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It's crunch time: Accidents are up, sending body shops into busy season

Chad Sherva and Jay Peterson work on a semi at Lars' Body Shop in West Fargo.David Samson / The Forum1 / 4
Eric Swenson removes a broken windshield from a car at Lars' Body Shop in West Fargo.David Samson / The Forum2 / 4
Debbie Asleson keeps the operation running smoothly at Lars' Body Shop in West Fargo.David Samson / The Forum3 / 4
John Rieniets sprays off a semi truck at Lars' Body Shop in West Fargo.David Samson / The Forum4 / 4

While this winter hasn't produced record snowfalls so far, January accidents are on track to set a record in West Fargo, sending local body shops into overdrive.

West Fargo Assistant Police Chief Jerry Boyer said there were 66 crashes in November and 102 in December. However as of Jan. 20, there had been 107 crashes this month, a number that was much higher than last year.

Ross Erickson, general manager of Lars' Body Shop, said winter is one of the shop's busiest times as fender benders and property accidents tend to go up when snow starts to come down.

Eric Swenson, shop manager and collision repair technician at Lars, said much of the shop's work is comprised of collision damage stemming from drivers going to fast for the weather conditions, although the occasional auto versus deer is also brought in.

Erickson said it's important to take it slow during the winter and pay attention to the weather cues as North Dakota's rapidly changing winds and temperatures can change roads quickly.

Newer vehicle models are equipped with more safety precautions from multiple airbags to automatic driver-assist technology which has reduced serious injuries during crashes, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. While the latest technology can make body repairs more complex, local repair technicians regularly continue their education and are able to access any parts available to larger markets, Swenson said.

While many metro car dealerships offer body shops, smaller shops such as those located in West Fargo offer the same services and accept nearly all insurances but offer customers a way to support local small businesses.

According to a BodyShop Business 2017 Industry Profile survey, 85 percent of shop owners run a family-owned collision repair facility, and about 69 percent of body shops in the national are independent shops.

West Fargo Economic Development Director Matt Marshall said service industry businesses like body shops are always a welcome addition to the city.

"Locally owned businesses like this are what make up the fabric of the community," Marshall said. "We are grateful that they have chosen to make West Fargo home for all of these years and are excited to see their future success."

Founded in 1981 by Lars Dyrdahl and Ron Dotseth, Lars' Body Shop at 2009 Main Ave. E. is one of the oldest body shops in West Fargo. The shop has been a loyal supporter of the school district and the city's annual Cruise Nights.

"It's a great community," Erickson said. "We've been lucky to have a lot of a loyal customers we are grateful to."

The shop welcomes all makes and models of cars, trucks and semis, motorhomes, light watercraft and other specialized vehicles.

The locally owned and operated shop employs about eight repair technicians that can work on body repair as well as windshield replacement, chip repairs and some light mechanical as well as custom restoration and paint. While winter can be a busy time, shop owners stay mindful of customers' time.

"We understand a vehicle is often a person's second largest investment, it's part of their way of life," Swenson said. "We try to get them back on the road as soon as we can."

What to do when an accident occurs:

Contact the police if anyone is injured or there is significant damage to a vehicle or property. If two drivers are involved a crash, they should exchange names, contact information and insurance information.

Drivers are encouraged to take pictures of any damage and the crash and can submit a claim to their insurance company.

Once the insurance company is notified, drivers can then choose a body shop to begin repairs. Only one estimate is generally required for most insurances.

Business Profile:

Lars' Body Shop

Contact: (701) 282-3062

Website: www.larsbodyshop.com

Hours: 7:30 a.m. - 5 p.m. Mon-Thurs

7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday

Wendy Reuer

Wendy reports for The Forum and West Fargo Pioneer, where she is also assistant editor. A University of Minnesota Morris graduate from North Dakota, Wendy started her career in television news and entertainment in Minnesota and at CBS in Television City, Calif. before working at newspapers in Minnesota and North Dakota. 

(701) 241-5530
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