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.

Finding an insurance program you can bank on

Whether you operate a bank, savings and loan, credit union, household finance or mortgage company, you need to protect your organization’s own assets to ensure that you remain open for business. Your clients depend on you for services such as mortgages and other loans, night depositories, checking and savings accounts and ATMs.

A financial company’s assets go beyond traditional assets such as buildings and contents. Your insurance coverage should be tailored to include unique exposures you may have, such as:

  • Broad coverage for damage to special property such as bulletproof glass, night depositories, vaults and ATMs
  • Protection for your interest in a mortgaged property in the event it is damaged or destroyed and the borrower’s coverage is inadequate or has lapsed
  • Coverage for dwellings and other properties acquired in foreclosure, assuring that coverage is adequate despite the possibility of the property being vacant
  • Your interest in other collateral property such as autos, RVs and boats that are damaged or destroyed where there is an error or omission in procuring or maintaining physical damage coverage on those items
  • Both liability and physical damage protection for autos that are repossessed

Ask your Ayres Group insurance agent to place your policy with a carrier that provides broad coverage for common exposures of financial companies. Your assets should be as safe and secure as your clients’.

Coverages described here are in the most general terms and are subject to actual policy conditions and exclusions. For actual coverage wording, conditions and exclusions, refer to the policy or contact your Ayres Group agent.

Innocent employers go to court every day

Misunderstandings can lead to disastrous consequences for your company, but there are things employers can do to protect your business. Imagine these scenarios:

  • A manager terminates an employee based on negative performance evaluations. The terminated employee sues the employer for pregnancy discrimination, alleging she was fired based on her pregnancy and leave of absence.
  • The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sues a manufacturing company for race and gender discrimination in their hiring procedures. The EEOC alleges Asian applicants were turned down for all positions except administrative ones.
  • A former employee alleges that after he informed his employer of the need for a kidney transplant, he was terminated.

Even if the employers in these examples were completely innocent and the allegations are unfounded, they may nonetheless incur significant defense costs. What would your company do if these claims were filed against it? Would your company have the resources to pay for litigation costs that may take months or even years to resolve?


Employment practices liability insurance (EPLI) protects your company against the financial consequences of employment-related lawsuits and from allegations that an employee’s rights were violated. Lawsuits can result in defense costs and possible state or federal fines and penalties if your company is found liable. Complaints and charges could be brought by past, present or prospective employees.

Allegations could include:

  • Wrongful termination of employment
  • Wrongful failure to employ or promote
  • Failure to create and provide workplace employment procedures
  • Violations of the Family and Medical Leave Act, Americans with Disabilities Act, Age Discrimination in Employment Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act
  • Wrongful retaliation
  • Breach of oral or written employment contracts

Top-trending employment practice claims also include:

  • Pregnancy discrimination
  • Illegal background checks
  • Health-related employment discrimination
  • LGBT gender identity discrimination

Take action to mitigate the risk in employment decisions:

  • Discuss employment practices liability insurance with your attorney, risk manager and local independent insurance agent.
  • Minimize the risk of lawsuits by educating your managers and employees.
  • Create employment procedures that extend from pre-employment all the way to termination and beyond.
  • Maintain accurate and thorough documentation regarding any employment action that occurs, including steps your organization takes to prevent and solve disputes.
  • Develop an employee handbook detailing company policies for discipline, termination and prevention of sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace.
  • Ask interview questions that are nondiscriminatory when recruiting and selecting talent.

Employee-related complaints, charges and allegations could seriously damage the reputation and bottom-line results of your company or organization. Take action. Seek advice from your attorney and your risk management team, including your Ayres Group Agent.

Courtesy: Cincinnati Insurance