Surprise, she’s 16 and behind the wheel

Lawyer Paul Hergott’s daughter gets her license and hits the road.

Sweet sixteen and “surprise!”, my daughter is behind the wheel.

Okay, more like a frog slowly heating up in a pot, but still a surprise to my heart.

I so clearly remember the 15 minute naps on the living room floor while Cassidy toddled back and forth from her bedroom, one stuffy at a time clutched in her hands, until I was buried.

Those memories stand in stark contrast to seeing her hands on a steering wheel.

What happened to all that time in between!?

She was excited to go out the evening she got her “L.”

I planned to oblige.

When I got home, my wife passed on a caution, by the ICBC representative who processed the “L” license, to ensure our vehicle insurance would cover her driving.

That had not occurred to me.

Sure enough, the “Vehicle Use” section of my insurance papers, a section that should jump out because it’s in capital letters, said that members of my household driving the vehicle “…MUST HAVE HELD VALID DR LIC FOR 10 YRS.”

I’m guessing that restriction has been on my insurance since I purchased my vehicle in 2004.

I don’t remember clearly, but our plan must have been for my stepdaughter, who was 16 at the time, to learn to drive on the older family vehicle.

I’ve not been reminded of that restriction because at renewal time, I am too impatient to let the insurance agent go over things with me and insist that we “move on” to sign the papers.

I got an immediate cold chill, thinking about how close I had come to having an uninsured vehicle on the road.

I had a valid, up to date insurance policy. But the restriction on my insurance meant that with Cassidy behind the wheel, it was as if the policy did not exist.

And could anyone be more aware of the risk of driving without insurance than a personal injury lawyer?

The risks are immense.

Our civil justice system makes those who cause injuries and damage to others personally responsible to financially compensate their victims for those losses.

Damage to a vehicle can range from a few hundred dollars to over $100,000.00, depending on the cost to repair and the type of vehicle.

More importantly, damage to vehicle occupants can result in losses costing millions of dollars to fairly compensate.

If you have a valid insurance policy that insures the particular use of the vehicle when a crash occurs, your liability insurance company, ICBC, steps in to pay that compensation for you.

If not, it’s coming out of your pocket. You might lose your car, house, life savings and face bankruptcy.

I “walk the talk” of my road safety campaigning and pay attention when I drive. It doesn’t take much more than that, by the way, to avoid causing a crash.

The risk of me causing a crash is very, very low.

I can’t be certain about the level of care of others driving my car, though, particularly a brand new driver.

Did you know that you are personally responsible for the negligent driving of others who drive your vehicle?

Section 86(1)(b) of the Motor Vehicle Act has the effect of making me (the vehicle owner) personally responsible for the negligent driving of anyone I allow behind the wheel.

That means that if my brand new driving daughter had caused a crash, I would have been the one paying compensation to the victims out of my own pocket.

I am very, very thankful for the helpful ICBC representative who raised the issue with my wife when Cassidy got her “L!” We paid the extra few bucks to remove the restriction, and Cassidy is already well on her way to becoming a safe driver.

What I’d like for you to take away from this column:

  1. Read your insurance policy. Every time you renew it. You will be reminded of its terms and can re-evaluate if they continue to apply to your situation;
  2. It’s not enough to have a current sticker on your license plate. You are still driving without insurance if the particular driver or vehicle use is not covered by the policy;
  3. Just because you, yourself, are insured when you are behind the wheel doesn’t mean others are. If not you will face paying compensation to their crash victims out of your own pocket; and
  4. Embrace every moment you have with your children. They grow up too fast!

And please give driving your undivided attention. The need for, and cost of, liability insurance would take a nose dive if all drivers would simply do that.

Take a stand for road safety and sign this petition to encourage our new political leaders to bad all cell phone use while driving.

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