KELOWNA – Several young car enthusiasts in Kelowna say police are forcing them to get vehicle inspections despite passing roadside inspections.
Recently, RCMP in the Okanagan have stepped up their enforcement of traffic laws, but Owen Kuipers, 17, is a first year automotive technician apprentice who says he was unfairly targeted by police because he drives a car that has a reputation for racing.
“It seems like a pattern,” he says. “I think (RCMP) are pulling me over because they don’t like my car.”
His 1989 Nissan Skyline GT-R had just been inspected two months prior to him being pulled over at a check stop on Lequime Road in Kelowna. The officer asked him the usual questions – have you been drinking, do you have a valid licence and insurance – but he went one step further and began a lengthy roadside inspection.
“He kept me there for probably a good hour,” he says. “My car is from out of province so I had a valid (vehicle inspection) sticker on the window. He just didn’t like it and wanted another one. The only thing he could say is that he believed the exhaust had been illegally modified but it hadn’t.”
To make matters worse, the officer issued Kuipers a ticket for driving with a "L-learners" licence after midnight.
“He pulled me over at 11:30 but he sat in his car for a half hour and then issued me a ticket for driving past midnight at 12:02.”
Kuipers says he was able to get that charge thrown out in court and passed his inspection with no issue. But Kuipers isn't the only one to make the claim. Several young drivers with eccentric tastes in vehicles, told Infonews.ca they don't feel comfortable driving their vehicles anymore. They constantly try to avoid police, fearing they'll be stopped over and over again for similar issues. They don't want their names used because they worry it will only make them bigger targets. The irony, they say, is they likely have some of the best maintained vehicles on the road because they work on their cars consistently.
RCMP spokesperson Const. Kris Clark says normally police only order inspections in cases where multiple infractions are noticed.
“If it’s just a simple burnt out headlight then they have 30 days to fix it and come back to us,” he says. “If there are multiple (infractions) then it might need a further inspection to occur.”
Shane O’Leary is a 22-year-old insurance broker. He says he too has been unfairly targeted by police because of his near-stock 1984 Mazda RX7.
“The only reason I don’t have collector plates on it is because I daily it,” he says. “I drive it every single day to work. It’s almost mint.”
Earlier this week he was pulled over by an officer who told him he thought his car “looked old”.
“He did a quick under hood inspection, he went through my brake lights, reverse lights, signal lights. I was able to answer all the questions and there were no issues found on his roadside inspection except for the exhaust. It has a replacement exhaust system on it but it’s not illegal or anything like that. It’s a 30-year-old car so it’s not easy to find a stock exhaust.”
O’Leary says the officer walked back to his car and came back with a box 2 vehicle inspection order and said he had 30 days to get it done.
According to law, if it's not inspected within the time period, a bailiff will seize the plates and the driver is issued a fine of more than $500. An inspection carried out at an automotive shop costs $75 plus tax and puts the drivers at the mercy of the mechanic.
“I have to do it, there’s no way to dispute one of these,” he says. “If it passes a roadside inspection I don’t understand why it would have to go through a full vehicle inspection. It’s so frustrating and it’s happened to a lot more people than just myself.”
Kuipers too questions the legality of targeting drivers just because they are in a car that looks fast.
“I think that our cars, as imports, have a bad name for some reason,” he says. “Maybe they’re just uneducated about our cars. If you were to roll around in a 70s muscle car, cops pull you over just to congratulate you on how nice it is. Roll around in a car like mine and you get the exact opposite response.”
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