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!

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!

Are you liable if your tree falls on your neighbor’s car? (image via flickr)

Everyone knows that if you rear-end the car in front of you or start a fist fight in a bar, you are liable for the damage your actions cause.  Liability in these cases is pretty clear cut because your direct action was the cause of another’s injury.  But there are many circumstances where fault is not necessarily the determining factor in liability and where there is no direct link between your actions and the resulting injury.  In order to adequately protect yourself from damage and injury claims you need to have insurance policies that offer the coverage you need.  The key to being protected is to understand both the obvious risks you face and those that are not so obvious.  To help you identify where you may have some hidden risks, here are some common questions about who is liable for indirect injury.

Am I Liable…..If My Child Causes a Car Accident in My Car?

While there are state specific laws that govern liability and insurance, in this case the answer is most likely yes.  If your son or daughter is driving a car that lists you as the registered owner, it is very likely that you could be sued for damages if your child causes an accident.  In order to protect yourself, you need to have a solid insurance policy that lists your child as a driver on any car they may drive.  You may also need an umbrella policy which can protect your assets in the event you are sued.  Check with your insurance agent if you are concerned that allowing your child to drive your car opens you to a liability risk you are not protected against.

Am I Liable……If My Dog Bites Someone on My Property?

This is another case where state law dictates certain rules about liability, but it is a good bet that if your dog bites someone, regardless of where you are at the time, you may be found liable for any injury.   Here in Arizona, unlike other states, there is no “one-free-bite” law which means that pet owners can be held liable for a dog bite even if there was no reasonable expectation that the dog might bite someone.  This means the first bite could land you with a lawsuit.  The law doesn’t only apply to humans either; it also applies to if your dog bites another animal.  If you are unclear about your rights as a property owner, ask your local police department.  If you are concerned about potential liability from a dog bite, talk through your concerns with your insurance agent to ensure you have the coverage you need to protect yourself and your assets as some policies include exclusions regarding animals.

Am I Liable…..If My Tree Falls on My Neighbor’s Car?

Like the other scenarios, this one is not as cut and dry as it may seem. In most cases like this, in order to prove negligence on your part, which is what would be required in order for you to be liable for the damage, your neighbor would have to prove you had a reasonable expectation that the tree might fall and damage his property.  If there is no reason that you would believe that the tree posed a real danger to your neighbor, it is unlikely you will be found liable for the damage.  It is still a good idea to talk to your insurance agent to determine if you would be protected from this type of liability claim.  They can also offer advice on steps you can take to decrease your liability risk.

 

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Are your custom car parts covered by your insurance policy? (image via Beaulieu_Hants on Flickr)

You have a sweet ride.  You have spent a lot of money making it as unique as you are including a custom paint job, an aftermarket exhaust, and custom alloy wheels with chrome rims.   You installed a hi-end stereo system with subwoofer, amp, and speakers.  You park your car in the same place every day while you are at work.  You just left work and are heading across the parking lot to your space.  At first, you are merely confused to find some other car in your spot.  But as minutes tick by and you look around for your car, confused, understanding settles over you.  You had a sweet ride.  Now, someone else is driving it.

This is not the moment that you want to find out that all those custom parts aren’t covered by your auto insurance policy.  Unfortunately for you, that is most likely what you will find out when the auto adjuster meets with you to talk about your car.   Standard policies do not generally cover add-ons and upgrades like custom wheels and special speakers.  This means that any loss to your vehicle that damages these parts won’t be covered by your insurance company.

How to Determine What is Covered and What is Not

The best way to figure out what your auto policy covers is to read the entire policy that was provided with your policy when you bought it.  Your auto policy usually comes with at least two standard pieces, the Dec Page (Declaration Page) and the full policy document.  Each year at renewal, your insurance company likely sends you a new Dec Page which lists start and end dates, limits, coverage’s, and deductibles.  Most insurance companies do not provide the full policy document at renewal unless it has fundamentally changed.  If you have had your policy for several years, it is likely a good idea to call the insurance company and request a new copy.  This saves you from having to dig through old paperwork to find it and also ensures you have the most up to date version.

The policy document outlines every detail about your policy and includes what it covered and what is excluded.  Most insurance companies have a standard policy form that they use for all policies.  Unless you requested additional coverage’s or different limits, it is likely that your policy follows this standard form.

You can also discuss your policy with your agent and ask them to walk you through your policy and explain what is covered and what is not.

How to Cover Your Customizations

Once you understand what is covered, you can talk to your insurance agent about how to get your custom parts and features covered.  The extra coverage you need and which insurance company you use will determine how the additional items you need to insure will be covered.  You may need to schedule the items, which will add them as covered items to your original policy.  You may need to purchase a rider which adds additional coverage to your policy to provide coverage for your custom items.  You may also need to buy a separate policy in order to secure the coverage you need.  You agent can assist you in determining the best way to meet your needs.

Don’t wait until the worst happens to determine if your custom car has the coverage you need.  Check your policy and talk to an agent today.

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What are you looking for in a new car? (image via Technosailor on flickr)

In 2010, statistics show that more than 700 people lost their lives in automobile accidents on Arizona roads according to ADOT.   There were more than 100,000 accidents that year that also resulted in more than 50,000 reported injuries.  These statistics are the reason that one of the most important things families must look for when shopping for a new car is safety features.  Many people assume that mandatory government safety standards mean that one car is just as safe as another.  However, while there are minimum safety standards required by the government, this does not mean that all cars are created equal.  Manufacturers meet those minimum standards in different ways.  Some meet the minimum and no more.  Others invest in more advanced safety measures.  In order to find the car that meets your safety requirements, you need to know what to look for.  Here are 4 tips to help you shop for a safe car.

1.    Passenger Restraints

It wasn’t that long ago that not every car came with seatbelts, but unlike the cars of the past, today’s cars come with comprehensive passenger safety restraint systems(SRS).  The SRS starts with the seatbelt and also includes air bags, head rests, and even the windshield.  These components all work together to protect drivers and passengers during collisions.  The seatbelt helps keep you in your seat, the air bags help keep you from hitting anything inside the car, the head rest protects your neck from whiplash or other injury, and the windshield, in some cars, helps maintain the structural integrity of the passenger compartment.

2.     Anti-Lock Brakes

Anti-lock brakes are crucial to helping the driver maintain control of the vehicle in certain circumstances.  In older cars, slamming on the brakes would often cause the brakes to lock up, sending the car into an uncontrolled skid.  Anti-lock brakes keep that from happening.  However, it is important for all drivers to understand that anti-lock brakes help you maintain control of the car in a skid, but they do not help you stop more quickly.

3.     Weight

Heavier cars are safer, especially in crashes between two vehicles.  Collision damage is all about physics, the transferring of force from one state to another.  In an accident with a large heavy vehicle and a small light vehicle, the heavier car has more force behind it.  This is why it takes longer to stop your car if you have it fully loaded.  Because it has more force, the heavier car wins, pushing the lighter car backwards increasing the gravitational force on the occupants of the smaller car.  This force, all by itself, can cause serious injuries.

4.     Crash Test Rating

When it comes down to it, the primary danger of being in a car only occurs when there is an accident.  This is why it is important to understand the crash test rating of any car you are considering purchasing.   The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) is the government agency responsible for conducting all crash tests on new cars.  They assess each car on how much protection it offers occupants of the passenger compartment during front impact collisions, side impact collisions, and roll-over accidents.  Using crash test dummies, the NHTSA tests and rates vehicles based on how likely it is that a person in the front seat of the vehicle who is wearing their seatbelt will suffer a serious head or chest injury during a front impact collision or a serious chest injury in a side impact collision.  Rollover testing rates how likely a vehicle is to rollover if involved in a single car accident.  These ratings are provided for all new cars each year at www.safercar.gov.

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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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Article provided by The Hartford

Are you prepared if you get stranded in your car? Image via MJIphotos on Flickr.

Having an emergency preparedness kit in your car is sort of like having good insurance. You hope you’ll never need it—but boy are you glad it’s there on road trips if you have an accident or need to help others.

If you become stranded, it can be critical to have the right supplies to speed up being rescued, say driver-safety experts. This is especially true in winter weather, when having the right supplies could also mean your survival.

It’s easy to be prepared for road trips. Emergency kits with most of these essentials cost $30 to $100 at stores that sell auto accessories. But you can also assemble your own emergency preparedness kit. To be ready for any roadside emergency, here’s what you should include.

In the Trunk

Use a sturdy canvas bag with handles or a plastic bin to store your emergency preparedness kit, and secure it so it doesn’t roll or bounce around when the car is moving. Include the following:

  •  Flashlight and extra batteries
  •  Cloth or roll of paper towels
  •  Jumper cables
  •  Blankets
  •  Flares or warning triangles
  •  Drinking water
  •  Nonperishable snacks, such as energy or granola bars
  •  Extra clothes
  •  First-aid kit
  • Basic tool kit that includes, at minimum, flat-head and Phillips screwdrivers, pliers, and adjustable wrench

Winter Add-ons

Inventory your items in the winter and spring, and include these six items before the winter months:

  • Window washer solvent
  • Ice scraper
  • Bag of sand, salt, or cat litter, or traction mats
  • Snow shovel
  • Snow brush
  • Gloves, hats, and additional blanket
  • Glove Compartment

Not all emergency equipment should be behind the backseat or in the trunk. Here are three essential items to stow within the driver’s reach:

  • Mobile phone
  • Phone charger
  • Auto-safety hammer (some have an emergency beacon and belt-cutting tool, too)