They say that driving is a privilege, not a right, but what I don’t understand is how insurance companies think that gives them the right to pretty much have us at their mercy for the rest of our ever-loving lives. If you really think about it, we’re all paying insane insurance premiums just so that we can taxi ourselves around all day in a giant metal death machine back and forth to the office, running to the grocery store to buy overpriced avocados and driving to get the mail at the post box 6 houses down because, why walk when we can drive? I mean, I guess the insurance would also provide coverage if anything were ever to happen to that glorified savings account in the form of loose coffee change that we all keep in our cup holders, so at least there’s that. I’m currently about 4563 Pumpkin Spice Latte’s away from that trip to Jamaica! I also don’t see how driving is considered a privilege, I have to say, I had it much better when I could enlist my parents to give me a ride to the mall and get dropped off right at the front door without having to fight my way through the car park, playing Russian roulette with a soccer mom trying to win over the last parking spot. You want to know what else was a privilege? Never having to spend my hard-earned money from my job slinging coffees and timbits at Tim Horton’s on gas!
Unfortunately, since acquiring my G1 drivers license at the tender age of 17, I’ve had the displeasure of experiencing my fair share of car accidents, and in sticking with only child tradition, none of which have been my fault. Spending an arm and a leg on car insurance as a young, female driver was the unfair and unfortunate reality that I had to endure for many years. As a new lead foot…oops, I mean driver, I started off on my parents group insurance plan and was lucky enough to have them cover the expense while I made the payments on my brand new Honda Civic in the driveway. With my head in the clouds and my hands at 10 and 2, I was quickly in for a rude awakening when following my second car accident, I was asked ever so kindly by their insurance company to get my own policy (in other words, get the eff out), which I’m sure you can guess, was astronomically expensive. Didn’t they know that I had college books to pay for and Backstreet Boys concert tickets to buy?! Rude. When it was all said and done, I was basically paying the equivalent amount of renting a small basement apartment just for the freedom of driving myself back and forth to school, work and the nearest HVM all while blasting the latest summer jam by the Venga Boys through my 12″ sub woofer.
Among the many lessons I was fortunate enough to learn at a very young age, the one that applies the most in this case is that the human race is made up of unethical shysters who take advantage and abuse the system all for the sake of potentially striking it rich by means of insurance fraud. Allow me to explain. It was a snowy January day, I was driving my parents Astro van, which don’t ask me why they even had an Astro van in the first place when they only had one child, who didn’t even play sports, but that’s besides the point, I was rolling through 3 stop signs in a row on my neighbourhood street which was all going smoothly, until I found myself sliding in snow and slush into the mini van in front of me. Tapping bumpers at a very minimal speed, mortified and scared that I was going to get yelled at by my parents, I got out to notice that there was literally zero damage to either of our vehicles. Feeling slightly more relieved, I called my parents for back-up and started exchanging insurance information just for shits and giggles. Before I knew it, police and ambulance were called to the scene to assess the situation. The drivers of the other vehicle then proceeded to depict their version of an Oscar worthy dramatic performance of sore necks and backs from the impact (that remember, did absolutely NO damage), that would put Meryl Streep to shame. Emergency services ended up leaving the scene, shaking their heads in disbelief that they even wasted their time and went on to continue assisting real victims involved in weather related collisions and everyone went on about their lives. Two years later, my parents received paperwork from the offices of Goldberg, Cicely and Lynch that claimed they were being sued in the upwards amount of $2 million dollars (you know you just read that in a Dr. Evil voice) for the medical and emotional damages caused by the accident that took place two years earlier in the snow. Clearly this family had made the decision to take advantage of a young female driver who was out in her parents car and saw it as an opportunity to milk the system. After a heavy investigation conducted by our claims adjuster that included video footage of the victim in question shovelling snow with ease and playing 18 holes of golf regularly, our insurance company still chose to “settle” and this family ended up getting a sizeable lump sum of money (nowhere close to $2 million dollars mind you) for absolutely no reason. It’s because of people like this, that the rest of us have to suffer the consequences of high insurance rates, and one of the many reasons nobody should ever drive an Astro van (or a mini van for that matter).
My second accident, and the one that was the straw that broke the camels back in the eyes of my parent’s insurance company, was also weather related (see? Not my fault!). Black ice got the better of me and my souped up Honda Civic which ended up hurling me into the back of a construction workers van (what’s with me and vans?). As the tow truck driver hauled away my mangled and completely written off “Gwen” to the nearest wrecking yard, with pink underground lights dangling like a tacky Christmas tree, I fought to hold back the tears as if someone just told me that Ginger was leaving the Spice Girls all over again. In my immature, 20 year old brain not only did my car crash and burn that day but so did the world around me. I decided to cheer myself up by taking the replacement value amount in cash and using it to upgrade myself to a fancier vehicle, you know, to ease the pain. It was a few months into owning my brand new upgraded sports car (an Acura RSX), that I was told to acquire my own insurance policy aside from my parents, and I got to experience the real “privilege” of driving. This is also when I started driving like a 75 year old grandma on her way to the Golden Griddle breakfast buffet.
Flash forward to 11 years in the future, after driving that RSX with barely a scratch on it (other than when a fellow woman driver backed into me in a parking lot….again, NOT my fault), I finally upgraded my Japanese import for a 2nd time. Just a few short days ago, I found myself cruising along the highway in my barely 2 month old Honda Civic with more bells and whistles on it than I even know what to do with, when a tractor-trailer decided that he was in a bigger rush than the rest of us cottage country travellers. Swerving back and forth between lanes, passing more cars than Dale Earnhardt Jr. at Daytona, he eventually made his way right next to me in the left hand lane. At 100 kms per hour, he proceeded to run me off the road and sideswiped me right into the guard rail bouncing me and my passengers (which happened to include a pregnant woman!) around like crash test dummies in a safety demo. To say that this was more than just a minor fender-bender would be an under statement, it was definitely a much more serious collision then I’d ever experienced in the past. As I sat in the front seat of the police cruiser on the side of the highway giving my statement and watching, yet another one of my cars being towed away, I felt gutted and nowhere near privileged (even though I WAS thankful to be alive).
For anyone who’s ever had the pleasure of making an insurance claim, I’m sure you can relate when I express the pure exhaustion and frustration that goes along with it. Enduring what feels like 100+ phone conversations with insurance brokers, claims adjusters, rental car companies, body shop owners and every single one of your family members calling to ask if you’re ok has to be the clinical definition of what causes a mental breakdown. As if going through this ordeal, which now has me visiting a chiropractor twice a week, wasn’t irritating enough, my patience was put to the ultimate test when all the local rental car companies in town claimed to be OUT of vehicles. Umm….excuse me? How is that possible, the sole purpose of your business is to provide cars to people. I know there isn’t a shortage of cars in the world, I’ve seen what the 401 looks like at 5 o’clock on pretty much any night of the week! After 3 of what seemed like the longest days of my life, I received a call from the ever-so-chipper Nick at Enterprise, delighted to tell me that he finally had a vehicle for me. I could feel the shattered remnants of my soul, similar to those of my front quarter panel, start to piece themselves back together, that was until I heard the words spew from Nick’s mouth that “my new Chevy Impala was just getting a fresh oil change and would be ready for pick up by 3pm”…what.the.fuck. I get into this yacht-like, mid-sized retiree express, complete with chrome accents, full leather interior and blacked out windows and proceed to spend 20 mins (I’m not even exaggerating, ok, maybe a little bit) trying to adjust the driver’s seat that of course includes full lumbar support. Boating around town to work, chiro appointments and the mall, I can’t help but feel like a member of the Greek mafia, on my way to inform the cartel that we’ve been victims of a whistle-blowing incident. (Luckily the trunk is large enough to transport the body!)
I never thought it was fair that women drivers get such a bad rap, when it’s actually a statistical fact that men cause more accidents on the road. Women have solemnly developed the art of multi-tasking on the way to pretty much everywhere we go, based purely on the fact that we always seem to be running 10 mins behind schedule. It’s not that uncommon to see us effortlessly merging onto the highway, steering the car with one knee, applying lipstick with one hand, and holding an egg white n’ spinach breakfast wrap in the other. I mean, c’mon, that’s some pure Wonder Woman shit right there-cut us a break! I’m willing to bet that Jake, from State-farm couldn’t pull off that maneuver without getting at least a reckless driving charge! Since announcing that women in the middle east will now have the right and privilege to drive, it won’t be long until the women of Saudi Arabia are following suit and kicking ass behind the wheel, but honestly, there are times that I’m envious that those bitches get to be chauffeured around on the regular. (One of the rare occurrences that I’m probably PRO oppression). Despite my annoyances with insurance companies and having to share the road with…ahem…drivers not from this country, I do actually enjoy the luxury of having a vehicle. Even with the many risks and dangers involved, crank the stereo with the latest bass banging anthem and I could drive all night, like Bruce Springsteen, but having to spend half my rent on car insurance just so that I can enjoy the privilege of driving, is something I could totally live without.
You can’t control your surroundings or the driving practices of those sharing the road with you, but you can live and learn from your mistakes (and of course the mistakes of others). With each cracked bumper, I can safely say that I’ve uncovered a different lesson in operating a motor vehicle:
1. Don’t follow to close
2. Don’t drive in the snow
3. Don’t drive when its cold
4. Don’t drive in the blind spot of a semi
5. Don’t drive if you’re a woman
6. Don’t drive. Period.
7. Hire a chauffeur