How does the weather affect your car insurance policy?

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During the UK’s March blizzard last year, rumours spread like, uh, wildfire that driving during a red weather warning would invalidate your car insurance policy. Foolishly take to the road in ice and snow and any damage you sustained—likely from just skidding down your driveway and smashing into your neighbours’ ice-sheathed car—wouldn’t be covered by your insurance policy, gossip cautioned.

Is this true? Should you bother filing a claim for the fender bender you sustained after skidding on ice or was it all your all fault for venturing out during the Beast from the East or his 2019 son?

And how does the UK’s weather, which is becoming more inclined to extreme events, affect your car insurance premiums? Should you be dreading every snow day that gets you off work, worried you’ll see the cost on next year’s car insurance premiums? Should you be plunking pennies into a piggy bank every time you grab your umbrella?

We’ll examine how weather impacts driving conditions and thus your car insurance premiums and whether taking to the streets in a red or amber warning really can negate your insurance claims.

Driving in Difficult Weather Conditions

During inclement weather events, UK motorists are often advised by authorities to stay off the roads for their safety. Rates of accidents rise precipitously in the rain, snow, and fog, as visibility declines and stopping distances increase. And the weather doesn’t need to be Biblically bad for those hazards, and accident rates, to rise.

In 2015, 3,000 people were killed on the UK’s roads when it was raining. In fact, people were 30 times more likely to be killed on the roads when it was raining than when it was snowing, likely because they took precautions with snow and ice that they didn’t take when it was “just drizzling.” Travelling too quickly for the current conditions, such as rain, is a factor in 1 in 9 deaths on Britain’s roads.

Insurers expect rates and severity of accidents and thus the number and cost of claims to rise when it rains or snows or a pea souper rolls in. So does the forecast affect the level of premiums they charge you?

Weather and Insurance Premiums

When you purchase a car insurance policy, you lock in your premiums for a year. You may even pay for them upfront in a lump sum, to save money. So a week of heavy rain on the ten day forecast won’t immediately inflate the cost of insuring your car.

What can impact insurance premiums are changes in long-term weather patterns, such as the UK is already experiencing as a result of climate change. We’re seeing longer, colder, and more dramatic winters and insurers will take these into account when calculating premiums. Additionally, even a flukey weather event can impact next year’s premiums. If insurers have had to pay out for a high number of claims, they’ll hike premiums overall to offset these costs.

However, the impact on premiums may not be as high as motorists—and homeowners—fear. Experts predicted a shocking 50% rise in insurance costs following the devastating 2007 floods, as insurers coped with record numbers of claims, but the hikes didn’t materialise, at least not at that level.

What do the insurance companies themselves say about weather and premiums?

Aviva: “Like other insurers, we regularly review the likely level of future claims costs resulting from severe weather.”

Ian Crowder, a spokesman for AA Insurance: “Major weather events… causing widespread damage are not going to help insurance costs come down.”

Can driving in poor conditions really invalidate your policy?

Luckily, reports of claims being denied and policies invalidated simply because you drove during a red weather warning are false.

The insurance industry has refuted rumours that it denies the claims of motorists who left their driveways during poor weather.  

“It’s total nonsense to say you would not be covered during a red weather warning,” a spokesperson for AA said. “If you were caught up in the red warning on the road, are you supposed to pull over and freeze?”

What can invalidate your claims is driving recklessly, however: for example plowing down the motorway at the full speed limit during a blizzard. Failing to de-ice your vehicle and driving with limited visibility could also be interpreted as not taking enough precaution or not sufficiently protecting your vehicle and can impact the success of your claims.

Ultimately, the success of any claim depends on specific circumstances and insurers are within their rights, and the the terms and conditions of your policy, to reject claims if they believe they’re the result of you driving carelessly.

To protect yourself, your vehicle and insurance policy, avoid making unnecessary trips in dangerous weather. If driving is unavoidable, exercise extreme caution, including driving slowly and using sufficient following distance. The validity of your insurance claims is secondary to your life and the lives of other road users.