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!

These days you can buy nearly anything online, even your insurance.  Although it may seem like you are saving time and money by obtaining a policy online, it may not be so convenient later.

One of the biggest advantages of working with an agent is that they have time to sit down and talk with you, in turn allowing you to establish a one on one relationship.  Just one visit with an agent can prove to be beneficial in respect to knowing what your options are and choosing the best possible coverage that fits your needs.  In addition to this, based on your answers to a few simple questions, an agent is able to find possible discounts that you may be qualified to receive.  Purchasing insurance can sometimes be stressful and an agent can alleviate some of that stress, if not most of it just by understanding and being able to relate to you.  After all, we are human and it’s comforting to know that someone has your best interest at heart.

Ben Franklin said it best, “Time is money”. Although an online agency provides you with a phone number where they can be reached, you may not be able to speak with a live person. I’m sure that we have all experienced the downfalls of 800 numbers and the “customer service” they provide.  One could spend 30 minutes or more being looped from one automated message to the next only to reach a live person who ends up transferring you somewhere else. Being able to reach your agent by phone without having to guess which automated option to choose can save you both time and aggravation.

One final advantage to working with an agent who is local is that they can work with you in regards to your coverage.  They can adjust your limits and/or deductibles without sacrificing the important coverage that you need resulting in a policy that is tailored just for you and your pocketbook.   Online agencies give you the freedom to choose the coverage you want according to what you can afford, but an agent can recommend coverage that will protect you and your family all while keeping you within your budget.

For example, the required liability coverage amounts in the state of Arizona are 15/30/10.  Sure, you may get a huge savings up front, but will you pay for it in the end?  If you cause an accident which results in bodily injury more than $15,000 or property damage more than $10,000, you are financially responsible.  Just to give you an idea, according to the National Safety Council, the average cost of injury in a car accident is $61,600 and the average price of a new vehicle is a tad over $30,000 according to Forbes.  Saving a couple of dollars by reducing coverage could cost you thousands in the long run.

With all of the decisions that you make in life, don’t let choosing the right policy overwhelm you when you have an agent right who is right around the corner.  Make an appointment today by calling us @ 480-288-5900.  We can help you protect what matters most!

Do you know how divorce may impact your insurance policies? (image via flickr)

No one likes to think that it will happen to them but with a 50% divorce rate, it is happening to a lot of us.  The last thing you want to think about while you are divvying up your life is insurance, but it should be at the top of your to do list.  In order to ensure you are protected during and after the divorce, you will need to review and make changes to the insurance policies you have individually and together.  Here are 5 of the most common ways getting divorced impacts your insurance.

Policies that Protect Home and Property

These are your homeowner’s policy or your renter’s policy and provide coverage for damage to your home and/or loss or damage to personal property.  Odds are that at least one person is changing residences as a result of the divorce and when they leave, they will be taking property with them.  It is a good idea to reassess your homeowner’s or renter’s policy to ensure you still need all the coverage you have.  For example, if you have a rider that covers an expensive piece of art you may no longer need that rider or to pay for the additional coverage if your former spouse is taking the art.  If you are moving from a home you own to a rented space, you will want to switch your homeowner’s policy for a rental policy.

Policies that Protect Your Cars

There will definitely be changes to your auto policy unless one of you doesn’t drive.  At a minimum, the policy will need to be changed so that it only includes you as an authorized driver.  If you have more than one car, the coverage for any vehicles you no longer own can be removed as well which will save you money.  Don’t wait to make these changes.  As long as you are both listed on the policy, you are both liable for any claims against that policy.

Policies that Cover Your Life

Most people think that one of your first insurance changes you would want to make would be to your life insurance.  You don’t want to take the chance that something happens to you and your former spouse gets your life insurance payout.  However, there are several reasons why you may not want to make any changes to your life insurance as part of the divorce.  First, if you have children, you may want your life insurance proceeds to go to your spouse because they will be the primary caretakers for your children.  Second, if your spouse is paying alimony and child support and something happens to them, life insurance proceeds can help replace that lost resource.  One change you may consider is changing these policies, the ones meant to provide for the care and raising of children, from whole life policies to term policies.  This would enable you to provide means for their care until they are old enough to care for themselves without having to pay premiums for life.

If you are unsure about the insurance implications of your divorce, work with your agent.  They can help you determine what insurance you need going forward and what changes you need to make in order to have the amount of protection that works for you.

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Are you adequately insured? (image via wikipedia)

Most of the time when people talk about specialty insurance, they are talking about insurance coverage that provides companies with specialized protection based on their industry or on specific risks they are face.  However, there is also a side of specialty insurance that is all about covering personal interests.  Many people believe that their auto, renter, or homeowner’s policy provides coverage for these specialty risks and depending on the policy, it might.  But in many cases these specialty items actually indicate a gap in coverage that leaves them open to liability claims and property loss.  To help you understand if you have any of these specialty risks, here is information on some of the most common types of specialty personal coverage.

Boat/Watercraft Insurance

If you own a boat, you may have some coverage under your existing homeowner’s or renter’s policy.  Many companies will provide limited coverage for small boats like canoes as part of their base homeowner’s protection but it would be a mistake to assume any and all watercraft related risks are covered this way.  Even if minimal property coverage is included in your homeowner’s policy, it is unlikely that liability protection will be included.  Additionally, if you have a boat with an engine that can go more than 25 mile per hour, you may need to obtain additional coverage.

Flood Insurance

While most homeowner’s know that damage caused by floods is not covered by their homeowner’s insurance policy, there are still many homes that remain unprotected against this specialized risk.  Additionally, flood damage is also excluded from most renters insurance policies which means that even renters need to secure this specialty protection, especially if they are in a flood zone.

Earthquake Insurance

Damage from earthquakes and other natural disasters is generally excluded from personal insurance coverage which means it must be purchased separately in order for you to be protected.  Most earthquake policies or riders carry a much larger deductible than other personal policies.  If you live in an area where earthquakes happen often, having this insurance is critical to protecting your financial future.  But remember, earthquakes can happen almost everywhere and in areas with low risk, the cost of adding this coverage is often minimal.

Motorcycle Insurance

Riding a motorcycle, just like driving a car, carries certain risks and responsibilities and most states require drivers to carry a certain amount of insurance.  However, your motorcycle is not always automatically covered under your existing auto policy.   A motorcycle insurance policy protects you from property loss or damage if something happens to your bike and with liability coverage in the event you are responsible for causing damage to something or someone else.   In addition to this base coverage, you may also need to add coverage for accessories or specialized equipment.

Recreational Vehicle Insurance

Like other types of specialty coverage, recreational vehicle insurance provides additional protection from risks specific to your RV.   This type of insurance goes beyond what is covered by auto policies, property damage and liability coverage, and often offers additional protection from breakdowns and travel related risks.

If you are concerned that you have a specialty risk that may not be covered by your existing policies, talk to your insurance agent.  They can walk through the details of your policies and help you determine if you need additional coverage and which type you need.

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Does your insurance policy cover “acts of God?” (image via google)

If you own a car, own a house, or have a family, it’s a good bet you have some kind of insurance.  Odds are you have at least some kind of coverage for the car you drive and the place you live.  If you have personal insurance, you understand the importance of protecting yourself, your financial future, and your property.  But even savvy insurance consumers don’t always know all the ins and outs of their policies.  Here are 4 things customers commonly do not know about their personal insurance policies.

1.     Your Car Insurance Won’t Buy You a New Phone

If you have car insurance and your car is stolen, you know your policy will replace your car or reimburse you for its loss.  But, most car insurance policies will not replace or reimburse you for any personal property that was in the car at the time it was taken.  This also holds true for items stolen from your car.  Let’s say you leave your laptop under the backseat and your cell phone in the center console and someone breaks the window and steals both.  Your car insurance will cover the cost of repairing the window, but you are on your own for the loss of your laptop and phone.

2.     Losing Your Home Won’t Make You Homeless

One thing many people don’t realize about their homeowner’s policy is that it provides for the payment of expenses you incur if you have to live somewhere other than your home for a period of time while repairs are made.  For example, there is a fire in your house that causes significant enough damage that you will have to live somewhere else for 6 months; your policy will pay for the initial stay in a hotel as well as your rent and some other expenses.

3.     Life Insurance Benefits are Not Automatically Tax Free

If you die, the proceeds of any and all life insurance policies go to your beneficiaries’ tax free, right?  Not always.  Whether or not your life insurance payout will be subject to taxes completely depends on the details of your policy.  If you have a term policy where you are the policy owner and your spouse is the beneficiary, if you die during the policy term, the payout will likely be tax free.  However, if someone else, like your parent is the policy owner, there may be tax implications.  Talk to your insurance agent and an accountant to ensure you have a complete understanding of any tax implications.

4.     Natural Disasters are Not Generally Covered

An unfortunate truth in the world is that Mother Nature is unpredictable and sometimes leaves devastation in her wake.  Another unfortunate truth is that many of these disasters are excluded from standard personal insurance policies.  While most people know that flooding is not covered by their homeowners policy, they don’t realize that damage caused by tornados, earthquakes, and other “acts of god” is not covered without purchasing additional coverage.

The best protection you have is to read your policy all the way through and make sure you understand all its provisions and exclusions.  If you are unsure about whether or not something is covered, ask your insurance agent for clarification.

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Has your home or car been affected by a hail storm? (image via google)

Luckily, here in Arizona, hail doesn’t happen very often, but when it does, it can do serious damage.  According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA), hail causes more than $1B in damage each year.  It flattens crops, breaks windows, damages roofs, and dents cars.  Even small hail stones can cause major problems because of the speed at which they hit, often approaching 90 miles per hour.  The Insurance Information Institute reports that in 2011, Arizona experienced 20 hail events.  In comparison to some other states, that number is very small, but as we learned in October of 2010, it only takes one storm to cause widespread losses.   The best way to protect yourself and your property from damage is to know what to do when hail happens.

What is Hail?

Hail starts out as small chunks of ice that become larger when they collide with water droplets.  The churning nature of the storm, filled with updrafts and downdrafts, sends these little pieces of ice up and down through the varying temperatures contained within the cloud layer.  When the ice pellets go up, the water freezes around them, increasing their size and causing them to fall.  This can happen over and over again and determines the size of the hailstone.

Hail happens most frequently during thunderstorms in the spring and summer months, but can occur anytime the conditions are right.   In order for a thunderstorm to produce hail, the cloud layer needs to have a high liquid content, large water droplets, the right temperature, and sufficient buoyancy.  The kind of intense updraft winds found with tornados also help create the conditions for producing hail.

The Damage it Does

Hail can cause damage to anything it can hit which includes your home, your car, your crops, your animals, your business, and of course, yourself.  Hail can cause serious damage to the roof of your home, breaking shingles, causing structural damage, and creating leaks.  It can also break windows in your home or business which allows accompanying weather phenomena like rain and wind to damage the building’s interior.  Hail can also break the windows and windshields of cars, trucks, RVs, and airplanes.  Although only cosmetic, hail can also cause hundreds of small dents all over the vehicle, decreasing its value.  Hail can injury humans and animals and destroy crops.

How to Protect Yourself

The best way to protect yourself and your property from hail damage is to ensure you have adequate insurance coverage in place that protects you from losses from hail.  Hail damage to a home is generally covered under most standard homeowner’s policies.  It is also included in most comprehensive auto coverage.  However, it is important to read through your policies to ensure this coverage is included in your actual policy.  If your policies do not provide protection from losses resulting from hail, talk to your insurance agent about the options you have to secure this coverage.

You can also take important steps when a hail storm is eminent to limit the damage to your property.  Move any vehicle inside a garage, car port, or covered parking lot.  If none of these are available, you can cover the car with thick blankets that will help cushion the impact of any hailstones and limit the damage.   Bring any animals indoors and take shelter in a room without windows.  There is little you can do to protect crops, homes, or buildings when a storm is coming, which is why it is so important to have the right insurance coverage in place before hail happens.

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Do you know what questions to ask when buying your auto insurance policy? (image via public domain image)

Whether you are buying car insurance for the first time or shopping around for the best possible renewal price, understanding the basics of purchasing auto insurance is the key to getting the right coverage at the right price.  Here are some of the factors to consider when you are buying car insurance.

State Requirements

Unless you live in New Hampshire, you are required to have car insurance or prove your ability to cover a certain amount of liability losses in order to drive a car.  However, each state has different requirements around how much insurance drivers must carry.  Make sure you understand your state’s requirements before you start shopping around.

Your Needs

The amount of insurance the state requires is one thing, but it may not be enough insurance to meet your needs.  The liability coverage within your auto policy is there to protect you from losses incurred if you are at fault in an accident.  If you have liability coverage that is 50,000/100,000/50,000, the policy will cover a maximum of $50,000 per person who is injured in the other vehicle up to $100,000 total.  It will also cover up to $50,000 in property damage to the other vehicle.

What most people don’t consider is that any liability over that limit is your responsibility.  If you cause an accident that results moderately serious injuries to 4 people, you may not have enough coverage to pay for their losses.  If someone is seriously injured, it is very unlikely that $100,000 will be enough to pay for medical expenses, lost wages, long term disability, etc.  If the accident involves two other cars that are worth $30,000 each, you won’t have enough coverage to take care of those losses.

In the event that you are responsible for damages over and above what your policy will cover, your assets can be seized and your wages can be garnished in order to pay off the difference.  For this reason alone, it is important to understand your policy limits and purchase a policy that protects you now and in the future.

Rate Factors

Insurance rates are based on actuarial analysis and statistics and every company does this kind of pricing differently using different models.  This means prices can vary dramatically between companies.  It also means that your individual rate depends on many factors that change how you fit into the insurance company’s model.  Things like your age and the age of the other driver’s on your policy, where you park the car on the policy, the type of car, and the experience level of all drivers can cause big differences in your rates.  Your driving record also plays an important role in determining the amount you will pay for coverage.

Coverage’s

The cost of your policy will also be largely dependent on the coverage you choose.  Most states require a certain amount of liability coverage because it protects other people, but collision and comprehensive coverage’s are not usually mandated.  These types of coverage protect you from loss to your own property and will increase the cost of your policy.  The same is true for uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage.

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