If you drive a personal vehicle and want to be a safer driver and save money, this article is for you.
You can avoid some of the most common insurance claims by practicing safe, defensive driving, knowing what to look for, and avoiding driving distractions.
Here are six ways to reduce the likelihood of having to file an auto insurance claim.
The 2-Second Rule
Getting rear-ended is one of the most common accidents on the road. Drivers following too closely often don’t anticipate the amount of space it takes for them to slow down or stop suddenly. Or, they’re distracted and therefore can’t brake quickly enough to avoid a collision.
How do you avoid rear-ending the vehicle ahead of you?
Use the 2-Second Rule.
This rule states that you must always leave “two seconds” of space between your vehicle and the one ahead of you. To determine what a safe following distance is, use the following methodology:
- Use a roadside object like a light pole or mailbox as a marker.
- Once the vehicle in front of you passes this marker, start counting “one thousand one, one thousand two” to ensure you don’t count too fast.
- If you reach the marker before you finish counting, you’re too close. Slow down!
The 2-Second Rule roughly equates to one vehicle length for every 5 MPH of your current speed.
So, 10 MPH requires two vehicle lengths to stop safely, 25 MPH requires five vehicle lengths, 50 MPH requires ten vehicle lengths, and so on.
Since we’re on the subject of driving too closely to the vehicle ahead of you, let’s discuss windshield damage.
This is one of the most common auto insurance claims, and while it may seem like this type of damage is unavoidable, it is often caused by drivers following too close to the vehicle ahead of them.
Most damage comes from rocks and pebbles thrown into the air by heavy vehicles in front of you, such as large trucks and snow plows. Keep a safe distance behind these types of vehicles, and you’ll be more likely to avoid impacts, chips, and breaks, especially if you drive on dirt or gravel roads.
Stolen Catalytic Converters
According to USA Today, catalytic converter theft rose a whopping 540% between 2020 and 2022.
Catalytic converters contain precious metals such as platinum, palladium, and rhodium, and they can be removed from your vehicle by thieves with a battery-operated saw in just a few minutes. Thieves then sell the stolen converters to scrap recyclers for a few hundred dollars each.
However, getting a new one can cost you between $1,500 and $5,000, and your auto insurance policy may not cover it.
Hybrid vehicles, trucks, and SUVs are common targets. Hybrid vehicles are attractive to thieves because they don’t use their gas engines as often, so they retain more of their precious metals. Trucks and SUVs are easier to slide under than cars because they’re higher off the ground.
So, how do you protect your catalytic converter from getting stolen and avoid the headache of an unexpected mechanic’s bill? You can:
- Buy a specialized clamp or shield to protect your catalytic converter from thieves.
- Park your vehicle in a garage or another secured parking area.
- Use motion sensor lights to increase visibility in your driveway and warn off thieves.
- Install motion sensor cameras.
- Park high-riding vehicles near obstructions that make the undercarriage difficult to access, such as low-profile cars, fences, buildings, or bushes.
- Etch the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) onto the catalytic converter to alert metal recyclers that it may have been stolen and to help police in criminal investigations.
Avoid Damage to Your Parked Vehicle
It happens far too often. You leave your car parked on the street overnight or in a parking lot while doing errands, and you come out to find a dent or scrape on your vehicle.
It’s costly and annoying.
Luckily, you can follow these tips to reduce the likelihood of damage to your parked vehicle.
- When you park your car, check if the vehicle next to you is beaten up or damaged. If it is, choose a different spot, just to be safe. If the other driver doesn’t care about their vehicle, they probably don’t care about yours.
- Don’t park next to vehicles with their wheels turned or that are parked at an angle. Wheels should be straight to ensure vehicles pull in and out safely.
- Park within the lines to decrease the likelihood of getting scraped by another vehicle.
- Park farther away from entrances than others when it’s safe. The busiest areas of parking lots are usually closest to the door.
- Avoid spaces at the ends of rows where turning vehicles could scrape your vehicle.
- Don’t park near or in delivery or turning areas.
- When parking on the street, take extra care to leave enough space in front of and behind your vehicle, as well as parking close to the curb.
- Use your parking brake when parking on an incline or decline.
Theft to Parked Vehicles
Never leave valuable items in view when you park your vehicle.
Instead, conceal them in consoles, in the trunk, or take them with you. If you’re parking at night, choose a well-lit area, preferably one monitored by a parking attendant, cameras, or both.
You’ll also want to secure your vehicle by locking doors, closing windows, and activating your car alarm.
Backup accidents comprise almost 25% of all motor vehicle accidents, so the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration started requiring all new cars to have backup camera systems in 2018.
You can reduce your risk of getting into a backup accident by taking the following precautions:
- Be aware of traffic and other surroundings when backing out.
- Back out slowly, using brakes and mirrors until you’re fully out of your spot.
- Reverse in a straight line
- Don’t get distracted by handheld devices, your sound system, or other things when backing out.
- Back into parking spaces so that when you pull out, you can better see pedestrians and passing vehicles.
Do you have the right auto insurance for your needs?
*Disclaimer: We offer content for informational purposes; Co-Op Co-operative Insurance Companies may not provide all the services or products listed here. Please contact your local agent to learn more about how we can help with your insurance needs.
Business Insider. Filing an auto insurance claim (and when you might not want to). https://www.businessinsider.com/personal-finance/when-to-file-a-car-insurance-claim
eDriving. Best Practice Guide: Avoid Damage While Parked. https://www.edriving.com/three60/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2019/10/avoiding-damage-while-parked_uk-en.pdf
I Drive Safely. When NOT To File a Car Insurance Claim. https://www.idrivesafely.com/defensive-driving/trending/when-not-file-car-insurance-claim
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Newer Cars Are Safer Cars. https://www.nhtsa.gov/newer-cars-are-safer-cars
Progressive Insurance. What happens if I have multiple claims on my car insurance? https://www.progressive.com/answers/car-insurance-multiple-claims/
The University of Minnesota Center for Transportation Studies. Fleet Safety Backing Accidents. https://www.mnltap.umn.edu/publications/factsheets/documents/safety/02-backing.pdf
USA Today. Catalytic converter thefts are up: How to protect your catalytic converter from being stolen. https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/cars/2023/02/21/catalytic-converter-crime-protect-your-car/11312397002/