equally important consideration: peace of mind. “If breakdowns become frequent and you feel unsafe on the road, that’s the time to replace it.”


To make the best decision for your situation, consider the pros and cons of both options.


_ Faster than shopping for and buying a new vehicle.

_ No change in insurance costs.

_ The car’s history is known.

_ You won’t waste time and money advertising and selling your car.

_ But your repaired car might soon need more repairs.


_ Purchase can include warranties and sometimes maintenance.

_ Recent cars have advanced safety features.

_ Younger cars are more reliable.

_ You’ll stop wasting time schlepping to the repair garage.

_ But a new car loan is a long-term financial commitment.


“It’s imperative to have a mechanic that you trust” before you move forward with any repairs, Holthoff says. For example, the service department at a dealership might be more interested in frightening you with repair bills to get you to buy a new car.

Once the car is purring again, Holthoff says to continue driving it long enough to make up for the cost of the repairs. Later, if you decide to sell, you can do so with confidence once the car proves itself reliable again, and you’ve reaped the benefit of the repairs.


Even if you decide to part ways with your car, you’ll have to get it running again or sell it as-is for less money. If you can, make the repairs, then repay yourself after you sell the car.

“Honesty is the best policy,” Manelis says about selling a car with issues. Get an estimate for repairs and show that to a prospective buyer, then tell them you’re willing to reduce the price of the car by the amount to fix it.


Do you have property damage due to flooding?

Flooding is impacting areas throughout B.C. SGI CANADA will do everything possible to work with you and your insurance broker, to help you through this difficult time.

Take care of yourself and your family to make sure everyone is safe. When you are able, contact your insurance broker to file your claim and begin the process.  If there are higher than normal claim volumes, we will assign additional adjusters for your area.

If you are unsure who your broker is or are unable to contact them, please contact SGI CANADA directly so that we may help direct your claim and coordinate with your broker.

You can contact us directly at:

SGI CANADA B.C. claims office
Daytime, weekdays: 1-877-435-1484
Evenings and weekends: 1-800-647-6448

Here is some more information about submitting a property claim.

Water Protection Coverage for homeowners

SGI CANADA offers Water Protection Coverage in flooding situations, in eligible areas. You may have this coverage in place on your home. You can speak to your broker to find out if you’re covered, or, if you’re unable to get ahold of them, contact us at the number listed above and we’ll check to see if it’s on your policy.

If you are evacuated, you may also be eligible for unexpected living expenses, including:

  • accommodations
  • fuel
  • meals
  • transportation costs

These costs can be covered up to a period of 30 days. Your coverage limit will depend on the value of your home. Please keep all your receipts during this period to submit if you decide to put in a claim. Your deductible would be subtracted from the amount of coverage you would receive.

If you’re staying with family or friends, you can also put in a claim. Talk to your broker or an SGI CANADA representative to find out more details for your circumstances.

Coverage for business owners

SGI CANADA also provides commercial Flood and Sewer Back Up Coverage.

SGI CANADA commercial property customers with Business Interruption Coverage (in addition to Flood), are eligible for coverage following damage to their property. This is not triggered by an evacuation; if damage should occur following the evacuation, the coverage would be maintained.

If you have questions about your coverage in the event of a flood, please contact your insurance broker. If you are unable to contact them directly, you can get information about your insurance policy for your business at:


Once you file your claim

While waiting to see an adjuster, take steps to protect your property from further damage or loss, but only if it is safe to do so.

SGI CANADA suggests that you:

  • Clean up as soon as possible. Seek professional advice from a disaster restoration company on how to clean up and take whatever reasonable steps you can to minimize further damage to your property.
  • Don’t throw anything out. Store damaged items in a reasonably safe place so the adjuster can see them when he or she arrives.
  • Have any appliances (including furnaces) that have come in contact with water checked by a qualified electrician, dealer or serviceperson before you use them.
  • Do not touch any electrical systems or panels until you know it is safe to do so, especially in wet or damp conditions.
  • Move damaged belongings to a dry area with good ventilation.

Property owners should keep track of cleaning expenses as they will be covered through an insurance claim. SGI CANADA also encourages customers to take photographs or video of their damaged property to give to their adjuster.

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