Wis. Points Out Winter Driving Hazards Despite Diminished Snow

February 10, 2003

This winter, Wisconsin may not be as snowy as usual, but the possibility of winter driving accidents is still very real. Wintry conditions can create conditions that help contribute to crashes, and crashes affect insurance rates, according to the Office of the Commissioner of Insurance (OCI).

“The current lack of snow and ice might cause some drivers to forget what it’s like to drive on hazardous roads,” Phil Kress, OCI chief of property insurance, remarked. “But one slip can affect your insurance, not to mention your life, for years.”

In 2001, the greatest number of speed-related crashes in Wisconsin were reported in February, and most of those crashes involved roads with ice or snow/slush on them, according to the state Department of Transportation (DOT). Excessive speed is a contributing factor in 15 percent of all crashes, and 32 percent of all fatal crashes.

“We really encourage drivers to be extra careful at this time of year,” Kress said. “Traffic violations, whether tickets or accidents, play a large role in telling the insurer what kind of risk the driver is. Increases in auto insurance premiums often take into account two important factors: loss history – meaning past claims and accidents -and driving violations.”

Last year, 805 people were killed in Wisconsin traffic crashes, nearly 40 more than the year before, according to the state DOT. After decreasing in the late 1980’s, traffic fatalities have risen since 1992.

The DOT has promoted a campaign to urge state residents to slow down, avoid drinking and driving, and to wear safety belts. Seat belt use in Wisconsin is at about 66 percent.

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