While on a road trip, Vinnie Klimkosz, owner of Vinnie’s Mr. Fixit in Guelph, Ont., snapped this picture of an overloaded and severely neglected Dodge Caravan.
I am becoming increasingly concerned about the unsafe mechanical condition of some vehicles being driven on our public roadways today.
The “Eye Spy” pictures in this magazine give us an idea of what’s on our streets and highways… and it is an eye opener for sure!
There are a bunch of reasons why this situation has developed.
It seems that many people today are unaware of the importance of preventive maintenance. We do our best to educate them, of course, and maybe we’re making progress, but young people particularly are not taught by their parents how to care for their vehicles. There seems to be a mentality that cars should not require regular maintenance, and that seemingly minor defects – like burned out bulbs, worn tires, loose suspension and perpetually illuminated check-engine lights – can be left unfixed.
Our governments, which have shown a willingness to pass many laws designed to protect us, fall short of mandating annual motor vehicle inspections. About the only time we have to check for roadworthiness is when a vehicle changes hands or is brought from one province to another.
You could argue that the kind of cars whose ownership is transferred or that are brought with a family when they move across the country are the most likely to be roadworthy to start with. They obviously have intrinsic value. What we really need to worry about are the aging cars that are beyond selling and couldn’t make the trip across the country. These are the cars that people are hanging onto, driving until they completely rust out and won’t start anymore. Until these menacing vehicles give up they ghost, they share the road with everyone else’s vehicles, posing a threat at every intersection.
Another factor to the growing fleet of dangerous vehicles is the simple fact there are no laws preventing safety-related auto parts from being sold to complete amateurs. Do-it-yourself work is often done by untrained people, in the most haphazard ways, with parts that they get at the local parts store. Too often these do-it-yourselfers look for the cheapest solution, not caring if the parts meet the original manufacturer’s specifications or meet reasonable levels of quality.
No wonder many vehicles on today’s roads are accidents waiting to happen!
Our shops are on the front lines. From time to time, we see a vehicle in an egregious state of disrepair. And sometimes, despite our most earnest warnings, the motorist chooses not to have the work done. No matter how much we think we can protect ourselves with disclaimers, if something serious happens to a vehicle that just left our shop, we can be held responsible.
In the worst cases, where letting that vehicle go poses a risk to the general public, I believe shops should have the right – indeed, the obligation – to prevent it from getting back on the road.
Maybe we should petition our provincial governments to let licensed motor vehicle inspection facilities have the authority to remove the plates on any unsafe vehicle. We owe it to the innocent victims who could otherwise be injured or killed by these dangerous cars to voice our opinions to the appropriate agencies.
I would even challenge insurance companies to mandate inspections on vehicles before they issue policies on them. They have no idea about the mechanical fitness of most of the vehicles they insure. How many collisions are from the result of unsafe vehicles? Think about that while you drive!
Bob Ward is the owner of The Auto Guys in St. Thomas, Ont. He is also a member of the CARS Advisory Panel.