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Thursday, 8 October 2015

Winter Driving

Winter Driving

Safe Driving and Vehicle Maintenance Are Key

4 Ways Your Driving Habits Could Wreck Your Credit Score

Winter is a time when safe driving and well-maintained vehicles take on even greater importance.  “Failure to keep in proper lane or running off the road” and “driving too fast for conditions” are the two of the most frequent driver behaviors, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). 
In order to avoid potentially dangerous situations, the I.I.I. offers the following winter driving tips:
  • Give yourself enough time to arrive at your destination. Trips can take longer during winter than other times of the year, especially if you encounter storm conditions or icy roads.
  • Bring a cellphone so that those awaiting your arrival can get in touch with you, or you can notify them, if you are running late. But avoid the temptation of using the phone while driving, as it can be a dangerous distraction—pull over first.
  • Drive slowly because accelerating, stopping and turning all take longer on snow-covered roads.
  • Leave more distance than usual between your vehicle and the one just ahead of you, giving yourself at least 10 seconds to come to a complete stop. Cars and motorcycles usually need at least 3 seconds to halt completely even when traveling on dry pavement.
  • Be careful when driving over bridges, as well as roadways rarely exposed to sunlight—they are often icy when other areas are not.
  • Avoid sudden stops and quick direction changes.
  • Be sure to keep your gas tank full. Stormy weather or traffic delays may force you to change routes or turn back. A fuller gas tank also averts the potential freezing of your car's gas-line.
  • Keep windshield and windows clear. Drivers in cold-weather states should have a snow brush or scraper in their vehicle at all times. Your car's defroster can be supplemented by wiping the windows with a clean cloth to improve visibility.
  • Do not activate your cruise control when driving on a slippery surface.
  • Do not warm up a vehicle in an enclosed area, such as a garage.
  • Keep your tires properly inflated and remember that good tread on your tires is essential to safe winter driving.
  • Check your exhaust pipe to make sure it is clear. A blocked pipe could cause a leakage of carbon monoxide gas into your car when the engine is running.
  • Monitor the weather conditions at your destination before beginning your trip. If conditions look as though they are going to be too hazardous, just stay home.
My daughter recently turned 15, and one of the first things she did on her birthday was to take an online test required to get her learner's permit. She passed, and now she's driving. I don't have to lecture her on safe driving habits; she's been doing that to me for years. And she's more up to speed on the rules of the road than I am.

But what I do have to explain is how driving may affect her credit in the future. They don't teach that in Driver's Ed, and it's something most of us don't think about until it affects us.

Here are four ways that driving can have significant, long-term impact on your credit.

1. Tickets and Fines

If you get a ticket for a traffic or parking violation, it shouldn't show up on your credit reports. But if you don't pay the fines that result, the balance may be turned over to acollection agency, and that collection account may very well show up on your credit reports. Collection accounts, regardless of the reason or the amount, can be score killers.

Generally, collection accounts remain on credit reports for up to seven and a half years, even if they have been paid. But there may be special provisions in place that will allow for these accounts to be removed when the debt is paid. For example, in Washington, D.C., the Department of Motor Vehicles reports that the collections agency it hires "has agreed to automatically send an account delete record to the credit bureaus that it utilizes. This means that the record of your delinquent debt should disappear from credit bureau records within two to four weeks after payment in full is made."

If you have unpaid tickets, check your free credit reports to see if they appear on your reports as collection accounts. Then check with your state's department of motor vehicles to find out if they will be removed from your credit reports if you pay what's owed. Even if that is not the case, you'll want to resolve those accounts so the amount due doesn't continue to grow. In some jurisdictions, failing to pay these debts can even cause your license to be suspended.

2. Car Payments

An auto loan can help or hurt your credit, depending on how you manage it. One of the factors that most credit scoring models look at is your "mix of credit." In many scoring models, it makes up about 10 percent of your score. You'll score better for this factor if you have a variety of types of credit accounts; for example, if your report lists both revolving accounts (such as credit cards) and installment accounts (such as vehicle or student loans). If you want to see how your account mix is affecting your credit, check yourfree Credit Report Card, which will grade you on each of the five major credit reporting factors.

In addition, if you co-sign a car loan for your child (or anyone else for that matter), their loan will likely appear on your credit reports and will be treated as your own. Even if payments are made on time, the debt can affect your credit scores.

Miss a payment, however, and your credit scores may plummet. Recent late payments can lower your credit scores significantly and are especially problematic if you want to finance another vehicle or refinance your current loan since payment history on current and previous auto loans is an important factor in the scoring models used to evaluate auto loan applications.

In the worst-case scenario, where you fall behind on payments and your vehicle is repossessed, that repo will stay on your credit reports for seven years. Plus, the lender may try to collect a deficiency (the difference between what you owed and what they sold the vehicle for), and even file a lawsuit for that amount. If they win, you'll have a judgment on your credit reports as well.

3. DUIs

If you are charged with driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, the DUI will not appear on standard credit reports. But the costs of a DUI -- even for first-time offenders -- are staggering, and often cost $5,000 or more. Trying to come up with the money for attorney's fees, court costs, bail, towing, higher insurance premiums, etc., can put a strain on your budget and cause you to fall behind on other bills.

Or you may find yourself having to max out your credit cardsor get a loan to pay those costs, resulting in higher balances on your credit reports. Those higher credit card balances can hurt your credit scores.

4. Accidents

There were some 10.8 million motor vehicle accidents in 2009, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. These accidents don't just wreck vehicles; they sometimes destroy people's credit as well. Accidents may involve property damage that may not be covered by insurance, or large medical bills that aren't covered in full.

Even with adequate insurance, it can take time for insurance companies to sort out who pays for what, and to pay policyholders or providers. In the meantime, it's not unusual for medical bills to go unpaid. If medical providers aren't paid quickly enough, they may turn those bills over to collections; again, damaging credit reports.

Has driving impacted your credit? Share your experience in the comments below. 
That Will Help Others.

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