#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.

ICBC steps up fight against auto insurance fraud in 2017

ICBC steps up fight against auto insurance fraud in 2017

ICBC continues to fight insurance fraud in 2017, with a new education campaign to support its increased fraud prevention efforts.

Following December’s news that ICBC had generated its first results from a new high-tech tool which will help identify and target fraudulent claims, the corporation is now reminding British Columbians, through a new advertising campaign, of the serious nature and cost of insurance fraud.

“The goal of this information campaign is to show British Columbians that exaggerating an injury for financial gain is wrong,” said Chris Fairbridge, ICBC’s manager of the Special Investigation Unit (SIU).

Most claims are honest, but insurance industry studies estimate that fraudulent or exaggerated claims make up about 10 to 20 per cent of all claims costs. Applying those estimates means that fraud and exaggeration is costing ICBC customers up to $600 million a year, or more than $100 a year for each ICBC policyholder.

The 2016 public information campaign sparked a 70 per cent increase to ICBC’s fraud tips line in the first quarter. Overall last year, the fraud tips line received nearly 1,900 calls – a 66 per cent increase over the volume of tips in 2015.

“We want the public to better understand the role they can play so we can work together to best prevent fraud,” added Fairbridge. “Tips help us take action by investigating suspicious situations in order to protect the majority of our customers who file honest claims.”

In 2016, ICBC’s Special Investigation Unit completed close to 10,000 investigations.

ICBC expects fraud detection and enforcement activities to reduce ICBC’s basic insurance claims costs by $21 million for policies written over the next year. And ICBC estimates all of these activities, including use of the analytics tool, will save up to $44 million a year by 2019.

The most common types of insurance fraud include false claims, exaggerated claims and organized fraud. An example of a false claim is when an owner fabricates a story about their vehicle being stolen when it was actually disposed of by the owner. Exaggerated claims are when a driver or passenger embellishes a claim by overstating their injuries or the damage to their vehicle. And organized fraud is a planned event such as a staged collision.

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.

Here are some of ICBC’s 2016 fraud files:

Exaggerating the impact

A woman involved in a minor rear-end crash in 2013, which caused approximately $1,100 worth of damage to her vehicle, claimed more than $200,000 in pain and suffering and other damages. The B.C. Supreme Court judge had serious concerns about the woman’s credibility and found she “attempted to mislead the court and exaggerated the impact of the accident on her physical condition and her ability to work.” In the end, the judge awarded less than 20 per cent of what she was demanding in her claim. Because the judge’s award was less than what ICBC had offered before she took the case to trial, she is also responsible to pay two times ICBC’s legal costs.

Fraud – a serious offence in the courts

A Provincial Court case concluded in November 2016, where four people involved in a 2013 crash were all convicted for making false injury claims with ICBC. The fines ranged from $2,000 to $3,000 and three of the four were sentenced to one day in jail. The fourth received a sentence of three days in jail.

In this case, injury claims were presented to ICBC, even though two of the occupants who said they were in the vehicle involved in the crash, weren’t actually in the vehicle. In fact, only two people were in the vehicle along with two dogs.

Cell phone reports were used in this case indicating that those making claims were talking to each other at the time of the crash.

In his reasons for sentence, B.C. Provincial Court Judge, John Lenaghan said the case was “in many ways, a very serious offence because it is a fraud perpetrated upon everyone in the province who relies upon the Insurance Corporation.”

Who smashed up the BMW?

A 21-year-old man reported his mother’s 2010 BMW 750 had been vandalized while it was in his possession and parked at his relatives’ house in New Westminster when visiting them on the evening of October 31, 2016.

The man claimed he found the vehicle with smashed windows, dented exterior body panels, broken head and tail lights, slashed leather seats and a smashed dashboard and navigation system. The $35,000 car was a write off.

However, no one inside the house had heard any noise outside where the vehicle was parked during the two-hour period that the vandalism was said to have happened. And none of the four other expensive cars in the driveway had been damaged. And ICBC didn’t have any other reports of vandalism in the area.

The vehicle owner claimed that the BMW was in excellent working condition, but an inspection at ICBC’s Centralized Estimating Facility showed an engine-warning light on the dash. The mechanical inspection later revealed the car suffered from disintegrating drive clutches in the transmission, excessive oil consumption, excessive engine and transmission oil leaks and two engine fault codes that had set off the engine warning light. Follow-up discussions with the owner resulted in information that didn’t match the mechanical inspection of the car.

Due to false statements about the condition of the car, ICBC denied the claim.

Engaged couple engage in fake pedestrian crash

While out for a leisurely walk in East Vancouver, a man said a car struck him. He claimed a variety of injuries but didn’t have any witnesses and emergency vehicles didn’t attend the scene. The man was anxious to settle his injury claim and became angry when the ICBC adjuster said ICBC needed to talk to the insured motorist. Suddenly, a woman called to report a claim and admitted to striking the pedestrian. She didn’t have the name and said she didn’t know who he was.

The man tried again to settle his claim quickly, a further review showed the man had filed three previous pedestrian knockdown claims. Again, he said he didn’t know the driver. But when the Special Investigation Unit took on the case, investigators discovered Facebook posts that revealed the two were in fact a happy couple and were engaged to be married just two weeks before the incident. The man has abandoned his claim.

Trio of staged crashes

Three crashes in Surrey close to a local auto body repair shop raised the suspicions of ICBC investigators.

In a complex web of relationships and links involving six people, it turns out one of the claimants responsible for the first crash and claiming to be injured in the third crash works at the repair shop with another man who was claiming to be injured in both the second and third crashes.

A woman claiming to be hurt in the first crash and the man responsible for crash number two were dating each other. And another woman claiming to be hurt in the first crash called another man, claiming to be injured in the second and third crashes, to drive her home after crash number one.

After an ICBC investigation, it turns out the crashes were all staged and deliberate resulting in $58,000 in vehicle damage claims and injury benefits. ICBC has denied all of the injury claims and is now pursuing legal action to recover the costs of the damage and injury benefits paid.

Media contact

Sam Corea
604-982-2480

Time to take action on road safety in your workplace  #RSAWWeek

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Hey! Don’t Plow Me In!

No one likes to spend significant effort to clean the snow off of their driveway only to have the plow come by and fill in the highway end all over again. Most of us grumble and get to work, but an Errington man decided to stand in the way and prevent the grader from doing this with his driveway. In what almost became more ways than one, he didn’t have a leg to stand on.

Your kingdom ends at the property line and property for the highway begins on the other side. In order to construct your driveway access you must have permission from the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure if you live outside of a municipality. One term of that permission is that your are responsible for all maintenance including clearing snow from highway plowing operations at the access entrance.

Driveway construction and maintenance within a municipality is governed through bylaws. Most bylaws are on line these days, but information about your responsibilities may be obtained by contacting your local bylaw department. Remember that bylaws may not be uniform thoughout the province.

Highway maintenance outside municipal boundaries is conducted by private contractors. The specifications that they must follow include a chapter on highway snow removal. Roadside snow and ice control are dealt with in 3-320, but driveways are not specified as part of the services required.

One might be tempted to push all that snow right back out onto the highway where it came from. While it might be satisfying, there are two reasons that this would be a poor decision to make. The Transportation Act forbids causing anything to be deposited on public highways without authorization in section 62(1). If a collision resulted from the snow you moved onto the traveled lanes, you could be liable to civil action for damages. That could be very costly to you and the victims.

The Transportation Act also forbids obstructing or preventing another person from engaging in any activity if that activity is authorized by the Act. Highway maintenance is an activity within the many powers granted to the Minister. The maintenance contractor would be operating under the authority of the Minister.

Considering that we want speedy snow clearing from highways and not to have to spend more than we already do on taxes for road maintenance perhaps the status quo is acceptable, even if it means that we have to shovel again after the plows pass by.

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.

Tesla, BMW electrics fall short of highest crash test rating

Two luxury electric vehicles – the Tesla Model S and the BMW i3 – fell short of getting the highest safety ratings in new crash tests by the insurance industry.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety tested 2017 models of both vehicles. Neither earned the institute’s “Top Safety Pick” award, which is given to vehicles that get the highest rating in five different crash tests and offer a crash-prevention system with automatic braking. To get a highest  “Top Safety Pick-Plus” designation, vehicles must meet all of those criteria and have good headlights.

In the 2017 model year, 38 vehicles have won the “Top Safety Pick-Plus” designation, including two plug-in hybrids: the Toyota Prius Prime and the Chevrolet Volt. But no all-electric vehicles are on the list. The institute hasn’t yet tested the all-electric Chevrolet Bolt, which went on sale at the end of 2016.

Tesla’s Model S, an all-electric luxury sedan that starts at $72,500, earned good ratings in four of the institute’s five tests, including a side impact test and a head restraint test. But it earned a lower rating in a small overlap frontal crash test, which replicates what happens when the front corner of the car collides with a tree or telephone poll at 40 miles per hour. The Tesla’s safety belt allowed the crash dummy to move too far forward and it hit its head on the steering wheel.

The institute said Tesla made a production change this month to address the problem, so the car will be tested again. The Model S has earned the highest ratings on U.S. government crash tests, but IIHS performs different tests.

Tesla also earned a “poor” rating for its headlights. And a high-performance version of the Model S, the P100D, got a lower ranking on the roof strength test because its larger battery makes it much heavier, so the roof might not hold up as well in a rollover crash. The government hasn’t performed a roof-strength test on the P100D.

The BMW i3, a small electric car that starts at $42,400, also earned good ratings in four out of five tests. It fell short in the head restraint test, which measures how well the car protects against neck injuries in a rear crash. The i3 earned the second-highest rating of “acceptable” for its headlights.

The government hasn’t yet reported crash-test results for the i3.

 

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