Preventing Collisions with Cyclists

In recent years, more and more people are cycling to get around than they were in the past. Cycling accidents are almost always detrimental to the cyclist, but they’re nearly always the fault of the driver! So, how can you stay safe on the roads with cyclists?

Bikes are Vehicles Too

Although bikes may have their own bike lanes, they are considered vehicles on the road, and it is not always safe for them to ride on the sidewalk. Cyclists have rights and responsibilities on the road, but you should need to treat them as vehicles too.

Don’t Risk It

With cyclists, it’s important to play it safe. If you aren’t sure what they’re doing, wait instead of moving forward. This can mean that you should avoid tailgating, recognize that potholes and other road hazards may affect the way a cyclist rides, and allow time and space for cyclists to ride safely.

Bike Lanes are For Bikers

Bike lanes exist for bikers to ride safely and stay out of your way, while car lanes are designed automobiles. In order to stay safe on the road, you need to respect that bike lanes are for bikers only. If you’re in a bike lane, a cyclist may swerve into traffic, leading to dangerous accidents.

Check Mirrors and Blind Spots

Whether you’re moving or parked, always check your blind spots and your mirrors before driving, turning, or even opening a door! If you don’t see a cyclist on the road, you could cause a collision.

Double Check When Turning

Generally, cyclists ride on the right, and when you’re making a right turn in a vehicle, you need to cross the bike lane, and check for cyclists, to do so safely. However, you’re making a left hand turn, make sure to wait for cyclists crossing the intersection from the other direction too! They may be going faster than you think, and for a cyclist, a fast stop can be dangerous.

Pass with Caution

Yes, in many cases, cyclists aren’t going as fast as automobiles. That doesn’t mean you have the right to pass them at any time. Always leave plenty of space, avoid tailgating, and wait until you can legally pass with enough room to do so safely.

Change Your Attitude

Have you ever been a cyclist on the road? Different cyclists have different reasons for biking, whether they want to do their part for the environment, exercise more, or they want the ease of parking close to wherever they’re going. Consider the benefits of biking, even for you! Cyclists are not a nuisance on the road, they are driving vehicles just like you. Remember that every bike on the road means one less car!

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What’s That Smell?

While maintaining your vehicle can help to prevent major issues, even a fender bender can create or exacerbate major and minor issues. Even if you think you’ve just dented the side panel or broken a headlight in an accident, it’s a good idea to have your vehicle examined after a crash.

To protect the passengers inside, vehicles today are designed to direct the flow of damage from one part of the car to another, which can lead to hidden damage. Sometimes, you can tell that your car has an issue just by a certain smell, especially while you’re driving. If you’ve been in an accident and you’re noticing a strange smell, the sooner you have it looked at, the better, especially when it comes to insurance!

If your car smells like rotten eggs…

The smell of sulphur or rotten eggs often indicates an issue with your exhaust system, specifically the catalytic converter. The catalytic converter helps eliminate some of the harmful gases produced by the engine, so a malfunction could be hazardous to your health and the environment. Waiting too long to have this fixed can be extremely costly.

If your car smells sweet…

It could indicate that your coolant is leaking! Coolant is critical to keeping your engine at the right temperature while it’s running, and if it overheats, you’ll have a much bigger and more expensive issue on your hands.

If you smell gasoline away from the pump…

Gasoline can signal one of several issues. If you’ve just tried and failed to start your car, it could mean you’ve flooded the engine and you’ll need to wait a few minutes before trying again. If you smell gasoline at another time, you may have a leak in your fuel injector line, or in your gas tank. Any fuel leak is a fire hazard – have it checked out as soon as possible.

If you smell something burning…

Usually, a burning smell is a sign that there is an electrical short, or that oil is leaking and burning. Oil leaks can usually be seen on the ground below your vehicle, especially if it’s left sitting for a short period of time. Either issue should be repaired quickly to avoid further damage or excessive heat.

If you smell burning rubber…

Usually, burning rubber is an issue with brakes. You may not think a collision could cause brake issues, but anything from unbalanced tires to a misalignment can lead to uneven wear on the brakes and tires, leading to a burning smell. To be safely driven, every vehicle needs functioning brakes, so don’t waste time in having them repaired.

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Is My Car Safe to Drive After an Accident?

Of course, the answer to this question completely depends on the specifics of the accident that your vehicle was in. However, if you have any question as to whether it is safe to drive or not, it is always a good idea to have it inspected! Your collision technician can tell you if it is damaged beyond repair or not.

Once your vehicle has been inspected and, if necessary, repaired, is it safe to drive? There are a few things you can do and questions that you can ask during the repair process to help ensure that it will be.

Ask your technician what kind of parts can be used to repair your vehicle.

There are several different ways that repair shops can fix the broken parts of your car. They can repair them, they can replace them with aftermarket or recycled parts, or, they can replace them with original equipment manufacturer (OEM) parts.

Each of these has different benefits and drawbacks, from cost to safety to compatibility. However, OEM parts are not always safest, and recycled parts are not always the most affordable. Discuss your options with your technician.

Work with a repair shop you know and trust.

If possible, work with repair technicians that you know, or that you have been referred to. Especially with modern vehicles, it’s important for repair technicians to have the proper training to work on today’s vehicles and fix them to meet the current safety standards.

Ask and understand what happened, what is being repaired, and what needs to be replaced.

Even though you trust your technician, you are the one who will be driving your vehicle, and the best way to ensure that it’s repaired well is to be involved in the process. A great technician will answer any questions you have, explain to you what is wrong and how it should be fixed, and involve you in any major decisions that need to be made.

Listen to your vehicle.

Often, listening to your vehicle and paying attention to the way it drives are the best ways to tell when something is wrong. Even if you’ve taken your vehicle to a shop that you trust and you’ve been involved in the repair process, it can’t hurt to ask or have it checked out if you think there is an issue.

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What Does That Mean?

A Mini-Glossary of Helpful Insurance Related Collision Repair Terms

When you’re in an accident, it’s (hopefully) a rare occurrence, but that means that you’re likely to run into a few insurance related terms you aren’t accustomed to hearing. That’s why we put together this list of useful insurance terms to help you through the process of dealing with a car accident.

Adjuster/Claims Adjuster – A claims adjuster works for an insurance company. His or her job is to settle insurance claims, so this is the person you’ll speak with when you call your insurance company. The adjuster determines how much the insurance company will pay, and interprets what the policy covers when a claim is made.

Carrier – A carrier, or insurance carrier, is the company that issues an insurance policy and pays out when a valid claim is made.

Collision Insurance – This type of insurance coverage is not mandatory, but it will cover the cost of repairing your vehicle when damage is caused by a collision with another vehicle or an object, like a tree. Regardless of who causes the accident, this coverage is for your vehicle only, not any other vehicle or property that was involved in the accident.

Comprehensive Insurance – This type of insurance coverage, like collision insurance, is not mandatory. It covers the cost incurred when your vehicle is damaged from something other than a collision, like theft, weather damage, vandalism, or a fire.

DRP (Direct Repair Program) – Many collision repair shops and insurance companies have contractual agreements that are intended to make the repair process easier, faster, and smoother. These agreements have set rules regarding repairs, standard procedures, record keeping, and more. DRPs have benefits and disadvantages – sometimes repairs can be done faster and insurance companies will cover certain things, but they may require shops to use less expensive parts. It’s a good idea to ask your collision repair tech about any DRPs they’re a part of.

Direct Repair Shop – A collision repair shop that participates in a direct repair program is called a direct repair shop. Remember that even if a collision shop participates in a DRP, you are not required to take your vehicle to that shop. The advantages and disadvantages of a DRP can vary.
Endorsement/Rider – This is a modification to your insurance contract.

Steering – When an insurance company tries to get a customer to take their vehicle to a specific repair shop, or does not let the customer choose their own repair shop, it’s called steering. In most cases, steering is illegal. You have the right to take your vehicle to any repair shop.

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Car Insurance Basics

The Basics of Car Insurance

Car InsuranceIn the United States, most states require vehicle owners to have some kind of car insurance, but the laws regarding what kinds of car insurance you need vary from state to state. Your auto insurance company won’t sell you anything less than what is legally required, but they will offer all kinds of additional coverage options if you choose to purchase them.

Understanding what all the different options cover can be confusing, but our list of common car insurance coverage options can help. Generally, there is no insurance that is called ‘full coverage’, but full coverage is considered a combination of liability, collision, and comprehensive insurance coverage.

Liability Coverage

Insurance coverage for liability covers the cost of damage that you or your vehicle cause to others. Usually, a portion of liability insurance covers bodily injuries, or physical injuries to other people, and a portion covers property damage. Liability insurance can also pay for your legal bills if you’re responsible for an accident. Usually, liability insurance is legally required.

To cover your own injuries, you’d need Personal Injury Protection, or, your own medical insurance.

Collision Coverage

Collision Coverage is usually not required by law, but it covers the cost of repairing your own vehicle after an accident or collision.

Comprehensive Coverage

Comprehensive coverage is usually not required by law. It covers the cost of repairing your own vehicle after damage caused by something other than a collision. Depending on your policy, what is covered under comprehensive coverage and what isn’t can vary, but usually it covers things like theft, vandalism, weather damage, fire, or hitting an animal that damages your vehicle.

Uninsured or Underinsured Motorist Coverage

Unfortunately, not everyone follows the law and has car insurance, and not every insurance policy covers 100 percent of the damage that an accident can cause. Uninsured or underinsured motorist coverages helps to cover the cost of your medical bills, and possibly property damage, if the other driver’s insurance doesn’t.

It can also come in handy in a hit and run, when you don’t have the other person’s information.

Extras

Car insurance companies can offer you coverage for nearly any expense related to your vehicle or an accident, from rental car reimbursement to roadside assistance. However, there is not insurance that covers general maintenance like oil changes and brake changes.

Roadside assistance can help cover the cost of towing and getting you where you need to go if your vehicle breaks down on the side of the road.

Rental reimbursement can help pay for a rental car if yours is in the shop, stolen, or damaged.

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Why Won’t My Car Start?

If you’ve been in a car accident, your first concern is generally for the safety of the people involved, and then you have to figure out how much damage was done to your vehicle. When your car won’t start, there could be a hundred causes – so how do you narrow it down and figure out what’s wrong?

After an accident, when a repair technician examines your vehicle, they start by looking at the car from the outside. To determine how to fix it, the technician needs to follow the flow of damage, which can be different depending on the make and model of your vehicle.

While most major damage in an accident will be found easily, there are some small things that can go wrong that can slip through the cracks if the flow of damage isn’t followed correctly. If your car won’t start, look for the following mishaps.

Damaged Sensors

For safety, most vehicles have sensors to ensure that the systems that help them run are functioning properly. If one of these sensors is damaged in an accident, it could prevent the system connected to it from working – and cause your car not to start. You may need to take your vehicle to a collision repair technician to fix the damaged sensors.

Battery Failure

Usually when a battery dies, it’s because some system was left running while the car was off. Most vehicles can recharge the battery with some daily driving, but if a car is left sitting for too long without being driven, or if the power drains too fast, there won’t be enough power to start it. Jump starting your battery can help you get around this and start your car on your own.

Corrosion, Moisture, and Rust

Unfortunately, oxygen and water can be two of the most damaging things to a vehicle. One of the most common types of damage caused by an accident is a scrape or scratch – and although they seem like small, cosmetic changes, they can allow water and oxygen into systems that are usually sealed, causing rust and corrosion, which ultimately break down parts of your vehicle, compromising its strength and safety.

Brake fluid goes bad when exposed to water. Moisture can get inside the distributor cap, especially on rainy days, and prevent your vehicle from starting. Corrosion around your battery can affect the battery performance, which can also stop your vehicle from starting properly.

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Dangers of Driving with a Cracked Windshield

Cracks and chips in a windshield can be annoying, especially if they’re right in your field of view, but they can easily be forgotten if they’re not. Unfortunately, they can be more than just an inconvenience. Chips and cracks can be a major safety hazard, and in some states, they’re illegal.

What causes windshield cracks and chips?

Even if you store your vehicle in a garage and maintain it well, it’s likely that you’ll find small cracks or chips in your windshield.

Driving on any road, but especially a gravel road, means that your vehicle and the vehicles around you are spinning gravel and other debris into the air as they drive. Keeping a safe distance from the car in front of you can help lower the risk of gravel chipping your windshield, but its still a possibility.

Construction vehicles often carry more dirt and debris than other vehicles, and especially on the highway, anything that isn’t tightly attached is likely to blow off and hit another vehicle. If you’re in the right spot at the wrong time, it could crack your windshield, especially at high speeds.

Things like accidents, severe weather like hail or high heat, changes in temperature or pressure, or improper windshield installation can cause chips or cracks too.

Why are cracks and chips in the windshield dangerous?

One of the most obvious dangers of a chip or crack in the windshield is that it can obstruct the driver’s view! If you leave it alone, it’ll worsen over time, making it harder for the driver to see.

A windshield helps to protect the driver from wind and debris while providing a wide view. It also helps in a collision by redistributing the force of impact around the outside of the vehicle and away from any passengers, and it helps to hold the airbag system in place and function correctly. It can help keep the passengers inside the vehicle during an accident – especially during a rollover accident.

Cracks and chips in the windshield can affect the way the windshield functions in an accident, and leave the passengers more vulnerable to serious injury.

How do I repair a windshield?

Fixing your windshield doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg – especially if it can be repaired instead of replaced. Generally, chips and cracks less than the size of a quarter can be repaired, but larger breaks and cracks cannot. Keep in mind that the longer you wait to repair a small chip, the more likely it is to spread across your windshield and grow too large to repair.

A repair technician will fill in a crack so that it is less noticeable, but much less so. Most importantly, a repaired windshield is much more structurally sound than one with an open chip or crack!

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How to Handle a Hit and Run

Car accidents can be stressful, painful, time consuming, and expensive when you are able to work with the other driver, but when they drive away from the scene before you get a chance to exchange information, accidents can be even more so. A hit and run accident occurs either when a driver hits your vehicle and then drives off, or when your vehicle is parked and unattended, and is hit by another car whose driver fails to leave any contact information.

There are many reasons why a driver might flee the scene of an accident. The most common of these are improper insurance or no license.

There are several things that you can to do simplify the process of handling a car accident when the other driver decides not to work with you, and there are several things you should avoid doing.

Steps to Take Following a Hit and Run

• If you can, write down the license plate number of the other vehicle.
• Whether or not you get the license plate number, write down the make, model, year, color, any special markings or stickers on the vehicle, and a description of the driver if you notice them.
• Take photos of the other vehicle if you can. Always take photos of your vehicle, including up close shots of the damage and images of the entire vehicle and the surrounding scene.
• Especially if your vehicle was hit when you weren’t near it, keep track of the time, date, location, and damage. This can be extremely important when you’re trying to show that your vehicle was actually damaged in a hit and run, you’re not trying to scam your insurance company.
• Call the police and report what you can about the driver and the vehicle, including descriptions, which direction the vehicle went, and the time, location, and cause of the accident.
• Complete a police report or an accident report.
• If there were witnesses, get their information if possible. Collect as much information as you can from witnesses, including names, contact information, and descriptions of what happened.
• Call your insurance company. Having uninsured motorist coverage can be helpful in this case, especially if you can’t track down the other driver or weren’t able to get a complete license plate number.

Things Not to Do Following a Hit and Run

• Do not flee the scene of the accident, even to chase the other driver. Confrontations tend to make situations worse, not better.
• Avoid leaving your vehicle in the way of traffic. If you can move it, do so after you photograph the scene.

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What to do When You’re in an Accident

car accidentYou’re on your way, and suddenly, BAM. The sound of your car making contact with another knocks you out of driving mode and a panic sets in… What now?

Auto accidents aren’t fun, and they can bring about a mess of questions about what to do, dealing with insurance, filling out a police report, and the extent of the damage to your vehicle. Unfortunately, auto accidents are relatively common. If you’re involved in one, keep the following in mind.

At the Scene of the Accident

The most important thing to do when an accident occurs is make sure that every driver, passenger, or pedestrian involved is okay. Usually, it’s a good idea to call an ambulance and have everyone looked at immediately, but sometimes injuries don’t appear for days or weeks after the crash.

Find your documents – You should always have your driver’s license, proof of current auto insurance, and your vehicle registration with you when you’re driving.

Take photos – If possible, take photos of the accident as soon as possible after it happens.

Clear the road – It’s best to move the vehicles out of the way of traffic, and to place flares or cones around the scene so that other drivers are warned.

Exchange information – Exchange information with the other drivers, including names, contact info and insurance info.

Contact the police – In most cases, it’s either legally required or in your best interest to contact the police, especially in a serious accident.

Following an Accident

Even if you manage to deal with the police and the other drivers without much difficulty and there are no major injuries, you still may have to work with your insurance company and a collision repair shop to repair your vehicle.

Depending on where you live and which insurance company you are working with, your insurance company may or may not try to persuade you to work with a specific collision repair shop. In most cases they cannot force you to to to a specific shop, even if they make it more difficult to go through other shops.

If your vehicle can be driven, you may need to take it to a shop for an estimate. If it’s not, your insurance company will likely have an estimator come to your vehicle.

Once you have the estimate, you can work with your collision repair technicians to determine the best way to repair the damage. Don’t be afraid to ask questions!

OEM parts vs aftermarket parts – Original equipment manufacturer parts, aftermarket parts, and recycled parts all have their advantages and disadvantages, from cost to quality to design.
Additional damage – If additional damage is found during the repair process, make sure to keep your insurance company in the loop.

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Finding the Right Collision Repair Shop

auto-body-shop-helpAfter an accident, the last thing most of us want to deal with is finding a collision repair shop we can count on to do quality repairs, work with the insurance company, and cooperate with the customer during a stressful time. No matter how badly your car was damaged, getting it repaired does not have to be a nightmare! We’ve put together a list of ways to find a great collision repair shop.

Request Recommendations

If you have a repair shop that you tend to work with when your car needs maintenance, you may already have a relationship with a technician you trust.

Even if they don’t normally do the kinds of repairs that you need, they may be able to provide you with references to a collision shop that they know and trust.

You can also ask friends, family, or other members of your community for reliable recommendations. There may be suggestions or reviews posted online on Yelp or a similar website.

Ask Questions

A quality, professional collision repair shop will be staffed with helpful customer service personnel who can answer questions you might have about the way the shop runs, how they work with your insurance, and other policies. Don’t be afraid to go inside and ask questions, even before you bring your car in for an estimate.

• What needs to be repaired?
• How long will it take?
• What can be repaired, and what needs to be replaced?
• What will the parts and labor cost?

Consider Your Needs and Costs

Many shops will provide free estimates, but these estimates can vary widely, depending on numerous factors.

Collision repair shops in downtown areas may have a higher overhead cost to cover, but they may also be closer to public transportation if you need to get around while your car is being repaired.

Larger body shops may have higher prices to cover the cost of more employees, but they may also have enough space and employees to fix your car faster. Be sure to ask what their policies and estimates are.

Compare Your Options

Where you choose to have your car repaired post collision is up to you. Although your insurance company may have a list of reliable shops they have worked with in the past, they can’t choose your shop for you. If you have time, get several estimates so that you understand what you need to have done and how much it will cost. Again – don’t be afraid to ask questions!

Lastly – be sure to read your shops online reviews!

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