BTA Baltic Insurance Company (hereinafter – BTA) within a week’s time has already received a few dozen insurance claims for vehicles damaged in road traffic accidents, occurring on slippery and snow-covered roads in Riga and its vicinity, as well as elsewhere in Latvia. With the air temperature falling, first snow and snowstorm, the number of claims with BTA within a week has increased by approximately 15 %. Drivers now should be paying more attention to basic safe driving principles as driving conditions are more complex and more dangerous.
Each day for the past week BTA keeps getting a range of CASCO un MTPL insurance claims for vehicles damaged in road traffic accidents. In the majority of cases the reason has been sliding of the vehicle, when the driver has lost control over the vehicle, resulting in hitting a car driving ahead or swerving off the drive way, or hitting a road side obstacle. For instance, a BTA customer was driving a Škoda from Ieriķi to Amata, when the car drifted, swerved off the drive way and got into the ditch. Roadside technical assistance was required to pull the car out of the ditch. A BMW of another BTA customer, on the road in Rēzekne municipality, got into drift and off the road as a doe ran on the road. For another car a sliding on the road in Kurzeme ended up off the road and on the roof. A number of drivers in Riga and its suburbs have failed to keep a sufficient distance and slamming on the brakes have got them sliding and bumping into the vehicle ahead. Also, a number of vehicles in Riga and elsewhere in Latvia have got damaged in accidents, when making swift movements on a slippery road they have hit an obstacle – road posts, curbs, etc.
To avoid road traffic accidents, BTA has made a summary of basic safe driving principles, which should be observed by drivers now, as the driving conditions on roads have rapidly deteriorated.
Check the car before driving!
Being left on the road because of broken car is never a nice experience, irrespective of the season, but the chilly and damp embrace of autumn and winter is still nastier. BTA experts remind – this is a good time to go to the car repair shop to get your car checked and ready for the coldest period of the year. Get the brakes and lights on your car checked, as well as the battery and fuel filter for diesel engines. Air pressure in tyres is another thing to be definitely checked, as air molecules in tyres take up less space when it is cold, thus reducing the overall tyre pressure. Too low tyre pressure can lead to tyre overheating, which, in turn, can potentially cause tyre protector coming off – such situation is extremely dangerous while driving, as driver may lose control over the vehicle. Checking the quality and operation of windshield wipers is another wise thing to do.
In case you have not changed the tyres, better go looking for other options of getting around!
The Highway Code of Latvia requires all vehicles, the gross vehicle weight not exceeding 3.5 tonnes, to be necessarily equipped by winter tyres as of 1 December – that late. Although, to make sure the driving is safe, the tyre replacement should be done as early, as the average air temperature does not rise above five degrees Celsius. Given the weather conditions at the moment in Latvia, with snowing being intense, BTA experts suggest drivers, who have not yet changed the tyres on their cars, consider other options of getting around, without moving their car.
Drivers should also keep in mind the legislative amendments that require the tyres on the same axle to be of the same size, as well as the same model and have the same protector pattern, as of 1 December 2016. Drivers should also remember of these changes in cases, when a tyre gets damaged and a new one has to be purchased – it must be of the same model and have the same protector pattern as the other tyre on the respective axle. In case a replica cannot be obtained, then both tyres on the same axle need to be replaced.
On the road – slow down and be more careful!
The driving speed should definitely be reduced during the changing and winter-type weather. Driving conditions now considerably differ from those in summer. Although winter tyres considerably improve the driving quality in weather conditions outside at the moment, they still cannot guarantee 100 % safe driving on snow-covered or icy roads. BTA experts warn that winter tyres will be of no help in cases when the car has lost the grip on road surface, therefore swift movements or quick changing of lanes should be avoided. Change in driving trajectory should be as even and gradual as possible, as the car in winter weather conditions cannot cope with that sharp and jerky movements and turns as in summer. We suggest reckoning in a spare time spent on road when planning your day at this type of weather.
Keep the distance!
To reduce the risk of road traffic accidents, BTA experts suggest keeping a bit further away from the vehicle ahead as usual, and raise the eyes to look farther as you have used to – vehicles further ahead should be kept in sight to give you the so valuable seconds for response in case of emergency. The braking distance of any vehicle on snowy or icy road surface doubles or even triples! Even a minor increase in distance and being aware of what is going on further ahead will give you a tiny bit more time and space for manoeuvre to avoid a collision.
Do not use the neutral gear!
Driving in the neutral gear is not suggested, especially in winter weather. “Free rolling” on an snowy or icy road is not advisable – you should release the clutch only when it is really required (shifting gear and coming to halt) and perform brake action by means of the engine. You may not swiftly shift into lower gear when engine braking, as that may send the car sliding.
Do not use cruise control!
Driving under cruise control has become a common everyday thing to many drivers. It arguably makes driving easier when covering longer distances, although, on an icy or snowy road, cruise control may pose extra risks. In case the car starts skidding, then, with the cruise control on, the car will gain speed and keep turning wheels at high velocity in attempt to maintain a constant speed on the road, as a result of which the driver may lose control over its car.
Be aware of your abilities and skills!
BTA experts suggest that every driver use critical mind in assessing their driving skills. Better not taking risks, when the weather and road condition is tough. Also, drivers should keep in mind that the road surface condition, just as the weather, can change very fast. In case a driver, while on road, gets a bad feeling about weather or road condition making feel uncomfortable and not safe, it is better to make a stop at a safe place and wait for a while.
The abovementioned advice will seem long known and tested truths to many, alas the number of road traffic accidents on Latvian roads does not shrink. Driving in winter weather conditions is more complex, but, taking care of the technical condition of your car and adhering to safe driving principles significantly reduces the risks of road traffic accidents and will spare nasty experience.
Public Relations Manager
BTA Baltic Insurance Company AAS
Phone: +371 67025661, mobile: +371 27828796