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Stay Safe: Top 5 Winter Driving Tips

Snowy, wet, and icy road conditions are the leading causes of accidents during the winter. Traveling in these conditions can be nerve-wracking and stressful. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration states that more than 150,000 car accidents happen each year due to icy roads. Learning some winter driving tips can help you stay safe on the road.

Make sure you have the right coverage for your needs in your auto insurance policy. The team at Lake Region Insurance Agency can help you feel confident that you are well-covered.

Hit the Road With These Winter Driving Tips

Winter driving in Minnesota has its risks and concerns. But with awareness and education, you can feel ready to drive safely all year long. Take a look at these five tips.

1. Purchase Winter Tires 

There are a few different types of tires available for vehicles:

  • Summer
  • Winter
  • All-Season

Summer tires have smaller tread because the roads are generally clear and safe to drive on during the summertime. All-season tires have a thicker tread than summer tires and are suitable to use year-round in many parts of the country. 

Winter tires have the most substantial tread and provide the most traction for driving in dicey road conditions. Studded tires are a type of winter tire that has metal studs in the tread for traction on icy roads.

All-season tires have enough tread to provide an adequate grip on maintained roads. They are a safe choice if you live in an urban area where the streets are plowed regularly. 

However, on inconsistently-plowed roads, all-season tires are an unsafe option. For those who live in rural areas or small towns, winter tires are the safest choice. If you opt for studded tires, be sure to check the regulations where you live to know if and when they are legal to use.

2. Pay Attention to Windshield Wipers and Washer Fluid

Snow, ice, and road maintenance chemicals will be attacking your windshield all winter long. Not to mention the dirt, gravel, and grime that splatters up at your car as you drive. In these conditions, your visibility can disappear quickly.  

It is essential to check your windshield wipers at the beginning of the winter season. You want to ensure that they are working well and that the blades are in acceptable condition. Many Minnesota drivers replace their wiper blades each year when winter arrives.

How do you keep your windshield washer fluid from freezing? Making sure the washer fluid tank is full helps you avoid this problem. You can also choose a windshield washer fluid that is specifically for wintertime. Its formula helps prevent it from freezing.

And of course, parking your vehicle in the garage can keep fluids from freezing and help protect your car from the cold weather. Blankets placed over the hood of your vehicle can also help keep everything working correctly.

3. Have Tools for Ice and Snow Removal

Unless your garage is available for parking, winter driving in Minnesota means clearing off your car in the morning before heading to work. A combination snow brush and ice scraper is a great tool to keep in your vehicle. Having one on hand makes it easier to remove all the ice and snow from your car in the morning. 

First, you should brush the snow off all the surface areas of your car. Brush the hood, windows, and roof. Once you have cleaned much of the snow off your vehicle, you can use the ice scraper tool to remove any ice from the windows. 

It is crucial to remove the snow from your car before you start your commute. Snow left on the hood of the vehicle can blow onto the windshield, and snow from the roof can fall onto your windshield when you brake. Both of these problems limit your visibility. Take some extra time in the morning to be thorough when clearing your car.

4. Check Your Car Battery and Antifreeze

Spoiler alert – cars don’t love the cold. One way to ensure that your vehicle will get you from point A to point B all winter long is to check that your battery is in good working condition. If your battery is old, it may not make it through a Minnesota winter. 

According to AAA, your car battery loses up to 60 percent of its power as the temperature drops. Historically, car batteries have had a lifespan of about three to five years. But now, with the increasing usage of electronics in cars, the lifespan of a battery is shrinking. All that phone charging takes a toll on the strength of your battery. 

Antifreeze is vital when it comes to winter driving tips. It keeps the radiator’s water from boiling in the summer and freezing in the winter. If the antifreeze gets too low, it can cause the water in the cooling system to freeze. Once that happens, it can cause cracks in the pipes that will require costly repairs.

Be sure to check your antifreeze level regularly and top it off as needed. It is also critical to have your radiator flushed and cleaned according to your vehicle’s manufacturer recommendations.

5. Keep Up with Car Maintenance

Before hitting the road during the winter, double-check that your vehicle is up-to-date on all of its maintenance. With proper upkeep, your car will experience fewer problems and keep you safer when you’re driving in snow and ice. Keep up with regular oil changes, battery checks, and other routine services.

Common sense goes a long way in making sure you have a safe winter on the road. Keep plenty of gas in the tank, make sure your windows and headlights are clean, and keep fluids topped off.

Following these winter driving tips should help you have a safe season of commuting. The more thorough you prepare, the better.

Lake Region Insurance Agency Can Help

If you need a quote on auto insurance or aren’t sure if you have adequate coverage, reach out to our Lake Region team today. We will work through every detail with you for home, auto, health, and life insurance.

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How Do I Prevent Ice Dams on My Roof?

Homeowners in Minnesota, or anywhere with significant snow, have to deal with the maintenance that comes with winter weather. This work includes trying to prevent ice dams from forming. While the kids may squeal at the arrival of snowy days, adults aren’t always so thrilled.

With the snow and ice come the many tasks and chores to keep everything working smoothly. There is shoveling, de-icing, cleaning off cars and windshields, and ensuring your house is safe. Guarding your home includes preventing ice dams on your roof. They can be an unfortunate fact of life when you live in a winter wonderland.

At Lake Region Insurance Agency, we have your back and your roof. We want to ensure your house has coverage for our Minnesota winters. Contact us today to find out more about homeowners insurance for your property.

What Are Ice Dams?

An ice dam works a lot like a beaver dam…but colder. It is a build-up of ice at the edge of a roof that creates a pool of water.

Ice dams can create tremendous damage to your roof and home when left untreated, so homeowners in cold climates must remain vigilant.

These blockages form when accumulated snow warms up at the top of the roof due to heat from the attic. The snowmelt flows down the roof and refreezes when it gets to the colder spots of the roof, forming the dam.

As more and more snow falls and melts, the ice dam grows, pooling more water on your roof. It also gets quite heavy.

Why Are Ice Dams Dangerous?

The description of an ice dam makes it sound rather benign. In actuality, these blockages pose a significant threat to your home and its occupants.

Ice dams can become a physical hazard for your family. This massive collection of ice could come loose and fall, hurting someone underneath or damaging property. Ice dams can weigh hundreds of pounds, so they are not something you want landing on you.

Your roof and home also are at considerable risk as ice dams build. Water backs up behind the blockade and can back up under your shingles. This water accumulation causes damage to your roof, allowing more water to drain into your house, causing huge problems for you as the homeowner.

The weight of the ice dams also can compromise the integrity of your roof. The eaves of your roof do not have the strength to withstand that much sustained pressure.

How Do I Prevent Ice Dams?

Since it is clear how dangerous ice dams can be, homeowners wonder how to prevent them. Avoiding these blockages could save you thousands and thousands of dollars in damage. Thankfully, there are some ways to prevent  ice dams from forming in the first place.

Ventilation
If your home has proper ventilation in the attic, ice dams are less likely to form. When the cold air from outside the house can circulate through the attic, the temperature of the roof remains below freezing during cold weather. This low temperature prohibits the snow from melting and forming ice dams.

To improve ventilation in your attic, ensure air can continuously flow under the entire roof, from the soffit to the peak. There will need to be a channel or open layer of a couple of inches between the insulation and exterior. You do not want insulation blocking the airflow.

Insulating and Sealing

Another method to prevent ice dams from forming is to utilize proper insulation in your attic and ceiling. If your home has an attic, make sure the ceiling has enough insulation. If you don’t have an attic, completely insulate the rafters.

Adequate insulation will keep the warm temperatures in your home and the cold temperatures outside. Your roof will remain below freezing, preventing ice dams from forming. And as a bonus, you will save money on your heating bills.

Another critical step is to ensure that you seal all gaps and airways between your living spaces and the attic. Check all areas around plumbing, wiring, and chimneys to make sure no warm air is escaping into your attic.

Elbow Grease
You may also prevent ice dams by using some good old-fashioned elbow grease. Pay attention to your roof once the snow starts falling so that you can remove small blockages before they grow. Some homeowners invest in a good roof rake with a long handle to tackle the snow as it’s building up.

Typically, you can work from the ground to remove snow from the lowest four feet of your roof. Carefully scraping off the accumulation should prevent ice dams from forming. Check with your roofer on the best way to use the rake without damaging any shingles.

What Do I Do Once an Ice Dam Forms?

Although there is a lot you can do to avoid these blockades, preventative measures do not guarantee ice dams won’t form. Sometimes storms make it difficult or unsafe to remove snow build-up, and suddenly you are facing an ice dam.

If you see one forming, you can do a few things yourself at home. If the dam isn’t too large, try sprinkling calcium chloride or another de-icer on it to help it shrink.

Some homeowners choose to chip away at the ice carefully. You should never climb onto your roof to do this, however. Reach what you can with a ladder, and keep in mind that you don’t have to remove the entire blockage. Instead, focus on creating a channel for melted snow to flow through. You will need to repeat this method several times for it to be effective.

When in doubt, call a professional. Frequently, ice dams grow to the point that it is not practical or safe for you to handle it on your own.

We Can Help Protect Your Home

For all homeowners insurance needs, Lake Region Insurance Agency is your go-to team. Reach out today to find out how we can protect you with homeowners, auto, life, and health insurance.

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Got a Speeding Ticket. What Happens to my Auto Insurance Now?

The flashing lights. The siren behind you. That anxious feeling in the pit of your stomach. You know you were speeding, and unfortunately, you got caught this time. As the police officer walks away from your car, you get that sinking feeling of anxiety. You think to yourself, “What will happen to my auto insurance now?”

No matter what the situation, people dread getting speeding tickets. Between the hassle of taking time to deal with it and the financial cost, speeding tickets are a huge burden.

At Lake Region Insurance Agency, we know you have questions about insurance. We offer our customers everything from auto to life insurance and can help with all those decisions. We’re happy to serve our New London, Willmar, and Cokato, MN neighbors.

Does a Ticket Increase Auto Insurance?

The short answer: probably. Speeding tickets become part of your driving record, just like parking violations and accidents.

Sometimes, you won’t see an increase with your first ticket. If you are generally a safe and responsible driver with minimal violations, your auto insurance rates may not go up much, if at all.

But being an overall safe driver doesn’t guarantee that a speeding ticket will go unnoticed.

Why Does Your Auto Insurance Increase?

No matter the type of insurance, your rate comes from the risk an insurance company takes in protecting you. If you are statistically a low-risk individual, that means the insurance company is not likely to have to pay out a large sum on your behalf.

So your auto insurance rates will remain low when you fit into the safe driver category. If the algorithms show that you are unlikely to get in an accident or need to make a claim, you get a lower price.

Your auto insurance company bases this risk on your prior driving behavior. Do you have several moving violations? Or have you had a few close together? The more tickets or accidents that you have on your record, the higher your premium will go.

Speeding is one of the most common causes of traffic tickets. It is also a reliable indicator that you will be the at-fault party in a traffic accident. Therefore, speeding tickets increase your car insurance.

Your auto insurance company will examine your driving history when you initially apply for coverage. They also periodically check your record as long as you have insurance with them. Traffic violations will likely increase your premium. And too many tickets could mean they drop your policy completely.

Factors that Affect this Increase

Getting a speeding ticket alone doesn’t result in a one-size-fits-all increase. Most insurance agencies have their criteria to determine how much, if any, the premium will increase.

Amount Over Limit
Some insurance companies will not increase your premiums unless you receive a ticket for going at least 15 miles per hour over the speed limit. This is not a guarantee, by any means, but a general rule of thumb for many underwriters.

Furthermore, different states have different regulations. Most states utilize a point system in which you receive points for various violations. The speed you were going can impact the number of points you receive.

There are ways to estimate your increase. This traffic ticket calculator reveals that speeding between 15 and 29 miles per hour will increase your insurance by an average of 12%.

Number of Violations
As previously mentioned, your first offense might not necessarily result in a premium increase. However, each additional ticket will likely incur a steeper punishment.

If your state utilizes the point system, the punishment gets worse, the more points you accumulate. This increased penalty certainly happens when someone receives multiple tickets in a short time since points generally drop from your record after a certain number of months.

How to Lessen the Increase

There are ways to keep your insurance premium low. Obviously, the most important thing is to be a safe driver. When you stay focused on the road, stay free from distractions, and drive within the speed limit, your rate should hold pretty steady.

If you do receive an increase, consider changing your coverage. Varying plans offer different levels of coverage with distinct premiums. Analyze how much coverage you need by speaking with your agent.

As a bonus, a safe driving or defensive driving course will often result in a lower premium. Did you know you can take a safe driving course even if you haven’t gotten a speeding ticket?

What to Do if You Get a Speeding Ticket?

Very few people will go their entire driving life without receiving a traffic citation. So, when you do find a ticket in your hand, there are a few things you could or should do.

Deal with the Ticket
Most of the time, you have three options:

  1. Pay the ticket.
  2. Contest the ticket.
  3. Seek mitigation.

If you pay the ticket as is, you admit your fault, pay the fine, and move on. Contesting the ticket involves going to court and trying to prove that you were not speeding. This rarely works. Mitigation means that you explain the circumstances and see if the court will offer a lower fine. For first-time offenders or those who haven’t had a ticket in years, this often works well.

Slow Down
Get your driving habits back under control. Receiving an additional ticket almost guarantees that your auto insurance premiums will go up.

Give yourself time to get where you’re going. Put your phone down and away from you, so you aren’t tempted to use it while driving and stay focused on the road.

Take a Defensive Driving Course
Sometimes courts allow mitigation of a ticket if you complete a defensive driving class. And many states will allow you to drop your citation from your record when you complete the course. There is usually a timeline, though, so finish the class as soon as you can so you don’t miss out on this opportunity.

Check Out Lake Region Insurance Agency

Whether you just got a speeding ticket, or you just want to check rates, give Lake Region Insurance Agency a call. Our team will work with you to make sure you have the coverage you need.