Saskatchewan says new traffic laws have meant fewer road deaths, injuries

Saskatchewan Government Insurance says tougher traffic safety laws are helping to reduce the number of people killed or hurt on the province’s roads.

Preliminary numbers from SGI show there were 19 per cent fewer deaths and 18 per cent fewer injuries in the first year of the new laws.

Traffic fatalities and injuries in Saskatchewan were trending up before the new laws kicked in.

There were, on average, 158 crash-related fatalities a year from July 2010 to June 2014.

But that dropped to 128 deaths from July 2014 to June 2015.

The new laws focus on tougher penalties for high-risk driving offences such as impaired driving, distracted driving and speeding.

Don McMorris, minister responsible for SGI, says it’s encouraging to see fewer fatalities and injuries, but everyone needs to maintain safe driving habits.

“We can drive better and make our roads safer for everyone. At the end of the day, we all want to make it to our destination, or home to our families, safe and sound,” McMorris said October 14, 2015.

 

More trouble for Volkswagen: Software in 2016 diesels could help exhaust systems test cleaner

U.S. regulators say they have a lot more questions for Volkswagen, triggered by the company’s recent disclosure of additional suspect software in 2016 diesel models that potentially would help exhaust systems run cleaner during government tests.

That’s more bad news for VW dealers looking for new cars to replace the ones they can no longer sell because of the worldwide cheating scandal already engulfing the world’s largest automaker. And, depending on what the Environmental Protection Agency eventually finds, it raises the possibility of even more severe punishment.

Volkswagen confirmed to The Associated Press on Tuesday that the “auxiliary emissions control device” at issue operates differently from the “defeat” device software included in the company’s 2009 to 2015 models disclosed last month.

The new software was first revealed to Environmental Protection Agency and California regulators on Sept. 29, prompting the company last week to withdraw applications for approval to sell the 2016 cars in the U.S.

“We have a long list of questions for VW about this,” said Janet McCabe, acting assistant EPA administrator for air quality. “We’re getting some answers from them, but we do not have all the answers yet.”

The delay means that thousands of 2016 Beetles, Golfs and Jettas will remain quarantined in U.S. ports until a fix can be developed, approved and implemented. Diesel versions of the Passat sedan manufactured at the company’s plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, also are on hold.

Volkswagen already faces a criminal investigation and billions of dollars in fines for violating the Clean Air Act for its earlier emissions cheat, as well as a raft of state investigations and class-action lawsuits filed on behalf of customers.

If EPA rules the new software is a second defeat device specifically aimed at gaming government emissions tests, it would call into question repeated assertions by top VW executives that responsibility for the cheating scheme lay with a handful of rogue software developers who wrote the illegal code installed in prior generations of its four-cylinder diesel engines.

That a separate device was included in the redesigned 2016 cars could suggest a multi-year effort by the company to influence U.S. emissions tests that continued even after regulators began pressing the company last year about irregularities with the emissions produced by the older cars.

The software at issue makes a pollution-control catalyst heat up faster, improving performance of the device that separates smog-causing nitrogen oxide into harmless nitrogen and oxygen gases.

“This has the function of a warmup strategy which is subject to approval by the agencies,” said Jeannine Ginivan, a VW spokeswoman. “The agencies are currently evaluating this and Volkswagen is submitting additional information.”

Automakers routinely place auxiliary emissions control devices on passenger vehicles, though they are required by law to disclose them as part of the process to receive the emissions certifications that are required to sell the cars.

EPA’s McCabe wouldn’t say if VW’s failure to disclose the software in its 2016 applications was illegal. “I don’t want to speak to any potential subjects of an enforcement activity,” she said.

If VW was cheating a second time, that would probably mean higher fines against the company, said Kelley Blue Book Senior Analyst Karl Brauer.

Regulators are “going to be even more angry than they already are,” Brauer said. “The punitive actions from the EPA are only going to get more aggressive.”

The German automaker already faces up to $18 billion in potential fines over the nearly half-million vehicles sold with the initial emissions-rigging software.

AP first reported Oct. 7 that the EPA and California Air Resources Board were investigating “the nature and purpose” of additional software on the new VW models, but at the time both the company and regulators declined to provide details about what the device does or how it works.

Volkswagen of America CEO Michael Horn said in congressional testimony last week that the German automaker had withdrawn applications seeking certification of its 2016 diesels because of on-board software that hadn’t been disclosed to regulators. However, Horn’s statement left unclear whether the issue with the 2016 models was the same as that in the earlier models, or whether it potentially constituted a new violation.

A congressional staffer briefed on the issue told AP that VW probably didn’t need the additional software to meet government emissions standards, but that the device appears intended to ensure the 2016 cars would pass inspection by wider margins. The staffer spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk publicly about the ongoing investigation.

VW is now working with regulators to continue the certification process needed to sell its 2016 diesel cars.

 

Sousa predicts car insurance rates will drop; mandates discount for winter tires

Ontario’s opposition parties say the Liberal government failed to keep its promise to cut auto insurance rates by 15 per cent and call a mandated discount for winter tires “a gimmick.”

The Liberals promised to reduce car insurance premiums an average of 15 per cent by last August as part of a deal to get NDP support for the 2013 budget when they were still a minority government.

Finance Minister Charles Sousa said some companies have cut premiums 10-to-15 per cent while others haven’t cut them “near enough,” but he’s confident they will be down further when new figures are released October 15, 2015.

“What we want to do is ensure that we have a sustainable approach that enables those insurance companies to reduce rates by reducing the costs of those claims,” he said.

The New Democrats said the Liberals broke their pledge to cut rates 15 per cent in two years in a “colossal” way.

“They’ve consistently put the interests of insurance companies ahead of the interests of Ontario drivers, who are paying the highest auto insurance premiums in the entire country,” said NDP auto insurance critic Jagmeet Singh.

The Liberals never had a real commitment to cut rates 15 per cent, and only made a promise to “buy off the NDP” in 2013, said Progressive Conservative finance critic Vic Fedeli.

“It was a hollow plan,” said Fedeli. “It was only words and never backed up with any action.”

Premiums actually increased slightly during the last quarter, but Sousa said new legislation will lower costs further for insurance companies, which he insisted will lead to reduced rates for drivers.

“We are going to continue to be vigilant in order for those rates to go down on an ongoing basis,” he said.

The government was also working with the insurance sector to find ways of lowering premiums for new drivers, who often cannot find an affordable rate.

Sousa announced insurance companies must offer a discount starting Jan. 1, 2016 to drivers who install winter tires, but there is nothing to say how much of a cut in premiums must result.

“You would think that if you were serious about mandating a cut, you would know the percentage,” said Fedeli. “It’s more gimmicky than anything.”

Sousa rejected the idea of making winter tires mandatory in Ontario as Quebec has done, saying not everyone uses their car year-round.

“What we do want is for people to have the benefit of reduced rates when they do buy those tires,” he said. “We want that safety, but we want to leave that discretion up to the consumers based on their activity.”

The NDP said insurance companies saved over $1 billion after regulation changes introduced by the Liberals in 2010, but didn’t pass along the savings to drivers.

“They’ve consistently lowered the cost for insurance companies without making sure premiums actually go down,” said Singh. “So they’ve given insurance companies all these cost saving tools, cut their costs in so many ways, but there hasn’t been any proportional reduction in premiums.”

 

Ontario Appoints Advisor on Auto Insurance and Pensions

Ontario is appointing David Marshall as Advisor on auto insurance and pensions, starting Feb. 1, 2016. As an advisor to the Minister of Finance, Marshall will provide recommendations to the government on further ways to reduce auto insurance costs in Ontario, as well as guidance on implementing the Ontario Retirement Pension Plan (ORPP).

Marshall has served as the President and CEO of the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) for the last six years. Marshall will apply the expertise he developed at WSIB in active claims management practices to identify additional opportunities for auto insurance reform. The goal of these reforms is to lead to better health outcomes, lower costs and more affordable insurance premiums.

As a former Deputy Minister of Public Works and Government Services Canada and Deputy Receiver General, Marshall will bring his expertise in administering the federal government’s employee pension plan, as well as his experience managing the operations and technology of the Employment Insurance Fund, to support the government’s commitment to simple, reliable and cost-effective ORPP administration.

Reducing auto insurance rates and implementing the ORPP are key initiatives in the government’s plan to build Ontario up. The four-part plan includes investing in people’s talents and skills, making the largest investment in public infrastructure in Ontario’s history, creating a dynamic, innovative environment where business thrives and building a secure retirement savings plan.

Quick Facts

  • Prior to joining the WSIB, Marshall served in several senior executive roles in both the public and private sectors. In the Government of Canada, Marshall has served as Assistant Auditor General of Canada, Assistant Deputy Minister at Revenue Canada, Assistant Deputy Minister at Employment and Immigration Canada, Deputy Receiver General and Deputy Minister of Public Works and Government Services. In the private sector he has held the post of Vice Chairman of CIBC responsible for the bank’s mortgage, insurance and credit card businesses as well as global operations. His appointment is for a one-year term with an opportunity to renew for another year.
  • Affordable auto insurance is important to Ontario’s more than 9.5 million drivers who rely on cars to get to work, school and take part in community activities.
  • The ORPP will help close the retirement savings gap for the two out of three Ontarians who do not have a secure workplace pension plan. The ORPP will expand pension coverage to about 3.5 million workers, providing a predictable and reliable stream of retirement income.

Additional Resources

Quotes

Charles Sousa

“David Marshall’s expertise in management and operational planning will help guide our work reducing auto insurance rates for Ontarians. His proven success in improving organizational structure and investment will be a welcome asset in the implementation of the ORPP. These are two important streams of work, which will enable Ontarians to lead more safe and secure lives.”

Charles Sousa

Minister of Finance

Mitzie Hunter

“My goal is to build a secure, sustainable pension plan for Ontario workers. David Marshall’s guidance in setting up the Ontario Retirement Pension Plan will help ensure that we develop the best operational approach possible for the people of this province.”

Mitzie Hunter

Associate Minister of Finance

Distracted driving deaths down in Saskatchewan, but too early to call trend: SGI

Preliminary numbers suggest there’s been a big drop in the number of distracted driving deaths on Saskatchewan roads.

Saskatchewan Government Insurance says 26 people were killed and nearly 600 injured in more than 3,300 collisions related to distracted driving last year.

“The 2014 numbers are still preliminary so that means they could change still a little bit, but we have seen quite a significant decrease since 2013 and even 2012 was one of the worst years that we have seen,” said SGI spokeswoman Kelley Brinkworth.

Non-attentive drivers caused more than 7,500 collisions in 2012 that cost 69 people their lives and caused 2,503 injuries.

Distracted driving often includes cellphone use behind the wheel, but also covers other activities such as eating, applying makeup or reading.

Legislation banning the use of hand-held cellphones while driving became law Jan. 1, 2010, in Saskatchewan. The province toughened the rules last year so that drivers caught breaking the law for the second time within one year will have their vehicles seized for up to seven days.

Brinkworth says it’s too early to know if the latest numbers are part of a bigger trend.

“I guess we’ll have to see do we see a further decrease when we get 2015 numbers. For right now, it’s certainly encouraging, but it’s really hard to say are we going to continue to see that decrease,” she said.

Distracted driving was the No. 1 factor in all crashes in Saskatchewan in 2012 and 2013 _ even ahead of impaired driving.

SGI says it is also the third-highest contributing factor in fatal crashes after impaired driving and speeding.

canada-press

 

Insurance in B.C. is said to be among the most expensive in Canada. The lack of competition is touted as the reason.

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