When I’m in the right lane on the highway, cars in the left lane often just kind of lurk there beside me. They’ll match my speed and, if there are other cars in the right lane, I end up boxed in. Shouldn’t they be passing me? – Suresh, Ottawa
Sometimes on the highway, the car next door won’t let you be a passed acquaintance.
“That person who’s matching your speed is either being rather rude and obstreperous, or they’re just totally unaware of their surroundings,” said Angelo DiCicco, director of operations at Young Drivers of Canada’s advanced driving centre. “If that person is not passing you, they should be on the right – the left lane is for people going quicker.”
In Quebec, the law bans driving in the left-most lane on highways with limits over 80 kilometres an hour unless you’re passing or turning left – it also bans passing on the right. In British Columbia, you have to get out of the left lane if another car is coming behind you. But other provinces, including Alberta and Ontario, just require slower traffic to keep right.
Still, drivers should only be in the left lane if they’re passing someone to the right or if they need to make a left turn soon, DiCicco said.
If they don’t want to go faster than the traffic to the right, then they shouldn’t be there.
“They might go, ‘Hey, the speed limit is 100 and I’m going exactly 100 and I like to be there,’” DiCicco said. “But there should be different speeds in different lanes and you choose the lane with the speed at which you feel comfortable driving.”
If you end up boxed in by cars on all three sides, it’s impossible to safely swerve out of the way if the car in front of you suddenly stops for, say, a moose or a deer.
“If you want to create some space, you could slow down gradually,” DiCicco said. “Eventually, you’ll have enough space from the car in front of you so you could change lanes.”
Scores to settle?
I’m moving to Ontario and my credit rating isn’t great – I had a real struggle paying off my student loan. Will I have to pay more in car insurance? – Marc, Montreal
In Ontario, your insurance company can’t consider your credit score when setting your rates – for car insurance, at least.
“In Ontario, a regulation prevents insurers from using information related to credit-based information, occupation, educational qualifications, etc.,” said John Bordignon, spokesman for Desjardins Group, in an e-mail. “Similar principles apply in the Atlantic provinces and Alberta.”
The Ontario ban was introduced in 2005, but it only covers car insurance. Insurance companies there can still use scores to set rates for home insurance – a practice which, when introduced by companies, caused some rates to double.
Insurance rules vary by province. The provinces with government-run car insurance – British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Manitoba – don’t use your credit score to set rates.
In Quebec, your insurance company can use your score to set car insurance rates, but you have to give them permission to look it up, the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) said.
“It’s one of the factors that insurance companies are allowed to use,” said Anne Morin, IBC Quebec spokeswoman. “That doesn’t mean all insurance companies will use it.”
And, there have been complaints of companies using scores for other reasons. There’s a proposed class-action lawsuit against Personal Insurance Co., part of Desjardins Group, for looking up the credit ratings of Ontario crash victims before paying out their claims.
So what does a lower credit score – for example, because you’ve missed a few student loan payments – have to do with insurance?
“A low credit score means a higher likelihood of you experiencing a loss – and therefore of filing a claim,” says CAA-Quebec on its website.
In a 2011 report, the Canadian Council of Insurance Regulators said the practice could “unduly penalize consumers who refuse to provide consent, or who do not have a credit history, or whose credit score has been negatively affected by extraordinary life circumstances.”
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