Remember that in winter weather, safe driving and collision prevention takes a little extra extra effort. It takes the right combination of maintenance and safe driving to avoid accidents in the winter. This is our list of dos and don’ts for safe winter driving.
Don’t Multitask, Just Drive
When you’re driving in bad weather, visibility is low, and the temperatures are cold, it’s especially important to focus on driving! Don’t drive after drinking, using your phone, or looking for directions. Slick roads require drivers to focus on driving and on the other cars on the road.
Do Stay on top of Maintenance
While it’s always important to make sure your car is well maintained and functioning safely, it can be especially important in the winter. Road conditions and visibility can make winter driving a little more dangerous than at other times, and smaller car issues can cause bigger problems while you’re driving and you need to rely on your vehicle.
● Maintain your tire pressure,
● Keep fluids like oil and windshield wiper fluid filled,
● Don’t let your gas tank get below ¼ of a tank – fuel can freeze in the lines,
● Keep oil filters changed regularly,
● Make sure you’re not low on oil, and
● Check coolant – if it’s not full and the system isn’t clear, it can cause your heat to stop working.
Don’t Drive if the Weather is Bad
You have your car to get you from one place to the next. But, if the weather is bad enough, driving isn’t safe. Learn to recognize when the weather isn’t safe to drive in, and when it’s a better idea to put off your journey until it clears! Ask yourself these questions.
● Do you know what your car is capable of?
● Have you driven in winter weather before? How experienced are you?
● What time of day is it? Accidents are more common after dark and late at night.
● How tired are you?
● How well maintained is your vehicle?
● How well maintained are the roads to your destination?
● Is it possible to put off your journey?
Do Follow the Speed Limit
Speed limits are not just guidelines – they’re put in place for your safety. But, speed limits are designed for safe driving under ideal conditions. In bad winter weather, it’s not safe to drive over the speed limit, even if you think your car can handle it. It’s generally safest to drive under the speed limit and stay to the right unless you’re passing.
Don’t Ignore Your Tires
Your tires are one of the most important parts of your car – don’t neglect them! In the winter, it’s important to check tire tread and tire pressure, and consider using winter tires.
Car Insurance Coverage that Applies to Car Accidents
If you’ve been in an accident, understanding your auto insurance policy is a key part of getting through it. Unfortunately, many people don’t understand their policies, or what is covered after an accident.
Some parts of auto insurance are regulated by state laws, and can vary depending on which state your vehicle is registered in. Generally, liability insurance is required in every state, but other parts of your auto insurance coverage depend on your policy. If you aren’t sure what kind of coverage you have, read it, or ask your insurance company for a copy.
There are some common policies that might apply following car accidents in general.
Liability insurance, speaking generally, is the part of your policy that pays for damage or injuries that you cause to other people. This coverage is meant to protect you from paying for someone else’s auto repairs or medical bills.
However, there are different kinds of liability insurance that you might have listed in your policy. Look for the following specific kinds of liability insurance:
● Bodily Injury Liability – This generally covers medical bills for the injured person, and can include other things like emergency aid, loss of income, funeral expenses, and more.
● Property Damage Liability – If you have caused damage to someone else’s property, whether it’s a vehicle, a home, a building, or something else, this portion of your policy should help cover the cost.
Collision coverage should pay for costs associated damage to your own vehicle that were caused by collisions. In this context, a collision only refers to specific situations, like crashing into another vehicle or large object, or rolling the car. The specifics regarding collision coverage can vary, and it’s important to refer to your auto insurance policy for details.
Comprehensive insurance coverage is intended to help with the cost of damage due to other things, like weather, theft, fire, natural disasters, etc. While collision coverage is quite common, comprehensive coverage is less so.
Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage
Although in most states, auto insurance is a legal requirement, not every driver has it, and not every insured driver has enough insurance to pay for the cost of repairing or replacing your vehicle, even if they cause the damage. This portion of your policy helps you to pay for things that the other driver should be paying for, but can’t, so that you’re not stuck with a loss.
Most drivers aren’t looking to get in a collision – they can be painful to your wallet, your property, and to any people who are involved. Unfortunately, the most common kinds of collisions are those when traffic is moving slowly, or not at all. These low speed, low impact accidents are called fender benders.
So, what causes fender benders, and how can we prevent them?
Rear End Collisions
Rear end collisions can happen anywhere, all they require is for one car to hit another from behind. They’re the most common kind of collision that happens in the United States, and they don’t have to happen at high speed to cause damage.
The best way to avoid a rear end collision is to pay attention! If your car is working properly, (make sure your brakes, brake lights, and headlights are working well!) avoiding a rear end collision is usually a matter of leaving enough space between you and the vehicle in front of you, and braking early enough.
Parking Lot Collisions
Parking lot collisions are similar to rear end collisions – they occur when vehicles are too close, and generally occur at low speeds. In a parking lot, one car may be parked during an accident!
Again, if your vehicle is functioning properly, the best way to avoid a collision is to pay attention. Parking lots may not have posted speeds, but generally 15 miles per hour is the fastest one should drive in a parking lot. The more vehicles, especially driving vehicles, and the more people are in a parking lot, the slower your speed should be. Make sure to go easy on the gas pedal, and pay attention to your surroundings in all directions.
Tips for Paying Attention While Driving
Paying attention is one of the first things they’ll teach you in driver’s education. To make sure you’re at your best, follow these tips.
Drive Sober – Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol will likely impair your reaction time and your depth perception, meaning you’ll notice things later, react later, and misjudge their distance from you. This rule applies to both prescribed and recreational drugs!
Stay off the Phone – Cell phones are one of the main causes of accidents today! Driving slowly is not an excuse to split your attention between driving and using an electronic device, whether it’s built into your car or one you bring with you.
Use your Mirrors – Your mirrors are there to help you see what’s around you, so make sure to use them!
Choosing a collision repair center following an accident isn’t always as simple as taking your vehicle to your regular auto maintenance provider. While your regular repair shop might have a thorough understanding of how to maintain your vehicle, it’s unlikely that they spend much time dealing with cosmetic issues, or with seriously damaged vehicles.
When you’re trying to find a collision repair shop, there are a few key things that you should look for.
Auto Body Shop vs Mechanic
A mechanic is typically the first stop for drivers looking for a repair. Mechanics generally have the skills and the tools to repair or replace the inner parts of a vehicle. If a dashboard warning light is on, if a headlight is broken, or if the car is making a funny noise, a mechanic is a great place to go.
However, if there are any issues involving the vehicle’s appearance, an auto body shop is generally needed. A body shop also has the tools and experience to repair or replace the inner workings of a vehicle. In addition, they evaluate the appearance of the vehicle and make it look like new.
Before you go to any shop, ask around for recommendations. Anyone in town, from friends and family to a friendly grocer or a neighbor can have tips, especially if you know they’ve been involved in an accident. The internet is also a great resource, and it’s full of reviews from people who have worked with various collision repair shops in your area.
Visit the Shop
Visit the shop before you commit, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. You can get a feel for how the shop is run and how they treat their customers from a quick visit.
● Is the staff professional? A great collision repair shop should treat you with respect, be organized, and be willing and able to answer questions that you have. They may also have awards, memberships, and other certificates hanging in the lobby.
● Can you see the vehicles that are currently being repaired? Look at their age, make, and model. Are they similar to yours? Ask the customer service staff if the shop has experience working on vehicles like yours.
● Ask about any work or parts guarantees, warranties, or standards. Check that they accept your method of payment, and ask if they have availability.
● Before a shop can commit, they’ll likely have to see your vehicle.
Fender Benders: Minor Accidents and Common Collision Damage & Repairs
Fortunately, most of us have never been in a truly devastating car accident. Fender benders, on the other hand, happen quite often. Have you ever wondered where the term ‘fender bender’ comes from?
In an accident, no matter how minor, the fender, which is often used synonymously with bumper, is the most commonly damaged auto part. Fenders and bumpers are also specifically designed to protect the more critical parts of a car. Because of this, the term ‘fender bender’ is used to refer to minor auto accidents, whether or not they actually affect the fender or bumper.
Why the Bumper?
The front and rear bumpers are attached to the front and rear of a vehicle, respectively. The purpose of a bumper is to absorb the damage caused by a collision, especially in small or low-speed crashes.
They’re not meant to protect the passengers, but they do protect important parts of the vehicle like the engine, headlights, taillights, etc.
Bumpers are designed to be easier to replace and less critical to the functioning of the vehicle than the parts they protect. That’s why they’re generally the first point of contact in a crash, which leaves them vulnerable to the most damage.
Why the Fender?
Although they’re often used interchangeably, and they do work together, the fender and the bumper are not the same thing. A fender frames the outside of the wheel, and is often connected to the bumper, which is why the words are often used interchangeably.
Fenders serve the same purpose as bumpers: to protect the vehicle. However, while bumpers protect parts like the engine and lights, the fender protects the wheel. On modern vehicles, it’s usually more difficult to tell the difference between the fender and the bumper.
Fender Bender Repairs
Usually, both the fender and the bumper are damaged in one of four ways: they’re dented, scratched, cracked, or broken.
Minor scratches can usually be buffed out, and deeper scratches can be covered. Dents can be pushed out or pulled out with a vacuum. Cracks will need to be filled in, unless they’re particularly wide, in which case they need to be reinforced in order to maintain the protection the part needs to provide. Breaks may be able to be reinforced and repaired like a crack, but they may not be repairable. Sometimes, the part needs to be replaced.
Any bumper and fender repair will need to be repainted to match the vehicle, which can sometimes be the most challenging part of the repair!
It may not seem like it, but the windshield and windows in your vehicle do more than allow you to see out of it – they play an important role in protecting both the driver and passengers in the case of an accident. When your windows are damaged, especially the windshield, it’s important to repair them as soon as possible to ensure their structural integrity, and to ensure that if you are in an accident, your windows will protect you instead of harming you.
So, how is auto glass designed to protect passengers in the case of an accident?
The type of protection a window provides depends on the type of glass it is made with. There are two main types of safety auto-glass that are commonly used for windshields and auto windows: tempered glass, and laminated glass.
Tempered glass is up to 10 times stronger than laminated glass and much stronger than your average piece of glass, but when it breaks, it can’t be repaired, only replaced. After a piece of glass is cut to size, it is tempered through a repeated process of heating with extreme temperatures followed by rapid cooling. After this process, tempered glass is more resistant to extreme temperature changes. When a collision occurs, tempered glass breaks into small oval pieces rather than sharp pointy shards.
Laminated glass, while not as strong as tempered glass, is what windshields are made of. Laminated glass consists of two sheets of glass with a piece of plastic vinyl between them. The idea is that if a collision compromises the structure of one sheet of glass, the vinyl will protect the other. For example, if stone from the road strikes the windshield, it might crack the outer piece of glass, but the interior of the windshield will remain in tact.
Why should you fix a cracked windshield?
Generally, it’s a good idea to have your windshield repaired or replaced if you notice a defect. Why?
It might grow. – What starts as a chip or a small crack will weaken the glass, making it more vulnerable to changes in temperature, pressure, or damage in an accident.
It can affect visibility. – One of the first issues, even with a small chip, is that it can get in the driver’s way! A chip or crack low in the windshield on the passenger side is the only one that might not affect visibility.
The cost might increase if you wait. – Small chips and cracks, especially those that are only on the outside of the windshield, can probably be repaired. However, if they grow or cause another accident, the entire windshield will need to be replaced.
When you’re involved in a collision for the first time, you’ll probably have a lot of questions about how to handle it! We’ve put together a list of some common collision related questions to help get you through it.
Can I have my car repaired at any shop?
Yes! Legally, you have the right to repair your vehicle at a shop of your choosing. Don’t let an insurance company tell you otherwise.
What is a DRP?
DRP stands for Direct Repair Shop. Direct repair shops are collision repair shops that have made an agreement with an insurance company to provide certain services or follow certain regulations in exchange for fast or guaranteed payment from that insurance company. These deals are intended to provide faster service with less paperwork, but they may have downsides as well. If you select a DRP, make sure to ask what their policies are with the insurance company.
How do I get an estimate?
In order to truly determine how much damage has been done, an estimator needs to examine your vehicle, and estimates are just that – estimates. They aren’t always 100 percent accurate. You’ll need to bring your vehicle into the shop, where the estimator may need to take it apart to determine the damage and the cost of repairs.
How do I deal with my insurance company?
When you call your insurance company, they should give you a claim number. Bring it with you when you take your vehicle to the repair shop, and the shop should talk to the insurance company for you. If the shop and the insurance company have any issues, they should let you know. Both you and the shop can be in contact with the insurance company, and the claim number will let them know which vehicle and insurance claim you’re calling about.
How do I pay my deductible?
Usually, you’ll pay your deductible directly to the shop, because the insurance company will not pay that portion of your bill for you – it’s your deductible and they don’t want to front it for you. If you aren’t sure about the amount or about how to pay, don’t be afraid to discuss the specifics of your claim with your shop, or with your insurance company.
How long will my repairs take?
The answer to this question can vary immensely depending on the specifics of your accident, your vehicle, the damage, which shop you choose to perform your repairs, and your insurance company. Depending on your insurance policy, you may be able to get a rental car during the repair process. Ask your insurance company!
What You Should Know About Original Equipment Manufacturer Certified Repair Shops
The collision repair industry is huge, and as cars grow more complex, repair shops and technicians need to stay on top of the latest procedures and technologies. Although there is no standard certification or requirement that makes any one shop better than any other shop all the time, there are times when a vehicle repair requires specific knowledge that one shop or technician may have and another doesn’t.
You may have heard of an original equipment manufacturer, or OEM. Original equipment manufacturer refers to the factory that produced the original parts that your vehicle was made of. Collision shops can also obtain a certification from an OEM, and this certification can play a role when you’re selecting a shop.
What does it mean when a shop is OEM certified?
An OEM certified repair shop has been through an OEM certification program. While different OEM’s, or vehicle manufacturers, may have slightly different requirements for a shop to become certified, these programs are usually costly and time consuming, and any certified shop has made that investment and places value on the quality of their work.
What are OEM certification requirements?
Different OEMs have different requirements, but usually certification programs have high costs. They may require on site training, either at the OEM location or at the shop with a certified trainer. Usually, OEM certified shops are required to use OEM parts, meaning that any parts replaced on a vehicle repaired in a certified shop will be the same parts, produced by the same place, as the original vehicle.
Do I need to find an OEM certified shop?
The purpose of OEM certifications is to keep shops and repairs at the same standards as auto manufacturers. However, there are so many different OEMs, and refinish companies are also beginning to have their own certifications. Certifications are also expensive, and can raise the cost for consumers. So, depending on your repair needs and your budget, different shops with different certifications – or without certifications – may be the best option for you.
What are the benefits of OEM certifications?
To put it simply, OEM certified shops are held to standards similar standards when repairing a vehicle that original manufacturers are held to when building the vehicle. The same parts will be used, the same safety, emissions, environmental, and quality practices will be used. OEM certified shops already have standard procedures in place that meet OEM requirements to obtain parts, make repairs, and get you on your way.
Fortunately, teen car accidents are preventable! Preventing collisions is the best way to keep your family safe. The biggest causes of teen accidents are distractions and driving under the influence, but there are several things we can do to help keep teens safe on the road.
Teens don’t usually appreciate restrictions, but when a new driver is learning, it’s best to keep their focus on the car and the road, not on distractions like cell phones. Cell phones are distracting at all ages, and should be used for emergencies only while on the road.
Another distraction for teens is friends, who don’t always respect the driver as well as they should. Limiting passengers is one of the best ways to keep young drivers safe.
Limit Driving at Night
Driving during the day can be challenging enough for new drivers, and eliminating light doesn’t make it any easier. Until teen drivers are comfortable driving safely during the day, limiting their time behind the wheel after dark is a good way to keep them safe.
Follow the Speed Limit
Speed limits are set for a reason. Especially while they’re learning, teens should follow the speed limits – and all traffic rules.
Don’t Drive Under the Influence
Alcohol or drugs of any kind can impair judgment and reaction times. It’s important to educate teens about the dangers of driving under the influence – not only to themselves and their passengers, but to other drivers and pedestrians on the road.
Practice Safe Driving in Inclement Weather
Rain, sleet, fog, hail, snow, and other kinds of weather can make it difficult to see and drive safely. It’s important to practice driving in bad conditions with a teacher in the vehicle, but it’s also important to know when to get off the road and wait it out.
Always Wear a Seat Belt
Seat belts do save lives! Children, teens, and adults should always wear a seatbelt in the car, but especially when a teen driver is behind the wheel. If an accident does happen, it’s the best way to stay safe.
Education is Key
Ultimately, driving requires some maturity that many teens just don’t have. As a parents, teachers, and members of a global community, it’s our job to set a good example and educate children and teens.
As technology advances, vehicles become more and more complex. According to Brian Wayne, of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, the new Chrysler Pacifica has over 200 computers built into it!
At the annual NACE expo this summer, a panel of industry professionals representing OEMs and insurance companies discussed the recent official statements of several OEMs regarding the need for diagnostic scans both before and after all collision repairs.
Mike Anderson, owner of of Collision Advice, moderated the panel, which included representatives from State Farm and Farmers Insurance, as well as Audi of America, American Honda, Toyota, Fiat Chrysler, General Motors, Nissan, and Collision Diagnostic Services.
Why Are Scans Necessary?
Because vehicles today are so complex, manufacturers are concerned that the fragile systems inside them won’t function correctly following an accident. Dashboard warning lights exist to warn drivers when something isn’t working properly, but not every system sets off a warning light. Even when warning lights do go off, a scan tool is required to identify the problem.
Some of the systems installed into newer vehicles are there for safety. During the panel, participants discussed the Seat Weight Sensor as an example of one that can easily be thrown off in a collision. This system weighs the front passenger and determines whether it is safe to deploy the front airbag in the case of an accident.
Chris Toby, the panel representative from Honda simplified the issue, comparing the Seat Weight Sensor to a bathroom scale. He said, “Would you throw your bathroom scale against a wall and expect it to weigh you accurately afterward?”
Early in the discussion, Anderson asked, “How would a shop know that there is a problem with a vehicle if there is no dash light? How else can they tell? Can they do a visual inspection?”
Audi rep, Mark Allen, replied, “Those systems are there for safety and collision avoidance. Scan the car.”
Insurance Carrier Opinions
The insurance representatives who were present at the discussion indicated that they would appreciate a little more clarity regarding when scans are actually necessary.
State farm representative, Chris Evans, said, “A scan isn’t always necessary… We don’t always want to have to pay for one. What if you replace something where no embedded technology exists?”
Collision Repair Techs: Stuck in the Middle?
In the panel, all of the vehicle manufacturers discussed recent and upcoming official statements, and all of them support both pre and post collision repair scans. Unfortunately, this leaves collision repair shops in the middle of a battlefield.
Scanning technology, insurance expectations, and safety requirements are not yet standardized across the industry.