#RoadSafety: Know Before You Go

The beginning of this month was not a good one for many road users in the province with the weather related closure of 3 major east – west highway routes. Road maintenance contractors generally maintain our roads in good condition for safe driving, but when weather overwhelms their resources it should not be a surprise when road closures are the result. If you choose to travel during major weather events your mantra should be Know Before You Go or perhaps even simply Don’t Go.

One news report that I saw found a television reporter interviewing eastbound motorists who were stuck in a closure waiting for the Coquihalla Highway to reopen. The reporter asked one person if they had sufficient notice of the situation. There was a short pause and then a shake of the head. No, “they” could have done a better job was the response. Another related that they were keeping hunger at bay by eating chips and cookies.

This significant weather event should not have been a surprise to anyone. It was not the first storm in recent days and was warned about by every weather report I saw in the days prior to it. DriveBC had a travel warning posted on their web site. Social media was full of stories.

I wonder what the overhead variable message sign had to say for points east of Hope, but I’m guessing that it was not encouraging everyone with a report of good winter driving conditions.

Having chosen to continue the voyage after some consideration, the first responsibility for your health and safety falls to you. Proper winter clothing, food, water, sleeping bags or blankets, flashlights, candles and matches are a few personal supplies to have along. True winter tires, a shovel, tow rope, triangles, flares and some spares would be good choices to add to your vehicle.

Stopping in Hope to top up the fuel tank would have been a good choice to make too, especially if you don’t follow the precautionary habit of operating on the top half of the tank.

Regardless of your state of preparation, continued assessment of conditions is mandatory. If you anticipate problems then that is the time to either turn around and head for home or at least find the nearest motel to wait for improvement. Being warm and dry with a full stomach beats sitting on the highway idling your fuel away wondering what will happen.

In a major weather event like this one, “they” are overwhelmed trying to do their jobs to keep you moving or get you moving again. “They” don’t have the time or the resources to hold your hand and make sure that you are all right. If you need it, rescue could be a long time coming. First and foremost, it’s all up to you.

Road Safety: Left Turn Surprise!

A signal light does not provide you with any protection when you make a left turn. This simple fact was discovered by a lady who slowed as she approached her driveway, signalled for a left turn, saw a truck approaching in her rearview mirror and started to make the turn. To her complete surprise, the truck passed by her on the left and they collided corner to corner.

The woman driving the truck said that she did not see the signal light and there were no witnesses to confirm whether it was in use or not.

As there were no lines painted on the highway to prevent the truck from passing ICBC divided the liability for the collision 75/25 with the highest portion bourne by the driver of the turning vehicle.

This collision should not have come as a complete surprise to the lady for a number of reasons. The first might be that she hadn’t actually checked to see if her signal lights were working. The second is that she may not have signalled for a sufficient time to give the driver of the truck notice of her intended left turn. Finally, she could have taken human nature into account. My experience with many drivers is that they will tend to remain in motion rather than slowing or stopping if there is sufficient room to pass by.

When is the last time that you walked completely around your vehicle and checked to insure that all of the lights were working? Unless you are required by law to do pre- and post-trip inspections I suspect that it could be a long time, if ever. We rely on systems that can fail to protect us far more than we should because for the most part they keep working. Until they don’t. It’s up to the driver to make sure that the vehicle is in proper working order in all respects before leaving the driveway.

How long should we leave our signal light on before we do what it indicates? Certainly long enough that other drivers can see it, recognize what it is telling them and then react as necessary to insure safety. I might suggest that at least 4 seconds of signalling should be the minimum time before we take the advertised action. Failing to give sufficient warning is as bad as not giving any warning at all.

The Slow Down, Move Over law has resulted from the drivers tendency to remain in motion without taking action when presented with a sudden situation that does not require slamming on the brakes. Chances are good that you have watched many fail to slow down or move over in your travels. This lady’s left turn indication, if she made it properly, is another example of the same circumstances.

ICBC assesses liability for collisions based on guidance imposed by civil law. The case of Carmichael v Mayhew is an example of similar circumstances that I wrote about in the article Who’s Responsible?

There may be a witness to the operation of the signal lamp after the fact. If it was on when the force of the collision was applied to it, the signal filament could show indications of hot shock stress that could be discovered in post crash lamp examination. This kind of determination would require a trained collision investigator to provide ICBC or the courts with an expert opinion, but it is possible.

What about the driver of the truck who was found to be 25% at fault? The onus was on her not to pass on the left if it was unsafe to do so.

Road Safety: Ready or Not, Here I Come!

Left Turn SignalThere was an interesting post on Twitter this week showing drivers interacting with pedestrians at the intersection of Cambie Street and West Broadway in Vancouver. The photo showed 3 cars facing a green light trying to turn onto Cambie from Broadway, 2 eastbound turning left and one westbound turning right into their respective lanes on Broadway. There was a steady stream of pedestrians crossing Cambie against a red don’t walk signal.

Judging from the circumstances, some of the pedestrians had started to cross against the signal.

Two of the cars had stopped at the edge of the marked crosswalk but one driver was doing their best to force their way through the pedestrians and was almost completely within the crosswalk.

Vehicle vs Pedestrian at Crosswalk

There is so much wrong with the situation that it is difficult to know where to start!

Perhaps the most important point to begin with is the driver’s duty to not collide with pedestrians, regardless of the fact that the pedestrians may not be following the rules themselves. Forcing your vehicle through the flow of pedestrians in the crosswalk is a clear violation of this duty.

Next, a green light does not automatically grant a driver permission to enter the intersection. There are situations when the driver must yield to other traffic before starting to move. While the section does say “…must yield the right of way to pedestrians lawfully in the intersection or in an adjacent crosswalk at the time the green light is exhibited,” we still have to consider the duty mentioned in the previous paragraph.

Finally, drivers are not supposed to block the intersection. You should not start into the intersection unless you have a reasonable belief that you can complete your intended movement without impeding other traffic.

These pedestrians are regulated by the walk / don’t walk signals at the intersection. You must not step off of the curb unless the white pedestrian signal is lit. Both the solid and the flashing red hand signals mean that you have to wait for the next cycle. Also, contrary to what some believe, the countdown timer (if the signals are so equipped) does not mean that you have the number of seconds shown to get across.

I’ll close with the observation that courtesy doesn’t seem to be a concept included in the use of our streets and highways these days. Me First! is often the attitude shown to others. A little consideration could go a long way to reducing both our crash and insurance rates. We would also arrive at our destination in a better frame of mind.

How can I save money on my car?

“Ask Brianna” is a Q&A column from NerdWallet for 20-somethings or anyone else starting out. I’m here to help you manage your money, find a job and pay off student loans _ all the real-world stuff no one taught us how to do in college. Send your questions about postgrad life to askbrianna@nerdwallet.com.

Q: I need a car to get around, but I’m trying to save money. How can I keep my driving costs in check?

A: We millennials have been accused of taking on too much debt, not properly valuing home ownership, eschewing marriage and waiting too long to have kids. Add to that list car manufacturers’ fears that we don’t want cars, either, thanks to Uber, public transportation and the lingering effects of the recession.

The truth is, we need cars just like the generations before us did, and recession-era grads are, in fact, showing up at the car dealership. Auto sales reached an all-time high in 2015, according to the Automotive News Data Center. Of customers who bought or leased new cars, the share who were ages 21 to 38 rose from 17 per cent in 2010, to 28 per cent in 2015, according to data from the Power Information Network at J.D. Power.

In places where public transportation and ride-hailing are available, combining the two can be enough to get you around town, along with the occasional rental car for adventures. But many of us can’t get to work without a car or find ourselves renting one nearly every weekend. If you need your own set of wheels, these tips can keep you from getting mired in debt.

BUY USED

Straight from Captain Obvious herself comes this piece of advice: Buy a used car. That doesn’t mean giving your neighbours a few hundred bucks for a rusty 1970s clunker like my sister did when she was in her 20s. Instead, go for a 2, 3 or 4-year-old model. You’ll save almost $8,000 when you buy a 3-year-old midsized sedan instead of the latest model, according to data from car-advice website Edmunds.

Buying a used car protects you from the immediate depreciation hit of a new car, which loses almost a third of its value in the first year, according to Consumer Reports . And a used car is likely to last a long while. The average age of a passenger car on the road in 2015 hit a record 11.5 years, research firm IHS Automotive reported last year, due in part to cars’ increasing reliability.

Try one of the growing number of trusted websites and apps to search used cars in your area. Ask the dealership, or the private seller if you’re buying from someone else, for a Carfax vehicle history report for the car you’re interested in. Make sure the car has had as few owners as possible, that it hasn’t been in any major accidents, and that the owner has kept up with scheduled maintenance. Consumer Reports publishes lists of the best used cars for various budgets, starting at less than $10,000.

COMPARE MORE THAN STICKER PRICES

Before you buy, compare cars based on how much they’ll cost you over time using the five-year cost calculators on the Edmunds and Kelley Blue Book websites. When you look up the total cost of owning a car, you’ll see how much you can expect to pay in interest on your car loan, gas and maintenance.

“You’ll find some cars are more expensive to maintain, and you don’t realize that until you’ve already bought the car in some cases,” says David Bennett, manager of automotive programs at AAA.

If you need to finance your car, a higher credit score will save you money. In most cases, good credit will get you a lower interest rate, potentially as much as several percentage points lower, a lower monthly payment and a shorter loan term. Keep your credit score in top shape by paying your bills on time, maintaining low credit card balances, and avoiding applying for additional lines of credit in the months before you get a car loan.

Most importantly, get preapproved for a loan before you enter a dealership. Shop around with your bank, credit union or a trusted online lender to get a quote. If your bank offers you an interest rate of 3.9 per cent, for instance, the dealer will likely try to offer you a lower rate, Bennett says.

MINIMIZE ONGOING COSTS

Your new wheels will come with extra expenses beyond the cost of the car itself, like insurance. Compare auto insurance rates and look for discounts, including going to traffic school to remove points from your license, which lead to higher monthly premiums. Check insurance rates before you buy your car, too, because some models might cost more to insure.

There are even ways to save on gas. Use an app like GasBuddy to compare gas prices on your route, and consider using a credit card that gets you cash back on gas purchases. But take that step only if you’re prepared to pay the balance in full every month. Rewards are a lot juicier when interest charges don’t eat away at them.

 

Car Dealer Terminology Explained–Part 1: Buying a New Vehicle

BY JEFF YOUNGS, JD Powers

Car dealers sometimes use words and phrases that the average consumer does not understand, which often puts new-vehicle shoppers at a disadvantage during the car-buying process. To help educate consumers about the car-buying process and related words, phrases, and concepts, this article explains common car dealer terminology and how it impacts negotiation for the new vehicle and the financial transaction. The words and phrases are listed below, in alphabetical order, and are specific to the process of buying or financing a new vehicle.

Dealer Addendum Sticker
A dealer addendum sticker details any dealer-installed accessories, and their prices, that may have been added to a vehicle after its arrival at the dealership. In cases when a model is brand new and in high demand, a dealer addendum sticker may list nothing but additional markup over the Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP). Keep in mind, however, that the price of dealer add-ons can be negotiated.

Dealer Prep Charge
When a new vehicle arrives at a dealership from the factory, dealership personnel must prepare the vehicle for sale. Often, the dealership passes that cost to the consumer through a dealer preparation charge. Sometimes dealer prep charges are reasonable. Sometimes they are not. This, too, is something that can be negotiated.

Doc Fees
Documentation fees are designed to pay for the costs incurred by the car dealer in association with processing paperwork related to a lease or purchase. Similar to dealer prep charges, sometimes these fees are reasonable and sometimes they are not. If you feel the fees are excessive, try to negotiate an amount that is more reasonable.

Extended Warranty
An extended warranty gives a consumer additional warranty protection after a vehicle’s original factory warranty expires. Car dealers typically attempt to sell customers an extended warranty at the time a new vehicle is purchased, but consumers often have up to one year after the purchase to decide if they want to take advantage of an extended warranty plan. This, too, is a negotiable price.

F&I
This abbreviation stands for finance and insurance. When buying a new vehicle, consumers are sent to the F&I office to finalize the details of the deal while the dealership prepares the new vehicle for customer delivery. In the F&I office, additional products and services may be offered to the consumer, such as dealer financing, extended warranties, service contracts, insurance, and more. At the end of this process, the purchase contract is finalized and signed, and then the customer drives home in his or her new vehicle.

Gap Insurance
A new vehicle depreciates the minute a consumer signs a contract and drives off the car dealer’s lot. That’s because it is now a used vehicle rather than a new vehicle. In the first weeks, months, and sometimes years that a consumer is in possession of the vehicle, it may be worth less than what the consumer owes on the car loan, especially if the new vehicle was purchased with no down payment or a small down payment.

If the car is stolen, or damaged beyond repair in an accident, during the period of time that the consumer owes more than the car is worth, there is a gap between what the car insurance company will pay for the vehicle and what the consumer must pay to satisfy the terms of the car loan. Gap insurance is designed to protect the consumer against this difference between actual vehicle value and the balance owed on the loan.

Holdback
Car dealers stock inventory, just like any retail store. Because vehicles are expensive, car dealers must finance inventory through the auto manufacturer using a process known as floorplanning. Car dealers must also advertise their inventory. These activities cost the car dealer money.

Because auto manufacturers rely on car dealers to keep assembly lines running and profits flowing, certain car companies may offer car dealers a “holdback,”–a percentage of either the invoice price or MSRP of a new vehicle that is repaid to the dealer by the manufacturer–each time a new vehicle is sold. The holdback is designed to offset expenses associated with floorplanning and advertising, and is generally not offered to the consumer. If a car dealer turns inventory rapidly, holdback money can help boost profit. If a car dealer turns inventory slowly, holdback simply helps to reduce losses.

Not all car companies offer a holdback to car dealers, preferring to employ other methods to assist their retailers in offsetting certain costs of doing business. Among car companies that do offer a holdback to car dealers, the amounts and programs vary between auto manufacturers, and frequently change. It is very difficult for consumers to determine whether or not a car company offers its dealers holdback money, or, in cases where a holdback program exists, if a particular vehicle is eligible for any holdback money.

Incentive
An incentive is an amount of money that is paid to the car dealer by the car company upon completion of a sale to a consumer. The car dealer may or may not elect to pass all or a portion of the savings on to the customer in order to lower the vehicle’s price or payment.

Interest Rate
The interest rate is the amount of interest a consumer pays on a new vehicle loan, expressed as an Annual Percentage Rate (APR). The lower the APR, the better the interest rate. Interest rates are negotiable, so be sure to get the best rate possible when financing a new-car purchase.

Invoice Price
Invoice price refers to the amount of money the car dealer pays the car company for the new vehicle. Generally, the invoice price is higher than what the car dealer actually pays the factory for the new vehicle, after accounting for any incentives, holdback money, or spiffs (defined below).

MSRP
The Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) is also referred to as the sticker price. Subtract the invoice price from the MSRP to determine the minimum amount of negotiating room the car dealer has with regard to the selling price for the new vehicle. Vehicles in low supply and high demand are likely to command full sticker price, or higher. Other vehicles are expected to sell for a price closer to invoice.

No Haggle Price
In an effort to simplify and bring transparency to the process of buying a new vehicle, some car dealers offer no-haggle pricing, which sets a firm price for a new vehicle in advance. No-haggle prices are designed to give customers discounts while giving car dealers a fair profit and can make buying a new vehicle easier, faster, and less stressful.

Rebate
A rebate is an amount of money paid to a consumer by the car company upon completion of a new-vehicle purchase. Consumers can accept the rebate in cash, or can apply the amount of the rebate to the down payment made on the vehicle by signing the rebate over to the dealership. Remember, consumers must pay taxes on the rebate, which is considered income, regardless of whether he or she accepts the rebate as cash or signs the rebate over to the dealer in lieu of additional cash for the down payment.

Service Contract
Consumers are likely to be offered a service contract when completing paperwork in the F&I office. A service contract is a pre-paid plan to have your new vehicle serviced at the dealership and typically offers a discount compared to the price the consumer might pay for dealer service without a service contract. Many new vehicles come with free scheduled service and maintenance, such as BMW models and Toyota models.

Spiff
A “spiff” is a temporary incentive that is paid to the car dealer or a car salesperson by the car company. For example, in order to inspire improved sales performance during a weekend sales event, the car company might offer the car dealer an extra $200 for every new vehicle sold, or the car salesperson an extra $100 for every new vehicle sold. Spiffs can sometimes give the car dealer extra wiggle room on price, but the amounts are typically too small to make a large difference in terms of the price or monthly payment the consumer will pay.

Trade-in Value
Trade-in value is the amount of money a car dealer is willing to pay a consumer for the consumer’s old car. This amount of money is typically less than what a consumer can obtain for the old car by selling it herself or himself via private party. The reason the trade-in value is lower is because the car dealer is taking on any financial risk associated with the old car, including the costs associated with reconditioning the vehicle and preparing it for sale, or transporting the old car to an auction if the car dealer determines it is not right for the dealer’s used car lot.

Upside Down
When a consumer is “upside down” on a car loan, he or she owes more money on the vehicle than the vehicle is worth. To avoid becoming upside down on a car loan, consumers should make a larger down payment and choose a model that holds more of its original value over time.

 

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