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Commissioner Rothman advises motorists to drive safe and insured this winter

December 08, 2011

For Immediate Release

Minnesota Department of Commerce issues simple tips to keep consumers safe and warm on the roads

ST. PAUL, MN – As snow falls and road conditions turn icy, Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman issued a consumer alert today, providing simple tips to help consumers stay safe and insured on Minnesota roads this winter.

“Three inches of snow caused 189 car accidents and 193 spinouts last Sunday alone,” said Commissioner Rothman. “Most motorists think it could never happen to them. But accidents happen when we least expect them, and it is imperative that Minnesotans do everything they can this winter to prevent avoidable mishaps, and prepare for accidents should they occur.”

“Before you get behind the wheel this winter, there are a number of simple things you can do to keep you and your passengers safe and ensure any damages will be covered in case of an accident,” Rothman said.

Rothman encourages all Minnesota motorists to follow these simple tips to make sure your car and car insurance are ready for the journey. In addition, consumers are encouraged to visit the Minnesota Department of Commerce website for information about how to file an insurance claim following an accident.

To avoid car troubles, schedule regular tune-ups and oil changes. If you are going on a trip to visit family this Holiday Season, make sure to get your car checked out in advance. If you want to do some basic maintenance yourself, here are a few simple things you can do to ensure your car is ready for winter driving.

  • Maintain Visibility. If your car’s wipers leave streaks of water behind, or if the rubber on the wiper blade shows signs of stiffness or cracking, get a new set of wipers. Don’t use the wipers to remove ice from the windshield – keep an ice scraper on hand. If it’s going to snow the next day and your vehicle is parked outside, put the wipers into the raised position to keep them from freezing to the windshield.

  • Ma intain Hoses and Belts. You can check hoses on a cool engine by pinching them. There should be no soft spots or bulging areas. Feel for lengthwise cracks in the inner liner of the hoses. Check all belts for worn spots, cracks or shredding fabric reinforcement.

  • Check Other Vital Fluids. This includes fluids for the engine, coolant, transmission, brakes, power steering and windshield washers.

  • Use the Right Oil. Engine oil will thicken when it’s cold, making it harder on the engine. Always check the owner’s manual for the manufacturer’s recommendation, but generally speaking, you should use a multi-viscosity oil that has a W as part of the viscosity index. This means it’s formulated for winter use.

  • Prep the Battery. For maintenance-free batteries, check the window on top to see if it’s fully charged. If it’s not, have it professionally tested. For conventional batteries, remove the plastic caps on top of the battery and check the fluid level. If it’s low, add distilled water. Make sure battery cables are securely attached to the terminals. If your battery is more than five years old, consider replacing it.

  • Check the Brakes. If your car pulls to one side when you brake, or if you hear any grinding noises or feel unusual vibrations when you apply the brakes, take the vehicle to a mechanic.

  • Make Sure You Have Appropriate Tires. Partially worn tires reduce your ability to stop or get going in snowy driving conditions. Winter tires have tread patterns and compounds that are specifically designed to grip snow and ice for good traction on slippery roads.

  • Pack an Emergency Kit. It should include a flashlight, flares or reflective triangle, a distress sign, first aid supplies, basic tools, blankets, water, and a fully charged cell phone. If you have roadside assistance, store the number in a handy location.


  • Check Your Auto Insurance. Confirm your car insurance is active and premiums are up-to-date. Have a current copy of your insurance card in the car.

  • Have Appropriate Liability Limits. Select liability limits that are appropriate to your financial circumstances. People with more assets generally need to select higher limits of liability than those with fewer assets. If you are found to be at-fault in an accident and purchased insufficient limits, your personal assets are at risk for the remaining financial obligation.

  • Are You Covered for Theft? As Minnesotans head to the mall this Holiday Season, their cars will be packed full of holiday gifts for friends and family. That is why it is important to verify your homeowners or renters insurance covers the theft of personal items from a car, especially if you are planning to carry expensive items in your car. According to an April 2011 survey released by the NAIC, 40 percent of Americans incorrectly believe their car insurance will cover the replacement of personal items stolen from their vehicle. The truth is that these items must be covered by your homeowners or renters insurance policy to be reimbursed if they are stolen or damaged.

  • Roadside Assistance. Check to see if your policy includes roadside assistance. You can be covered for towing, fuel delivery, lockout service, jump-starts and more.

  • Check Your Rental Policy. If renting a car for a trip, check your policy to see if it includes coverage. Verify potential coverage limitations with your agent, and make sure you are not duplicating benefits from your existing auto, health or home insurance policy. According to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), 1/3 of Americans believe their auto insurance automatically covers a rental car. However, this is not true, and the Commerce Department recommends checking with your auto insurance agent to make sure you have adequate car insurance whether driving your own car or a rental.