SEATTLE –Thanksgiving and Christmas are two of the heaviest travel days of the year. Before you and your family take to the road, be sure you have the proper auto insurance and you are prepared for the hazards of congested highways and wet conditions or snow and ice if you’re crossing the mountains.
“Winter driving conditions can range from normal, dry roads to snow and ice within several miles, depending on where you’re going,” said Karl Newman, NW Insurance Council president. “Drivers heading for winter sports activities, or crossing the mountains to visit friends and relatives can see the weather change in minutes.”
Make sure you have the right insurance to protect yourself and your finances if you’re involved in an accident. The state minimum liability coverage will not pay for repairs to your vehicle if you cause an accident with another vehicle or slide off the road and need towing or repairs to your car.
Optional Collision coverage pays for damages to your vehicle as a result of your car colliding with another object regardless of fault. Optional Comprehensive coverage pays for damages to your vehicle not caused by a collision, depreciation and normal wear and tear. Comprehensive coverage also insures your vehicle against losses such as vandalism, fire, hail, windstorm, collision with animals and glass breakage. Both Collision and Comprehensive coverage come with deductibles.
Drivers also may want to consider Towing coverage in case you slide off of the road or you’re involved in an accident. Most Auto Insurance policies do not automatically cover towing. Towing coverage is usually available for $10 to $20 more per year and also provides towing for other hazards such as vehicle breakdown. Check your policy or call your insurance company or agent to verify whether or not you have towing coverage.
NW Insurance Council and the Insurance Information Institute offer these winter-weather driving tips to help you and your family safely get to your holiday destination:
· Before your trip, know the current road conditions and the forecast for your route and destination. Give yourself enough time to arrive at your destination in case bad weather hits along the way.
· If you’re crossing mountains, take chains or other traction devices. If possible, install studded tires before your trip.
· Bring a fully-charged cell phone so that those waiting for your arrival can get in touch with you or you can notify them if you are running late. Avoid the temptation to use your phone while driving. Have a passenger make the call or find a safe place to pullover before making a necessary call.
· Keep your gas tank full. Stormy weather or traffic delays may force you to change routes or turn back. Also, a fuller gas tank helps prevent your car’s gas-line from freezing.
· Keep an emergency winter driving kit in your car. The kit should include blankets, water, high-energy snacks, and highway warning devices, flares, flashlights and batteries.
· Be aware of potentially dangerous icy areas such as shady spots, bridges and overpasses. Approach these areas with caution. These areas are usually the first places to get icy and often the ice is invisible.
· Stay on main roads as much as possible. Road crews normally clear main roads and highways first. In case of an emergency, you have a better chance of getting help on a main route.
· In winter weather conditions, avoid over-acceleration, sudden stops and quick direction changes. Do not activate your cruise control when driving on a slippery surface.
· If you start to slide, pump your brakes gently and steer into the direction of the slide.
· If you have anti-lock brakes, do not pump your brakes. Instead, press firmly on the brake pedal and hold it down, allowing the anti-lock mechanism to work.
· Drive with your headlights on low beam when it is snowing. Low beam provides better illumination in snow than high beam.
For more information on winter-weather driving safety, contact NW Insurance Council at (800) 664-4942 or visit http://www.nwinsurance.org.
NW Insurance Council is a nonprofit, public-education organization funded by member insurance companies serving Washington, Oregon and Idaho.