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‘When the lights are flashing, turn around’: insurance broker

Taking a risk when driving in the grip of a winter storm could void your insurance, warns local broker
20190223 road closed winter blizzard opp
Courtesy OPP

Did you know that if you drive on a closed road, your car insurance could be void?

With the region taking a pounding over the past few weeks, including a major blizzard that saw collisions and road closures on Monday, local driving experts and insurance brokers are sounding the alarm about staying safe and staying covered this winter.

“In driving school, we teach defensive driving. But in these types of conditions, it’s best if you can just stay off the roads,” said Bob Karmakar, a driving instructor who serves as a supervisor with the Ontario Safety League and has trained novice drivers for more than 30 years.

“But, if you have to be on the road, drive with a lot of space cushion. Look as far ahead as possible and use overall good judgment. Check your mirrors and look all around. Use the horn,” said Karmakar. “Space is the key here. If you keep a space cushion, you can react to almost any situation. Also, have your full headlight system on.” 

Karmakar says that putting four-way hazard lights on would help make you more visible to other drivers as well, if travel is necessary.

He also reminds motorists to keep a winter safety kit in their vehicles including extra clothing, candles, a tin can, matches, a cell phone battery booster and non-perishable food.

Shelley Vermeersch, managing director of Noble Insurance in Collingwood, said motorists venturing out in bad weather need to be aware that their insurance may not back them up if they make poor driving choices.

“You shouldn’t be driving on a road that’s closed. Your insurance could actually be void,” said Vermeersch. “If the roads are closed, don’t go out because your insurance company could deny your claim.”

“When the lights are flashing, turn around.”

Vermeersch estimates that about 80 per cent of insurance claims made are weather-related.

“If you live in (this area), you should usually have snow tires,” she said.

She also notes weather can impact other types of insurance, and to make sure to always check your policy.

“If you’re going away during the winter months, make sure somebody is coming in to check your house,” she said. “If your pipes break and you’ve had four days of water running through your home, your insurance could also be void.”

“Every policy could be a little bit different, so check your policy to see what the rules are in the winter months during the heating season,” said Vermeersch.

Driving on a closed road is also illegal under the Highway Traffic Act, and those caught driving on a closed road are subject to a fine and demerit points.

For more winter road safety tips from the Ministry of Transportation, click here.




Jessica Owen

About the Author: Jessica Owen

Jessica Owen brings 12 years of experience to her role as regional reporter for Village Media, primarily covering County of Simcoe matters, education and features.
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