As winter tightens its grip on the Northeast, recent storms have blanketed the region in snow and ice, creating hazardous driving conditions. With plummeting temperatures and slippery roads, it’s crucial for drivers to prioritize safe driving practices. In the United States, 70% of roads are in snowy areas, and each year, more than 150,000 car crashes occur due to winter road conditions according to the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration.
Agents should use this active winter season as an opportunity to re-engage with clients to ensure they have driving safety top of mind. Let’s discuss the insights that are essential for agents to share with clients to help guarantee safety on the road this winter holiday season.
How to prepare a vehicle for winter weather
Ensuring your vehicle is winter-ready isn’t just about avoiding breakdowns. It’s a proactive step for drivers to take toward safeguarding themselves and others on the roads.
Agents should recommend that drivers keep up with local news to ensure they are aware if a winter storm is on the horizon before they decide to drive. But before drivers even hit the road, regular vehicle maintenance is paramount. At a baseline, agents should recommend that drivers conduct regular vehicle maintenance including scheduling brake inspections, monitoring tire conditions and tread depths and checking the durability of windshield wipers and fluid levels. By encouraging drivers to address key aspects like tires, breaks, lights and fluids, insurance agents will not only help their clients stay safe on the road, but they will cultivate a safe driving environment for everyone both on the road and in a vehicle.
What to do while driving in a Winter Wonderland
From icy roads to reduced visibility from snowy conditions, winter weather introduces environments in which drivers need to shift their behaviors behind the wheel. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, about 17% of vehicle crashes occur in snowy conditions.
Agents play a crucial role in underlining the importance of adjusting driving behaviors for winter conditions. To ensure safe driving, agents should recommend clients:
- Drive slowly and increase following distance: Advise drivers to reduce their speed in snowy and icy conditions. Slowing down allows for better control of the vehicle and reduces the risk of skidding on icy roads.
- Stay in the middle lane: If possible, suggest that drivers drive in the middle lane. These lanes tend to be more clear and less affected by accumulated snow, which can help avoid sliding.
- Use winter tires: Agents should advise drivers to invest in a set of snow or winter tires. Unlike all-season tires, snow tires are made with a special rubber compound that keeps them flexible and soft in cold temperatures.
- Maintain weather awareness: Encourage drivers to stay informed about weather conditions and plan routes accordingly to avoid challenging weather conditions.
- Put the phone away: Agents should emphasize the importance of staying alert on the roads, especially in changing weather conditions, by putting the phone away while operating a vehicle.
How to prepare for a vehicle emergency
Like an emergency kit in the home, drivers should equip their vehicles with a similar emergency kit containing essential tools like first aid supplies, flashlights, blankets, batteries, water and snacks in the event they are stranded. Carrying a charged phone and battery kit—for both the phone and car—is a small, yet crucial investment in driving safety. Agents should emphasize the importance in case drivers need to seek assistance or if their vehicle dies. Most importantly, drivers should try their best to retain a full gas tank to prevent unexpected issues such as fuel lines freezing in the event of extreme weather. These precautions will not only enhance the safety of your clients, but they also will ensure their insurance coverage serves them effectively when they are in need.
What to do in the event of an accident in wintery conditions
In the event of an accident caused by winter weather, immediate action is key. The first step drivers need to take is to contact emergency services and carefully document the scene. Timely reporting to the insurance company with accurate information is critical. As agents, we are here to guide clients through this process, acting as the experts by offering clarity and support while helping navigate the often challenging and emotional terrain of weather-related claims. An agent’s goal is to ensure that clients receive the coverage and assistance they need no matter the incident.
The beginning of the year is a chaotic time of the year and with winter weather in the mix, drivers need to be aware of their risks on the road. Too often, insureds only engage with their independent agent when they have a problem with their bill or need to file a claim but it’s time for agents to take matters into their own hands and re-connect with their clients proactively before accidents occur. Whether it’s through a direct message or an email newsletter, agents can send their clients friendly reminders of tips to keep in mind to ensure a safe, healthy and smooth year.
Howard joined Plymouth Rock in 2011 and he leads the independent agency Customer Solutions organization. He and his team provide customer service, rate pursuit, agency service center and book transfer services. In addition, Howard oversees the digital and omni-channel transformation efforts. He has more than three decades of experience delivering customer experience in the insurance and financial services industries. Prior to joining Plymouth Rock, Howard was vice president of customer solutions at eSurance. He also served in key leadership roles at Fidelity and Putnam Investments.