5 ways to be smart about car insurance in the silly season

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It may be the silly season, but when it comes to driving, that's your cue to be extra sensible, say SA's insurance experts.

Here are their five top tips to ensure your journeys are safer, your premiums don't spike unnecessarily and any claims are not needlessly hampered.  

Sober as a judge

There's one way to avoid trouble for driving under the influence – don't do it. "Just down the road" isn't the same as not driving, cautions Nthabiseng Moloi, Head of Marketing and Brand for MiWay Insurance.

Should you hit a roadblock and refuse a breathalyzer, an officer can still detain you and have your blood tested if they suspect you aren't sober – and abusing an officer in any way is an offence. It is best to be polite and cooperative, Moloi advises.

And it's not just the law you have to worry about. The Ombud for Short-Term Insurance warns of the devastating financial effect if an insurer refuses to pay out after an accident where the driver was under the influence – and most do.

If you're considering fleeing the scene to avoid detection, don't. The Ombud adds that unlawfully leaving the scene is also grounds for refusal to pay out.

Lastly, says Moloi, driving under the influence will identify you as a high-risk driver, which can send your premiums soaring.

That's if you're insured at all. According to Hollard, if your licence is suspended, you could find yourself unable to get car insurance anywhere.

Keep it roadworthy

Roadblocks are not just there to ensure drivers are sober – officers are also within their rights to prevent you from driving further if your vehicle is unsafe.

"Nothing kills the festive spirit quite like a tyre blow-out or a mid-journey breakdown. It is vital to  give your car a thorough once-over before setting off anywhere," says Moloi. "Have it inspected by an authorised dealership or repair shop, paying particular attention to mechanical and electrical systems." That initial expenditure could save you later.

Check your benefits

Are you getting the most out of what you're paying for?

Many insurers, and even some banks, have such as roadside assistance, emergency assistance or even a pickup service for drivers who have taken one too many trips to the bar - and sometimes clients aren't aware of the fringe benefits included in their policies. Ask your provider what you qualify for, and save the relevant numbers in an easily accessible place.

Understand accident processes and excess

Often, clients don't understand what to do in the event of an accident, says Moloi.

"What happens if you are involved in an accident that was not your fault? While it makes sense to imagine that the guilty party should bear the full financial brunt, this sadly is not the case. The excess contribution remains in effect irrespective of who caused the accident," she says.

This is particularly important since even if you're being careful, chances are others aren't. According to Hollard, six out of ten drivers who die in accidents have dangerously high alcohol levels in their blood; 70% of the 3 000 pedestrians killed each year are drunk when killed; and when you're driving at night, one out of every seven drivers on the road with you is drunk.

Moloi adds that though this is not guaranteed, your insurer will try to recover the excess from the guilty party as part of the claims process – so it's very important to get their details, including their ID number, their insurer, vehicle registration number and address.

Car hire smarts

If you're travelling, check your car hire insurance options to avoid any nasty surprises in the event of an accident, advises Moloi.

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