Mea culpa! 5 common at-fault claims
As a savvy consumer, you'd like to keep your expenses under control, and that includes your car insurance rates. Why pay more for auto insurance than you have to?
One way to achieve this is by practicing good driving skills to avoid getting into an accident. Though insurers consider many factors when setting your rates – including your age, the model car you drive, where you live, your credit history – having a clean driving record will definitely help keep your premiums affordable.
Most of these typical fender-benders listed below would be handled through your collision coverage -- but if you can avoid making a claim, all the better.
Here are the five most common at-fault claims, according to Plymouth Rock Assurance Corporation, and tips for preventing them.
Rear-end collisions, typically caused by tailgating, are the most common at-fault cause of car accidents for Plymouth Rock Assurance Corporation, according to Mike Cesinger, vice-president, claims. "To avoid this, the National Traffic Highway Safety Commission and other entities say to maintain at least a full car length between you and the car ahead of you; otherwise at higher speeds, if the car in front of you goes out of control, you don't have the time to stop your car or take other evasive action."
The flip-side, says Cesinger, is drivers who are in danger of being rear-ended by cars who are following them too closely. In that case, advises Cesinger, you should just pull over and avoid the situation.
Single-vehicle collisions are the second most common cause of at-faults, and the most frequent cause of these collisions is losing control of your vehicle, says Cesinger. "What people forget is that the speed limits that are posted are for ideal traffic conditions," Cesinger says. "People losing control of their vehicle in adverse weather conditions is the most common cause of single-vehicle accidents. If there is ice on the road or its snowing or raining, slow down."
Collision with a parked car
Colliding with a parked car is the third most frequent cause of at-fault accidents. It most often occurs in parking lots or in garages when you have drivers coming from all sides, Cesinger says. There are several ways to avoid this mishap. "Make sure that when you're backing out that the people you're driving with are quiet." Cesinger also says not to depend on the passengers in your car to let you know if the coast is clear -- use your own judgment to make that decision -- and of course, always use your mirrors when driving.
Collision when backing up
Collisions when backing up your car are the fourth most common at-fault claim and occur when you haven't made sure of what's behind your car before you've backed up. "We get a lot of claims from people who have backed up into posts, fire hydrants or other stationary objects," says Cesinger. "Look to see what's behind you before you back up. A lot of people assume there's nothing behind them. There also may be something below your eye level, so check that before you get into your car," Cesinger says.
An out-of-lane-collision is the fifth most common at-fault and describes two types of driving situations. In one situation, one car is driving in its own lane and another car drives into that same lane, unaware that another car is in the lane. This typically happens when a vehicle is changing lanes at the same time another vehicle is overtaking and passing one. A less common occurrence is when two cars merge into the same lane at the same time.
Most of these types of collisions take place at night, or in snowy or wet weather when lane markings are invisible, says Cesinger. "It's tough to have a driver stay in their lane when you can't see the markers," he says.
In order to avoid an out-of-lane collision, Cesinger says that drivers should be "extra careful, drive more slowly, pay attention to where the lane markings are, use their mirrors, and also know where their car's blind spot is. If you know where your car's blind spot is, you won't change lanes until you know there's nobody there."
Des Toups is a writer, editor and expert on insurance, cars and personal finance. He has written extensively about all three for national publications such as MSN and major newspapers such as the Seattle Times. He has been quoted about insurance issues in The New York Times, USA Today and Kiplinger's. Follow him on Twitter @destoups.