Keeping Teen Drivers Safe

Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among 15- to 20-year olds, according to most recent data from the National Center for Health Statistics. Immaturity and lack of driving experience are the two main factors leading to the high crash rate among teens. Teens’ lack of experience affects their recognition of and response to hazardous situations and results in dangerous practices such as speeding and tailgating.

Other major contributing factors to the higher crash risk of young drivers are night driving and teen passengers. Teenagers are involved in more motor vehicle crashes late in the day and at night than at other times of the day. Teens also have a greater chance of getting involved in an accident if other teens are present in the vehicle.

Why does this matter? Rates for auto insurance for teenage drivers are significantly higher than for other drivers because as a group they pose a higher risk of accidents than more experienced drivers. Adding a teenager to an insurance policy can mean a 50 percent or even a 100 percent increase in the parents’ insurance premium.

Below we have included data around the areas where teen drivers have the greatest risks and some information on how insurance companies are trying to help out.

If you have any other questions on adding a teen driver to your auto insurance policy, please feel free to contact our office.


 

Multiple Passengers: Research shows that when teenage drivers transport teen passengers there is a greatly increased crash risk. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety released a report that showed that the risk of 16- or 17-year old drivers being killed in a crash increases with each additional teenage passenger in the vehicle. The risk increases 44 percent with one passenger; it doubles with two passengers and quadruples with three or more passengers.

Cellphones: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a survey in June 2014 showing that about 41.4 percent of high school students reported that they texted or emailed from behind the wheel at least once during the previous 30 days.

AAA also released a study that found that teenage girls are twice as likely as teenage boys to use cellphones and other electronic devices while driving. The study also found that teenage female drivers were almost 10 percent more likely to engage in other distracted behaviors such as reaching for an object (nearly 50 percent more likely than males) and eating or drinking (almost 25 percent more likely). By contrast teenage male drivers were about twice as likely to turn around in their seats and were also more likely to communicate with people outside of the vehicle.

Speeding: According to NHTSA’s National Center for Statistics and Analysis, among drivers involved in fatal crashes, young males are the most likely to be speeding. In 2013 about 35 percent of both 15 to 20-year old male drivers who were involved in fatal crashes were speeding at the time of the crash, compared to 21 percent of female drivers of the same age group.

Drunk Driving: Underage drinking remains a factor in teenage highway fatalities. Twenty-eight percent of drivers age 15 to 20 who were killed in motor vehicle crashes last year had been drinking some amount of alcohol; 24 percent were alcohol-impaired, which is defined by a blood alcohol content of 0.08 grams per deciliter or higher.

Seatbelt Use: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), tracks seatbelt use based on the National Occupant Protection Use Survey (NOPUS), which observes occupants driving through intersections controlled by stop signs or stop lights. The 2012 survey found that 80 percent of passenger vehicle occupants age 16 to 24 used seat belts, which is lowest among all age groups.

Distracted Driving: According to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) data, in 2012, 10 percent of all drivers 15 to 19 years old involved in fatal crashes were distracted at the time of the crash. Among the distracted drivers 15 to 19 years old, 19 percent were distracted by the use of cellphones at the time of the crash.

Auto Insurance Premium Discounts: Not all hope is lost, though. Many insurance companies are trying to help out in a variety of ways.

The Good Student Discount is generally available to students who have a grade point average of a B or higher. Many companies offer programs that foster safe driving habits, such as online safety courses for young drivers and parents, contracts between young drivers and parents, educational videos and practice driving logs.

Other Insurance companies are also helping to reduce the number of accidents involving teen drivers by subsidizing the cost of electronic devices that parents can install in their cars to monitor the way teens drive and by offering discounts to policyholders with teens who use these devices.

 

Winter Driving Tips

The winter will always bring with it precarious driving conditions. Whether it’s icy roads, heavy snowfall, low visibility, or any other combination of harsh weather, knowing how to control your car is key to staying safe as you journey through the snow. In fact, winter driving conditions account for more than 40% of all auto accidents and more than 113,000 injuries each year.

In addition to being more cautious while driving in adverse weather, motorists should know the safety rules for dealing with winter road emergencies.  Since road conditions can also change quickly in winter, drivers need to be aware of situations and surroundings, and be prepared to react more quickly than in other driving scenarios. Extreme temperatures may also impact vehicle function.

Below you will find some additional information on navigating your vehicle in winter weather.  And, if you do happen to experience an accident, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our office.

Winter Driving

  • Avoid driving while you’re fatigued. Getting the proper amount of rest before taking on winter weather tasks reduces driving risks.
  • Never warm up a vehicle in an enclosed area, such as a garage.
  • Make certain your tires are properly inflated.
  • Never mix radial tires with other tire types.
  • Keep your gas tank at least half full to avoid gas line freeze-up.
  • If possible, avoid using your parking brake in cold, rainy and snowy weather.
  • Do not use cruise control when driving on any slippery surface (wet, ice, sand).

Tips for long-distance winter trips:

  • Watch weather reports prior to a long-distance drive or before driving in isolated areas. Delay trips when especially bad weather is expected. If you must leave, let others know your route, destination and estimated time of arrival.
  • Keep blankets, gloves, hats, food, water and any needed medication in your vehicle.
  • If you become snow-bound, stay with your vehicle. It provides temporary shelter and makes it easier for rescuers to locate you. Don’t try to walk in a severe storm. It’s easy to lose sight of your vehicle in blowing snow and become lost.
  • Don’t over exert yourself if you try to push or dig your vehicle out of the snow.
  • Tie a brightly colored cloth to the antenna or place a cloth at the top of a rolled up window to signal distress. At night, keep the dome light on if possible. It only uses a small amount of electricity and will make it easier for rescuers to find you.
  • Make sure the exhaust pipe isn’t clogged with snow, ice or mud. A blocked exhaust could cause deadly carbon monoxide gas to leak into the passenger compartment with the engine running.
  • Use whatever is available to insulate your body from the cold. This could include floor mats, newspapers or paper maps.
  • If possible run the engine and heater just long enough to remove the chill and to conserve gasoline.

Tips for driving in the snow:

  • Accelerate and decelerate slowly. Applying the gas slowly to accelerate is the best method for regaining traction and avoiding skids. Don’t try to get moving in a hurry. And take time to slow down for a stoplight. Remember: It takes longer to slow down on icy roads.
  • Drive slowly. Everything takes longer on snow-covered roads. Accelerating, stopping, turning – nothing happens as quickly as on dry pavement.
  • The normal dry pavement following distance of three to four seconds should be increased to eight to ten seconds. This increased margin of safety will provide the longer distance needed if you have to stop.
  • Know your brakes. Whether you have antilock brakes or not, the best way to stop is threshold breaking. Keep the heel of your foot on the floor and use the ball of your foot to apply firm, steady pressure on the brake pedal.
  • Don’t stop if you can avoid it. There’s a big difference in the amount of inertia it takes to start moving from a full stop versus how much it takes to get moving while still rolling. If you can slow down enough to keep rolling until a traffic light changes, do it.
  • Don’t power up hills. Applying extra gas on snow-covered roads just starts your wheels spinning. Try to get a little inertia going before you reach the hill and let that inertia carry you to the top. As you reach the crest of the hill, reduce your speed and proceed downhill as slowly as possible.
  • Don’t stop going up a hill. There’s nothing worse than trying to get moving up a hill on an icy road. Get some inertia going on a flat roadway before you take on the hill.
  • Stay home. If you really don’t have to go out, don’t. Even if you can drive well in the snow, not everyone else can. Don’t tempt fate: If you don’t have somewhere you have to be, watch the snow from indoors.

Top 5 Strangest Auto Claims

Most of the time, car insurance claims are fairly routine affairs involving fender benders or storm damage. Truly bizarre claims, however, are rare and elusive. If you Google “weird auto insurance claim,” you’ll find multiple improbable rumors involving wrecks caused by drivers ogling naked pedestrians, windshields damaged in squirrel nut attacks, and even one report by a driver who claimed his windscreen melted when a plane crash-landed nearby and burst into flames.

Actually verifiable claims are much harder to come by; however, we’ve been able to track down 5 truly off-the-wall auto insurance claims that are just as strange as they are improbable. Below are the associated stories for each of the claims.

Also, please remember that you can always contact our office for any auto insurance accident or claim you encounter—no matter how strange it may be. Our office will be glad to assist.

Claim 1: In December 2011, Seattle news outlets reported a bizarre story involving a mattress and a three-car pile-up. A couple had failed to tie their mattress securely to the top of their SUV. As they were driving, the mattress loosed itself from its moorings and landed in the middle of the highway, causing a three-way crash.

As two good Samaritans stopped to help, the female driver hopped back into her vehicle and fled the scene, leaving her male passenger to deal with the aftermath. Shortly thereafter, one of the good Samaritans also left. A few miles down the road, however, he spied a man’s head “bobbing around in the backseat.” It turned out to be the male passenger had stowed away, hoping to escape the accident scene undetected.

Claim 2: A driver was involved in a minor rear-end collision in which he smashed the taillight of a car ahead. He then reversed slightly so that he could survey the damage, but in a stroke of ill luck, he hit the front bumper of the driver behind him. Then, when he opened his door to exit his vehicle, he knocked down a passing cyclist, resulting in three insurance claims!

Claim 3: An insurance agent received a rather suspicious claim for heavy hail damage to a car. When the adjuster inspected the damage, he was skeptical that hail could have caused the perfectly symmetrical, round divots that peppered the entire surface of the damaged car.

The insurance company rejected the claim as the vehicle had been purposefully damaged, not by hail, but by a ball-peen hammer. The company figured the client would be so embarrassed at being caught in an obvious attempt at insurance fraud that he would simply drop the entire matter. Instead, the man filed a police report claiming that an unknown assailant had beaten his car with a ball-peen hammer! The client then filed a new insurance claim, and this time, because they couldn’t prove that the client had inflicted the damage himself, the insurance company was forced to pay the claim.

Claim 4: A farmer was driving around in his pickup truck and had his shotgun riding, well, shotgun. Arriving at his destination, the man grabbed his gun and hopped out of the cab. Unfortunately, he lost his grip and the gun discharged. He wasn’t sure if he’d fired the gun while grabbing for it or if it went off by itself as it hit the ground.

The gun was loaded with buckshot and while thankfully, the man was uninjured, the truck’s interior wasn’t as fortunate. The entire cab of the truck — headliner, seat covers and dashboard — had suffered extensive damage. Luckily, the client had comprehensive insurance and the claim was paid.

Claim 5: In 1974, a young woman drove her beloved “hippie van” to an upholstery shop to have a fold-down bed installed in the back. The van then disappeared from the shop’s lot and a claim was filed with her insurance company. The woman was reimbursed roughly $600 for the vehicle, which was about what she’d paid for it.

Fast-forward 35 years when U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials in Los Angeles recovered a perfectly restored, still-running VW minibus from a shipping container bound for the Netherlands. They ran the VIN (vehicle identification) number and discovered it was the same vehicle that had been stolen from back in 1974.

Now owned by here insurance company, the minibus is worth about $25,000. The individual is hopeful that she can come to terms with her insurer and get her minibus back. One can only imagine the stories it would tell if it could talk!

How Uber Affects Car Insurance

With more than 8 million U.S. users and 160,000 drivers, Uber is disrupting the transportation industry in an unprecedented manner. By leveraging technology, they (along with other ride-sharing companies) are transforming the way we travel, especially in crowded, urban areas.

As the ride-sharing industry continues to exponentially grow, auto insurance companies are trying to figure out how and where to properly provide coverage for drivers that participate in these services.

Most personal insurance policies exclude all livery services and commercial insurance policies are expensive. Many ride-sharing companies do provide insurance for their drivers while paying passengers are in the car; however, there are still gaps in insurance coverage that each driver needs to properly address.

Q: Why are companies like Uber and Lyft getting so much attention from auto insurance companies?

A: These companies are attracting significant attention from auto insurance companies due to their operations — providing ride sharing services by contracting with drivers who use their personal vehicles to transport passengers. These drivers do not typically have a livery driver’s license nor are their cars registered or insured as commercial vehicles.

The issue at hand is that personal auto insurance is not designed, underwritten or priced to handle livery-type services. They are written for personal use vehicles that may include the transportation of family and friends. Therefore, most personal auto insurance policies exclude all livery services as those are typically handled on a commercial auto insurance policy. In fact, most policies actually stop providing coverage from the moment a driver logs onto his ride-sharing app until the app is shut off.

Commercial auto insurance policies generally carry higher limits, are underwritten with the recognition that commercial vehicles travel more miles, and cover exposures not included in private-passenger policies due to the increased risk of accidents and subsequent claims.
Q: Why don’t insurance companies cover ride-sharing?

A: The short answer: Auto insurers have not yet determined how to underwrite the risks of personal-line policyholders using their private-passenger vehicles on a for-hire basis.

Given the proliferation of companies like Uber and Lyft, however, it is likely that auto insurers will at some point start to offer policies that provide motorists with coverage for both traditional private use of a vehicle and commercial vehicle use.
Q: What is government doing as far as insurance is concerned? Do any laws govern ride-sharing and insurance?

A: For city and state governments the two key insurance regulation questions are:

  1. Must ride-share drivers be licensed in the same way that taxi and other for-hire drivers are?
  2. If private-passenger policies do not cover ride-share drivers when they are working, how do they become properly insured?

Though many municipalities have yet to properly address the concerns above, some governments have already started passing bills that insurance requirements and regulations for ride-share drivers.

For example, California recently passed a bill with the following requirements:

  1. Requires all ride-sharing companies to disclose to drivers upfront that the driver’s personal insurance policy will not apply while using their private-passenger vehicle for work activities.
  2. Requires commercial insurance from the moment the driver logs onto the app, until the driver logs off.
  3. Clarifies that their commercial insurance is primary coverage.
  4. Requires the ride-sharing liability insurer to defend and indemnify drivers when they have a claim, or accident, while on assignment.
  5. Ensures coverage is not dependent on a private-passenger auto insurer first declining coverage.

Q: How can prospective drivers learn if they have sufficient coverage?

A: Prospective drivers should ask the their ride-sharing company what level of coverage it provides. Most ride-sharing companies provide insurance coverage for their drivers, but only when they have a paying passenger in the vehicle.

Drivers should also contact their own auto insurer to address gaps, if any, in their liability protection. It is also recommended that ride-sharing drivers review a copy of their company’s insurance contracts so they know the exact terms and conditions of the coverage.

Does Auto Insurance Cover Stolen Items?

One of the questions we often receive is in regards to how auto insurance policies respond to personal items that are stolen from your car.  We want to spend this post providing some insight into this question.

Please keep in mind that every insurance policy is different and the information below may or may not address how your policy would specifically respond. 

What If My Laptop or Other Personal Items are Stolen from My Car?

Auto insurance does a good job of protecting, repairing, or replacing your vehicle if there is a claim.   It does a very poor job, though, of providing any type of coverage for personal items inside the vehicle.   In fact, most auto policies actually exclude coverage for personal items.

So then where do you get coverage? Your homeowners or renters policy will typically pick up the claim for stolen or damaged personal items located in your vehicle.  Keep in mind, though, the claim will be subject to the policy deductible, which will typically be either $500 or $1,000.

Our best recommendation is to avoid leaving items in your vehicle as best you can.   If you do have to leave items in your car, be sure to keep them out of plain view. Thieves will typically target those items that are easiest for them to get to.

Are My CDs Covered by Insurance if They’re Stolen from My Vehicle?

While CDs are quickly going the way of cassette tapes and being replaced by iPods or other portable electronic devices, this is still a common question we receive.

Unfortunately, the answer is your auto insurance most likely does NOT provide any coverage for CDs if they are stolen from the vehicle.   Some companies, though, will now allow you to purchase an endorsement on your policy that will provide limited coverage for the CDs.

Your best chance of finding coverage for this type of claim is to submit a claim through your homeowners or renters policy.   Many policies will provide $1,000 in coverage for “electronic apparatus, while in or upon a motor vehicle.”  However, before you rest easy thinking you are protected in the event of a claim, many insurance companies have interpreted “electronic apparatus” to not include CDs and will deny the claim.

Due to the ambiguity in regards to coverage for your CDs, we have a couple of suggestions:

  1. Check with your agent to see how your auto and homeowners policies will respond if your CDs are stolen.  It is so much better to know ahead of time how the policy will likely respond rather than waiting for the actual claim.
  2. Ask about the possibility of purchasing a coverage extension through your auto insurance company.
  3. Keep a digital copy stored on your home computer or an external storage device as a backup.

How Will Driverless Cars Affect Premiums

Self-driving cars are definitely on the way. In fact, one transport scholar at the University of Minnesota estimates that by 2030 every car on the road will be driverless.
From a safety standpoint this could be great news as most accidents are caused by human error. If this factor can be minimized by taking control of the moving vehicle away from the driver, accident rates should tumble.

The risk of an accident is unlikely to be completely removed, though, since events are not totally predictable and automated systems can fail. In addition, the transition from hands-off driving to hands-on promises to be tricky.

Additionally, driverless cars are still fraught with a number of safety questions:

  1. What kind of training will people need to safely handle these types of vehicles?
  2. How well prepared will drivers be to handle emergencies when the technology returns control to the driver?
  3. What are the insurance implications of autonomous vehicles?
  4. Who is ultimately liable in an accident – the manufacturer or the driver?

Many of the questions above will be appropriately answered by the time the first driverless cars actually hit the road. But in the meantime we have gathered some research data and insight on how insurance companies are starting to view this new risk.

Insurance Implications

Except that the number of crashes will be greatly reduced, the insurance aspects of this gradual transformation to driverless carts are still unclear. It will also be interesting to see if the accidents that do occur lead to a higher percentage of product liability claims, as claimants blame the manufacturer or suppliers for what went wrong rather than their own behavior. Liability laws will also have to evolve to ensure autonomous vehicle technology advances are not brought to a halt.

Auto Insurance: Some aspects of insurance will be impacted as autonomous cars become the norm. There will still be a need for liability coverage, but over time the coverage could change, as suggested by the 2014 RAND study on autonomous vehicles, as manufacturers and suppliers and possibly even municipalities are called upon to take responsibility for what went wrong.

Coverage for physical damage due to a crash and for losses not caused by crashes but by wind, floods, fire and theft (comprehensive coverage) is less likely to change but may become cheaper if the potentially higher costs to repair or replace damaged vehicles is more than offset by the lower accident frequency rate.

Underwriting: Initially, many of the traditional underwriting criteria, such as the number and kind of accidents an applicant has had, the miles he or she expects to drive and where the car is garaged, will still apply, but the make, model and style of car may assume a greater importance. The implications of where a car is garaged and driven might be different if there are areas set aside, such as dedicated lanes, for automated driving.

During the transition to wholly autonomous driving, insurers may try to rely more on telematics devices, known as “black boxes,” that monitor driver activity. According to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, use of telematics is forecast to grow to up to 20 percent within the next five years.

Liability: As cars are become increasingly automated the onus might be on the manufacturer to prove it was not responsible for what happened in the event of a crash. The liability issue may evolve so that lawsuit concerns do not drive manufacturers and their suppliers out of business

Repair Costs: While the number of accidents is expected to drop significantly as more crash avoidance features are incorporated into vehicles, the cost of replacing damaged parts is likely to increase because of the complexity of the components. It is not yet clear whether the reduction in the frequency of crashes will lead to a reduction in the cost of crashes overall.

Additional Distracted Driving Tips

Employers May Be Held Liable

Not only is distracted driving dangerous for individuals, but there is a growing concern among business owners and managers that they may be held liable for accidents caused by their employees while driving and conducting work-related conversations on cellphones.

Under the doctrine of “vicarious responsibility,” employers may be held legally accountable for the negligent acts of employees committed in the course of employment. Employers may also be found negligent if they fail to put in place a policy for the safe use of cellphones.
Tips for Safer Travel

Keep these safety tips in mind when driving:

  • Pull Off the Road – Don’t drive while calling or texting; pull off the road to a safe location.
  • Use Voice-activated Dialing – If you must dial from the road, program frequently called numbers and your local emergency number into your phone and use voice-activated dialing.
  • Never Dial While Driving – If you must dial manually, do so only when stopped or have a passenger dial for you.
  • Take a Message – Let your voice mail pick up your calls while you’re driving. It’s easy—and much safer—to retrieve your messages later on.
  • Know When to Stop Talking – If you must make or receive a call while driving, keep conversations on brief so you can concentrate on your driving. If a long discussion is required or if the topic is stressful or emotional, end the conversation and continue it once you are off the road.
  • Don’t Take Notes While Driving – If you need to write something down, use an audio recorder or pull off the road.
  • Know Where You’re Going – If you’re using a navigation system, program in your destination before you start driving and use the audio setting to avoid having to look at the screen for directions.
  • Don’t Eat or Drink While Driving – Eating takes both your hand off the wheel and your eyes off the road, so don’t do it. Furthermore, spills can easily cause an accident. If you have to stop short, you could also be severely burned.
  • Groom Yourself At Home – Shaving, putting on makeup, combing your hair or other forms of preening are distractions and should be done at home, not while driving.

Top 8 Auto Insurance Myths

When it comes to auto insurance, deciphering coverage provisions, exclusions, and premium calculations is already hard enough. However, to complicate matters there are a number of myths floating around that can make it near impossible to understand your policy.

In fact, in a recent survey by insure.com, 52 percent of respondents had a misunderstanding of their auto insurance coverage. There were some questions where over 65% of the participants answered incorrectly!

Below we are going to point out the most common myths associated with auto insurance and provide the correct information in regards to each one.

Please remember that if you ever have a specific question in regards to your auto insurance policy, please feel free to reach out to our office.

One speeding ticket will make my car insurance rates go up.
Sometimes this is true, but in many cases, you have to get two tickets before your rate goes up. Your driving history, the length of time you’ve been insured with a company and how fast you were going when you were cited can affect whether your rate increases or not. Keep in mind that a speeding ticket may not be the sole reason your rate increases, as several factors are considered when reviewing them.

If someone driving my car causes an accident, I won’t be held responsible.
It’s possible you’ll be financially responsible for an accident — even if someone else is driving your car. In most states, the car insurance policy covering the vehicle is considered the primary insurance, which means that the insurance company for the vehicle must pay for damages caused by an accident. Even so, it’s still possible that the driver’s insurance company could be responsible for some of the damages. Why? If the vehicle’s insurance limits are too low and don’t cover all the damages, the driver’s insurance may be next in line to pay for the remainder of the damages.

Car insurance rates go down dramatically when drivers turn 25.
Younger and older drivers typically have the most car crashes, and customers of different car insurance companies have different claims experiences. When determining auto insurance rates, insurers generally consider a variety of information about you, including age, vehicle information, claims history and the claims experience of other customers like you.

While it’s generally true that rates will go down when you turn 25 if all information about you and your vehicle remains the same, changes in one or more of the other pieces of information used to calculate a rate could lead to you getting a higher, lower or the same rate when you turn 25.

Auto insurance rates aren’t regulated, so auto insurance companies can charge what they want.
Each state requires auto insurance companies to file how they calculate customer rates, and insurers cannot deviate from these filed rates. Each state also has regulators who review that information and the rates companies charge.

I only need the bare minimum amount of car insurance.
Many states have minimum car insurance requirements, but the minimum amount of required insurance may not cover all of your costs. If you cause an accident that results in a lawsuit and your insurance limits don’t cover all of the damages, your assets could be pursued.

Comprehensive coverage protects drivers in all situations.
Comprehensive coverage is one type of protection available on an auto insurance policy (others being Collision, Uninsured Motorist, etc.). Comprehensive coverage pays only for damage caused by an event other than a collision, including:

  • Fire
  • Theft
  • Vandalism
  • Weather (hail, floods, etc.)
  • Vehicle collisions with animals

I can use Rental Reimbursement coverage to rent a car for my vacation.
Unless your insured car is in the shop as the result of an accident, you won’t be able to use Rental Reimbursement to rent a car for vacation. Depending on the limits you selected when you bought your policy, Rental Reimbursement coverage pays for some or all of the cost of a rental car — but only when your insured car is in the repair shop because of a car accident.

Cheaper cars cost less to insure.
If your cheaper car has a large engine, weighs a lot or is an unusual model, it might cost more to insure than a more expensive small car. However, if you have a cheaper car, you will pay less for comprehensive coverage, which covers damage caused by vandalism, hail, fire or animal accidents.