Teen drivingWe’ve all heard the saying “it takes two” and when it comes to teaching your teen good driving habits, it couldn’t be truer.  Take yourself back a bit if you will and try to remember the first time your parents handed you the car keys. The excitement was nearly uncontainable and the freedom you felt was like nothing you had ever experienced up until that point in your teenage life.  National Teen Driver Safety Week starts October 20th and carries on through the 26th.  This year, the NTDSW theme is “It Takes Two: Shared Expectations for Teens and Parents for Driving.”  Hold on tight with these tips to help you and your teen overcome the (sometimes stressful) training that it takes to become a great driver!

For Parents

Set the bar high. Lead by example by following the rules of the road. Don’t talk or text on your cell phone and always wear your seatbelt.

Practice makes perfect.  Well…maybe that’s a stretch, but the more practice your teen has at driving, the more likely they are to make good judgments and begin developing habits that will keep them safe behind the wheel. Start by driving during the daytime and slowly graduate into driving at night.  Keep track of your training hours by downloading a driving log at http://www.teendriversource.org/index.php/tools/for_parents/detail/42 or by using a phone app like www.timetodriveapp.com.

Reward responsible behavior.  Reinforce responsible behavior by rewarding your teen with greater privileges that will allow them to become more independent.

Set boundaries and expectations.  Communicate with your teen and be clear on what you expect from them.  Be firm, but also provide an explanation in regards to the do’s and don’ts of driving and help them better understand that it’s not about control, but safety.

Be reliable. Showing your teen that you are available for their support anytime and anyplace is essential.  Peer pressure can take on many shapes and forms.  Make certain that your teen knows they can count on you by creating a code word they can use if they are in an unsafe situation.  If they call or text you, pick them up immediately, no questions asked.

For Teens

Know the facts.  You’re young, but you are NOT invincible.  Teenagers (16-19) are three times more likely to be involved in a fatal accident than all other age groups. In fact, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for U.S. teens.  Educate yourself and know what situations (not all are obvious) can put you at risk.

Be involved. Groups like Students Against Destructive Driving (SADD) and Project Ignition provide education and tools that promote good decision making skills when it comes to driving.  Let your voice be heard and make a difference in your community!

Listen well and don’t resist. Although it seems as though parents just don’t understand, they do.  Believe it or not, your parent was 16 once and behind the wheel for the first time too.  Sure times have changed, but not too much is different in respect to being a teenage driver.  Listen to your parents and be attentive to the direction they are giving you.  They aren’t telling you what or how to do something to be mean or controlling.  They want you to make the right choices so that you come home safe and sound.

Don’t be afraid to call your parents.  You may think that your parents will be angry with you if you call them in the middle of the night asking for a ride home.  Trust me, your parents want you to be safe and if it means coming to pick you up, no matter what the situation or what time it is, don’t be afraid to make that call.  It may save a life, even your own!

Whether you are the parent or the teen, it takes two to make safe driving a success. Be smart, be responsible, and above all be calm when you get behind the wheel!

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AccidentsMost of us know that each individual state requires that you carry auto liability insurance. In the state of Arizona, you are required to carry at the least 15/30/10. To break it down, what this means is that you have up to $15k (per person) and $30k maximum (per accident) for BI (bodily injury) should you cause injury to someone during an accident for which you are at fault. The $10k is the maximum coverage for PD (property damage) that was caused by you. Although your premiums for this type of coverage are very cheap and may be within your tight budget, there are several things to consider before making a quick, impulsive decision that might end up haunting you for the rest of your life.

The average cost of a vehicle these days is a little over $30k. Sure, you wouldn’t be responsible for the cost of a brand new vehicle if you caused an accident because we all know that the value of a car depreciates immediately after you drive it off of the lot. In fact, the average cost of an accident in which there is ONLY property damage was $9078 in 2011, according the AZ Motor Vehicle Department. You have $10k in coverage, no big deal, it’s just under your limit right? Keep in mind that this is an average figure only! This doesn’t guarantee that any damages caused by you won’t be over $10k. You should also consider that property damage is not just limited to someone else’s vehicle. You can damage a number of things…a lamp post, a yard, or even a house. PD coverage also pays for your legal defense costs if you are sued as a result of these damages and you don’t need to be an expert to guess how much that could run you.

Now it’s time to get serious and address bodily injury. If you have the required state liability limits in the state of Arizona, then you are covered up to $15k (per person) which maxes out at $30k (per accident). We all know that accidents happen and according to the AZ Motor Vehicle Department, the average cost per incident in 2011 in regards to BI was $22,746 and this was just for Non-incapacitating injuries. The average cost per incident for incapacitating injuries jumps to $70,854 and the average cost per incident for accidents that involved fatalities was $1,438,200. I don’t think anyone is in disagreement that 15/30 is definitely not enough BI coverage for anyone.

What can you expect if your insurance coverage comes up short? It’s simple really. If the amount of BI and/or PD exceeds the limits of your coverage, you are at risk of being sued. Depending on the amount in which you are sued for, you can potentially have your wages garnished for the rest of your life. Think for a moment of the victims as well. Not only have you disrupted your own life financially, mentally, and possibly physically, you have also disrupted someone else’s life in the same manner. Think of it in terms of your family and if the tables were turned. It’s not something we are necessarily comfortable thinking about, but what would the implications be if someone caused an accident involving you or your family members and they did not have the coverage to make you whole again? It’s a disturbing scenario.

We choose not to write state limits for any of our clients. It’s something that we feel strongly about and believe it is in the best interest of our clientele to carry liability limits of at least 100/300/100. If you currently have state liability limits, ask yourself “How much am I really saving in the long run?” There is no better time than now to get with your agent or insurance carrier to discuss increasing your auto insurance limits. Be safe, but most importantly, be protected! Call our office for a free quote today at 480-288-5900!

Most auto policies have exemptions for accidents caused from road rage (image via flickr)

These days it seems like everyone is in a hurry to get everywhere they need to go.  By the way many of us drive, you might think we have someone in the car that is hurt and in dire need of an emergency room because we act as if mere seconds may make the difference between life and death.  Sadly, most of those times, we are just going where we need to go.  This kind of aggressive, me-first, take no prisoners style of driving often leads to road rage, which the NHTSA estimates is a contributing factor in a third of all car accidents and two-thirds of car accidents that result in a fatality.

Whether it is our busy lives, increased traffic, or just the fact that we are used to driving this way, everyone on the road needs to do their part to stop aggressive driving and eliminate road rage.  Not only is this type of driving dangerous and illegal, many auto insurance policies contain exemptions for accidents caused by road rage.  This means that if you are the one raging and you cause an accident, you are on your own; the insurance company won’t cover the damage.  Don’t let your temper get the best of you by following these tips for keeping your anger from affecting how you drive.

1.     Leave Plenty of Time

One of the most common causes of aggressive driving is being late.  When we are trying to get somewhere and the clock is ticking and there isn’t enough time to make the trip, we get stressed and try to make up the time by passing and speeding.  Don’t put yourself in this position, leave early, make sure you have plenty of time, and if you are late, remember that no matter how important it is that you get there on time, it is not more important that your life or the life of someone else.

2.     Give Them the Benefit of the Doubt

Another contributing factor to aggressive driving and road rage is when we develop an Us vs. Them attitude towards the other drivers on the road.  If they are in front of us and going slower than we want to go, we think they are doing it on purpose.  If they merge poorly, and cut us off, they did it on purpose.  If they are driving too close to us, they are tailgating us.  While sometimes these things are true, sometimes they aren’t.  Sometimes other drivers are just not paying enough attention to how their actions are affecting the cars around them.  Give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that they are clueless rather than deciding that they are your enemy.

3.     Pay Attention to How You are Driving

Take a few minutes to think about how you drive.  Are you the driver that drives just under the speed limit on every road?  Do you find that other drivers seem to become aggressive towards you on a regular basis?  Even if you aren’t the one who is getting mad, you might be contributing to the problem.  Pay attention to how you are driving and make sure you aren’t the one everyone else has to give the benefit of the doubt.

Aggressive driving and road rage is everyone’s problem.  Pay attention, drive courteously, and remember that everyone on the road is just trying to get where they are going in the shortest amount of time.  Winning the battle against road rage starts with you.

 

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Commercial Auto Policy

Does your job constitute your needing a Commercial Auto Policy? (Image via Can ‘o’ Rye on Flickr)

Do you need a Commercial Auto Policy? This is a question many small business owners ask themselves, their friends, and hopefully their insurance agents.  There is a common misconception that your personal auto policy will cover any losses incurred while driving for the business if you are driving your personal automobile which is covered under your personal auto policy.  This makes a certain kind of sense on the surface.  In essence, you are buying two insurance policies to cover the same exact circumstance, you, driving your car.

Commercial vs. Personal

The main difference between the two types of coverage is how you are using the car.  If you are only using it to drive your family around or to commute to your job, you only need a personal auto policy.  This is true in almost every case, although there are some circumstances where the type of vehicle you own may require you to purchase a commercial auto policy regardless of whether or not you are using it for commercial purposes.  If, however, you are using your vehicle for business activities, you likely need some type of commercial coverage since the majority of personal auto policies exclude losses resulting from business activity.

What Constitutes Business Activity?

This can be a complex question, especially for small business owners.  If you drive your son to school on the way to an appointment with a client, it isn’t always clear which part of the trip is business from an insurance coverage perspective.  The best way to understand what is business activity and what is not is to ask your insurance agent.  If in doubt, assume that anything related to your business requires commercial coverage.

There are some things you can ask yourself that may help you determine if the driving you do would fall under commercial or business activity.

  • Do you deliver anything to customers or clients using your car?  Things like pizza, newspapers, Avon, or any other product that you put in your car and then transport for delivery can be considered commercial activity.
  • Who is driving the vehicle?  If you allow employees or contract workers to drive the car for business purposes, this won’t usually be covered by your personal policy.  Even if you are the only driver, there is a good chance that commercial coverage will be required.
  • Who is riding in the vehicle? If you are using the vehicle to transport other people and getting paid for it, you absolutely need commercial coverage.
  • What percentage of use is personal and what percentage is commercial?  Although this doesn’t always factor into coverage determinations, some insurance companies require commercial coverage if the vehicle is being used primarily for business use.  Check with your agent to see if this applies to your coverage.

The bottom line is that most small businesses cannot afford to take the chance that they have an accident or become liable for damage caused by their car that their personal auto policy carrier refuses to cover.  If there is a question in your mind about whether or not you need to purchase a commercial auto policy, the odds are that you do and you should contact your insurance agent as soon as possible.

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Small Business

Is your small business adequately insured? image via aboutTime on Flickr

One of the unfortunate realities of our world is that the threat of a lawsuit is around every corner and inherent with every employee you hire, customer you serve, or client you sign.  No matter how small your business is, what products you sell, or services you offer, there is some part of your business that is leaving you exposed to a lawsuit that could bankrupt both you and the company.

Here are 7 reasons every business needs to protect itself with the proper types of insurance.

1.     It Only Takes One

It only takes one accident, one broken contract, or one disgruntled worker to put your entire business at risk.  If your company is sued fornegligence, even winning can easily put you out of business because of the amount of money it will cost to mount your defense.

2.    Things Happen

If you own property where customers come to do business, you are open to a personal injury liability claim every minute of every day.  People fall and accidents happen but if they happen on your business premises and you don’t have insurance, you will have to pay for medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other expenses out of your own pocket.

3.   Your Corporate Shield May be Flimsier Than You Think

Many small business owners believe they have protected their personal assets from any business liability claims or judgments by using a “corporate shield”.  However, there are circumstances where that protection doesn’t stand up in court and without business insurance, you could literally lose everything you own.

4.     Exclusions Apply

If you have a general liability policy, any employment liability claims may be excluded from that policy.  If you have a commercial liability policy, property loss may be excluded.  If you are a home-based business owner with homeowner’s insurance, it is unlikely that your business assets are covered under that policy.

5.   Losses are Often Out of Your Control

If you walked in tomorrow to find your office had been robbed and every computer was gone, would you be able to replace them today and get back to business?  Losses from theft, natural disaster, and other accidents could bankrupt your business if you don’t have insurance to help replace what is lost.

6.     Accidents Happen

You may be thinking that your auto insurance policy that covers your personal auto will cover you if you are driving your car on company business.  This may or may not be true. If it isn’t true and you are in an accident where you’re at fault, you could find yourself paying for someone else’s pain and suffering out of your own pocket for the rest of your life.

7.   Other People’s Insurance Isn’t Enough

Let’s pretend you have a storefront on Main Street in your town and another person causes an accident which ends with a car coming through the front window and destroying your merchandise.  Their auto policy, if they have one, might cover the damage to the shop and for replacement products, but it may not cover or have enough coverage to compensate you for the income you lost in the four months the shop had to be closed for repairs.

Don’t wait until something happens or procrastinate at least doing something while you figure out whether or not you can afford to purchase the insurance your business needs.  The question you need to focus on is how can you afford not to insure your business.
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Auto Accident

Do you know what to do if you're involved in an auto accident? Image via 7mary3 on Flickr

Although the number of motor vehicle accidents in Arizona has been decreasing for several years, the state still averages more than 100,000 accidents a year according to the Arizona Department of Transportation.  That means that on average, a car accident is happening every 4.5 minutes; 2 more accidents will occur by the time you finish reading this page.

If you are one of the drivers unfortunate enough to be involved in an accident this year, do you know what to do on the scene and in the days following the accident?  Do you know when you should move your car out of traffic and when you should not?

For your safety, the safety of your passengers, and to ensure quick resolution to any insurance claims, here are the steps every driver should take if they are involved in an accident.

1.   Remain Calm and Assess the Situation

The most important thing you can do to protect yourself and others from further injury is to remain calm.  Turn on your hazard lights.  Check yourself and any passengers for injuries.  If you can exit your car and it is safe to do so, check on the welfare of the occupants of the other car, if there is one.

2.   Call for Help

If there are serious injuries or a continuing danger, call 911 before doing anything else.  If you cannot call yourself, ask someone else to call.

3.     Move Cars to the Side of the Road

If the accident is minor and there are no serious injuries, move both cars should as far to the side of the road as possible to clear the road and prevent additional accidents and injuries.  If there are serious injuries or one or both cars cannot be moved, all occupants should remain in their cars with their seatbelts on until help comes.

4.    Exchange Information

When it is safe to do so, exchange the following information with the driver of the other car:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Number
  • Insurance Company
  • Policy Number
  • Driver’s License Number
  • License Plate Number
  • If the driver is not the owner, get the information above for both the driver and owner of the vehicle.
  • Vehicle make, model, and year

Do not admit fault or take responsibility for the accident to the other driver or the police.

 

5.     Document the Accident

Draw a map that indicates the position of both cars and provides details about the scene of the accident while they are still fresh in your mind.  Take pictures of the scene and both cars with a disposable camera or your cell phone.  If there were witnesses, ask for their name and contact information.

6.     File an Accident Report

If there are no serious injuries resulting from the accident, the police may not come to the scene or create their own report.  If there is no official police report filed, file an accident report with the state police or your local police station to aid in claims processing.

7.     Contact Your Insurance Company

As soon as possible, call and file a claim with your insurance company.

Being involved in an automobile accident can be both upsetting and overwhelming.  Just remember to stay calm and put safety first.
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