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Bellingham Bulletin

How My 4-Year-Old Son Helped Give Me A Surcharge

Jan 16, 2018 01:35PM ● Published by Pamela Johnson

Have you seen the funny commercials and TV shows where toddlers and dogs left alone inside a car manage to shift the car’s transmission into neutral and then roll away?  It happened to me in real life.  Here’s how my mischievous 4-year-old son, Paul, gave his insurance agent father a surcharge.
 
Years ago, my wife and I visited Cape Cod to help my brother, his wife and family move from their apartment to a new house.  Although they had a couple of vehicles, I had a Nissan pickup truck, which came in very handy.  As someone once explained to me, when you own a pickup truck, you will always have friends.
 
The Nissan truck was an all-star that day, helping us move the largest furnishings.  The pickup was also the truck I let my 3 boys “pretend” drive in our neighborhood.  Did your dad ever let you sit in his lap to steer a car while he worked the pedals with his feet?  Pretend driving was one of the fun things I did now and again that summer with all of my boys, including Paul.  
 
When we finally finished moving the furniture that day, parents gathered in the front yard with a few well-deserved cold drinks.  My sister-in-law then gave me a strange look and asked why I had parked my Nissan truck on her lawn up against a tree at the front of her downhill driveway.  We walked over to the truck and found the front bumper very much in the shape of a V with a tree trunk in the middle of it.  My truck had rolled from a parked position into the tree 30 feet away.  But how?
 
I had been careful to put my keys on top of the refrigerator inside the house so no one would find them except me. Yet, the Nissan truck had clearly rolled away.  After putting 2 and 2 together, I deduced that my son Paul had done some practice driving.  The damage totaled about $2,000--and then my surcharge notice came in the mail, which surprised me. How could I get a surcharge if I hadn’t been driving?
 
My attempt to appeal the surcharge failed.  The Merit Rating Bureau (DMV) told me I should have applied the emergency brake and then locked the vehicle upon exiting it in order to prevent such a thing from happening.  I was disappointed but enlightened.  Most fortunately, no one was hurt. 
 
Looking back, I can’t say with absolute certainty that Paul caused the accident, but I’ve told this story so many times that it’s way too late to change the details.  The moral of the story is always use your emergency brake! 

Written by Dick Ostrander, owner of Ostrander Insurance (ostranderinsurance.com). Ostrander Insurance offers homeowners, automobile and life insurance The office is conveniently located across the street from the  Bellingham Post Office. For more information, contact Dick at 508-966-1116.

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