Hyundai recalls 74,000 cars in Canada and U.S.; sunroofs can fly into traffic

Hyundai is recalling more than 74,000 midsize cars in Canada and the U.S. due to the possibility for panoramic glass sunroofs to come loose and fly into traffic.

The recall covers certain Sonata midsize cars from the 2015 and 2016 model years, including gas-electric hybrids.

sonataThe South Korean automaker says the recall affects 11,114 cars in Canada and 63,000 cars in the U.S.

Hyundai says in government documents that a wind deflector anchor plate in front of the sunroof wasn’t bonded properly to the car. A loose deflector can detach and interfere with the roof as it closes. If the owner tries to force the roof closed, it can fly off.

The company says it has no reports of accidents or injuries due to the problem. But Hyundai had several reports of detached sunroofs in the U.S.

Dealers will repair the wind deflector anchor plate at no cost to customers. Owners in the U.S. will be notified by mail in December about when to take their cars in for service. Hyundai has not announced a timeline when Canadian owners will be contacted about repair.

 

Attempted Fraud Claims

Filing five injury claims from a staged crash, falsely reporting the theft of tires from a truck, and an improperly insured, unsafe limo that went up in flames. These are some of the recent fraudulent and exaggerated claims handled by ICBC’s Special Investigation Unit (SIU).
“Auto insurance fraud and embellished claims take many forms,” said Chris Fairbridge, ICBC manager of the SIU. “When the facts just don’t seem to add up, we investigate.”
ICBC has completed more than 5,000 claims and driver licensing investigations so far in 2016.
Most claims are honest, but insurance industry studies estimate that fraudulent and exaggerated claims make up about 10 to 20 per cent of all claims costs. Applying those estimates means that fraud and exaggeration costs B.C. hundreds of millions of dollars each year or every ICBC policyholder more than $100 per year.
ICBC’s commitment to improving its detection and enforcement on fraud is expected to reduce its basic insurance claims costs by $21 million for policies written over the next year.
Here’s a sample of recent cases from ICBC’s claims fraud files.

A crash fit for the stage
Five people presented injury claims to ICBC after a two-vehicle crash in Surrey. The conflicting statements from the claimants, and the fact that the collision happened in the early morning hours, prompted the adjuster to call in the SIU.
Engineering evidence and verification by two witnesses showed one of the vehicles was driving at a very low speed just before the crash. Local residents stated they heard a vehicle accelerate from a stop and then heard a crash. Cell phone records revealed the occupants in both vehicles were talking to each other minutes before the collision. This evidence refuted the statements made by the drivers about the collision.
The investigation led to fraud charges and a B.C. Supreme Court case. One claimant received a $3,000 fine and was ordered to pay more than $4,000 in restitution. Another person involved in the staged collision received a $5,000 fine, a $1,500 victim fine surcharge and a two-year probation order.

A picture is worth a thousand words
The owner of a flat deck truck claimed four tires and a battery were stolen from the truck. At the time of the reported incident, an ICBC policy was in effect. But for the previous 17 months, the truck was not insured. The policy was purchased on January 18. The owner said he noticed the tires missing on January 21 and last saw his vehicle okay on January 17. SIU investigators canvassed the area for any witnesses or surveillance video in the industrial area where the truck was parked. Investigators found a witness who had taken a picture of the truck and sent it to the City of Vancouver, complaining the vehicle was abandoned and an eye sore for neighbouring businesses. The witness had taken the photo with a cell phone camera, which means there is metadata (the date and time information) embedded in the photo. The metadata indicates the photo was taken, with the tires missing, three-and-half hours before the insurance policy was purchased. ICBC denied the false theft claim.

Up in flames
On New Year’s Eve 2015, a driver who said his white stretch limo was for his own private use was on his way to a friend’s place when smoke suddenly started to come up from under the dash. The vehicle then erupted into flames. Several bystanders took video of the incident and shared the images on YouTube. The driver made a fire claim to ICBC. A mechanical inspection showed the vehicle was in poor condition. ICBC paid the claim.
But upon further online searching, the SIU’s Cyber Unit discovered the limo wasn’t for personal use. It wasn’t properly insured as a vehicle for hire and didn’t have a National Safety Code certification. Therefore, the owner was in breach of his insurance when he made the claim. ICBC is recovering the claims costs.

British Columbians are helping ICBC launch suspected claims fraud investigations. Earlier this year, ICBC conducted a media and public awareness campaign to draw attention to fraud claims. The campaign contributed to more calls to ICBC’s toll-free fraud tips line at 1-800-661-6844. ICBC saw a 70 per cent increase in the number of tips received during the first quarter of 2016 compared to the same time last year.
“The vast majority of claims we receive are legitimate and honestly reported and we always want honest customers to receive a fair settlement,” added Fairbridge. “But, there are some people who want to take advantage of the system by embellishing the facts or overstating their injuries. These are the types of claims that impact everyone’s insurance rates.”
ICBC will continue its commitment to stepping up its fight against fraud, including the implementation of a new fraud analytics tool which will help identify and target fraudulent claims throughout the claim process.  Early experience and testing with this tool have already helped to identify a number of potentially suspicious claims which are currently under investigation.
British Columbians can further protect their wallets by reporting suspicious activities related to insurance fraud to ICBC’s toll-free tips line at 1-800-661-6844. Tip information is confidential and callers can remain anonymous. For more information, visit icbc.com/fraud.

Former Minister responsible for SGI apologizes to legislature for drunk driving

Former Saskatchewan deputy premier Don McMorris says it is a different experience being back in the legislature after pleading guilty to drunk driving.

For starters, McMorris is no longer Premier Brad Wall’s right-hand man, with a front row seat in the assembly.

McMorris resigned from cabinet and also left the Saskatchewan Party’s caucus after he was charged with drunk driving in August. He now sits as an Independent, tucked back in a corner _ although still on the government side.

“It’s an adjustment, like most everything else has been over the last 2 1/2 months,” McMorris said after question period.

McMorris was driving a government car when he was pulled over by police the morning of Aug. 5 on the Trans-Canada Highway east of Regina.

Court heard he had nearly 2 1/2 times the legal amount of alcohol in his system. He pleaded guilty to having a blood-alcohol level over .08, was fined $1,820 and lost his licence for a year.

Wednesday was the first day of the fall sitting of the legislature and McMorris was the first member to speak.

“My actions, there is no rationale and no excuses, absolutely none for it, so with that I apologize to the members of this House,” he said in a brief statement.

McMorris was a key member of Wall’s government.

In addition to being deputy premier, McMorris oversaw the province’s liquor and gaming authority, was the minister of Crown investments and was responsible for Saskatchewan Government Insurance, the government’s publicly owned automobile insurer.

He is also a former health minister and highways minister.

McMorris has said he won’t ask to return to the Saskatchewan Party caucus.

“Oh, I’d love to be back in caucus, don’t get me wrong, but I stepped away. I can’t sit at the edge of the door and knock to get back in. If they want to let me in, they will.”

In the meantime, he said there are some things he’s been thinking about as a private member. He said it is too early to comment further, but suggests the ideas could be along the lines of ways to address drunk driving because of his new perspective.

“When you go through what I’ve gone through, it doesn’t leave your mind,” he said.

Drunk driving rates are high in Saskatchewan.

According to Statistics Canada there were 683 police-reported impaired driving incidents per 100,000 population in Saskatchewan in 2011. The Canadian average was 262.

The premier has said that although the government has toughened penalties for drinking and driving with longer licence suspensions and vehicle seizures, the problem persists.

Wall has called on his ministers to come up with suggestions for tackling the province’s high drinking and driving rates.

 

Want a self driving car? California considers public use

California regulators asked members of the public Wednesday what they thought about proposed regulations that would _ eventually _ allow self-driving cars that lack a steering wheel or pedals on public roads.

For the most part, the message was the regulations still need a lot of work.

In a workshop at the state capitol, the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles heard criticism from representatives of companies developing the cars of the future, as well as skeptics who worry government is being pushed to embrace the technology before it is ready for the masses.

For now, self-driving cars are still prototypes, and California’s roads and highways are their real-world testing grounds. The most bullish developers suggest the technology could be ready for market within a year or two.

The regulations that department officials drafted will govern how everyday people can get and use the cars once companies and federal regulators conclude they are safe. The rules are being closely watched nationally because they will govern California, not only a huge consumer market but also a place where Silicon Valley is leading development of the technology.

The department was supposed to have finalized the regulations by Jan. 1, 2015. Regulators have taken several more years to draft them, partly because the technology is so new and complex it is not clear how to ensure the cars are safe enough for widespread use.

In a first round of rules for prototype testing, regulators required a trained driver behind the wheel who could take over if needed. Now, the department is trying to balance safety with the interests of companies in a rapidly evolving industry that could transform how people get around.

In December, the department released an initial draft of regulations that required a licensed driver in self-driving vehicles. Companies including Alphabet, where the pioneering Google self-driving car project is housed, reacted with disappointment because the ultimate vision of many companies is a car without a wheel or pedals.

The department updated its proposal in September. The new language, the subject of Wednesday’s hearing, pivoted regulators’ position from cautious to bullish. Gone was the requirement of a licensed driver; California was open to permitting cars that could drive around without a person inside, as long as the federal government gave its blessing that the make and model is safe.

California Secretary of Transportation Brian Kelly explained the pivot in an interview by citing a close collaboration between the Department of Motor Vehicles and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in developing a model framework for state regulators. That framework was released in late September.

In a show of unity Wednesday, the top federal authorities on self-driving cars were among the first to speak at the workshop. They detailed their 112-page proposal, under which any self-driving car should pass a 15-point safety assessment before public use. Among other things, the assessment asks automakers to document how the car detects and avoids objects and pedestrians, how hardened it is against cyberattacks and how its backup systems will cope should the software fail.

While companies would not be required to submit to the federal safety assessment, several automaker representatives complained that California’s proposal would effectively make it mandatory. Automakers want to self-certify the safety of their vehicles with minimal regulatory oversight, keeping with the federal model for human-driven cars.

At the same time, a representative of the non-profit Consumer Watchdog group said California’s proposal to adopt the federal approach did not go far enough _ precisely because the safety assessment was not mandated.

 

Auto insurance rates rise in Ontario despite Liberal pledge to cut by 15 per cent

Auto insurance rates are rising in Ontario, moving the Liberal government even further away from a self-imposed target of an average 15-per-cent reduction.

The Liberals promised in 2013 to cut auto insurance premiums an average of 15 per cent by August 2015, but after that deadline came and went, Premier Kathleen Wynne later admitted that was what she called a “stretch goal.”

Approved rates in the third quarter of 2016 increased by an average of 1.5 per cent, according to the Financial Services Commission of Ontario.

That knocks the average decrease since August 2013 – which at one point was over 10 per cent – back down to about 8.35 per cent, or a little over halfway to their goal.

Finance Minister Charles Sousa said programs that will reduce rates further have yet to come into effect, so though reductions are taking time, “they’re happening.”

“Our target to reduce rates doesn’t change,” he said. “Our desire to have a sustained approach over a long period of time, that’s what we’re trying to establish.”

The government still wants to see rates cut by an average of 15 per cent, Sousa said, though there’s no longer a deadline attached to the goal.

Premier Kathleen Wynne called the work on rates so far a “success.”

“We’re going to continue to work with the industry to find other ways to take costs out of the system,” she said.

The promise in 2013 came as part of a deal to get NDP support for that year’s budget when the Liberals were still a minority government. NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said the government is putting the interests of insurance companies over those of Ontario drivers.

“It’s no doubt that the Liberals have betrayed the discussions that we had during that minority parliament, but more importantly they’re betraying the people of the province yet again,” she said.

A spokeswoman for Sousa noted that the government has lowered the maximum interest rate that an insurer can charge for monthly auto premium payments and prohibited minor at-fault accidents from boosting premiums. As well, it has appointed a special adviser to look at ways to lower costs and further reduce rates.

 

ICBC warns about spike in pedestrian crashes

ICBC is launching a pedestrian safety campaign with the B.C. government and police to urge pedestrians and drivers to stay safe as crashes involving pedestrians spike at this time of year.

On average, 59 pedestrians are killed and 2,300 injured in crashes every year in B.C., with almost half of these fatalities (46 per cent) occurring between October and January.*

Pedestrians can help stay safe by making eye contact, wearing bright and reflective clothing, and staying focused on the road. ICBC will be distributing reflectors and safety tips through community policing volunteers across the province in areas with high volumes of pedestrian traffic.

Through ICBC’s road improvement program, over 100 pedestrian and cyclist related projects were completed last year including crosswalks, sidewalks, countdown timers and pedestrian activated flashing crosswalks.

About 70 per cent of pedestrian crashes happen at intersections. The intersection safety camera program, a partnership between ICBC, the B.C. government and police since 1999, has cameras set up at 140 of the highest-risk intersections in 26 communities across the province. It’s one of the many enforcement, education and awareness tactics used to improve pedestrian safety.

This year’s pedestrian safety campaign will feature radio advertising aimed at drivers and transit advertising aimed at pedestrians in the highest pedestrian crash areas of the province, along with online advertising.

Be a safe pedestrian (ICBC)

Be a safe pedestrian (infographic) ICBC

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