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Tips for Safe Winter Driving

Winter driving brings inherent risks. But you can put the odds in your favor with proper preparation, car maintenance, and driving techniques.

Keeping up with car maintenance year-round is important, but it carries added significance in the winter when being stranded can be inconvenient due to travel plans, as well as being downright unpleasant waiting at the side of the road. As always, try to time your routine maintenance ahead of long-distance travel. Putting off service today can turn into an expensive problem down the road.

To be prepared for challenges winter driving poses, keep these tips in mind:

Maintain a full tank of gas. Keeping a half tank or more of gas limits the moisture that can condensate in the tank, and it means you are well positioned to tough out an expected traffic jam or survive being stuck in the snow.

Care for your tires. As winter driving safety is impacted by traction, it is key to make sure your tires are in top shape. Check tire pressure monthly, topping off as necessary. (Cold winter temperatures can lower tire pressure.) Inspect your tires for tread depth, an important factor in wet and snow traction. The tread should be at least 1/8 an inch, easily gauged by using a quarter and measuring from the coin’s edge to Washington’s head. Look for uneven tread wear, which typically indicates poor wheel alignment or worn suspension components. If you do invest in new tires, be sure to have your vehicle’s alignment and suspension checked before having the tires mounted to avoid premature wear.

Accelerate slowly to reduce wheel spin. If starting from a standstill on slick snow or ice, start in second gear if you have a manual transmission or gear-selectable automatic so the vehicle is less likely to spin the tires.

Reduce your speed and drive smoothly. In slippery conditions, tires lose their grip more easily, affecting all aspects of your driving: braking, turning, and accelerating. Keeping the speeds down will give you more time to react to slippage or a possible collision, and it will lessen the damage should things go wrong.

Allow longer braking distances. Plan on starting your braking sooner than you normally would in dry conditions to give yourself extra room, and use more gentle pressure on the brake pedal.

Don’t lock your wheels when braking. Locked wheels can make the vehicle slide or skid. If you have an older vehicle without an antilock braking system (ABS), you may need to gently apply the brakes repeatedly in a pulsing motion to avoid having them lock up the wheels. If your vehicle has ABS, simply depress the brake pedal firmly and hold it down. The shuddering sounds and pedal feeling is expected (don’t lift off the brake); the system is doing its job.

Perform one action at a time when accelerating, braking, and turning. Asking a vehicle to do two things at once–such as braking and turning, or accelerating and turning—can reduce your control. When taking a turn on a slippery surface, for instance, reduce speed sufficiently, and slowly apply the brakes while the vehicle is still going straight.

Avoid sudden actions when cornering. A sudden maneuver—such as hard braking, a quick turn of the steering wheel, sudden acceleration, or shifting a manual transmission—can upset a vehicle’s dynamics when it’s taking a turn. Rapidly transferring the weight from one end or corner to another can throw a car off balance. In slick conditions, this can cause it to more easily go out of control.

Beware bridges and overpasses. These can freeze before the roads.

Be ready to correct for a slide. Should the rear end of the vehicle begin to slide during a turn, gently let off on the accelerator and turn the steering wheel in the direction of the slide. This will help straighten it out. Electronic stability control will also help keep control in a slide situation. But remember, safety systems may bend the laws of physics, but they can’t overcome stupid. If you’re turning and the vehicle keeps moving straight ahead, you may be tempted to turn even more. However, it is better to slow down and turn back straight for moment until you can regain traction and then make your turn.

Don’t let four- or all-wheel-drive give you a false sense of security. 4WD and AWD systems only provide extra traction when accelerating. They provide no advantage when braking or cornering. Everyone has four-wheel brakes…

Be extra wary of other motorists. They may not be driving as cautiously as you, so leave extra space, avoid distractions, and be predictable, signaling clearly ahead of any turns or lane changes. If you feel you’re being ‘pushed’ by someone wanting to go faster, pull over and let them go.

Don’t pass snow plows. The road is likely more treacherous in front of the trucks, and the added speed needed to complete the pass can risk sliding. Instead, hang back and let the trucks do their job. Don’t follow too close, as there is a high risk of windshield-threatening pebbles being thrown up from sanding machines.

What to Do If You’re Stuck

Try to shovel a path out. With the front wheels straight, rock the car by shifting between drive and reverse and applying light throttle. Shift directions the moment the wheels start spinning. Spread sand in your tracks. Once freed, keep going until you reach firm footing.

If the car isn’t moving, don’t spin the wheels; they’ll just dig deeper into the snow. You may need to jack up the car to put a traction aid under the drive wheels, but make sure the jack is on firm ground. You can use sand, cat litter, twigs, weeds, planks, even your car’s floor mats or trunk liner. Make sure others stand clear before you apply power.

A checklist for safe snowmobiling

Whether it’s to enjoy the thrill of the ride or the beauty of nature, to go places unreachable by other means or just to spend time with family and friends, millions of people enjoy the outdoors on snowmobiles.

The International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association (ISMA), representing the four North American snowmobile makers, reports 1.3 million registered snowmobiles in the United States. Snowmobile-related activities account for $26 billion in economic activity annually, including accessories, supplies, gasoline and tourism. While some use their machines for work, about 80 percent use them for leisure activities.

Snowmobiles are generally registered and regulated by individual states, and no central system compiles reports on snowmobile accidents, injuries or fatalities. Of those tracked by several states, most are the result of collisions with trees or other fixed objects with excessive speed or alcohol impairment as the most common contributing factors.

ISMA promotes safe snowmobiling through its Safe Rider program, and cites dozens of ways to protect yourself and those around you.

SAFETY TIPS

  • Ensure your snowmobile is in proper mechanical operating condition before going on a ride. Check gas, oil, belt condition and carbides under the skis before each ride.
  • Dress for the conditions! Layering clothing, including a windproof outer layer, is the best way to stay warm on cold days. Fingers and toes typically get cold first, so be sure to wear warm gloves (mitts with liners are best) and insulated boots.
  • Wear a safety-certified helmet in the right size. You should have a clear face shield on the helmet or a pair of goggles to protect your eyes from the sun and wind.
  • Avoid riding alone, especially at night. If you do, make sure you tell others the route you will be taking so they will know where to look if you are overdue.
  • Stay on the marked route when riding trails on private property. Hidden objects, such as fences, tree stumps and stretched wire, may be concealed by snow.
  • Slow down! Speed is a contributing factor in nearly all fatal snowmobiling accidents. Drivers should proceed at a pace that allows ample reaction time for any situation.
  • Stay RIGHT when riding on trails, especially on corners or when cresting hills to avoid colliding with other snowmobiles coming from the opposite direction.
  • Carry a first-aid kit. At a minimum, it should include a flashlight, knife, duct tape, compass, map, tow rope and waterproof matches.
  • Carry a fully-charged cell phone; it can be a terrific asset if trouble arises, but keep in mind that cell phones have limited service range in remote areas.
  • Use caution when crossing roads — come to a complete stop, make sure no traffic is approaching from either direction, then cross at a right angle to traffic.
  • Don’t drink and ride! Drinking alcohol before snowmobiling or during your ride slows your reactions, impairs your judgment and is a leading contributor to snowmobiling deaths.
  • Stay next to the markers if a trail crosses waterways. Ice conditions are never guaranteed, as rapidly changing weather and moving water affect the thickness and strength of ice.

This loss control information is advisory only. The author assumes no responsibility for management or control of loss control activities. Not all exposures are identified in this article. See your local Ayres Group Agent agent for insurance coverage and advice.

Courtesy: Cincinnati Insurance

Now that you have the keys — what does that mean?

All your hard work paid off and now you finally have your driver’s license. Hours in the car with Dad gripping his seat and days spent in driver’s ed were worth it because the keys are now in your hands. I remember the feelings of freedom, independence and excitement when I received my license. But with the look in my dad’s eyes as he handed the keys to me, I knew driving came with added responsibility.Here are things to keep in mind to make sure your driving experience is safe and fun.

STAY SAFE ON THE ROAD

Your choices when driving may affect yourself and others.

  • Never use alcohol or drugs when you know you will be getting behind the wheel of a car.
  • Make sure every passenger in your car is using a seatbelt. Follow any restrictions your state may have on the number of passengers allowed depending on the driver’s age.
  • Be aware of other drivers around you, and drive defensively by anticipating the actions of other drivers.
  • Concentrate on your driving and keep distractions to a minimum. Turn the radio down, don’t use your phone while driving and never text and drive.
  • Learn what to do in an event of an accident or breakdown. Know who to call and what resources you need. Program emergency numbers and contacts into your phone.
  • Keep your registration and proof of insurance information in the car.

BEING SAFE SAVES MONEY

Driving responsibly increases your safety and the safety of other motorists. Follow these guidelines to keep your insurance premiums as low as possible:

  • Obey all traffic laws. Getting a ticket may increase the amount of your insurance payments.
  • Avoid situations that may lead to accidents. Involvement in just one accident could increase your cost of insurance.
  • Consider choosing higher physical damage coverage deductibles.
  • Drive a standard vehicle. Sports cars and high-performance vehicles may be cool, but those vehicles mean higher insurance costs.

CREATE A WRITTEN AGREEMENT WITH YOUR PARENTS

All the above tips may seem like common sense, but they are important to remember and to be reminded of often. One way to have a great driving experience is to create a written agreement with your parents and establish rules. A written agreement can help keep you and your parents on the same page.

  • How many passengers are permitted in your car?
  • Can you listen to the radio?
  • Do you need to be home by a certain time?
  • You can download a sample contract from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Getting your driver’s license is exciting! But to keep the keys and be a responsible driver, develop good driving habits that will stay with you forever. Have fun and stay safe!

 

Need insurance for a new driver?, contact your local Ayres Group Agent

 

Courtesy: Cincinnati Insurance

When is A Vehicle Considered a Total Loss?

When and whether a vehicle involved in a collision is considered to be “totaled” for first-party insurance purposes is an issue of great angst and confusion for most consumers. We hear horror stories about older, functioning automobiles being “totaled” simply because the frame is bent or other seemingly minor and hidden damage occurs. Even insurance professionals can get turned around navigating the maze of rules and regulations regarding the act of “totaling” a vehicle under a policy. But it needn’t be all that complicated. This article will hopefully help take the guess-work out of when a car can be “totaled.”

Typically, cars are considered to be “totaled” when the cost to repair the vehicle is higher than the actual cash value (ACV) of the vehicle. Practically speaking, however, it is not always practical to repair a vehicle, even if the cost of repair is less than its ACV. A vehicle worth $4,000 requiring $3,000 in repairs might be considered “totaled” by an insurer even though the cost of repair is less than its value before the accident. Insurance companies will typically consider such a vehicle to be a total loss, even though the repairs are only 75 percent of ACV.

While the procedure varies slightly from state to state, the insurance company will typically take ownership of the totaled vehicle (known as “salvage”) and may obtain a “salvage title” for the vehicle. After it pays it’s insured the pre-loss ACV of the vehicle and forwards the certificate of ownership, the license plates and a required fee to the Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV), the DMV then issues a Salvage Certificate for the vehicle. In some cases, the vehicle is repaired, re-registered with the DMV, and then classified as a “revived salvage” or “salvaged” vehicle. Of course, if the insured wants to keep the “totaled” vehicle, the insurance company will deduct the value of the salvage from the claim payment.

The criteria for deciding when a car is a total loss and when it can be repaired vary from insurance company to insurance company and might even be dictated and controlled by state statute or regulation. Further complicating the issue is the fact that insurance companies do not all use the same sources for determining the value of a vehicle. The threshold used by your insurance company to make this determination can be discovered by calling your insurance agent. Insurance professionals, on the other hand, have to be familiar with these rules, criteria, and thresholds in all 50 states.

In determining whether a vehicle is totaled, insurance companies will calculate the total loss ratio (cost of repairs/actual cash value) and then compare this ratio to limits set either internally within the company and/or regulated and established by state law. It is also sometimes referred to simply as the damage ratio. Some states dictate how high this damage ratio needs to be in order to be able to declare a vehicle a “total loss” and be eligible for a salvage title or certificate. This is referred to as the Total Loss Threshold (TLT). In order to total a vehicle, the total loss ratio must exceed the established percentage. If the TLT is not dictated by the state, an insurance company will usually default to something known as the Total Loss Formula (TLF) which is:

Cost of Repair + Salvage Value > Actual Cash Value

If the sum of the first two quantities is greater than the ACV, the car can be declared a total loss. As an example, a damaged 2002 Toyota Echo with 185,000 miles in good condition has an ACV of approximately $2,800. Total repair costs are estimated at $2,000, for a damage ratio of 72 percent. This car would be considered a total loss in Arkansas, where the TLT is 70 percent, but not in Florida where the TLT is 80 percent. In Illinois, the TLF would be used and, if the salvage were worth $700, the car would not be totaled ($2,000 + $700 < $2,800). Of course, states utilizing the TLF rely on and defer to the judgment and opinions of licensed appraisers. Individual state laws provide the following with regard to the TLT:

States frequently dictate this TLT as part of legislating salvage titles. As an example, in Wisconsin, § 342.065(1)(c) reads as follows:

(c) If the interest of an owner in a vehicle that is titled in this state is not transferred upon payment of an insurance claim that, including any deductible amounts, exceeds 70% of the fair market value of the vehicle, any insurer of the vehicle shall, within 30 days of payment of the insurance claim, notify the department in writing of the claim payment and that the vehicle meets the statutory definition of a salvage vehicle, in the manner and form prescribed by the department.

Many states have exceptions to these rules for older vehicles which tend to complicate the issue. Typical policy language regarding total losses is as follows:

We will pay the cost to physically repair the auto or any of its parts up to the actual cash value of the auto or any of its parts at the time of the collision. The most we will pay will be either the actual cash value of the auto or the cost to physically repair the auto, whichever is less. We will, at our option, repair the auto, repair or replace any of its parts, or declare the auto a total loss. If, the repair of a damaged part will impair the operational safety of the auto, we will replace the part.

Understanding the procedure behind declaring a vehicle a total loss isn’t always a prerequisite for successful subrogation. But there are occasions when the third-party tortfeasor and its liability carrier or attorney will question the amount of damages you are looking to subrogate. In such instances, a working knowledge of this area of insurance becomes indispensable.

 

 

Rate Cut Included in Michigan Car Insurance Plan

House Republicans are proposing a revised overhaul of Michigan’s auto insurance system and to guarantee a 10 percent cut in premiums for two years.

The plan unveiled Thursday does away with unlimited medical benefits for people catastrophically injured in car accidents.

Most drivers could instead buy $10 million in personal injury protection, and proponents say nobody should reach the cap.

Low-income motorists could pick a cheaper option covering up to $50,000 in medical expenses. Motorists’ health insurance or Medicaid could pay for treatment when caps are hit.

Gov. Rick Snyder helped unveiled a proposal to cap medical coverage at $1 million last April, but the legislation stalled.

Michigan is the only state that offers unlimited medical benefits for catastrophic injuries and rehabilitation. It costs motorists $186 a year.

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