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  • By Jordan W. Charness

    “Wow! Would you look at that!” exclaimed my teenage son Dov. He is almost 16 years old and will be starting his driving lessons in a couple of weeks. He now pays keen attention to the road around him and instead of being totally plugged in to his iPod he is more in tune with the world around him.

    We were just returning from a long weekend in New York and had been out of the country for a few days.

    “We must have had a huge windstorm while we were away. Look at that. The wind seems to have ripped the whole metal pole that supports that traffic light right out of the ground!” He continued. “When we get to the corner how will we know if we should stop since the traffic light is no longer working or even attached to the ground?” he wanted to know.

    After taking a more detailed look around we realized that the only thing that seemed to have been ripped out of the ground was the utility pole holding the stop light. More to the point, it seemed to have been snapped off just about a metre from the ground and was the only thing in the area that appeared to have been knocked over. If the damage had been caused by the wind, no doubt there would be much more extensive damage to the surrounding utility poles holding other lights and electrical wires.

    We also noticed a little bit of paint on the broken edge of the pole and finally concluded that the pole must have come into a violent collision with a truck or large car travelling at considerable speed. Since the pole can’t move, the accident must have been caused by a driver.

    Even though insurance might pay for this type of collision, there is an equal chance that in this case no damage reimbursement would be paid out. Firstly, if there was only one car and one pole involved in the accident, the blame for the affair would be placed squarely on the vehicle since the pole probably wasn’t going anywhere at the time. That being the case, the driver would be declared 100% at fault and would only be paid for the damage to his vehicle if the driver or owner of the car carried and paid for two-way insurance.

    In all cases of collision insurance you are purchasing a policy that will protect you from paying for damage you cause to another vehicle but that type of insurance goes one way. to the other party. If you bought two-way insurance, it will also pay for the damage caused to your own vehicle even if the accident was 100% your fault. Although the insurance company will reimburse you, what happens to your insurance premiums in the future is an entirely different story.

    As well, the city will bill you for the cost of repairing and replacing the utility pole that you broke in the accident. Most insurance companies will pay for this as well, but some will not depending on the terms of your coverage and the true cause of the incident.

    To answer Dov’s question as to what we were supposed to do when we come to the intersection, the law requires that you come to a complete stop at every corner where there is (or in this case used to be) a traffic light that is out of order. But in this special situation, the traffic lights facing the other direction were still functioning so it was quite obvious to see who had the right of way. If you could clearly see the people crossing your path had a red light and were stopped you would be justified in going through the intersection without coming to a full stop. Prudence would probably dictate however that if you don’t stop, at the very least you should slow down. Whenever something is out of the ordinary on the road the best thing to do is to slow down and become fully aware of your situation before proceeding.

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