Nearly 1 in 4 out-of-state car insurance claims occur during the fall: Are you prepared for upcoming holiday travels?

family of four in car

This fall, many of us will take to the road to celebrate the holidays with family. But driving across state lines can raise some real challenges, especially at peak travel times. Between navigating unfamiliar territory, adjusting to different traffic patterns, and trying to keep your eyes on the road while sightseeing, driving in new places can be trickier than you might think.

At Esurance, we're committed to making insurance surprisingly painless. Part of that means helping drivers better understand — and avoid — risks on the road. With that in mind, we dug into our insurance claim data to see when and where road trip travelers have the most trouble outside of their home state ahead of the upcoming fall holiday travels.

Examining out-of-state claims during the autumn months

Every year, millions and millions of Americans pack up their cars, grab the kids, and hit the road to see family over the Thanksgiving holiday. The challenges of Thanksgiving travel are a major reason that nearly 1 in 4 out-of-state claims occur during the fall season.

seasonal auto claims seasonal auto claims

With roughly 23% of out-of-state claims taking place in the fall, it's likely that accidents have derailed many families' journeys to their Thanksgiving feast. If you're planning a road trip to visit friends and family this fall, here are a few tips for staying safe on new or unfamiliar roads:

  • Plan ahead: Be sure to map out your route ahead of time. Try to factor in practical stops (bathroom break!) and fun stops too (world's largest yo-yo?). If possible, try to avoid driving late at night in new areas or on roads not well lit. Further, if you're big-city bound, try to avoid driving during morning and evening rush hours. Before you even hit the road, make sure your car has been serviced recently to avoid any unexpected maintenance issues, which could not only be a pain, but a potential safety risk.

  • Keep an eye on the forecast: The fall also brings unpredictable weather, especially as the cold of winter creeps closer. In the South, this means heavy rain; in the North, light snow flurries are common. Be sure to prepare for the terrain you're traveling and anticipate the unexpected. Remember, roads are slickest right after a rainstorm. If you drive over some ice and start to skid, remember to slowly stop accelerating and turn the wheel into the direction you're skidding.

  • Know where gas stations are: It can be stressful watching your gas gauge approach the big E with no gas station in site. Fuelcaster® from Esurance can tell you where the nearest and cheapest stations are, plus give you directions. But better still, Fuelcaster® predicts whether gas prices are expected to rise or fall tomorrow, so you know whether it'll be cheaper to fill up now or wait. (But if you're on the big E, fill up now!)

  • Set up car tech before you leave: Plug in your directions before leaving the driveway. Be sure you've got the kids settled too! Having the music figured out, any car entertainment set up, and map directions started will help keep your eyes on the road while driving.

  • Keep an eye out for distracted drivers or pedestrians: If you're in a tourist area, crowds are likely to be walking around. These pedestrians have their eyes on the attractions, making them a driving risk. Be sure to drive slow and be prepared to stop for the crowds of people.

Visiting drivers have the most trouble in these states

Next, we looked at which states seem to cause the most problems for visiting drivers. Surprisingly, North Dakota had the highest rate of fall claims for out-of-state drivers. In fact, 19% of North Dakota's auto claims in the fall came from drivers registered in another state.

out of state accidents in fall 2018 out of state accidents in fall 2018

Our analysis reflects the unique challenges of driving in New York City, where relentless traffic and crowds of people can intimidate any visitor. But there are several other states in which drivers should be particularly vigilant:

  • Mississippi: In a recent analysis of the most dangerous states for drivers, Mississippi topped our list. Good to know for anyone traveling to this state. Out-of-state drivers made up 18% of Mississippi's claims last fall. Considering it's also the fourth-most rural state in the U.S., their roadways may also be to blame. Rural roads typically have higher speed limits, fewer traffic lights, and wildlife traffic. When traveling along these roads, be sure to drive with caution, be aware of your high beams at night, and stay prepared for the potential animal crossing.

  • Nevada: Nearly 18% of all fall claims in Nevada came from out-of-state drivers. And while traffic spikes across America on Thanksgiving, Nevada's roads get especially clogged. Last year, the Silver State saw miles of congestion and hours of delays. If you're stuck in that slog, it's important to stay focused — even if you're inching along. Resist the temptation to pick up your phone and keep your eye on the drivers around you. On top of that, Nevada holds the country's loneliest highway. For nearly 300 miles of road, there's no cell service, gas stations, or local resources. If you find yourself trekking across this state, be sure your fuel tank is full and potty breaks have been taken. (Remember, Fuelcaster®?!)

  • Oregon: 16% of claims last fall came from out-of-state drivers. Road trippers who hope to visit Oregon this autumn should know that the highways surrounding Portland are chronically overcrowded. Traffic creates risks for all drivers. There's also the famed Pacific Coast Highway that runs from California to Washington. With beautiful views and changing speed limits, drivers should pay extra attention to the road when sightseeing on Oregon's Highway 101. Be sure to stop the car for those family vacation photos rather than turning your focus from the road ahead.

What to do if you need to make a claim in another state

Wherever your travels take you, some basic safety principles apply. Never drive distracted or intoxicated. Always observe the rules of the road. And be respectful of other drivers. Obviously.

Of course, even safe drivers sometimes run into trouble. If your road trip adventure in a new state does include an accident, here's what to do:

  • Move to a safer area: If possible, pull over onto the shoulder of the road. If you can't drive your vehicle, put on your hazard lights to alert other drivers.

  • Assess your safety: Take a moment to catch your breath and make sure you don't have any injuries. If you're OK, check on anyone else involved.

  • Call the local police: Even if the accident seems minor, local law enforcement can provide valuable documentation you may need later. You can look up the local police department number on your phone for minor accidents, but when in doubt, 911 is the proper line to call no matter where you are in the U.S.

  • Gather information: Write down relevant details about the cars and people involved. Since you're in a new place, it may help to record your location, cross streets, and the direction you were heading. It's always important to include the names of drivers and passengers, license plate numbers, insurance information, makes and models of the cars involved, location details, and the names and badge numbers of the responding police officers.

  • Take pictures: Snap as many photos as you can of the scene, the damage to all vehicles involved, and any of your injuries. These photos can be useful later. Be sure also to take pictures of the road, the area you're in, and any traffic lights or intersections. If you're visiting, this could be helpful to reference if needed once you return home. You can even take pictures of those important documents we just mentioned (e.g., insurance cards, license plates, IDs) since this will ensure you have accurate information and don't end up writing down something wrong due to the stress of the situation.

  • File your claim: If you're an Esurance customer, submitting your claim is simple. You can start your claim online or call a helpful expert 24/7. In most states, you can also use photo claims, which lets you snap a few pics with your smartphone and submit them to get your claim settled lickety-split.

  • Know your options: If you're far from home and you've determined that your car is not safe to drive, then you have some choices. Will you pay to tow your car back to your hometown to be repaired there? Or will you repair it locally, in which case you may need to extend your trip or find alternate transportation home and drive or fly back at a later date. All of these options likely come with added expenses, so it's important to contact your carrier right away to not only report the incident, but also find out what you're coverage includes so you can make an informed decision. Regardless of the path you pick, keep all of your receipts so you have a record of any unexpected costs you did incur.

Esurance is committed to making insurance surprisingly painless. Whether you're in your home state or traveling to new lands, we make it simple to get back on the road and back to your fall adventures.

Methodology

For this study, we looked at 200,625 automotive claims filed with Esurance in 2018, examining the percentage occurring in or outside of policyholders' policy states. States were grouped by census region for regional looks. Alaska, Hawaii, Montana, Wyoming, Vermont, New Hampshire, Delaware, and Washington, D.C., had zero policyholders making claims.

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Or call 1-800-378-7262.