Friday Fun: February 16, 2018

When his brakes failed, a terrified Floridian man called 911 for advice on how to stop on the highway.

By Jeff Sanford

Toronto, Ontario — February 16, 2018 — In today’s Friday Fun: a spiky stop on a Florida highway, price-fixing at the pumps, a parking lot snowed under and much, much more!

-A harrowing scene took place on a Florida interstate last week. The driver of a BMW on a Florida interstate last week found himself in a runaway car. He called 911 and calmly told the dispatcher that, “my gas pedal is stuck.”According to local news reports his car careened down the highway for over 40 miles. The motorist held on and, “… managed to keep his cool while authorities made several attempts to stop him.” The Florida Highway Patrol caught up with the vehicle and the authorities helped control traffic as he bombed down the highway at speeds as fast as 95 mph. According to a local report the 911 dispatcher asked, “… if he could shift to neutral, he told the dispatcher, ‘I can’t, ma’am, I tried that already. I’m trying to hold onto the wheel and talk to you at the same time.'” On the recording of the call he could be heard yelling, “Get out of the way!” to people nearby. Eventually police used spiked stop sticks to slow the car. That slowed the car to 40 mph. But still unable the driver was unable to stop according to the report. The vehicle was traveling on all four rims with no tires by the end. Eventually the car started swerving and came to a stop. http://abcn.ws/2BqGI1g

-Just weeks after Loblaw’s found itself in a price-fixing scandal a couple of gas stations in the Brockville area of Ontario are accused of coordinating gasoline price increases. According to a CBC news report Canadian Tire, Mr. Gas and Pioneer Energy outlets near Kingston Ontario have been fined more than $2 million for fixing the price of gasoline in the area in 2007. In a news release the Competition Bureau claims that investigators uncovered evidence that the three gas retailers, “… or their representatives in these local markets phoned each other and agreed on the price they would charge customers for gasoline.” Pioneer Energy was fined $985,000, Canadian Tire was fined $900,000 and Mr. Gas was fined $150,000. http://bit.ly/2F01Ev

-A Quebecer running a used car lot in the province, “has just about had it with winter.” Using a can of spray paint the owner put up a For Sale sign on a massive mound of snow that covers nine parking spots on his lot. The province has experienced huge snowfalls this year. The snowbank is so large it now blocks one of the garage doors on the dealership. A picture of the sign went viral online. A local news report quotes him as saying, “I did it as a joke for my family and friends and it kind of went from there.” The City of Montreal has shovelled so much snow this winter it had to open an emergency dump site at a horse racing track according to reports. http://bit.ly/2EZYesH

-It was just last year that the U.S. and Canadian branches of CARSTAR were acquired and merged by a company, Driven Brands, into a single organization. The fruits of that merger are starting to appear. This month the company unveiled a new TV spot — “It’s Your Car” — that is airing during the Winter Olympics. The spot is airing nationally in Canada. In the U.S. individual CARSTAR stores are airing the spot in local markets. Developed by a Charlotte, North Carolina-based ad firm (Driven Brands is headquartered in that city) the campaign will be extended through radio, digital, billboard and print advertising, and supported on social media platforms. http://bit.ly/2suBD4T

-An interesting explanation regarding the financial disaster at ICBC appeared in a letter published in local media this week. Douglas Welbanks, a former director of debtor assistance and debt collection for the B.C. government, has also written several books. This past week he authored an open letter to Attorney General David Eby regarding ICBC. He has an interesting take on why it is collision claims have risen so dramatically over the past several years. As anyone in the industry knows the increasing complexity of cars has increased the cost of repair. But it is also the case that distracted driving and road rage incidents have become more common, and that’s the issue the letter addresses. According to Wellbanks, “Distracted driving, on smartphones or other devices, falls into the category of reckless and disrespectful conduct because people put themselves, their passengers, and innocent bystanders in unnecessary danger. Perhaps taking the cars away from distracted offenders may catch their attention rather than just increased premiums, fines and warnings… Much more emphasis should be placed on courtesy on the roads, stopping for pedestrians, slowing down in school zones, letting the person in front of you into the lane, and so on… Both positive and punitive measures are needed to reduce the financial crisis at ICBC while potentially making our society safer and more respectful.” http://bit.ly/2BUyi3j

-A new car sharing company is entered the Toronto market this week. Maven is a General Motors-owned company. It already operates in the U.S. and Kitchener-Waterloo. It is about to join Car2Go, ZipCar and Enterprise CarShare in Toronto as another car-on-demand service. The number of car-sharing services is ballooning in Canada. The services are not yet allowed in B.C., but several “underground” services have sprung up there. According to a source quoted in a news report, “(Car sharing) really was created as an alternative to car ownership, because cars largely sit unused 98 per cent of the time when they’re owned in a private capacity — so they’re not in a fleet setting where they could get higher usage rates.” Maven will offer 10 models, 50 cars and designated parking spaces in 14 neighbourhoods in Toronto. The cost will be at least $9 an hour according to the report.

-Several other articles about ride-sharing services appeared in the media this week. Another story notes that a basic promise of ride-sharing services–that they reduce traffic–is not the case. “When richer people give their money to private ride-hailing or car sharing companies, public transit loses money… Uber and Lyft have claimed their services will help take cars off the road. But as research notes, people in higher income brackets are choosing ride-hailing and ridesharing instead of transit and even walking. This dependence on ride-hailing is having the adverse effect of increasing traffic congestion, which in turn makes bus service slower and more frustrating…. The growth of individualized transportation options is cannibalizing public transit. That’s because the people who are choosing to ditch public transit in favor of ride-sharing, ride-hailing, and car-sharing (and autonomous cars, if and when they come) tend to be higher-income people who would have otherwise paid full price for their transit fares,” according to the report. http://bit.ly/2EvRJRu

-Another story this week notes that a recent collision involving a ride-sharing service in Quebec has raised questions about the safety of the vehicles being used in ride-sharing fleets. According to a CBC news story a report from a coroner in Quebec says that province’s auto insurance board needs to, “… ensure that cars used in ride-sharing services are in proper condition before hitting the road.” The coroner was reacting to a case of a university student, travelling from Ottawa to Montreal in October 2016, who was using the online ride-sharing service Amigo Express. The student died when the driver entered Quebec and, “… the car began to swerve from side to side just prior to the accident.” It turns out the steering system was damaged. “In his report, coroner [the coroner] said heavy rain made driving difficult the day [the student] was killed. But he also noted the vehicle belonging to the Amigo Express driver had brakes and back wheels that were in dangerously poor condition,” according to the story. The story notes that, “Ride-sharing is legal in Quebec as long as people don’t charge others more than what the normal travel costs would be, and as long as the driver would be making the trip regardless of having passengers.” In the case of Amigo Express the company operates a website that, “… allows drivers to offers spots in their car to paying passengers, usually for longer trips between cities…” Amigo Express is said to have guidelines that state drivers must ensure their vehicles are properly maintained before each trip. But according to the coroner’s report this is difficult to enforce. The report recommends Quebec’s auto insurance board — the Société d’assurance automobile du Québec — conduct annual inspections of the vehicles used by rideshare companies. http://bit.ly/2EBUtvU



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