While no one wants to have an accident, they do happen on occasion. That’s why we call them accidents, after all. Auto insurance is an important part of protecting yourself and your assets. The rates you pay are based, in part, on your past driving and claims history. If you can avoid claims, it will save you a bundle on your insurance. Even more, it can save you time and injury if you can keep your car and its occupants safe. Here are nine of the most common auto insurance claims and tips on how you might avoid them.
Rear end crash
A rear end crash is one of the most common accidents on the road, and one of the most avoidable. Outside of inclement weather and poor road conditions, most rear end accidents are a result of following too closely or not paying attention when driving.
The easiest way to avoid this type of collision is to put down your phone when driving. According to CDC statistics, 8 people are killed and 1,161 are injured every single day in the United States due to distracted driving.
In September 2015, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) shared that ten top car manufacturers committed to adding automatic braking technology that is designed specifically to avoid this type of crash. In the meantime, driving cautiously, paying attention to the road, and avoiding distracted driving may be the best defense.
Windshield chips and cracks claim a top spot on this list, yet many drivers don’t believe this type of damage is avoidable. While you can’t make rocks and pebbles stay on the ground, you can take steps to avoid the most common situations where windshield damage takes place.
Most chips and cracks come from rocks thrown up in the air by large trucks, snow removal equipment, and other debris from the road. If you can keep your distance from these trucks and situations, you are doing your windshield and your wallet a favor.
For example, if you live in an area with dirt and gravel roads, keep your distance when trucks turn on or off of an unpaved road. In areas with frequent snow and ice, leave plenty of room between yourself and all other cars. If you see plows ahead, add extra distance as plows often drop gravel on the road to help improve traction on potentially icy roads.
Damage to parked vehicle
When living in Boulder, Colorado, one day I walked out to my car to find someone had vandalized the vehicle. I was one of about eight cars that had the bad luck of a presumably drunken college student walking down the street kicking side-view mirrors. As a matter of fact, I have had several claims over the last decade that were a result of damage when I was nowhere near my car. And, not surprisingly, the culprits never stuck around or left a note.
It turns out I’m not alone. 2016 research found that 15% of drivers have hit a parked car. A full 1.7 million admitted to turning that into a hit and run when hitting a parked car! While you can’t always avoid parking lots, you can take some steps to protect your vehicle.
If you have a garage, that is the safest place to park. Also look at your available parking options when away from home. Avoid parking too closely to other cars and avoid tiny, compact parking spaces when larger spots are available. Also try to park away from tight corners, turns, and driveways where someone may bump or scrape your car when passing by.
The NHTSA reports approximately 500,000 backup and backover accidents every year in the United States. 15,000 of those accidents lead to injury and 210 lead to death. These are completely avoidable accidents and still, they happen far too often.
Thankfully an NHTSA requirement requires all new cars to have a backup camera beginning in 2018. Many cars today are already equipped with the cameras. The best step you can take to avoid a backup accident is to get a camera equipped vehicle. You can also buy a backup camera kit for your car for around $70 to $300 depending on the features you want.
If you don’t have a camera, always look behind the car when you get in, pay attention to the rearview and side-view mirrors, and teach young children how to stay safe around moving cars.
Single car crash
According to the John A. Volpe National Transportation Systems Center, one in five accidents involves a single car leaving the road. This leads to over 8,000 deaths per year. Again, outside of weather related incidents, the majority of these crashes are avoidable.
Drowsy driving is a factor that can lead to single car crashes. Drivers falling asleep behind the wheel are incredibly dangerous. Alcohol, drug use, and driving when too tired are common causes. According to a terrifying 2005 study, 37% of drivers admitted to having fallen asleep behind the wheel! Younger drivers are more likely to drive when drowsy than older, more experienced drivers, according to the survey results.
New technologies exist to ensure cars stay in the correct lane, even if the driver nods off, but it will be a long while before that reaches the majority of cars on the road. In the meantime, never risk driving after drinking, drug use, or any time there is even a remote possibility you won’t be able to safely reach your destination.
The Denver, Colorado metropolitan area recently took the brunt of a hailstorm in the running to be the most damaging in the state’s history. The most damaging, a 1990 wallop from a major thunderstorm, led to an adjusted $1.1 billion in damages. Among that damage were plenty of vehicles with broken windshields, dented hoods, and water damage.
If you live in an area prone to hailstorms, you are best off parking under cover whenever possible in the summer thunderstorm months. Using your garage for extra storage might seem like a great way to add more space to your home, but it may not be worth it if it means your car will be unprotected when the bad weather hits.
Break ins and theft
There is little more frustrating than a car break in and trends show this problem is not going away anytime soon. In Seattle, police respond to over 10,000 break-ins per year. Every area and neighborhood is different, but you can take steps to protect your car.
Never leave valuable items in view when you park your car. Always do your best to park in secure, well lit places. In an interview with The Seattle Times, one detective shared this blunt advice to help anyone avoid a car break in.
“It’s kind of a harsh way to put it, but if you want to avoid being a victim of a car prowl, take your stuff off the seats and off the floorboards and move it into the trunk. One, you’ll have a cleaner car that’ll be easier to sit in; and two, you won’t be a victim.”
Back and neck injuries are very common with car accidents. Even a minor fender bender can lead to whiplash, back and neck pain, and other minor injuries. At higher speeds and intersections, injuries get more serious.
The best way to avoid injuries is to follow traffic laws and always wear your seatbelt. As a general rule, the newer the car, the safer it is. Over time, the government and car makers introduce new safety standards and technologies, such as the previously mentioned backup cameras and crash avoidance systems. If you have the means to drive a newer, safer car with top safety ratings, upgrading is one of the best options you have to help prevent injury in the event of an accident.
Crash at intersection
Busy and confusing intersections are ripe for a crash, but they can happen at any intersection at any time. Never take it for granted that other drivers will obey traffic signals and be alert when approaching an intersection.
When preparing to go after stopping at a red light, take a moment to look for other drivers speeding to make it through a yellow light. If you are that driver approaching a light that turns yellow, make the cautious decision and hit the brakes.
The Federal Highway Administration works with cities, states, insurance companies, transportation experts, and other concerned citizens to make intersections as safe as possible. But at the end of the day, it falls on us as drivers to make the best decisions to help everyone reach their destination safely.
Take the steps to stay safe
As a driver, you have the power to drive safely and take steps to avoid these common insurance claims. If you do, you will help make sure you and your family are safer along with everyone else on the road. As a bonus, safe driving and avoiding claims may lead to big car insurance savings.
Every time you get behind the wheel, you are responsible for both safe driving and defensive driving. Knowing what to look out for, you are best prepared to end every journey with a safe arrival.