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ServiceOntario’s website says that it charges $59 to replace peeling plates that are more than five years old, but you wrote that ServiceOntario employees could use their discretion and replace them for free. But when I took my plate in, they looked up the number against a list and refused to give me a free replacement. They said they weren’t allowed to use discretion. Has the policy changed? I believe I got the plate in 2007. – Doug, Toronto

If you come in with bubbling plates, ServiceOntario employees can still give you a break on the charge – but only if you bought them after June 2008.

“To be replaced outside of the warranty period for no charge the plate must: fall into the period that is affected by the delamination issue (issued mid-2008 or after),” said Harry Malhi, spokesman for the Ontario Ministry of Government and Consumer Services, in an e-mail. “And, it must be clearly affected by this issue, so that it is difficult to read the characters, laminate is worn off in areas of the plate or there is bubbling around the characters.”

Normally, plates are guaranteed by the manufacturer for up to five years from the date of purchase, Malhi said.

The manufacturer is Trilcor Industries – the plates are made by prisoners at the Central East Correctional Centre in Lindsay, Ont.

So, for instance, if you bought your plates in May 2013, and they were bubbling or peeling, they’d be replaced for free until May of this year.

That policy – five years, period – is what’s on ServiceOntario’s website. And it’s what ServiceOntario told us when we first wrote about cost of replacing plates after their fifth birthday. But then, readers started telling us that they’d had their six- and seven-year-old plates replaced for free.

As it turned out, there was an internal policy to give free replacements on plates issued after June 2008. And that policy is still in effect, Malhi said.

“While we work to determine a root cause, we have given staff the ability in some cases to replace plates outside the warranty period for no charge,” Malhi said.

Normally, plates last longer than five years, Malhi said. The province said it noticed that the plates were peeling – the laminate film, made by 3M, lifts off them – in 2012.

“It is important to note that licence plate delamination is not unique to Ontario,” Malhi said. “Other jurisdictions such as British Columbia, Illinois, New York and the British Virgin Islands, to name a few, have also experienced this issue.”

Nova Scotia and Newfoundland have had trouble with peeling plates. Newfoundland replaces plates for free up for five years. Nova Scotia waived its $5.80 replacement fee for more than 14,000 peeling plates produced in 2008.

Standards for safety tech?

Why doesn’t Transport Canada regulate crash avoidance technology in new cars? – Emily, Medicine Hat, Alta.

Ottawa’s keeping an eye on the tech in your car that’s supposed to be keeping an eye on the road.

But there are no standards or regulations – yet.

“At these early stages of product development, care must be taken to not over-regulate, which could potentially slow innovation,” said Pierre Manoni, Transport Canada spokesman, in an e-mail statement. “Transport Canada works with international governments at the United Nations to identify areas of vehicle safety that may require government regulation.”

Transport Canada has a crash-avoidance research program that does more than 2,000 tests each year on safety technology, including lane-keeping assist, lane departure warning and automatic emergency braking, Manoni said.

The goal is to spot safety risks – and look at whether standards or rules might be able to prevent them.

The tests could also lead to new rules mandating the technology in all new vehicles. For example, Canada and the United States are requiring rear-view cameras in all new cars after this month.

Often, it takes years of evidence to show that technology is reducing crashes. Transport Canada has required electronic stability control since 2011, but it started testing it in 2004. And, all vehicles built after this month must have rear-view cameras,

Generally, Canada follows the U.S. government’s lead. The biggest exception? We’ve required daytime running lights since 1989. The United States still doesn’t require them.

One technology that could be making a difference? Automatic emergency braking, which can help prevent crashes with pedestrians, cyclists and other vehicles.

“Automatic emergency braking systems are widely recognized as a promising new vehicle safety technology,” Manoni said. “Evidence shows these systems have the potential to improve safety by reducing the severity of rear-end collisions or to help avoid them.”

But even with safety tech, you still have to follow provincial driving laws, Manoni said. And, you need to understand what the technology can – and can’t – do.

“Drivers need to be fully aware of any driving assist features’ capabilities and limitations. It is, therefore, very important that drivers consult their owners’ manual,” Manoni said. “At this stage, any driving-assist features available in Canada need to be supervised at all times.”

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