Safe Driving and Good Car Maintenance Take Center Stage In Winter

INSURANCE INFORMATION INSTITUTE
New York Press Office: (212) 346-5500; media@iii.org

NEW YORK, December 15, 2010 — Given that at one point this week the day time temperature was lower in Florida than in Maine, the need to operate safely a well-maintained motor vehicle as winter approaches has gained national attention, according to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.). Winter begins on Tuesday, December 21.

 
“Drivers should always keep their front and rear windshields clear, focus on operating their vehicle, and avoid speeding. But these safety measures are even more critical as motorists navigate windblown, icy and snow-covered roadways,” said Michael Barry, vice president of Media Relations for the I.I.I.
 
Icy roads are running through parts of Mississippi and Alabama while a number of Midwestern and Northeast states are still digging out from the heavy snowstorms that hit them earlier in the week.
 
Damage to cars from falling ice or tree branches is covered under the comprehensive portion of an auto insurance policy, an optional coverage which about 75 percent of U.S. drivers purchase. Comprehensive covers damage to a policyholder’s car not involving a collision with another car, including damage from fire, theft, explosions, earthquakes, floods and riots.
 
In order to avoid potentially dangerous situations under challenging driving conditions, the I.I.I. offers the following tips:

SAFE WINTER DRIVING

  • Give yourself enough time to arrive at your destination. Trips can take longer during the winter than at other times of the year, especially if you encounter storm conditions or icy roads.
  • Drive slowly—accelerating, stopping and turning all take longer on snow-covered roads.
  • Leave more distance than usual between your vehicle and the one just ahead of you, giving yourself at least 10 seconds to come to a complete stop. Cars and motorcycles usually need at least three seconds to halt completely when traveling on dry pavement.
  • Be careful when driving over bridges, as well as roadways rarely exposed to sunlight—they can be icy when other areas are not.
  • Avoid sudden stops and quick direction changes.
  • Keep the windshield and windows clear. Drivers in cold-weather states should have a snow brush or scraper in their vehicle at all times. Your car’s defroster can be supplemented by wiping the windows with a clean cloth to improve visibility.
  • Do not activate your cruise control when driving on a slippery surface.
  • Do not warm up your vehicle in an enclosed area, such as a garage.
  • Bring a cellphone so that those awaiting your arrival can get in touch with you if you are very late. But avoid the temptation to use the phone while driving, as it can be a dangerous distraction.
  • Monitor the weather conditions at your destination before beginning your trip. If conditions look as though they are going to be too hazardous, just stay home.
  • Drivers should neither apply extra gas nor stop their vehicle when traveling on an icy road and approaching a hill. The extra gas will prompt a car’s wheels to spin, and stopping completely will make it difficult for the vehicle to regain its momentum.  

GOOD CAR MAINTENANCE

  • Keep your tires properly inflated and remember that good tread on your tires is essential to safe winter driving.
  • Check your exhaust pipe to make sure it is clear. A blocked pipe can cause a leakage of carbon monoxide gas into your car when the engine is running.
  • Be sure to keep your gas tank full. Stormy weather or traffic delays may force you to change routes or turn back. A fuller gas tank also ensures that your car’s gas-line will not freeze. 
 
 

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