Teens and Distracted Driving

Starting to drive is one of the most exciting experiences for teenagers, but it can also be one of the most dangerous. According to the CDC, teenagers are the most likely age group to get into a traffic accident. Teens are more likely to speed and less likely to wear seatbelts than older drivers. They are also much more likely to become distracted while driving, resulting in a much higher potential for injury-causing or even fatal accidents. What are the most common distractions facing teen drivers, and what can be done?

Cell Phone Usage

Perhaps the most obvious cause of teen distracted driving is the use of cell phones while on the road. Cell phone use while driving is illegal in some states, but many people–especially teenagers–still engage in it. Both talking on the phone and texting are dangerous for the teen driver, and many teens will even open and use social media apps while driving. Distracted driving causes 15% of all injury-causing accidents, so as the most susceptible to distracted driving, teens should be made highly aware of the potential consequences of their actions.  

Talking on the phone can cause mental distraction and manual distraction, and even hands-free conversation methods can cause distraction. Texting while driving is much more dangerous, as it causes mental, manual, and visual distraction. Taking your mind off the road is never good, but focusing your mind, hands, and eyes elsewhere is an incredibly dangerous combination. When you are distracted in these ways, reactions to potential dangers are much slower or may be completely missed.

Other Distractions

Cell phones are a serious distraction for teen drivers, but they are not the only source. Anything that takes your hands off of the wheel and mind or eyes off of the road can cause an accident. This includes activities such as eating, changing the music, applying makeup, and interacting with passengers. This last is perhaps the most dangerous of all. Studies have found that teenagers’ chances of a crash increase significantly with each additional passenger in the vehicle. This is especially true if the fellow passengers are teen peers.

Solutions

It is important for parents to share the dangers of distracted driving with their teenage children, but it is even more important for adults to model responsible driving behavior. Teens will not heed warnings against phone usage or other risky activities if they regularly see their parents engaging in these behaviors.

There are also some mobile apps that will prevent cell phone usage while a car is in motion or when manually enabled before driving. These apps can be a good way to help teens become accustomed to leaving their phone alone while driving, so that in the future they can practice self control on their own.

Be Prepared

Educating teens about distracted driving and helping them find ways to combat these dangers can greatly help reduce teenage traffic accidents. However, we cannot control everyone on the road, and even the safest drivers can experience a collision. Make sure you and your family is covered in the event of a car accident with the right auto insurance.

Strategies to Reduce Employee Illness and Injury

As a business owner, the health and safety of your employees should be a top priority. Not only are healthy employees happier, but they are more productive, too. Ultimately, having high health and safety standards will also reduce costs to your business since insurance premiums will be lower with a cleaner safety record. Additionally, having employees that are healthy and able to work will reduce costs that would arise from loss of productivity or hiring and training in the case that your employee has an accident and is unable to continue.

ROOT CAUSES

Workplace injuries or illnesses can occur for a number of reasons. Improper application of safety procedures or protective gear, misuse of equipment, lack of ergonomic solutions, and overexertion from overtime work are common themes that lead to workplace injury–or even death. It is important to pay attention to the past injuries or accidents that have occurred at your business, so you can plan to prevent them in the future.

EDUCATION IS KEY

The best way to ensure that health and safety standards are met in your workplace is to regularly educate both management and staff about the proper procedures. While everyone may receive this kind of training in orientation, employees that stay on for several years will eventually forget what they learned and may unintentionally lapse in their duties to uphold the company’s standards. For this reason, it is a good idea to schedule employee health and safety refreshers at regular intervals.

DEVELOP A PLAN

With regular meetings about wellness and safety comes an increased awareness of the unique safety concerns that may be present at your business. Each type of business will have its own specific concerns. Meetings can be an excellent way to hear the concerns and opinions of all employees and identify matters that may need to be investigated or procedures that may need to be adjusted. If your business does not already have a health and safety plan, use these meetings to develop one based on the input of your management and staff.

GET INSURED

Implementing high health and safety standards can do a lot to reduce the frequency of employee illness and injury, but accidents may still happen. In the case that they do, you want to make sure your company has the right insurance coverage to take care of your employees and prevent losses to your business.

6 Ways to Know if Your Brakes are Failing

Brake failure is easily one of the most dangerous malfunctions that can occur in your vehicle. There are many reasons why brakes fail, but even if you aren’t a mechanic, you should know the signs of brake failure so you can get your car serviced as soon as you start noticing them! Here are six ways to know if your brakes are starting to malfunction.

YOUR BRAKE PEDAL HAS FALLEN

A falling brake pedal is one of the classic signs of brake failure. When your brakes are in good condition, your pedal will stay in the same position every day. If it falls toward the floor, it will be impossible not to notice. This means that your brakes are likely out of adjustment, and it could mean that there is a mechanical failure or air in your vehicle’s system.

YOUR BRAKES ARE SQUEALING OR GRINDING

Brakes that squeal or grind aren’t just nuisances. They’re actually a pretty serious problem, because these noises can indicate that your brake pads are wearing thin and/or that the brake is worn all the way down to the rotors.

YOUR BRAKE PEDAL IS VIBRATING

When we say vibrating, we don’t just mean the slight shudder caused by your anti-lock brake system (ABS)  when you slam on the brakes really hard. We mean a shudder that happens when you hit your brake normally, often accompanied by a chattering noise and a hard-to-control steering wheel. The chattering sound is usually produced by warped rotors, which the brakes can’t clamp onto as easily to stop the vehicle.

YOU THINK YOUR ALIGNMENT IS OFF

If your car is pulling to one side or the other when you brake, don’t automatically mistake it for a slight misalignment! If you notice the pulling only when you apply pressure to your brakes, it could mean that one of the car’s wheel cylinders or calipers is seized or frozen. It could also mean that you have fluid leaking on the brake pads or shoes.

YOU HAVE TO HIT THE BRAKES HARDER

If you begin noticing that you have to press your brakes harder than usual to slow down or stop, it could mean that one of your brakes or an axle isn’t performing the way it should. Don’t let this continue for awhile; call your mechanic and bring your car in for a checkup as soon as possible.

WHAT TO DO

If you think your brakes are failing, it is imperative that you get your vehicle checked out as soon as you can. Properly functioning brakes can do more than save you from a fender-bender and an insurance headache – they can save your life.

What to Expect In a Life Insurance Exam

If you are reasonably healthy with no preexisting medical conditions, it is likely that your best bet for getting great life insurance at a low rate is to take a physical exam. This exam determines if you are prone to illnesses that would make you a higher risk to insure, such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer, stroke, etc. We’ve put together a list of things to expect from your exam so you can be better prepared to take it.

When, Where, and How Long

The exam itself won’t be much different than a routine exam with your doctor. However, there is no set office location that insurance companies operate out of, and they know that scheduling an appointment can be difficult. Therefore, they will send out a paramedical technician either to your home or workplace, depending on your preference. You’ll want to schedule the exam early in the morning if you can, because fasting blood work will be required. The exam itself should only take about 30 minutes.

Before Your Exam

To get the best results possible from your physical, drink plenty of water the day before and the morning of your exam. Also, skip your morning coffee – caffeine will elevate your blood pressure, which could mean a difference in your test results and cost of premium, even if you aren’t prone to blood pressure issues! Similarly, avoid alcohol, nicotine, excessive salt, and fatty foods a few days before your exam, as these substances can negatively affect your blood work results. Make sure to study up on your medical history and be ready to list any medications you take, as well.

During Your Exam

During the exam, your tech will perform routine health checks you would normally expect from a doctor: height/weight, pulse, blood pressure, blood work, and a urine sample. If you are an older applicant, your technician may ask you to undergo an EKG to measure your heart’s electrical activity. These tests are performed to check for the following:

  • Obesity
  • High blood pressure
  • Elevated cholesterol
  • Nicotine usage
  • Recreational drugs
  • Hyperglycemia
  • Blood diseases such as HIV and hepatitis

After Your Exam

The results from your paramedical exam will be given to the insurance company and taken into consideration along with your age, family medical history, and lifestyle. If all goes as it should, expect to hear back with your actual quote within a few weeks.

If you’ve been keeping healthy and prepared for the exam properly, you should pass the exam and score a lower premium on your policy! If you’re concerned that the results of your exam are inaccurate, you can ask your carrier to schedule a second exam. This will not do away with the results of the first exam, but the two will be combined and your new premium will be based on the composite.

Keep In Touch With Your Agent!

If you have any questions at all before or after your paramedical exam, don’t hesitate to give your independent agent a call. Not only are they experts in the insurance field, but they can direct you to the right carriers for your case to help you get the best price on life insurance, no matter the state of your health.

How to Handle a Parking Lot Accident

Parking lots are considered one of the most dangerous places to drive for a reason. With limited visibility, crowded spaces, and mediocre signage, parking lots are hot spots for fender benders on a daily basis. When an accident happens in a parking lot, there are typically three characters who have an important role to play in resolving the wreck quickly and calmly: the driver, the victim, and the witness. Here, we break down what you should do in this situation according to your role:

If You Are the Driver

As the offending driver, there are several scenarios you can find yourself in here. The number one thing to remember is, no matter what, don’t drive off! You may be panicking and thinking you can get away with it, but hit-and-runs are pretty serious offenses in most states, and parking lot surveillance cameras are more common than you’d think.

If the car was parked, go inside the establishment and try to track down the driver. The best way to do this is to get a customer service representative to describe the victim’s car and make an announcement over the intercom. If the driver doesn’t appear, it’s time to take all the matters into your own hands. If the damage to the car is as minor as a scratch or small dent, write a note that includes your name, number, and explanation of the accident and secure it onto the other driver’s car. If the damage is more extensive, call the police to come document the accident in the parking lot. This professional documentation helps police track down the other driver, and it can protect you in the long run when it’s time to file an insurance claim.

If You’re the Victim

If your car is the one that got hit, it is important to contact your auto insurance agent as soon as you can. The faster an accident is reported, the more accurate the claim will be. If the other driver is still at the scene, make sure you write down their name, phone number, driver’s license number, address, and insurance company.

Whether the other driver is still there or not, record evidence of the accident. Take pictures of the damage and look for witnesses in the parking lot. Before you leave, go into the store and ask the manager if he or she has any security camera footage you can check. If the other driver left, this last step can help you and the police track them down!

If You’re a Witness

As a witness, you may feel like you aren’t involved in the accident, but you actually play a very important role here. If you see a parking lot accident happen, you should provide assistance to the victim and driver. If the offending driver drove away, then help the other driver document the damage. Also provide them with your contact information so the police or insurance company can contact you later if needed. Having a witness on hand can really help the victim later on. It isn’t against the law to turn your head and not help out, but it is the right thing to do and a generally accepted social rule to stop and help if you witness an accident.

5 Surprising Household Hazards

We know you do everything you can to keep your house safe, especially if you have small children or adventurous pets. You’ve tied up the drawstrings on your blinds, placed non-slip grips on the shower floor, secured your cleaning liquids in an upper cabinet, and changed the batteries in the smoke detector, so everything checks out as safe, right? Well, not necessarily.

There will always be hazards anywhere you go, so home will never be completely safe, but here are a few common household hazards that are easy to miss, and easy to fix.

  1. Trash Cans

A trash can that closes well is important to keep curious noses and little hands from digging into rubbish that could contain a multitude of hazards. Items like broken glass, toxic substances, and spoiled food can still pose a threat, even after they’re in the trash can. So, forego the cheap flip lids and purchase a lid that closes well enough to keep kids and dogs away.

  1. Broken Garage Door

Electronic garage doors are made to sense objects (or people!) underneath them and retract to keep injuries from occurring. Like all electronic things, garage doors experience malfunctions and breakdowns which, in this case, can be harmful or even deadly. If your garage door starts acting funny or experiences some damage, call a professional to come service it for you – an important fix of this magnitude shouldn’t be left up to instructions from the internet.

  1. Window Screens

You want to throw those windows open with abandon because the weather outside is irresistible! We get it, but don’t think that a child is safe just because the window has a screen. The small, transparent frame that keeps bugs from getting in isn’t enough to catch the weight of a falling or pushing person, so make sure the windows on your upper floors have bars! At least until the kids get older.

  1. Treadmills

Treadmills can easily be one of the most dangerous items in your house for both children and adults if they aren’t operated with care. Falls on a treadmill can result in traction burns, broken bones, pinched skin and snagged clothing, and more. Every treadmill should come with an attached safety magnet to be worn during workouts. Make sure every user wears the clip, and turn on the safety switch or unplug the treadmill when it isn’t in use.

  1. Electronic Appliances

From blow dryers to microwaves, electronic appliances have the ability to malfunction and cause fires or electrocution. Always pay attention to any unusual display messages on your appliances, and carefully follow instructions for proper use. If you know you’ll be running many outlets at once, invest in a surge protector to protect you and your other appliances.

And Don’t Forget Home Insurance

No matter what happens in your house, a good home insurance policy with liability coverage will always have your back. Independent agents have the ability to shop multiple carriers for good policies that fit your unique risks and budget! So, if you don’t have your home insurance policy yet, get in touch with your independent agent to find the right coverage for you.

How Whole Life Insurance Can Be Useful During Your Lifetime

Permanent life insurance, sometimes referred to as whole life insurance, is a policy guaranteed to remain in force for the insured’s entire lifetime as long as the premiums are paid. While it serves its purpose of helping your beneficiaries when you pass away, it can also help you financially during your lifetime in several ways.

Fixed Premiums & Tax Free Benefits

The premiums on a whole life insurance policy are usually higher than premiums on term life, but the good news is that whole life premiums are fixed. The premium is based on the age of issue, and they usually do not increase with age. The policyholder either pays premiums until death, or establishes a limited pay policy that can be paid up in 10 to 20 years, or by age 65. The death benefit paid by a whole life insurance policy typically passes on to your beneficiaries income tax-free.

Opportunities for Policy Dividends

When insurance companies experience better-than-expected performance, they sometimes pay whole life insurance policyholders a return of premium. These dividends are never a guarantee, but they can be a nice surprise to increase a policy’s death benefit or cash value! What you receive from the dividends is also not usually considered taxable income, so the reward is 100% yours to keep.

Cash Value

The cash value of a whole life insurance policy makes it valuable to you long before death. A whole life insurance policy allows for accumulation of cash value on a tax deferred basis over time. The policyholder can use this cash value to help cover unexpected expenses, debts, or simply go towards retirement income. Unpaid loans and withdrawals will reduce the cash value and the death benefit, but utilizing this option may be worth it if you find yourself in a tight spot financially.

Get the Coverage You Need Today

Are your beneficiaries protected in the event of your death? If not, it’s time to look into a life insurance policy. The benefits in this blog accompany a whole life insurance policy, but there are multiple coverage options available depending on your needs. Contact our independent agents to get your questions answered and get on the road to great coverage!

Will My Home Insurance Policy Cover My Dog’s Breed?

As dog owners, we love our furry little companions more than anything. Unfortunately, some insurance companies don’t if your pooch falls under certain breed categories. There are a number of breeds that many insurance companies are hesitant to offer coverage for because statistics show that they are more likely to bite and cause injuries. This, of course, can cause problems when it comes time to buy home insurance. Be prepared to work with an independent agent who can shop multiple carriers if you own a full-breed or mix of one of these breeds:

  1. Pit Bulls & Staffordshire Terriers
  2. Rottweilers
  3. Doberman Pinschers
  4. Great Danes
  5. Perro de Presa Canarios
  6. Chow Chows
  7. German Sheperds
  8. Akitas
  9. Alaskan Malimutes
  10. Siberian Husky
  11. Bull Mastiffs
  12. Wolf Hybrids

What to Keep In Mind

The average claim payout for dog bites is $30,000. If you’re found responsible for rehabilitation costs and/or lost wages, not to mention your legal fees, you could quickly find yourself in a lot of financial trouble. Your homeowners policy should include liability coverage, typically starting somewhere around $100,000. If you own a dog that made it on this list, ask your provider how much more it would cost to upgrade that amount to $200,000 or more.

On that same note, some carriers may require you to purchase an umbrella policy if your dog is labeled as an aggressive breed or has a bite history. Whether it is required or not, you may want to consider this additional policy because it raises your liability coverage close to the $1 million mark! Plus, it could come in handy for any incident that occurs on your property, not just dog bites.

Prevention

Every dog is a liability, regardless of its breed. Reduce the likelihood of a dog-related lawsuit by socializing & training your dog early on, playing non-aggressive games, and being aware of your dog’s behavior and removing it from situations it finds stressful. As always, make sure to spay/neuter your dog, heavily supervise it around small children, and keep it securely fenced or on a leash when outside.

If you own one of these breeds, it is going to be more difficult to procure home insurance, especially at a good rate. If you’re in the market for a new home right now, contact our agency to get ahead of the curve and find a company that will insure your home (and your pup) at an affordable rate!

Will My Family History Affect My Life Insurance Rates?

You’ve probably heard that you can’t get good rates on life insurance if you have an existing medical condition. But what if you’re a healthy person with a not-so-healthy family history? Unfortunately, those odds of pre-existing conditions can be stacked against your life insurance premium as well. However, there are benefits to being educated about what to expect and how to get the best deals on life insurance regardless of your family history, so we’ve outlined some advice for you below:

Know What Underwriters Are Looking For

To fully understand what you’re getting into when you apply for a life insurance policy, you need to know what policy underwriters consider a risk and what they don’t. There are a lot of disorders that are known to recur through generations more than others. If one of your immediate family members has been diagnosed with any of these inherited conditions, the policy underwriter may consider you more of a risk because your likelihood of developing that same condition is higher. This, of course, can lead to higher premiums.

Some inherited conditions that underwriters may consider include:

  • Cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Alzheimer’s
  • Blood disorders
  • Alcoholism/drug dependency
  • Neurological disorders
  • Kidney disease
  • Liver disease
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • And more…

Don’t Try to Get Out of It

We understand it can be frustrating knowing that your premiums will likely increase because of your family history, even if you’re healthy as a horse. But knowingly omitting information in the hopes that the insurance company won’t notice is a really bad idea. When reviewing your life insurance applications, the companies access your Medical Information Bureau reports. This report includes your family’s medical history. When the insurance company sees the information, they will automatically raise your risk class and premium that you will be offered. This may come as a real shock if they quoted you for a lot less originally! If there are too many discrepancies between your application and your medical information, the company may refuse to cover you altogether.

If you do manage to pull a fast one on the insurance company, know that they will investigate your claim upon your death when you’re unable to control any course of action. During this time, if they find out you lied about your history when you applied, they can reduce or completely deny any payout to your beneficiaries. Would it then be worth it to have had that lower premium for so many years? Probably not.

The best thing to do is be upfront with your independent agent about your family history and let them shop their carriers for rates that won’t run you dry.

Realize That the Underwriting Process Varies by Carrier

This is one of the big reasons why you should start your search with an independent insurance agent who works with the big companies and has a good idea of their varying processes. For example, some insurance carriers only consider your parents’ health history, but not your grandparents or siblings. If your family’s health history is already affecting your health, you may consider going with a no exam policy. In this case, the premiums tend to be higher, but some companies may give you a preferred plus rating if your parent did not die before age 60 from a serious medical condition. Other carriers won’t give you that benefit and will only qualify you for standard coverage.

These policy differences are precisely why shopping around and comparing your options is so important, and that is what we’re here for! As independent agents, we work to give you good options for your life insurance policy, despite your family’s medical history. It is possible to take care of your beneficiaries even when the odds are stacked against you. Contact us today to learn more about the perks of working with an independent insurance agency!