Impounded: Where dangerous cars go to die

Cars that have no business being on the road, often seized from drivers who police say have no regard for others. A guided tour of the RNC's impound lot.

Abandoned cars had been real risks on the road, police say

RNC Const. Warren Sullivan took the CBC's Zach Goudie on a tour of the RNC impound yard. 1:45

They are shattered, dented or sometimes filled with garbage, and the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary has collected dozens of them at the Avalon Towing impound lot near St. John's.

When drivers are caught without proper licences or machines are used that are unfit to be on the road, police lock up their cars in this vehicle prison.

Between 500 and 600 cars are taken here every year — more than one a day, according to RNC Const. Warren Sullivan.

People driving these vehicles have absolutely no regard for the people in our communities.- RNC Const. Warren Sullivan

Most seem to share a common story: they're beat up, behind on fines and not worth the effort to get back on the road.

That's why about 90 per cent are abandoned for good, and then taken on one last ride — to the crusher.

"We're kind of used to this type of thing," said Sullivan. "We've been conditioned to it."

"I think for the member of the public, they would be shocked to see the types of vehicles that are passing them on our highways."

The RNC say between 500 and 600 cars are brought to the impound lot every year, the vast majority of them destroyed. (CBC)

One Chevrolet on the lot is so bad, Sullivan calls it a "ticking time bomb." 

The undercarriage was rusted and its tires were almost completely worn.

'No regard whatsoever for the laws'

But that's not the most shocking part.

When the Chev was stopped near Major's Path in St. John's, its operator was driving illegally. The driver had been convicted of an offence, and had also been prohibited from driving just five weeks before being picked up.

To make it worse, fines totaling $14,000 were owed on the car.

"This particular individual obviously had no regard whatsoever for the laws," Sullivan says.

When police stopped this white Grand Am, its driver tried to pass off expired insurance for the vehicle as an active policy. (CBC)

A few of the cars have long histories, like one white Grand Am that has seen no less than five registered owners in its lifetime.

Many cars in the RNC lot have been passed around like that.

When the Grand Am was stopped on Elizabeth Avenue, its driver handed police what appeared to be a valid insurance policy — but one which had actually expired.

"That's quite common with these types of vehicles," Sullivan explained. "The drivers will initiate an insurance policy, but once they get the card in the mail …they go ahead and they cancel the policy, but it looks like they have an actual policy in place."

He added, "They really try to pull one over on our officers."

In this instance, the driver was caught red-handed. Sullivan said the driver explained they would have bought insurance, but the vehicle wouldn't pass an inspection.

Run down, no insurance

RNC Const. Warren Sullivan says the tires on this Chevrolet car are so bad, it's a "ticking time bomb." (CBC)

There might be no sure way of knowing how many illegal drivers are on the streets in Newfoundland and Labrador, or which cars you pass every day have no business being on the road.

As one measure, the RNC impound lot features about 100 cars at any time.

The 500 vehicles that the RNC destroys every year might just be the worst of the worst in town.

Run-down, without insurance — often without legal drivers — Sullivan says these cars pose real dangers to other drivers on the roads.

"These vehicles are ticking time bombs, anything can go wrong at any time," Sullivan said.

"People driving these vehicles have absolutely no regard for the people in our communities, no regard for our highways. It is certainly reckless."