Filed Under:Markets, Personal Lines

Hail, water and wind are top auto perils between March and May

Data from Farmers Insurance's Seasonal Smarts Digest includes most common hazards drivers face in eight regions of the country

Jonathan Rundell, of Scarborough, Maine, photographs storm clouds moving through New Gloucester, Maine, Thursday, March 17, 2016. Randell pulled off Rt. 26 to record the scene after a thunder and hail storm moved through the region. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
Jonathan Rundell, of Scarborough, Maine, photographs storm clouds moving through New Gloucester, Maine, Thursday, March 17, 2016. Randell pulled off Rt. 26 to record the scene after a thunder and hail storm moved through the region. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

The insurance industry relies heavily on history to predict the future. 

The latest Farmers Insurance Seasonal Smarts Digest uses the previous four years' worth of actual claims data from roads around the country to highlight some of spring's common dangers.

Drivers across the country from California to Virginia and everywhere in between should be aware of the potential for hail. The warming weather also brings an increased risk for damage from flash flooding that may be brought about by spring’s strong storm season, as well as windshield and vehicle body damage caused by gravel pieces from newly-formed potholes on roads across the country. Nearly 500,000 insurance claims each year are directly related to damage from potholes.

3 major spring vehicle risks


Farmers' claims data from 2013-2016, identified three major trouble spots for drivers nationally over the last four years between March and May:

  • Hail: 60 percent of auto claims (40 percent increase in 2016 compared to 2013).
  • Flash floods and rising water: 41 percent (166 percent increase in 2015-2016, compared to 2013 due to wet weather).
  • Wind and tornado damage: 30 percent (23 percent decrease since 2013).

Hail


Farmers' data reveals that 60 percent of all comprehensive (damages not related to a collision) hail claims occur between March and May. Data also uncovered a 40 percent increase in hail claims during the past four years.

Hailstorms occur in all parts of the country and can result in windshield cracks, dents to your car and dangerous driving conditions,” said Paul Quinn, head of claims customer experience with Farmers Insurance. “It’s important that drivers know the warning signs of hail as well as how they can avoid and prevent damage to their vehicles.”

Drivers across the country can prepare for upcoming spring hailstorms by considering the following tips from Quinn:

  • Park with a purpose. Your vehicle will be safest in a garage or under a carport/awning during a hailstorm so use covered parking, if possible. If covered parking isn’t available, you may want to consider a hail blanket or specialized car cover. Make sure all coverings are secure, as the wind associated with hailstorms can blow loose covers away.
  • Keep an eye on the color of the sky. A greenish color in the sky is sometimes visible before and during severe weather, including hailstorms, although scientists don’t know exactly why the sky appears green.
  • If caught in hail, park next to a building on the same side as the direction the storm is moving. For example, if the storm is in the southwest and moving northeast, parking close to the northeast side of a building may reduce damage.

A partially submerged truck sits in rising floodwaters in Bossier Parish, La.

A partially submerged truck sits in rising floodwaters in Bossier Parish, La., Thursday, March 10, 2016. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Rising water and floods


More than half of flood-related drownings in the U.S. occur when a vehicle is driven into floodwater, according to the National Weather Service. Here's how drivers can reduce dangers and the risk of a flood damage claim: 

  • What goes up, must come down. Be cautious when knowingly traveling on streets with steep hills, there may be a newly formed lake waiting at the bottom of the hill. Always remember that water can continue to rise after the rain stops, water on a roadway may be deeper than it appears and there may be more on its way.
  • Know where your route will take you at all times and understand if you’re driving (or even parking) near drainage channels, underpasses or similar areas. These are areas where flash flooding can occur at any time, regardless of whether typical warning signs like rain clouds or heavy rain are present.
  • Don’t panic if you’re caught in a flood. If you’re inside your vehicle, you should consider staying where you are and waiting for rescue if safety permits.
  • Just because water stops rising or the rain ceases doesn’t mean it’s okay to proceed. Water on the road ahead might be deeper than it appears, and it can also obscure from view a variety of potential hazards, like downed trees and even live electrical wires.
  • Night driving requires extra awareness. Low light levels make it harder to see potential flood dangers and make drivers more susceptible to accidentally driving into a flooded area.

Wind and tornadoes


The danger of tornadoes and severe winds are especially common in certain areas of the U.S. during spring. Here's what to do in a tornado:

  • If you see a tornado that is far off and it’s safe for you to do so, you can try to drive out of its path. NOAA recommends that you move at right angles to the tornado and locate a sturdy shelter, underground if possible.
  • Never try to outrun a tornado. You would need to drive more than 70 miles per hour to outrun the fastest tornado.
  • While an overpass may seem like a great spot to wait out a hailstorm, it may put you and your car in greater danger, since hailstorms often are part of larger severe weather systems that may include tornadoes. Stopping under an overpass can result in even more damage to your car and occupants, if high winds, as well as the debris picked up by those winds, move through the underpass.
  • If you can safely get to a level lower than the roadway, such as a ditch, safely leave your car and do so. Lie flat on the ground covering you head with your hands. Stay away from trees and cars as much as possible once exiting your car.

Owner of a truck overturned by a tornado, talks on the phone with insurance agents

Eldon Pipkin, owner of an over turned truck, talks on the phone with insurance agents, Wednesday, March 2, 2016, after damage from storms that struck Tuesday evening in Bessemer, Ala. Forecasters say a tornado that severely damaged homes and trees in the Birmingham suburb has been determined as an EF2, with winds of between 120 and 125 mph. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

Most common hazards by region


Farmers Insurance has dug deep into historical auto claims data to determine the three most common hazards drivers face in eight regions of the country. For example, 59 percent of all comprehensive claims in Colorado, Nebraska, North and South Dakota and Wyoming (the Midwest), between March 1 and May 29, resulted from hail. Here are the top regional hazards for vehicle owners:

New England


(Connecticut, Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Rhode Island)

Collision with animals (comprehensive): 16 percent of all auto comprehensive claims

Rear-end accidents (collision): 20 percent

Wind (comprehensive): 11 percent

Mid-Atlantic 


(New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Washington D.C., Virginia and West Virginia)

Rear-end accidents (collision): 22 percent

Collision with animals (comprehensive): 27 percent

Hail (comprehensive): 14 percent

Southeast


(Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North and South Carolina, and Tennessee)

Rear-end accidents (collision): 26 percent

Collision with animals comprehensive): 16 percent

Glass (collision): 11 percent

Greater Geeat Lakes


(Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin)

Collision with animals (comprehensive): 28 percent

Hail (comprehensive): 25 percent

Rear-end accidents (collision): 22 percent

South Central


(Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Kansas, New Mexico, Arkansas and Louisiana)

Hail (comprehensive): 65 percent

Rear-end accidents (collision): 22 percent

Hitting an object or pedestrian (collision): 14 percent

Midwest


(Colorado, Nebraska, North and South Dakota, and Wyoming)

Hail (comprehensive): 52 percent

Rear-end accidents (collision): 22 percent

Collision with animals (comprehensive): 13 percent

Pacific Northwest


(Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana)

Hail (comprehensive): 29 percent

Rear-end accidents (collision): 22 percent

Collision with animals (comprehensive): 17 percent

Southwest


(California, Arizona, Nevada and Utah)

Vandalism & mischief (comprehensive): 30 percent

Rear-end accidents (collision): 27 percent

Theft (comprehensive): 19 percent

See also:

Auto claims face a bumpy road ahead

How to avoid becoming a victim of 'flood vehicle' fraud

Top states for major auto insurance hazards from spring weather

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