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Motor Vehicle Renewal Notice Changes, Self-Driving Cars, Crazy Laws

Posted By Thom. C. Young (Full first name: Thomas Clifford John), April 12, 2016

Changes in the Way the Government Communicates with Us

It’s funny how bureaucrats think. The resolution of a problem often seems to ignore the effect of the action that resolves it. Political considerations seem to be reviewed with a self-induced euphoria about the positive effects the action will have. When the change turns out to be unpopular or unworkable, it’s rare for anyone to own the reason for it.The changes to motor vehicle license renewal seem to be a case in point.

The folks who make the policy at Service Alberta (that’s the department that manages things like motor vehicle license registrations and renewals) have determined that they will save postage and handling costs if they stop mailing renewal notices to the public for their license plate renewals, and the public will be so much happier to receive their renewal notice via email instead of by mail. Now, if I was introducing a service like this to my customers, I think I’d have a plan in place to advise them of this change on their last renewal, give them the opportunity to update an email contact listing, and require them to visit an interactive website in order to open such an account with me. Then I’d send out a confirmation reminder via email perhaps 90 days or so before the expiry requesting confirmation of the new arrangement. If I didn’t get a reply, I’d send them the old paper-style renewal again and remind them of the need to register their email address before the next renewal. After several cycles that way, then I’d actually call them to get things organized or determine that they don’t have the capability of communicating this way and put them in a special category for paper communication on the next renewal. In our business, we’re interested in keeping these people happy with the way we are dealing with them so they don’t seek better service from our competitors. The government doesn’t really have any competitors, so the incentive to care isn’t so great.

Failing to care is a sure-fire recipe for annoying everyone. There’s really no one to complain to about this change in service either. You can go yell at your registry agents, but they don’t have anything to do with setting the policy and, in fact, have already fought with the bureaucrats to get a workable system in place for these renewals. Those in charge think it’s all going to work out fine. I have my doubts.

As insurance brokers, our services to our customers often do not coincide with the motor vehicle license renewal cycle. People who move to our province need to get insurance before they can register their vehicles. Their policies are effective on their first registration. Since the motor vehicle license renewal cycle is based on alphabetized names, it will not likely coincide with the insurance renewal. Nonetheless, we could provide a helpful service to our clients by letting them know about this new government policy. Here’s the nuts and bolts of it:

Effective April 1, 2016 (no joke here), renewal notices will no longer be processed by regular mail. If you haven’t registered for an email advisory with the government directly or with one of the registry agents that offer this service (not all do), then you’d better make a calendar reminder somewhere to ensure that you renew your vehicle registration prior to its expiry. There is an exception: if you are over 70 years of age or have a disability, you will receive a mailed renewal notice until next April when everyone will be treated the same. I’m not sure how they are tracking disabled people, but they do have a way to track age. If you don’t fall into either of the aforementioned categories and don’t feel a calendar reminder will be effective, sign up for an email reminder using one of the following three methods.

The latter allows you to choose email, text, or both email and text messages.

Time will tell if this new “service” brought to you by the Government of Alberta is a success or if it fails to meet the needs of the Alberta public. No doubt the government will save a substantial amount on postage, but those who fail to renew their registration on time will produce additional general revenues for the government. The fine for driving a vehicle with an expired license plate tag is $230 dollars. Worse still, the officer has discretion to impound your car until you produce the valid registration for it. In addition to being stranded on the side of the road, the cost does not stop at the fine. Depending on where you are, about $200 more could be added to the cost for the tow and impound fees plus the taxi ride to the registry and the impound lot. It’s not small potatoes when you add it all up. If you are caught with expired registration while getting a ticket for something else, you can find yourself quickly having a $1000-day with zero entertainment value.

One of my favourite quotations is “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help you!” Good luck with that!

Self-Driving Cars

I keep hearing all these reports about the challenges of insuring self-driving automobiles. What’s the fuss about? The owner of the automobile is responsible to ensure the vehicle and its operation regardless of who the driver is. The SPF 1 anticipates that the driver will hold a “license,” or specifically, that the owner believes the driver does when care and custody of the vehicle is given over. The driver is also expected to have a “legal capacity” and not be impaired. The only challenges to insure vehicles driven by computers, then, seem to be that the computer must have a license and the insurer must be willing to assume the risk. Licensing is mostly a regulatory issue. The experience of the computer programs that will be driving these cars could be easily determined from the computer records of these programs in operation. In general, I think that experience will show the computers are much safer drivers with reduced losses, but I might be having a bout of wishful thinking here.

If the computers produce the substantially better loss experience they are predicted to, then the end result will be much lower payouts for insured losses that will have a positive effect on the business, won’t it? If overall claims decline, then everyone benefits.

Still I’m confused about all the hype about how to insure these risks. I’m quite certain that insurers will lineup to participate in that pool.

Some Crazy Laws

In Florida, if you tie your elephant up at a parking meter, you have to put money in the meter or you’ll be fined. Here are some other crazy rules and regulations that actually are laws on the books:

16 crazy rules
  1. In England all Hackney vehicles (taxi cabs) must have a bale of hay and a bag of oats with them at all times.
  2. All Danish vehicle operators must check under the car before they start it to be sure there’s no one underneath.
  3. Eating or drinking anything while driving a motor vehicle in Cyprus is against the law!
  4. In Luxembourg all vehicles must have windshield wipers even if they don’t have a windshield.
  5. In Russia you can be fined for driving a dirty car!
  6. In Germany it is illegal to run out of gas while driving on an autobahn!
  7. In Spain you are required to have an extra pair of glasses in your car if you wear glasses!
  8. In some cities in Spain you can only park on the odd numbered side of the road on odd days and the even side of the road on even days. Failure to comply will see your car towed.
  9. In Scandinavian countries you are required to have headlights on at all times.
  10. In Estonia it is required that you have two wheel chocks in your automobile at all times.
  11. In Turkey you are required to have a safety kit in your car that has a fire extinguisher, reflective triangle and first aid kit, you must show this to the police when stopped or you will be fined.
  12. In France all vehicle have to have a Breathalyzer in them and there is a fine of 11 euros if you can’t show it to the police when asked.
  13. All cars on the road in Serbia must have a tow bar and a 3 meter tow rope.
  14. In Manilla you are not allowed to drive on Mondays if your license plate ends in 1 or 2.
  15. In Japan if you splash a pedestrian driving through a puddle you will be fined $65.
  16. In Singapore it’s against the law for a driver to come within 50 meters of a pedestrian but pedestrians aren’t allowed to walk on the roads either.

Never underestimate the ability of legislators to come up with silly rules and regulations to “protect” you. Remember my favourite quotation, “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help you.”

In Closing

I trust everyone is enjoying this unseasonal weather. It seems too early to declare that spring has sprung, but tell that to the trees that are budding out and tulips pushing through the garden. All the same, don’t count Mother Nature out. She’s sure to toss another winter storm at us before summer comes. As you’re out enjoying this balmy weather, please look twice for motorcycles. The life you save may be mine!

The opinions expressed in this blog are not necessarily those of IBAA.
Comment on this post below or email Thom Young privately. Thom also encourages suggestions for topics.


Tags:  autonomous cars  motor vehicle license renewal  motorcycle  self-driving cars  Service Alberta  SPF 1  vehicle registration 

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