A St. John’s mechanic says if others saw some of things he does, they would be scared to drive on the province’s roads.
Jerome Terry, owner-operator of Auto Care on Topsail Road, was reacting to news the RCMP in central Newfoundland held random, road-side inspections on Wednesday and found a myriad of problems.
According to an RCMP news release, 10 random vehicles were inspected on the highway near Grand Falls-Windsor in a three-and-a-half hour period. During that time, a total of 39 defects were found, two vehicles were deemed unfit for the road, five charges were laid for defective vehicles and another six warnings were issued. One driver was also charged for driving while suspended.
From busted brake lines to rusted out floors to leaky gas tanks, Terry has seen it all.
On Thursday morning , he replaced a gas tank on a pickup that was resting on the dust plate, as the straps had rusted through.
The same morning he also had someone come in with brake lines worn so badly the driver’s brake pedal was right to the floor.
Terry thinks mandatory annual inspections should not have been scrapped by the province in 1994.
“I don’t think they even should have been taken out, it’s as simple as that,” he told The Telegram.
Across town at Morris Service Station on Freshwater Road, co-owner John Morris said he wasn’t surprised by what police found on Wednesday, and agrees with Terry annual inspections should be brought back.
“The thing with motor vehicle inspections is it made people, once a year, have their car looked at, where as now people are getting in their car and they’ll drive it till it drops,” he said. “People aren’t doing maintenance like they once did.”
Morris qualifies that by saying most people take good care of their vehicles and have them checked regularly.
But he said a small group couldn’t be bothered.
“If you’re not forced to do it, you’re not going to do it,” Morris said.
Morris does a number of vehicle inspections and often fails a vehicle.
He said his garage has a “zero tolerance policy” meaning he will not certify a vehicle unless it is 100 per cent road worthy.
“If there is any defect whatsoever, we do not sign off on the slip,” he said.
While Terry said he sees three equally prevalent types of vehicle owners — those who want their cars fixed; those who do but can’t afford it; and those who just don’t care — Morris said 99.9 per cent of his customers want their cars fixed, once they are aware of a problem.
But Morris said people often don’t realize their cars have mechanical issues.
Between speaking with The Telegram Wednesday morning and allowing the paper to take pictures at his garage in the afternoon, Morris had a man come in with a 10-year-old Kia he just bought second hand.
When Morris put it up on the lift, he found all the brakes were seized, the gas tank straps had let go, the exhaust was attached by a twist of wire and the rocker panels were so rusted through he could put his hand right up through them.
The customer agreed the car wasn’t worth repairing and asked it be scrapped.
Government Services Minister Harry Harding said what the RCMP found on Wednesday was certainly alarming.
But Harding said changes to the Highway Traffic Act made by the province last year, which gives police the right to randomly stop vehicles, is the better way to catch unsafe cars, instead of bringing back mandatory inspections.
“In spite of (Wednesday’s) random checks, there is no really good evidence why mandatory annual inspections need to be put back in place,” said Harding. “We’ve had statistics since (1994) which certainly show that prior to and after the (inspections were scrapped) there’s been a major improvement in the number of accidents attributed to mechanical failure.”
“I don’t think they even should have been taken out, it’s as simple as that.” - Jerome Terry, owner-operator of Auto Care on Topsail Road
He said from 1989 to 1993, only 2.96 per cent of accidents causing injuries or fatalities were blamed on mechanical failure. From 1995 to 2000 that number dropped to 2.11 per cent. And in 2007 that number was only about 2 per cent.
Of the 3,800 collisions in 2010 handled by the RCMP, the number of accidents blamed on mechanical failure is under 1 per cent.
The RCMP’s Sgt. Randy Pack confirmed that number and added almost all the crashes involving mechanical failure also involve other factors from alcohol to weather, driver distraction to excessive speed.
When Harding was asked to react to the mechanic’s comments, he said he can see where the mechanics are coming from, but suggested they may have a vested interest as they would be the ones making money on the inspections.
But Terry disagrees.
“The responsibility (for inspections) should be government’s,” he said.
Terry said if government inspectors did the inspections, but let people get estimates and choose their own mechanic to do the repairs, that would eliminate the perception mechanics are only in favour of bringing back inspections to make money.
For Morris it’s all about safety.
“I’d like to know the car coming at me, or coming at my children when they are coming home from school is safe,” he said.