Travel Tip of the Day: Know Thy Insurance Policy

One of the biggest scams in the car rental business today is supplementary insurance.

I just recently rented a car from Budget and they convinced me that even though I KNEW that my insurance policy covered me in a rental car, BC has special rules and my policy likely only covers me in Ontario.  While I have no proof of this, I definitely get the impression -based on the well rehearsed sales pitch of the agent at the Budget counter- that they are motivated by their company to ‘upsell’ the insurance!

I was in a hurry, so I decided to take the coverage ($26 a day by the way), until I could give my  insurance company a call and confirm I am covered.  Since I was renting the car for 10 days, I definitely was motivated to get this sorted.

I deal with Belair insurance (who I am very happy with), and the agent there actually got angry at the idea that the rental company had tried to rip me off, and mentioned that this ‘scam’ was very common.  He quickly emailed me a form that would dispel any debate on whether I was covered or not, and said that BC is no different than any other province or state that my coverage WOULD apply in (there are some exceptions that he noted: Alaska, Hawaii, and anywhere south of the US/Mexico border).

I went back to the rental counter (15 km drive) and expected a battle.  When I mentioned that I was covered by my insurance and wanted the supplementary insurance dropped, the agent immediately went into damage control mode and made the changes to my policy.  Again, no concrete proof, but the reaction of the agent gave me the impression that this happens a lot!!

So hopefully when you next travel, you will take a little bit of time to understand how you are covered by your own policy, and avoid getting ripped off.

Travel Tip of the Day: Bring Along a Mini-jack Audio Cable

These days, even the cheapest of rental cars are coming with auxiliary jacks that allow you to plug in your iPod or other MP3 player directly into your car audio system.  This allows you to play your content during long drives where the local radio stations may not be to your taste, or even provide you a feeling of home when abroad.

For example, I just recently rented a Ford Focus (not a bad little car, apart from the brand name) which has this feature.  What I usually forget to do, is bring a cable that would actually allow me to plug my iPod in!  These cables are really cheap, you shouldn’t pay more than $10.  I have yet to see a rental car that comes with these.
Here is an example:

Mini to Mini Audio Jack

Just A Reminder – Concrete is HARD

Originally uploaded by Adrian F1

For F1 fans out there, you might remember the spectacular crash at the 2007 Grand Prix du Canada in Montreal where Robert Kubica hit an unprotected cement wall so hard that most people in the stands (I was there) thought he was certainly dead.

After the race, I walked to the part of the track where the impact occurred to see what damage there was to the track and retaining walls. The first picture shown shows the primary impact point where most of the energy of the car, travelling at over 150 mph, was dissipated. Check out the wall, the paint isn’t even missing! There are no dents or other damage you can see. Its time like then when you understand why concrete is used as a building material; the load it can handle under compression is incredible.

Second Impact Point

The first impact point shows damage (see the fluorescent bit that is missing) but we looked at it for quite a while and our forensic skills could not determine if the damage was already there before the incident. It was only later when I got a pic of a fan who had collected one of the pieces of concrete that had chipped off. Also missing were any large pieces of carbon fiber from the car, this was another item that people liked to take as a souvenir, even though they are dangerously sharp.

F1 fan leaves with a souvenir piece of F1 car. This first impact point was where the right tire and suspension was sheared from the car.

The majority of the damage that was done to the track was actually done to the much softer tarmac, which is shown in the fourth picture.

I have also attached a 3D computer animation that accurately reconstructs the crash.

Damage to track tarmac

My Favourite “Top Gear” Videos!

I am a big fan of the British TV show “Top Gear” which features various automobiles being tested, and sometimes demolished. Here is a collection of some of my favourites:

Test drive of perhaps the most affordable supercar in the world, the Ariel Atom.

First of two segments of trying to kill a Toyota truck (which is apparently… impossible).

And you’d think this would finally kill it…

Simon Cowell is a very funny guest on the show, and a pretty damn good driver too!

Why You Are Safest in a Car During a Lightning Storm

I have heard this several times before, and my background in physics tells me that theory supports this, but there is nothing like experimentation to confirm! One thing I couldn’t tell you is if the car would actually work after a lightning strike…

Avoidable Highway Carnage?

My good friend Manish posted the following comment on Facebook today:

“Manish Patel is sad, as he is mourning the loss of a friend. Ryan, you were a great guy and a wonderful father and fiancee – you will be sadly missed by everyone who knew you..”

My first thought was that I had actually witnessed the remains of this crash. I mean, how many deadly cross-over crashes can happen in the same general area in one weekend? It turns out I was wrong, and the parallels between them are very tragic.

Today I did a bit of research into the death of Ryan Taylor, this was in a cross-over crash on a highway with a long record of such crashes (Hwy 6 stretch south of the 401), and the second crash in two days on pieces of road where there have long been demands to make them divided highways. The one I witnessed, which was a crossover crash on Highway 7/8 near the Courtland ramp in Kitchener, was so brutal that I was surprised to find out that only one person was killed at the scene. There was actually a third fatal crash involving a Kitchener area man this weekend, on the 401, the only one that wasn’t a crossover.

I grew up in the Kitchener-Waterloo area, and used to drive that stretch of Hwy 6 every other weekend when I was attending school in Hamilton. I always noted with interest the commentary that came up every time such a cross-over crash occurred: “Fatal crash renews calls for barriers on Highway [insert 6 South or the 7&8]”.

I don’t know what the MTO uses to determine where money should be spent on divided highways, but it doesn’t appear to be body count…

My sincerest sympathies to the family and friends of all those involved in those three tragic accidents.

X-ray Vision-proof Your Panties

MySpace RIP

Several weird things today, so far they seem unrelated…

1) Wired Magazine (I’m a subscriber) has a short article by Brian Ashcraft on a new brand of panties that are made of a nylon and polyurethane weave to block: perverts with X-ray vision. Wha? I know, who would have thought that by messing around with the night-vision mode (available on many consumer video cameras), they would actually figure out a way to penetrate a layer of clothing… hence the panty counter-measures.

No word on how comfortable, or more importantly breathable, these new panties are…

2) I gave up on MySpace today. I haven’t looked at it in some time, and Facebook is so much more useful for keeping in touch with people, so I canceled my MySpace account. Besides, MySpace is just for dirts anyway. 😉

3) Bumper sticker that made me smile today: “Dog is my co-pilot!”

That is all, as you were…

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