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!

Life is full of difficult decisions, many of which are emotionally charged and require us to help make choices to protect those we love. Having a discussion with an elderly loved one about their driving ability and safety can be awkward to say the least. Avoiding or turning a blind eye to the topic will only hurt your loved one and put both themselves and others at risk. Although it may be uncomfortable, it’s necessary to know when and how to engage in conversation.

Dialogue between family members is encouraged. Being pro-active and holding a discussion prior there being a problem can reinforce driving safety issues and can allow time for the older adult to consider and modify their driving skills. During a survey, more than half of the older adult participants expressed willingness to take suggestions about driving safety simply because someone had talked to them.

If you have difficulty or encounter extreme resistance, consider having additional conversations with family members, doctors, or even law enforcement officials if necessary. Depending on the situation, a doctor may take a primary role in the assessment by evaluating the patient’s visual, cognitive, and motor skills. Some may even refer a concerned patient to an independent party or therapist who is qualified to perform a comprehensive driving evaluation. Aside from family, 27% of older adults that are married and 40% single or widowed prefer to hear from their doctor about whether or not they should be driving.

In extreme situations, when an older driver refuses to respond to any type of conversation, you may have to consider more extreme measures. Cancelling registration, insurance, or having a driver’s license revoked may seem like a good plan, however, this might not prevent the older adult from continuing to operate a vehicle. Although it can seem aggressive, disabling the car, filing down keys, or taking the car away may result in a safer and more final outcome.

Limiting or giving up driving altogether for an older adult is a delicate issue that requires an enormous amount of love and support from friends and family members. Like many of life’s decisions, it may be difficult at first, but the transitioning of your loved one from a driver to a passenger will gradually occur over time. Being involved and helping to incorporate this change in an older driver’s life can give yourself and your entire family peace of mind. Start your conversation today!

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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7 Simple Ways To Change Your Driving Habits For a Safer Trip

by: The Hartford

Safe Driving

Are you doing things to jeopardize driving safely? Image via paulswansen on Flickr

Within a matter of seconds, a loss of attention can lead to a car accident. Sadly, accidents from distracted driving are often more than mere fender-benders. Distracted driving has led to more than 5,400 highway deaths and 448,000 accidents this past year, according to theNational Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA).

To keep your mind on the road and your car out of an accident, follow these seven easy safe driving tips that have been recommended by car safety experts.

1. Stow all phones—even hands-free ones

Talking or texting behind the wheel is perhaps the most important driving habit to break. Of all highway deaths last year, 18 percent involved drivers using a cell phone before the crash, according to NHTSA. Driving while using a handheld or hands-free cell phone makes you as impaired as a drunk driver, according to a University of Utah study. When talking on a cell phone, your risk of accident quadruples, and texting makes you eight times as likely to crash. Because even hands-free devices cause distraction, get into a driving habit of putting phones in a purse or briefcase out of reach in the backseat.

2. Listen to—don’t watch—GPS devices.

These high-tech gadgets are supposed to help you navigate unknown streets, but if you fiddle with the controls or pay more attention to the screen than the road, you jeopardize your car safety. Program your destination before you start driving. And rely on the verbal cues from the GPS instead of the screen. If you know your nature is to keep looking at the screen, dim it.

3. Go 3-D when looking for an address

Before you leave for an unfamiliar destination, review maps and directions. One tool you might find useful is Google Map’s Street View. These 3-D views give you visual clues (turn right at that bright red gas station) so you don’t have to take your eyes off the road to look for street signs and house addresses.

4. Adjust controls and set the playlist before you roll

Don’t fiddle with gadgets like the radio, iPod, or climate controls while driving. Set up your playlist before you turn on the ignition. And set climate controls to a comfortable level before you put the car in drive. This advice is particularly important if you’re driving a rental car. Take a couple seconds to familiarize yourself with the controls. If it takes more than a glance to adjust a control, wait until you’re stopped to fix it.

5. Ban conflict-inducing conversations

When you talk with others in the car, heated arguments may pull your attention away from the traffic signals and pedestrians. Make it a driving habit that you’ll save the big, deep discussions of finance, child-rearing philosophies, and politics for outside the car. The same can be said for handling misbehaving children. If a child acts up in the backseat, the safest thing to do is pull off the road and give everyone a chance to cool down.

6. Buckle up Rex

Unpredictable, unsecured pets can cause major distracted driving concerns. There are a variety of restraints suitable for your type of pet and car, from a cage in the back of a station wagon to a harness that can be buckled with the seat belt. The backseat is also the best place for pets. That way you won’t be tempted to pet or feed them.

7. Take breaks to avoid spacing out

Daydreaming in a car can end up as a nightmare. If your mind is wandering to a problem at work or home, pull over to jot it down or make a phone call. Don’t let it keep running through your head. Also, take regular breaks—one at least every two hours (or about every 100 miles) on longer road trips.