Madison, WI—Winter driving conditions create additional hazards for drivers. Insurance Commissioner Theodore Nickel urges drivers to use extra caution on winter roads.
"Most of Wisconsin has been fortunate to experience a relatively normal winter, but we have had driving challenges this season with large snowfalls, sleet, freezing rain and warmer than average temperatures which have created foggy conditions," said Nickel. "We all need to be on alert for winter road hazards that can injure our loved ones or cause damage to our vehicles."
Road hazards can include icy roads and limited visibility during snowstorms. Drivers should also be on the lookout for animals, such as deer running across the road, and other drivers. When the snow piles up, cars become sliding targets and ditches can become magnets. Black ice is an especially dangerous road hazard that can occur anywhere.
Commissioner Nickel offered these tips: "Always maintain a safe distance between your car and the car in front of you. Use care and drive slowly enough for conditions. Check road conditions (at
www.dot.wisconsin.gov) and if the environment is threatening, consider staying home and waiting for better road conditions. If you must go out, be prepared."
Commissioner Nickel suggests that vehicles should be equipped with an emergency road kit, warm clothes, blankets, and a fully charged cell phone.
This is also a great time to review your automobile insurance policy for any limitations in your coverage. For example, consumers who carry collision auto insurance without comprehensive coverage are not covered in the event of damage to vehicles as a result of hail, wind or flooding. Additionally, make sure your coverage is adequate for your insurance needs.
If you are in an automobile accident, remember the following tips:
- Call the police.
- Obtain information such as the names, addresses, telephone numbers and license numbers of all persons involved in the accident, as well as all witnesses.
- Record the time, date, location, road conditions, make and year of the vehicles involved, insurance information, apparent damage and injuries and your version of what happened. If you can, take pictures with a cell phone camera.
- Call your insurance agent. Make sure to have your policy number and other relevant information on hand. Also be sure you cooperate fully with the insurance company and ask your agent what documents, forms and data you’ll need to file a claim.
- Take notes each time you talk to your insurance company, agent, lawyers, police or anyone else involved in the situation. Write down dates, times, names and what you talked about, as well as any decisions or promises made.
- Save any receipts and bills, including those from a car rental or hotel room if the automobile accident happens outside of your town.
If you have concerns about the way your claim was handled or believe the insurer may have violated an insurance law regarding your claim, you may contact the Office of the Commissioner of Insurance (OCI) for more information or to file a complaint. Complaints can also be filed online at OCI’s Web site.
To avoid accidents, make sure you plan your travels and check the latest weather reports to avoid any storms. You can find out the latest road conditions by going to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation Web site at
www.dot.wisconsin.gov or by calling 1-800-ROADWIS.
OCI publications such as "Consumer’s Guide to Auto Insurance," "Consumer’s Guide to Homeowner’s Insurance," "Buying a Home and Your Insurance Needs," and "Settling Property Insurance Claims," can be ordered free from the agency by writing to OCI Publications, P.O. Box 7873, Madison, WI 53707-7873, calling 800-236-8517, or visiting the OCI Web site at