Driving Safety – 12 Primary Driving Behaviors That Affect Your Auto Insurance Rates

You have a full set of tools at your disposal when shopping for auto insurance much in the same way that insurance companies use resources to determine your insurability. A good insurance shopping experience starts with comparing similar coverage types among competing companies. You will find that insurers place a high value on offering various benefit types, in addition to any seasonal or regional specials they provide, in order to draw in consumers.

One of the best ways for families and professionals to cut down on the cost of auto insurance is to adjust benefit levels. You can raise the deductible on your new policy to decrease your premium which helps lower your up-front costs. It is also important to assess the Blue Book value of your vehicle along with the current market for used cars before you get an auto insurance policy. You can decrease collision coverage for heavily used vehicles that are worth less than $1,000. A final way to lower your initial insurance burden is to cut out areas of overlap like medical payments if you have sufficient health insurance for any emergency medical treatments.

There are ways to afford a great auto insurance policy through advanced planning and investment. Buying a Safe Car is always a smart choice. You can purchase a vehicle with a low profile and relatively low incidents of car theft to get a discount from auto insurers. Sports cars and expensive vehicles by Mercedes and Volkswagen are heavily targeted by vandals and car thieves. Smart investment in a reliable and low profile vehicle can decrease the cost of auto insurance over the long term. You can also eliminate service fees and other costs associated with monthly payments by paying the premium in full at the time you finalize your policy and your coverage begins.

Consumers shopping for a deal on auto insurance can find discounted rates for a variety of demographic and technical reasons that they may not be aware of. Insurance companies around the United States provide discounted monthly rates to drivers who use their car infrequently because they offer low risk investments for the insurer. These companies also reward loyal customers who update their auto insurance policy after their premium lapses to cut down on paperwork and customer turnover.

You may already own a car, truck or sports utility vehicle that possesses safety and anti-theft measures which qualify for discounted rates. New cars with side-curtain airbags, seat belts, anti-lock brakes and traction control systems provide a level of protection that is highly regarded by insurance companies. Read our Airbag Safety Tips for more information. Insurance companies are beginning to reward drivers who choose optional anti-theft measures for their vehicles. Options like wheel locks, alarm systems, fuel cut-off systems and laser engraving protect your vehicle from the threat of theft on a daily basis. We suggest you read Carjacking & Theft prevention tips for more detailed information on preventing these serious and dangerous situations.

A multitude of other factors can eliminate high premiums for most consumers. Families with young drivers and a garage full of cars get discounted prices for coverage on multiple vehicles. Age, good grades for university students and dozens of other reasons specific to a particular region can help you decrease the financial burden when it comes time to purchase insurance.

#1. Tips on Avoiding Auto Accidents

While credit history and other criteria help insurers determine your level of risk as a driver, your history as a motorist is still the gold standard. Insurers use actuarial tables and statistical analysis to break down risk in every demographic imaginable. You may think that those speeding tickets and minor fender benders won’t influence your auto insurance in the future. The problem with this line of thought is that the auto insurance industry is highly competitive and insurers are looking for any reason to raise premiums. You need to heed the following tips in order to show insurance companies that you are a responsible, defensive driver that knows how to interact with all manner of motorists.

  1. Check out the rapidly growing niche market of race car schools throughout the United States to learn control as a driver. The high speeds of professional racing are only matched by the ability of drivers to keep these cars from flipping over on every turn. Most of these schools are in Southern states because of year-round warm weather but you should look for traditional stock car schools as well as the relatively new drift car schools.
  2. Venture into the darkness of night cautiously within your automobile. The threat of a deer running into the road, a drunk driver swerving from lane to lane and a night time deluge of rain may seem unlikely to most drivers but you should not take the chance. Drivers should inspect their front and rear lights before driving in the dark to keep your line of sight clear.
  3. Follow manufacturer recommendations for maintenance on your vehicle to prevent breakdowns and other mechanical issues.
  4. Keep your vehicle’s capabilities and functions in mind as you drive on the highway and on city streets. You should not expect a minivan to make the sharp turns of a sports car and you should not overload a sports car with a minivan’s cargo load.
  5. Stay in the slower lane of highways to avoid the attention of patrol cars and other officers of the law. The center lane in a three-lane highway allows you to move left or right based on the actions of other drivers which decreases the probability of a collision. The right lane on a two-lane highway allows you to pull to the shoulder if you encounter mechanical problems.
  6. Use your mirrors and keep your head on a swivel even if you are driving to a local store. You should use your rear view mirrors, do head checks before changing lanes and use other defensive tools to avoid accidents with other motorists.
  7. Keep your hands at the top of the wheel without grasping the wheel with white knuckles. You can play around with the seat’s position so that you have your hands resting on top of the wheel and your arms extended outward. This helps you stay in the classic “10 and 2” position without wearing your arms out and losing focus on the road.
  8. Look at the condition of vehicles next to you on the road to anticipate potential traffic problems. A vehicle owner with a freshly cleaned car and properly inflated tires will likely take great care in avoiding collisions and other problems with motorists.
  9. Practice looking for blind spots from your driver’s seat before you hit the road. Rear view and side mirrors have natural blind spots that need to be observed by the naked eye. You can have a friend park their vehicle or drive slowly on a back road to help you expose blind spots before taking a long trip.
  10. Use your hands to keep your focus on the road for the entirety of a trip. Many drivers feel that the classic “10 and 2” or “9 and 3” driving position does not make them look cool but it draws the eyes toward the road instead of at the radio or elsewhere in the vehicle.

#2. Airbag Safety Tips

Though airbags are proven to greatly reduce deaths caused by motor vehicle accidents, they can be dangerous.

An airbag is a simple device in which, when a vehicle strikes a barrier traveling at least 14 mph (23 km/h), a nylon bag inflates in about 0.04 seconds. The device is designed as a secondary, passive restraint system used in conjunction with seatbelts, the primary, active restraint system. Once the bag inflates, it immediately begins to slowly deflate through vents in the fabric.

While airbag technology continues to evolve, such as inflating according to the severity of the accident, where the occupant is sitting, whether the occupant is wearing a seatbelt, and other factors, there are precautions drivers and passengers can take to minimize airbag injuries:

  • If possible, drivers should always have children sit in the back seat.
  • Infants should be secured in a rear-facing car seat and placed in the back seat.
  • Smaller adults should move their seat back so their torso is at least 10 inches away from the airbag trim cover.

Vehicles manufactured after 1998 have the option to turn off the airbag, if necessary, such as in the following circumstances:

  • The driver cannot accommodate more than 10 inches of space between their torso and the steering wheel.
  • It is not possible for passengers under 12 years old to sit in the back seat.
  • A child must be placed in the front seat if there is no back seat.
  • The driver has a medical condition that may result in greater injury when the airbag deploys.

If you do not have an airbag shutoff switch, you can have one installed after obtaining permission from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

#3. Car Breakdown Safety Tips

If you are ever in an accident or your car breaks down, you should always make safety your number one concern. There are some basic precautions you should follow if your car does break down.

  • If you are stuck on the side of a busy highway, do not get out of the vehicle to make repairs or inspect for damage. If possible, get your vehicle to a safer location and if there is another vehicle involved, signal to the other driver to pull to a safe spot.
  • If the vehicle is not drivable, you should stay inside and call for help on a cell phone. Most often, standing outside your vehicle is inadvisable and dangerous.
  • Make sure you carry a roadside emergency kit, which has flares or reflective triangles that give other drivers advance warning of your vehicle’s location. Also, always turn on your blinking hazard lights.
  • If you experience a blown out or flat tire, make sure you get the vehicle to a safe location before you attempt any repairs. Even if driving on a flat means the wheel itself is damaged, it is far more important you ensure your personal safety.

#4. Animal Collision Tips

Collisions with deer and other large animals can cause a great deal of damage not just to the animal but the vehicle. The average cost of collision damage from large animals averages nearly $3000 and when bodily injury claims are factored in, that rises to $10,000.

There are some proactive driving tips you can take to avoid hitting a large animal or to limit of avoid damage to your vehicle in case you encounter one.

  • Deer collisions typically happen from sunset to midnight and in the hours before and after sunrise. Be especially alert during these times.
  • Drive carefully through areas with high deer populations and deer crossing zones. Deer typically travel in numbers so where you see one, there are likely others.
  • When travelling at night, use your high beams whenever possible.
  • If you see deer, slow down and blow your horn to frighten them away. Stay in your lane and brake firmly. Many deer-related accidents are actually caused by one car hitting another attempting to avoid an animal.
  • Always wear your seatbelt.
  • Do not rely on gizmos such as whistles, fences and reflectors to repel deer.

If you do hit a deer, move your vehicle to a safe location and call the police, if possible. Do not approach or try to touch the wounded animal, which may be frightened and attempt to run or defend itself. You could end up being injured or the animal could further hurt itself.

If your vehicle is protected by a comprehensive policy, animal collisions will be covered. Call your insurance company as soon as you can to report any damage to your vehicle.

#5. Driving and Cell Phone Tips

Cell phones and mobile devices, particularly smart phones, have become a ubiquitous part of our daily lives.

The hard fact is most people use these devices even while they’re driving creating a major problem with cell phone use and text messaging on the road: it distracts a driver from his or her appointed duty, which is the safe operation of the vehicle. Drivers who operate mobile devices are not able to fully concentrate and thus endanger themselves as well as their passengers.

Using a cell phone while driving may not be in and of itself the most dangerous thing you can do but since it is so prevalent, it has become a far too common cause of collisions and near-collisions.

Here are some interesting facts on this ever-increasing phenomenon:

  • People who use cell phones while driving are four times more likely to become involved in an accident serious enough to injure themselves.
  • At least 1.6 million crashes (28 percent of all crashes) are caused by cell phone distractions such as talking and texting.
  • Studies found that drivers who texted while driving took their eyes off the road for more than five seconds at a time, long enough to travel 100 yards on the freeway.
  • Talking on a cell phone while driving is the same as driving drunk even if a hands-free device is utilized.
  • It takes someone distracted by a cell phone 18 percent longer to brake and 17 percent longer to regain their speed.
  • An astounding 80 percent of crashes and 65 percent near-crashes are caused by driver inattention within three second of the accident.
  • Cell phone use accounts for the most common distraction but is less likely than other distractions to cause a crash or near-crash.

The best advice for using a cell phone while driving is simple: don’t do it. If you really must use your phone to make a call or text a message, you should first safely park your vehicle so you can concentrate completely on the task at hand.

#6. Child Seat Safety Tips

It is important to make sure your child is strapped in and secured properly whenever they ride in the car with you. It’s almost always safer if they are riding in the back, in a rear-facing car seat, which is appropriate for their age and weight.

You should keep your child in a car seat for as long as possible and only use a regular seat belt when they are big enough to wear it properly. The shoulder belt should lie across the shoulder instead of the neck or throat. The lap belt should lie flat across the hips and not the stomach. If the seat belt does not fit properly, you should employ a booster seat until they are big enough.

To ensure you are using your child’s car seat properly:

  • Avoid putting your child in the front seat with an air bag. If you do not have a back seat, the child should be placed in a rear-facing seat with the airbag turned off.
  • Secure the harness straps at or below shoulder level; keep the straps snug and fasten the clip at armpit level; make sure the straps are flat and not twisted.
  • Dress your child in loose-fitting clothing that allows the straps to go between their legs; avoid bulky clothes that could increase slack in the straps.
  • To prevent slouching, pad the sides of your child’s seat with some blankets or rolled up diapers.
  • The car seat’s carrying handle should be facing down.
  • The child should be in a rear-facing seat at a 45-degree angle. If your child’s head falls forward, the seat needs to recline further.
  • Make sure you install the car seat according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • All new car seats are required to be attached with a top tether strap. If your car seat does not come equipped with a tether, you should be able to buy a kit for your child’s car seat.

You should not use a car seat if you notice any of the following:

  • It is too old. Seats made before 1981 don’t meet modern safety standards and many manufacturers recommend using a car seat for only six years.
  • The car seat does not have a manufacturer’s label and model number. These are necessary to check for recalls.
  • The car seat has been in an accident. Even if it appears undamaged, its structural integrity could have been compromised.
  • It has cracks in its frame or is missing parts.

To find out if your car seat is the subject of a recall, you should call the Auto Safety Hotline at 1-888-DASH-2-DOT. If there is a recall, you will be given instructions and you can also register for future recall notices.

#7. Driving in Bad Weather

When driving in bad or adverse weather conditions, it is important to take precautions to ensure your safety especially if you are taking a longer journey.

  • Make sure you tune to the radio for weather conditions reports.
  • If you hear of inclement weather such as tornados, hail, or other severe conditions, you should alter your travel plans if possible.
  • If you suddenly find yourself in the middle of extreme weather, slow your speed and turn on your lights even if it is daytime. Turning on your lights will let other drivers see you in case visibility is reduced.
  • If the weather conditions are too severe or dangerous, don’t attempt to drive your way out of it. Instead, immediately seek shelter.

#8. Prevent Carjacking & Theft

Carjacking-prevention tips:

  • Think of yourself first. Your vehicle and its contents come second.
  • If another car intentionally bumps you, stay in your vehicle with the windows shut and the doors locked. Drive to the nearest police or emergency responder.
  • Stay clear of isolated and poorly lit pay phones, ATMs and other devices that can endanger your safety.
  • Stay aware of your surroundings and anybody lurking nearby or towards your vehicle.
  • Keep your windows shut and doors locked; park only in well-lit areas.

Theft-prevention tips:

  • Keep your registration on your person rather than inside your vehicle.
  • Mark your vehicle’s VIN using invisible ink under the hood and trunk lid, as well as on the battery.
  • Leave any personal property in your trunk.
  • Use theft-deterrent devices such steering wheel locks, alarms, and VIN etchings.

If your car is stolen, make sure you have

  • The year, make, model and color of your car as well as the license plate number.
  • The date and approximate time the car was stolen.
  • Descriptions of any suspicious persons you saw lingering around your vehicle and names of any possible witnesses.

#9. Dealing with Road Rage

Frustration about road conditions, traffic problems and getting a ticket typically remains below the surface as people try to remain composed in their vehicles. Road rage is frustration manifested in actions including tailing slower drivers, obscene gestures and other actions that may lead to an accident.

Road rage has become an important issue for insurers because increasing tension on the road means a higher risk for severe accidents on every highway in the United States.

There are a number of factors that can lead to road rage that are begin studied by insurance companies to assess risk based on regional traffic patterns including:

  • Reaction time by the first driver at a stop light when a red light turns green
  • Drivers who do not make a right turn at a right turn lane or head straight in a right turn only lane
  • Passing a driver on the left hand side and slowing down once they get into the right lane
  • Lane changes without a signal
  • Use of high beams with oncoming traffic driving past
  • Clogging up passing lanes by driving at the same speed as drivers in the slow lane
  • Speeding through a yellow light
  • Frequent lane changes by the same vehicle
  • Excessive use of a car horn in traffic
  • Obscene gestures and excessive gesticulation
  • Alternation between high beams and regular lights to express frustration with other drivers
  • Tailgating and maintaining speed to prevent someone from getting into a lane

You can follow a few practical guidelines to avoid engaging in or avoiding others who might be engaging in aggressive driving habits:

  • Make good lane changes by using your turn signals
  • Error on the side of allowing other drivers to pass in order to be polite
  • Observe the speed limit and stay within five miles per hour above and below to go with the flow of traffic
  • Maintain a safe distance from all motorists and approach larger vehicles with caution
  • Stay in the slow lane for the majority of your trip
  • Encounter frustrating situations with a safe distraction like a conversation with one of your passengers or listening to a CD of your favorite music
  • Turn down your bass and your volume in close traffic to avoid annoying other drivers
  • Keep your hand off your car horn unless absolutely necessary
  • Utilize hands-free phone and GPS tools to avoid distractions and police attention in states where cell phone operation is illegal
  • Slow down and take alternate routes when you encounter bad drivers
  • Avoid reacting to drivers who want a confrontation by avoiding eye contact and immediate responses

#10. Buying a Safe Car

When shopping for a new car, safety typically ranks high on most people’s lists. While every car must meet minimum federal safety standards, all cars are not equally safe. There are several safety features you should always consider when shopping for a new car.

Restraint Systems

All modern vehicles employ a system of restraints that work together to protect occupants in a crash.

Lap and shoulder belts are designed to hold people in place reducing the chances of being slammed into the vehicle’s interior or ejected. Seatbelts are highly effective at saving lives in vehicle collisions as long as they are used properly.

Airbags when used in conjunction with seatbelts are known to be extremely effective however airbags can be dangerous if occupants sit too close or do not wear their seatbelt. You should pick a vehicle that allows you to easily reach the pedals. Side airbags are designed to protect the chest and prevent occupants from hitting their heads on the interior.

Head restraints are required in the front seats of all new passenger cars. These keep the head from being snapped backward and prevent the neck from being broken or seriously injured. The head restraint should sit squarely behind the head and if it is adjustable, should lock in place.

Structural Design
A vehicle should have a strong occupant compartment, which is also known as the safety cage. Modern designs use crumple zones that absorb the force of the crash and bend to keep damage from reaching the occupants and reducing the chance of injuries.

Size and Weight
Large, heavier cars tend to be safer than small, lighter ones. In crashes, heavier vehicles push lighter ones backward reducing the chance of injuries in the bigger car and increasing them in the lighter one.

Anti-Lock Brakes
Anti-lock Braking Systems (ABS) unlike conventional ones, are designed to avoid locking up, preventing the vehicle from going into a skid and allowing the driver to continue to control it.

ABS works by quickly pumping the brakes so the wheels continue to turn while stopping the vehicle. When ABS goes into effect, the brake pedal will vibrate as the pumping action kicks into effect. This can take some getting used to but drivers should always continue to apply steady pressure.

Daytime Running Lights
Daytime running lights increase a vehicle’s contrast against the background. The idea is that by increasing a vehicle’s visibility, it prevents daytime accidents.

#11. Getting a Safe Car for Teenagers

One of the best things you can do for your new teenage driver is to buy them a safe car. There are some criteria you should follow when deciding on what kind of vehicle to get them.

  • Don’t get them a car that is conducive to reckless driving. The last thing you want to do when you have a driver who lacks experience and maturity is to hand them the keys to a fast, high-performance automobile. Instead, choose something conservative and sedate that won’t enable them to take irresponsible risks and chances.
  • Avoid vehicles that are prone to rollovers or unstable. Taller vehicles like SUVs and pickups have higher centers of gravity upping the chances of a tragic accident. Choose a lower, more stable vehicle that won’t rollover, skid, or spin out as easily.
  • Avoid small vehicles that don’t afford your teen as much protection as larger vehicles like mid or full sized sedans. Get your teen the largest vehicle they can competently drive that affords good crash protection.
  • As much as you may be tempted to hand down your old beater, try to avoid giving your teen an older vehicle. Not only have they already seen a considerable amount of wear-and-tear, older vehicles aren’t built as well as newer ones. Today’s modern cars offer better crash protection and safety features than those built six to ten years ago.

#12. Tips for Students & Teens

One of the most harrowing insurance statistics for parents is that nearly one in three teenage drivers will be involved in an accident every year. Drivers under the age of 25 present an exceptionally high risk for insurance companies because of their relative inexperience and low incomes. Students around the United States often benefit from insurance laws that allow parents to claim their dependents under their premium. Many insurers offer a separate policy for parents of young drivers in order to collect high premiums commensurate with the higher risk level.

Parents and students can decrease premiums in a number of ways to counter the perception of bad driving among teenagers. Most insurance companies have good student discounts that allow a high school or college student to receive lowered premiums if they maintain a certain grade point average. Discounts are also offered by many insurance companies for teenagers who complete an authorized driver education/defensive driving program. One of the best things you can do for a new, inexperienced driver is to buy them a Safe Car. Parents should encourage their student drivers to purchase used vehicles with proper safety equipment, low mileage and a reputation for overall safety to decrease the risk assessment by insurance companies.

When teenagers are just learning to drive, it is important for parents to talk with their young drivers before they ever get behind the wheel. This is the perfect opportunity to stress to them that while driving is a pleasure and something that nearly every young person looks forward to, it is also a great responsibility. And while it is certainly not just teenagers who use a Cell Phone While Driving, the statistics bear out that talking or texting when driving is almost always a factor in most teenage accidents. Take the time to speak with your teenager about potential driving situations before they happen so that they can be better prepared to handle them. These should include Driving in Bad Weather and what to do After An Accident.

For all drivers- teenage or adult, beginner or experienced- we offer more auto insurance tips to help you become more aware of available discounts and also to help you become a safer and more responsible driver. And that benefits everyone!