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Summer safety driving tips

June 25, 2009

Keeping your insurance rate low starts with keeping a clean driving record which is free of tickets and accidents, and one of the best ways to do that is to practice safe driving habits. With summer finally here, it’s especially important to stay smart and aware while on the road. School’s out, kids are taking to the streets to play, and it’s your duty as a driver to follow good driving practices.

Here are some tips to help you ensure you’re safe on the road — and ensure your insurance rate stays protected from future increases.

Obey the speed limit
This may sound obvious, yet many people tend to speed through residential areas where kids play on the streets. Even a 10-kilometre-over-the-limit speed can affect how quickly you can stop your car if a child runs out in front of it. Always drive slowly, take your time at stop signs and stay fully focused on driving when in residential areas during the summer. Plus, even at night, assume kids may be outside and playing on the street.

Insurance penalty: As a G-licenced driver, if you are caught speeding over the limit by 16 to 29 kilometres, you will acquire three demerit points. At nine points, you’ll be required to take part in an assessment interview at the Ministry of Transportation. At 15 points, you will have your licence suspended for 30 days — with even two minor convictions you could face severe increases in your insurance premiums as a result.

Watch for children
Always stay conscious of what’s happening on the street. When pulling out of your driveway or making a turn, kids can come close to your car at any time. If you do see children, take your time and be patient — let them get out of the way completely.

Insurance penalty: If you are found guilty of a careless or dangerous driving charge, you can expect to gain six demerit points, including a drop from your present star rating, which is a system for determining how many years of claims-free driving you’ve had (for example, if you are at six, at best, you can expect it to drop to four or even zero). The higher your star rating, the better your record. For some companies, 10 is best, for others six. Plus, you’ll see your premiums go up by 50 to 100 per cent.

Respect the signs
Street signs aren’t just up for display — you must obey them at all times. This means avoiding rolling stops at stop signs, yielding to traffic and watching for pedestrians at crosswalks. Running signs or not obeying the road rules can result in an accident or injury, so slow down and pay attention.

Insurance penalty: Running a stop sign or making an improper right- or left-hand turn will earn you two demerit points. You won’t likely see an effect on your policy — the first time — but the second time you will. The effect on your policy and rating will depend on your current driving record, but know that one ticket could cause your star rating to drop, which, in turn, will have an impact on the cost of your premium.

Improper passing of a school bus
Yes, school’s out — but there are lots of kids who attend day camp, which means that they’re still getting on the bus. If you see school buses on the road in the summer, treat them the same way you would during the school year. Always stop and yield to school buses, watch for children and drive very slowly around parked school buses.

Insurance penalty: Not stopping for a school bus will automatically gain you six demerit points not to mention a hefty fine. Automatically, this will cause a raise in your insurance rate, so play it safe and respect school buses.

Stay patient and calm
The best advice for any driver to heed is to stay cool and calm when behind the wheel. Give yourself plenty of time to reach your destination, be courteous to other drivers and pedestrians, and don’t get angry over small stuff. If you lose your temper behind the wheel, you could lose control of the vehicle and cause an accident, which, in turn, could result in injury or damage to vehicles or property — all cause for higher insurance rates at the end of the day.

Tip: Smart drivers looking to keep their insurance premiums low don’t just practice safe driving habits—they shop around for the best rates. If you’re a good driver and think you may be paying too much for auto insurance, visit InsuranceHotline.com where you can compare rates from over 30 competing insurers for the lowest rate available for your driving profile.

Other helpful insurance articles:

- Find out what is an OPCF 28A in the "Did You Know?" section of the InsuranceHotline.com Insider

- How do you add young drivers to your insurance policy?

- What are the consequences of major and minor tickets?

- "My child is home from university for the summer. Do I have to add his or her name to my car insurance policy?" Click here to read the answer.