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New Manitoba auto insurance rule

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WINNIPEG (CP) _ The Manitoba government will soon make it tougher for car thieves to find something to steal.

Under a plan that kicks in Sept. 1, cars on Manitoba Public Insurance's list of 150 high-theft-risk vehicles that are stolen and then recovered won't be allowed back on the road until they're equipped with an a free electronic engine immobilizer.

Once an immobilizer is installed, the car starts only with the owner's key or special code. When someone tries to start the car without the key or code, the immobilizer cuts power to the starter, ignition and fuel supply.

The second part of the Manitoba Public Insurance (MPI) plan is aimed at used-car dealers selling high-theft-risk vehicles; they won't be permitted to allow a car off the lot until it has a free MPI immobilizer.

``It's really a matter of having something and putting a fence around it,'' said MPI spokesman John Douglas.

Manitoba has a chronically high auto theft rate, one of the highest per capita in Canada. Douglas said one reason is that Manitobans tend to hang on to their cars longer, and in many cases the older cars are more attractive to young thieves.

More than 6,000 used cares are brought into Manitoba for resale each year because they can be more easily sold than in Ontario or Alberta.

Douglas also said the move comes as many vehicles are being stolen repeatedly.

``There's a surprisingly large number of Manitobans who have their vehicles stolen once but don't act to protect them. With this, the pool of potential targets is decreased.''

Last year, 7,360 vehicles were reported stolen. A total of 1,571 had been stolen at least once before, and of those 302 had been stolen twice before. Ninety-nine vehicles had been stolen more than three times previously.

Repeat thefts cost premium payers $6.5 million in 2005.

For autos not on the high-risk list, Manitoba Public Insurance provides immobilizers for $140. Any vehicle with an immobilizer also earns a $40 annual insurance discount.

(Winnipeg Free Press, Winnipeg Sun)

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