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All Posts in Category: Auto Insurance

Driving in Winter

How NOT to Drive in Winter Weather

Driving in WinterWinter driving has its challenges. But throw an inexperienced — or inconsiderate — driver into the mix, and your daily commute can get much more difficult.

It’s always aggravating when other drivers put you at risk. Getting stuck behind a driver who is spinning their tires or not paying attention isn’t just annoying… it’s dangerous.

Related: The 7 Biggest Winter Driving Myths, Debunked

Winter driving calls for quick decision making, patience and a little bit of know-how. Below you’ll find ways to spot a rookie winter driver — and how to avoid looking like one yourself:

6 COMMON MISTAKES OF WINTER DRIVERS

  1. Tailgating: Usually, drivers tailgate because they want the car in front of them to go faster. This is never OK, especially in the winter months. It takes longer to come to a stop in the winter, so you should always put more distance between you and the car ahead. Impatience on the road rarely pays off – tailgating just puts you and others at risk.
  2. Speeding: Speeding can get you into trouble quickly. Make sure you’re never driving faster than what is safe for the conditions. In snowy or icy conditions, that probably means driving below the speed limit. The faster you’re going, the more likely you are to lose control or slide into another car. Expect traffic to move a little slower in the winter and allow extra time to get to your destination.
  3. Getting stuck: Driving through deep snow may sound like fun, but chances are it will leave your tires spinning. For your own safety, know when to stay off the road altogether and drive carefully to avoid losing traction in the first place. After all, getting stuck is easy – getting out isn’t.
  4. Ice on the windshield: If your car has snow or ice on the windshield, it can be tempting to save time by letting your wipers or defroster remove it as you drive. But driving without full visibility is like driving blindfolded. Use a snow brush or ice scraper to clear your windshield entirely every time you get behind the wheel.  (And don’t just clear a little “window” you can see through!)
  5. Snow on the roof: If you’ve ever driven behind someone with snow on their roof, you know it can be an accident waiting to happen. If your car is covered in snow, take the time to clear your roof before you tackle the windows. You’ll keep snow from falling in your field of vision and from hitting the drivers behind you.
  6. Driving with high beams on: This can be frustrating in any condition, but some people think that high beams will increase your vision during whiteouts or heavy snowfall. In fact, fog lights and low beams will do much better. Learn what to do if you get stuck driving in a whiteout.

Just like other people’s driving, winter weather can be unpredictable. But even the safest, most experienced drivers can get into an accident. That’s why it’s important to have the right insurance to protect you and your vehicle. Learn about the extras available with every Erie Insurance auto policy.

WANT MORE TIPS FOR WINTER DRIVING?

Check out these related articles:

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Parking Lot Accidents

How Does Insurance Cover Parking Lot Accidents?

Parking lots can be crazy places. Whether you’re at the mall, the grocery store or even just grabbing a quick coffee… all those cars coming and going can up anyone’s chances of being in a parking lot accident.

Which may lead you wonder: How does insurance cover parking lot accidents? Let’s walk through a few common scenarios.

WHAT HAPPENS IF I HIT SOMEONE ELSE’S CAR IN A PARKING LOT?

Accidents happen. That’s why having the right auto insurance can give you peace of mind.

If you do hit a car in a parking lot, here’s what to do next:

  • Don’t leave the scene. If you drive away without telling anyone, that’s considered a hit-and-run. You could face a whole other set of legal issues if a security camera or witness spots you in the act. So do the honest thing and stick around.
  • Get out of harm’s way. Even a simple fender-bender can block traffic or scatter broken glass. Make sure you’re a safe distance from anything dangerous and be mindful of the flow of traffic. If needed, put your hazard lights on to alert nearby drivers.
  • Try to locate the car’s owner. Ask a store employee to page the owner of the car over the loudspeaker.
  • Leave a note. It’s the right thing to do… and potentially even the law. Not leaving a note is considered a hit-and-run in the vast majority of states, even if the damage was just a small scratch. Keep it simple and polite. Include your name, contact information, and a brief explanation of what happened. Leave it in a secure spot where it won’t blow away.
  • Consider calling the police. If the damage is serious, they can help you file an incident report and track down the car’s owner.
  • Call your insurance agent. When you’re with ERIE, you don’t have to go it alone. Your local ERIE agent is there to answer questions and help you understand what’s covered.

Remember, policy conditions might require you to tell ERIE or your agent about the incident – even if you decide not to file a claim. Learn more about what to do when accidents happen.

SOMEONE HIT MY PARKED CAR. NOW WHAT?

An at-fault driver’s auto insurance should cover the property damage they caused to the other vehicle. Hopefully, they left a note and you can get in touch without too much fuss. Unfortunately, some people won’t do the right thing. If you return to a dented or dinged car with no indication of who did it, you can ask around to see if there were any witnesses. If there aren’t any, ask the store if they have security cameras.

If the incident is a hit-and-run—or if the at-fault driver has no auto insurance or not enough insurance—you’ll have to rely on your own auto insurance to cover the damage. That’s assuming you purchased optional collision coverage on your own vehicle.

Also, uninsured motorist property damage coverage that is available in some states protects your car if it’s struck by a hit-and-run driver. (A deductible may apply.)

Just keep in mind that you’ll likely need uninsured and underinsured motorist bodily injury coverage. This insurance coverage is optional in some states and mandatory in others. It covers you and your passengers’ damages if you’re injured by an uninsured driver or a driver who doesn’t have enough coverage to pay for your medical expenses, lost wages and pain and suffering.

Whether it’s a simple fender-bender or something more serious, remember – your local ERIE agent is there to help answer questions and provide advice.

WHAT HAPPENS IF TWO CARS HIT EACH OTHER AT THE SAME TIME?

There is usually an at-fault driver when there’s a parking lot accident. But there are some cases where an accident is two drivers’ fault—for instance, two people may back out at the same time and hit each other. What typically happens in these cases is that each driver files a claim with their own insurance company.

HOW TO PREVENT PARKING LOT ACCIDENTS

Luckily, there are steps you can take to keep you, your car and others safe. Get our list of tips for how to avoid a parking lot accident.

Unfortunately, accidents do happen. But when you’re with ERIE, you have your own personal insurance advisor – your local ERIE agent – when they do. Learn more about auto insurance or find a local ERIE agent in your area.

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Avoid Hitting a Deer

How to Avoid Hitting a Deer

  1. Know where the deer are likely to be. Areas with high deer populations are normally marked with a bright yellow sign. Deer also tend to graze in wooded areas or open fields. When driving your usual route to work, be attentive to areas where you’ve seen deer in the past – they are likely to cross there again.
  2. Be alert at sunrise and sunset. Deer are more active during dawn and dusk hours.
  3. Use your high beams. When possible, use your high beams for better visibility. The extra light will help make it easier to spot a deer, or other animals, lurking alongside the road.
  4. Don’t rely on deer gadgets. Whether it’s a deer whistle, deer fence or other type of product to scare away the deer… don’t rely solely on them to keep deer away. Research isn’t exact on whether or not these products truly work. (Related: Fact or Fiction? Debunking 6 Common Myths About Deer)
  5. When you see one… you’ll probably see more. Deer travel in groups. If one comes across your path, proceed with caution in case there are more.
  6. Don’t swerve. Swerving isn’t always the safest option. Hitting a deer might often cause less damage than swerving to avoid it… and then hitting a more dangerous obstacle, like a vehicle in oncoming traffic. (Related: What’s Safer… Swerving or Staying the Course?)
  7. Wear your seat belt. If you do hit a deer, wearing a seat belt decreases your chances of injury.
  8. Spread the word. When friends or family head out on the road, let them know to be careful and alert. Even a simple reminder can help prevent deer collisions.

WHAT TO DO IF YOU HIT A DEER

Taking the above precautions can help you avoid hitting a deer… but nothing can entirely rule out the possibility. Here are steps you can take after you hit a deer.

  1. Pull over. Move your vehicle to a safe place off the road. Don’t forget to turn on your hazard lights.
  2. Stay away from the deer. An injured deer can still lash out and hurt someone.
  3. Assess the damage. When you’re out of harm’s way, examine your vehicle and take photographs of any damage to your car. Use good judgement to know if your car is safe to drive or if you’ll need to call for a tow truck. Learn how to add Emergency Roadside Service to your ERIE auto policy.
  4. Call for help. Depending on the circumstances, consider calling the police or an animal expert. While it’s not always required to file a police report, it can provide evidence if you decide to make an insurance claim. If the deer is still in the middle of the road, a trained professional from animal control, the game commission or your local fish and wildlife service can move it away for everyone’s safety.
  5. Know if you should file an insurance claim. An insurance professional like an Erie Insurance agent can help you make the decision based on the specifics of your auto insurance policy. Talking with someone you already know and who is familiar with the claims process can help put your mind more at ease.

DOES MY AUTO INSURANCE COVER HITTING A DEER?

You can’t always predict if a deer will walk into your path, but if one does, we’re here to help get you back on the road as soon as possible. At Erie Insurance, deer-vehicle collisions are covered under the comprehensive portion of your auto insurance, which is an optional coverage you can choose to add on. Learn more about how to customize your ERIE auto policy.

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Car Sense

How to Plan a Road Trip Vacation

2020 has been full of winding roads, and the year is only halfway done. Now that summer is officially in full swing, many families are preparing for some rest and relaxation. But with travel restrictions, social distancing and other COVID-19 mandates in place, many vacations look different than originally planned.

For many families, that may mean loading up the car and staying closer to home.

Check out our tips for how to pack smart, plan a route and, most importantly, how to prepare for any mishaps that might come your way.

PACK SMART

  • Use a checklist. We all hate the feeling of forgetting to pack something. To avoid leaving any essentials at home, create a list a few weeks before you leave — and add to it as you think of new items. Then, pull out the list as you start packing and check off items as you go.
  • Make extra space. Avoid the temptation to fill your vehicle up to the roof. This obstructs the view from your rearview mirror and severely limits your visibility. Instead, consider a rooftop cargo box or hitch-mounted cargo carrier to create extra storage space.
  • Keep pets safe. Is the family dog headed to the beach with you? Use a pet carrier or harness device to keep him safe for the ride. If your pet is hurt in a covered accident while riding in your car, ERIE will help cover the vet treatment costs by reimbursing you up to $500 per pet (up to two pets) for a maximum reimbursement limit of $1,000).But why ruin a getaway with trips to the vet? It’s better to learn how you can keep pets safe in the car right off the bat. Oh, and don’t forget to pack a portable water bowl and some extra food for rest stops.

KNOW YOUR ROUTE

  • Use your GPS. Before you leave home, enter all of your destinations into your vehicle’s GPS system or a mobile navigation app. This will give you real-time updates on travel time and save you from searching for addresses at the last minute.
  • Plan for traffic. Construction delays can strike anytime, anywhere in the summer. And driving through a major city during rush hour could add hours to your itinerary. Know where congestion is possible and plan to travel during off-peak hours. Mobile navigation apps like Google Maps or Waze can also help by predicting traffic time and suggesting alternate routes if you get stuck.
  • Bring an atlas. Even though you haven’t used one in ages, keeping a road atlas in the car is always a good idea. With an old-school paper map, you don’t have to worry about losing your GPS signal or running out of battery. And if you have kids, they may get a kick out of tracking your travels.
  • Skip the toll booth. If you’ll be traveling on the turnpike, consider ordering an electronic transponder like E-ZPass. Using an electronic toll system allows you to skip the cash lines and pay lower fares. Already have a toll pass? Make sure your credit card information is up-to-date so you can reload your device when it runs low.

PREPARE YOUR VEHICLE

  • Schedule a multi-point inspection. This type of inspection, usually done at a dealership or independent auto shop, is a great way to get a snapshot of your vehicle’s overall condition. A trained mechanic can let you know of any maintenance issues to fix before they get worse (or more expensive).
  • Check your tires. Before you leave home, inspect the condition of your tires and inflate them to the pressure recommended by your vehicle’s manufacturer. If your tires are low on tread, replace them before you hit the road. You can check by using “the penny test.” Just insert a penny upside down into a tread groove. If you can see the top of Lincoln’s head, it’s time for new tires.
  • Change your oil. Road trips can rack up the miles on your car in the span of just a few days. Look ahead to preventative maintenance, like oil changes, that may come due while you’re traveling. Taking care of it before you leave is not only good for your car — it’s good for peace-of-mind, too.
  • Top off fluids. Don’t wait until your windshield is covered with bugs to find out your washer fluid is empty. Before your road trip, check all of your vehicle’s fluid levels. That includes windshield washer fluid, antifreeze, brake fluid, oil and power steering fluid. Top them all off as needed.

BE READY FOR ANYTHING

TAKE A BREAK

  • Make regular stops. While eliminating stops can help you get to your destination sooner, it’s not the most enjoyable way to travel. Stopping to take a short break every few hours will give everyone a chance to stretch their legs, and can help you stay more alert behind the wheel.
  • Pack healthy snacks. Chips, chocolate and soda. Every kid’s dream meal. To avoid the sugar highs after every rest stop and gas fill-up, pack a small cooler filled with bottled water, cereal bars, fruits and vegetables. Avoid salty foods or sugary drinks that may actually make you thirsty, or heavy foods that can make you tired.
  • Find ways to pass the time. “How much longer?” “Are we there yet?” “I’m bored!” If you’re traveling with children, check out these four brilliant ways to keep kids occupied on road trips.

PROTECT WHAT MATTERS MOST

When it comes to packing for your road trip, we know the people you travel with are your most important cargo. That’s why we’re here — to help you make sure they’re protected.

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Corona Virus

8 Questions About Coronavirus and Auto Insurance

Corona VirusA lot of questions are being brought to the forefront during the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis. And not surprisingly, inquiries about car insurance are among them.

If I’m not driving, do I really need insurance? What could happen to my car if I’m not driving it as often? Will the cost of my auto insurance be impacted?

Good news: At ERIE, you get your very own local insurance agent who can help answer any questions about your specific policy. (Been a while? Schedule a quick phone call for a no-obligation coverage checkup.) For the latest news about how ERIE is responding to the pandemic, visit our COVID-19 Information Center.

As for those other head-scratchers? Here are some things you might have wondered about your auto coverage in the time of the COVID-19.

CAR INSURANCE AND CORONAVIRUS: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

  1. I’m not driving. Should I cancel my policy? While it may be tempting, canceling your auto insurance ‒ even if you’re not driving your vehicle ‒ is never a good idea. It can leave your car vulnerable in the event of a fire, theft or other damage that could be covered by comprehensive insurance. And a lapse in coverage also may make insurance more expensive when you decide to insure the vehicle again. Canceling your auto insurance might also subject you to fines from your state’s department of motor vehicles, or even be illegal. If you’re looking for ways to save, contact your local ERIE agent to talk through your options and learn about any available discounts.
  2. Is ERIE offering discounts to auto insurance customers?  To support our customers during this challenging time, ERIE is providing $200 million in dividends (relief payments in New York) directly to our personal and commercial auto insurance customers with policies in force as of April 1, 2020. This immediate relief represents about 30% of two months’ related auto insurance premiums. There’s no need to call your ERIE agent or request a check – eligible customers were sent a check in May. (Questions? Ask your local agent.) Learn more about our customer dividends, announced April 21, 2020.
  3. Is ERIE lowering rates for customers, since people are driving less? For long-term, steady and stable relief, we’re lowering auto insurance rates for personal and commercial customers. Pending regulatory approval, rate reductions will vary by state and will be based on individually purchased policies and coverage options. Once approved, premium adjustments will take effect at the time of renewal and the estimated total will provide an additional $200 million in financial relief to ERIE customers.Learn more about our rate reductions, announced April 9, 2020.
  4. How can I keep my car in good shape when I’m not driving it? Batteries. Fuel. Tires. There are a lot of things you need to consider if your vehicle is going to stay parked for a while. Get quick tips for safe car storage in this related article.
  5. How can I stay socially distant if I’m in a car accident? Accidents happen… even when there’s a pandemic. In the event you get in a car accident, stay calm and follow CDC guidelines for social distancing as much as you’re able. U.S. News & World Report suggests you do the following:
    • Share information from a distance. Put documents like your driver’s license, insurance information and registration on your vehicle’s hood so the other driver can take a photo of your information (and vice versa).
    • Think digital. Be sure to exchange contact information, including email addresses, too.
    • Take photos. Take a lot of photos that thoroughly document the scene of the accident. You may end up submitting them to your insurance company since it’s possible that police may not come to the scene. (Many police departments are taking accident reports by phone or online.)
  6. Will coronavirus impact my ability to file a claim? Our commitment to resolve your claim quickly and efficiently never waivers. You can continue to report claims by reaching out to your local ERIE agent or by calling us 24/7 at (800) 367-3743. Our claims teams are ready to meet the needs of our customers and claimants while taking steps to mitigate exposure to the coronavirus in line with best practices provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to limit in-person contact.
  7. I’m in a tough spot financially and can’t pay my bill. What are my options? Contact your local ERIE agent to let them know and discuss what’s best. Your local agent, as well as ERIE’s Customer Care team, may be able to assist with delaying payment dates, adjusting installments, changing pay plans or waiving penalties and fees. Some billing requests, including deferring payments and nonpay cancellations, can also be requested through erieinsurance.com/help or through your ERIE Online Account.
  8. I’m not driving my car right now. What should I know about lending my car to friends or family? If you own a car, chances are you’ve let a friend or family member borrow it at least once. But did you know that if there’s an accident, it’s your auto insurance policy that typically would have to pay? Ask your agent to explain how coverage works when you lend your vehicle, particularly if you have any excluded drivers on your policy. (The ability to exclude drivers varies by state.) Read more about the pros and cons of lending your car before handing over the keys.

Being “Above all in Service” has driven every decision we’ve made as a business since 1925 – and we still operate that way today.

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Locked Keys in Car

I Locked My Keys in the Car… Now What?

Locked Keys in Car

Locked Keys in Car

You walk into work and realize you left your coffee in the car. But when you go back to grab it, the door is locked — and your keys are sitting on the driver’s seat.

If you’ve been driving for very long, chances are something similar has happened to you. You can’t go anywhere until you and your keys are reunited. So how do you get back behind the wheel and on with your day?

Here are some tips to help ensure you’re prepared in the event of a lockout.

WHAT TO DO IF YOU LOCK YOUR KEYS IN THE CAR

A lockout can happen to anybody.And while there’s no shame in calling for help, it doesn’t make paying a tow truck or locksmith any easier. After all, the last thing you want is an unexpected bill because of an honest mistake.

But with a little preparation, you can have a backup plan ready to solve the problem yourself. So don’t let one forgetful moment ruin your entire day. Try these methods to MacGyver your way back into your vehicle:

  • Keep a spare key. The quickest, easiest backup plan is to have access to a spare key. Stash a spare in your wallet or purse. Leave a copy with a friend or loved one who can come and save the day. Or consider concealing a door key somewhere on or under your vehicle using a magnetic “hide-a-key” box. If hiding a key, make a copy — don’t use an original. A copied key will allow you to unlock the door, but won’t start the ignition on most modern vehicles equipped with an anti-theft security system.
  • Unlock the car remotely. If you can’t get in on your own, many automakers now offer remote assistance services. Each manufacturer markets its own brand of service (such as OnStar, Sync, Blue Link or mbrace). But they’re all capable of unlocking your vehicle via satellite. If your vehicle has a connected car system, just call the number provided by your automaker to remotely unlock the door. Since some services are subscription-based, it’s always worth checking to see if this option is available and enabled before you really need it.
  • Remember your code. If you’re driving a car with a keypad entry, you may be in luck. Just enter your code and you’ll be inside with the push of a button. This technology can be found on most Ford, Lincoln and Mercury vehicles manufactured over the past 20 years — but it’s not widely used by other makes and models.
  • Make your phone a key. Many new cars with remote assistance services also include smartphone capabilities. It may be an expensive feature, but it can turn your phone into a spare key with nothing but an app. Ask your dealer for details or check out your automaker’s website to see if and how you can utilize this high-tech option.

WHO SHOULD YOU CALL FOR HELP?

If you can’t get into the car on your own, you’ll need to call for help. There’s no need to worry. It just might take a little longer to unlock the door, since you’ll have to wait for assistance. If you’re not sure who to call, here are some services to add to your contacts:

  • Roadside assistance: If you’re an Erie Insurance customer, our Emergency Roadside Service Coverage can save the day. It’s an optional coverage that’s easy to add to your auto insurance policy and only costs about $5 per vehicle per year.1 Just call 800-FOR-ERIE to get connected directly with Agero, our nationwide service partner.
  • Towing companies: If you don’t have roadside assistance, you can call a towing company directly. Call the company of your choice or dial 411 to find services near you. Most tow companies can help unlock your vehicle. But if not, they can always tow your car to someone who can.
  • Locksmiths or dealerships: Locksmiths can always help in the event of a lockout. But they’re especially useful if you’ve lost your key and need a replacement. Since most modern vehicles use keys with a security transponder chip, it takes specialized equipment from a locksmith or auto dealer to make a replacement key. Just have your vehicle identification number and proof of ownership ready. A professional locksmith service can get pricey. But if you’re an ERIE customer, there’s good news: our comprehensive coverage can help reimburse your locksmith services up to $75, and if you purchased Emergency Roadside Service Coverage, ERIE will reimburse you for reasonable locksmith expenses.

CAN I CALL THE POLICE TO UNLOCK MY CAR?

One way to get back into your car is to call your local law enforcement authorities. However, keep in mind that locking your keys in your car doesn’t typically qualify as an emergency. Police officers are concerned with public safety, so generally, life or property has to be at risk for them to respond.

If a child is locked in the car or you’re in danger, call 911 immediately. Otherwise, you can try to call a local non-emergency number for help. But if the coast is clear, expect them to respond to more urgent calls or recommend a tow truck.

HOW TO PREVENT A LOCKOUT

Although anti-theft features have become more sophisticated, locksmiths have no shortage of calls every year to help people break into their own vehicles. Of course, the best way to make sure you and your keys don’t end up on opposite sides of the door is to keep them on your person.

But that may be easier said than done. So here are a few tips that can help make all the difference:

  • Always lock doors from the outside. Some vehicles won’t lock if your fob is still inside. But manually locking the door while you’re in the car could override that feature. Always lock the doors from the outside to reduce the risk of trapping your keys inside.
  • Take the key with you. If your engine is running, some security systems may automatically lock the doors assuming you’re getting ready to drive. Before you step out, turn the engine off and immediately put the key in your pocket.
  • Use a lanyard or keychain. A lone key is easy to lose, but lanyards and keychains make them much easier to keep track of. Attach a lanyard or chain to your keys to make them more noticeable.
  • Buy a carabiner. Attach a carabiner to your belt loop or bag and keep your keys within reach. You’ll have a place for them on your person no matter where you are, while building a habit of keeping your keys in a safe place.

GET BACK ON THE ROAD

Locking your keys in your car can ruin your day – or lighten your wallet – if you’re not prepared. When you’re stranded, it helps to have someone you can count on to help ease the stress.

At Erie Insurance, our promise is simple: to be there when you need us. With our Emergency Roadside Service, we can help with lockouts, flat tires, mechanical breakdowns, dead batteries or even a tank of gas. It’s an optional coverage that’s easy to add to your auto insurance policy and doesn’t cost a lot. You can also purchase the coverage with ERIE’s Roadside & Rentals bundle, which includes rental car expense coverage.

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