By Esme Murphy

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Fewer cars on the road tonight ahead of the New Year holiday means fewer crashes.

But on Saturday morning alone the State Patrol reported more than 500 crashes or spinouts. And the fallout can be found at auto body shops.

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This is a pretty slow week for most businesses, but not for auto body shops after Saturday’s icy disaster. They have a windfall of cars needing to be repaired.

Ice is the ultimate equalizer, no one no matter what they are driving has a chance. The only saving grace is that this didn’t happen on a weekday morning.

“Some people don’t mind driving in the snow, but no one likes driving on the ice,” Paul Hagen, the owner of Hagen’s Auto Body in Minneapolis said. “I was watching the news myself, there were cars spun out everywhere.”

Monday’s big haul of snow created fewer problems, but don’t tell that to those involved.

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“So we won’t be fixing everything, but we still have to make that determination whether they are repairable or not,” Hagen said.

At Hagen Auto Body shop in Minneapolis, some winters have their own names, last winter was ‘a mirror year.’

With periods of record snow, Minneapolis permanently banned parking on even sides of the street. The streets were getting so narrow emergency vehicles could not get through. A lot of car mirrors simply didn’t make it.

“The bigger trucks would go down these side streets and take out the mirrors and stuff like that,” Hagen said. “We were doing anywhere from two to three mirrors a day.”

While its too early to tell what will be the defining auto repair of this winter season, a few more ice storms could make this a ‘bumper year,’ not just for damaged bumpers, but accidents in general.

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One bit of advice, if your car is still drivable and the damage is relatively minor, most body shops don’t charge you for an estimate. So you may want to come in and get one. It may be cheaper to pay out of pocket or file an insurance claim.

Esme Murphy