Safety Tips for SUV Drivers

Considering the increase in fuel costs and environmental awareness, it is surprising that the most popular vehicle in America is still the sport utility vehicle.  With a higher rollover occurrence, higher center of gravity, and increased difficulty of handling, driving a SUV can be dangerous. 

SUVs are completely different from lower-bodied sedans.  They need much more braking distance between themselves and the car in front of them.  They also are much more prone to slip, skid, or flip in hazardous road conditions; according to research done by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than 10,000 people each year die in SUV rollovers.. By following these basic tips, you will be better informed of how to safely maneuver in a SUV.

·        Slow down. Driving too fast is dangerous; driving too fast in an SUV is even more so.  The longer you have to react, the less likely you are to cause or be involved in an accident.

·        Avoid sudden or sharp steering.  An SUV is not designed to make fast, sharp turns as a smaller, lower, car can.  Allowing yourself more time to react will allow you to make smoother steering transitions.

·        Learn to brake in an SUV. While driving your vehicle, you should be considerate of those around you.  Those behind and beside you will not be able to see around you, so the more warning you can give before you brake, the better. 

·        Check blind spots frequently.  The biggest mistake most SUV drivers make is feeling invincible.  You are in the largest car, but that doesn’t mean you are in the safest.  Many SUV drivers do not use turn signals, or check blind spots, before pulling out or changing lanes, making a collision with a smaller vehicle all the more likely.

·        Avoid overloads. Carrying a great deal of cargo, or even passengers, can throw off the center of gravity even further, making the car more likely to flip over. This also wears on tires and brakes, overheats tires, and can result in a blowout.

Simple Tips to Prevent Auto Theft

Every thirty seconds, a vehicle is stolen in the United States.  That means over 1 million vehicle owners each year find themselves victims of auto theft.  In the event your car is stolen, contact the police with the following information immediately: make, model, year, color, license plate number, VIN, approximate time of theft, location, and witnesses, if any. You should know this information, or have it available at all times.  Then, contact your insurance company.  Preventative measures, however, could prevent this tragedy from ever happening.

Some tips to consider:

·        Install an anti-theft device.

·        Never leave the keys in the vehicle, or the vehicle running, while unattended.

·        Keep doors locked at all times, and windows up.

·        Never store valuables or packages in plain sight.

·        Have your VIN etched into windows and other parts of your car, making resell on the black market more difficult.

·        When parking on the street, turn your wheels, use your emergency brake, and park between other cars (making it harder for a thief to tow).

·        Avoid parking in long-term lots if at all possible.

·        Park in a safe, well-lit, or well-traveled area at night.

Workers’ Compensation Is Necessary to Protect Businesses and Employees

Because workers’ compensation pays for medical expenses from on-the-job accidents and work-related injuries, it protects both the employer and the employee. In fact, most states require workers’ compensation for certain employer groups. In addition, as insurance agents we strongly recommend all employers carry this coverage (regardless of the number of employees) as an obvious protection against liability.

Yet, workers’ compensation can be costly for small- and even medium-sized businesses. Therefore, laws enacted in the late 1980s allow the use of “preferred providers” to curb medical care costs and promote a quicker return-to-work process, with increased emphasis on fraud detection and better price points among workers’ compensation insurers. Even so, the coverage and price of workers’ compensation policies still vary greatly.

With this mind, it pays to shop around for workers’ compensation packages that fit your needs, and your budget. Also, check with your state’s labor department for its definition of an “employee” as it may include a full-time, 40-hour-per-week person, as well as someone who only works three hours a week. Obviously, such variances will affect your needs and your cost for the plan.

Each state has its own workers’ compensation requirements, including a list of illnesses and injuries that qualify for legitimate claims. The state also mandates the level of benefits you must provide for employees. These rules will typically address the amount of coverage required for each employee and the percentage of the employee’s salary that you must pay. A good idea is to review this list and keep it accessible for future reference for you and your employees. These initiatives will prevent the filing of uncovered claims and serve to minimize misunderstandings.

Workers’ compensation policies may pay medical benefits, disability income benefits, rehabilitation benefits, and death benefits. These policies may also utilize a managed care program that sends injured or ill employees to a doctor in your insurance company’s network, further protecting the employer while minimizing costly confusion.

As with all insurance plans, too much workers’ compensation coverage is certainly better than too little. In addition, many workers’ compensation insurance policies provide liability insurance to cover you and your business in the event the family of an employee who is killed in the workplace sues an employer. This option should also be closely examined when striving for maximum coverage.

Should Your Collision Coverage be Dropped?

If you are like most new car owners, then you probably paid the extra money to include the protection offered by collision coverage in your insurance policy. However, as your vehicle has now begun to age and depreciate, you’ve likely started to ponder if and when you should drop the pricey collision coverage that’s running up your insurance bill.

There’s not a one-size-fits-all answer to this question. After all, everyone won’t have the same comfort level on risk or the same insurance needs and wants. However, there are some factors that you can consider to help you determine if and when you should drop your collision coverage:

1. Determine the value of your vehicle.

The first thing you should do when deciding if you should drop your collision insurance is determine approximately how much your car is worth. There are several ways to go about this, but one of the best methods is by getting an actual cash value (ACV) estimate. Kelley Blue Book and N.A.D.A. guides are excellent sources. However, you might want to call your insurance agent to find out which ACV source is used by their claims department, as ACV figures will often vary slightly from source to source. Do remember to factor in the wear and tear on your vehicle. Dents, scratches, upholstery holes or tears, and fading or chipping paint are just a few of the factors that can lower your vehicle’s ACV.

2. Weigh your potential risk against the cost of your collision coverage.

Although your collision coverage premiums will generally decrease slightly as your vehicle ages, you still need to make sure that the cost of your collision coverage remains a worthy expense to cover damage that may or may not occur to your vehicle. Weigh what you’re paying every year for collision coverage against the potential risk of not having it. The ACV of your vehicle should also be a factor in your decision process. For example, the new car you bought several years ago may only be worth $3,000 dollars today, and if you’re paying $600 per year for your collision coverage, then you’re paying 20% of what your car is worth for just this one coverage.

3. What’s your deductible?

Your deductible is another important factor to consider. Most drivers usually select a collision coverage deductible between $250 and $1,000 dollars. You might have even selected a higher deductible to keep your premiums lower. In any case, you need to remember that your deductible is the amount of money you’ve agreed to pay out-of-pocket before your insurance coverage takes effect. You need to decide if the combination of your collision coverage premiums and the deductible amount you’d pay after an accident are still reasonable costs for the value of your vehicle. For example, you’d be looking at a $1,600 out-of-pocket cost for the year for your damaged vehicle if you have a $1,000 deductible and you’re paying $600 for your annual collision premiums. If your vehicle’s value is anywhere close to what you’d pay out-of-pocket, then you can see where you’re likely wasting your insurance dollars. On the other hand, if your vehicle would cost a great deal more to replace or repair than what you pay out-of-pocket with your collision coverage, then it’s likely worth the expense.

4. Can you live without the perks of your collision coverage policy?

You’ll need to decide how valuable the perks of your collision coverage policy are to you. For example, your collision coverage policy might offer a free rental following an accident. Without the collision coverage providing this, could you rent a car on your own or find alternative transportation?

The bottom line is that there’s no cut-and-dried answer about dropping your collision insurance. Consider the above points and how they apply to your unique situation before making your decision. You can always schedule an appointment with your insurance agent if you have any doubts, concerns, or questions during your decision process.

Start Off on the Right Foot – Choosing the Correct Slip-Resistant Shoe

In 1997 more than 180,000 foot-related injuries occurred in the workplace according to the National Safety Council.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), three out of four footwear injuries in the workplace are the result of employee non-compliance. Choosing the right type of slip resistant shoe for your workplace environment and wearing them everyday is essential for your safety.

Transitions in height, and unexpected changes such as transitions from tile to carpet can be factors that contribute to slips and falls.  Rough floor surfaces offer more slip-resistant characteristics by offering sharp peaks that contact the sole material of the shoe, but this can also contribute to the wear and tear of the shoe causing it to be replaced more often.   Some jobs present more than one hazard to be protected against such as slip resistance and puncture protection.  To help meet this need manufacturers are providing shoes that cover more than one aspect of the safety footwear market.

Slip-resistant shoes should have the following characteristics:

·        The sole should have a raised tread pattern that extends over the whole area of the shoe.  The shape of the tread creates a tunnel through which liquid is dispersed.  A circle grip outsole is the best choice with the rubber hitting the flow and water dispersing rapidly every time a step is taken on a wet or oily surface.

·        There should be about three millimeters between the sole of the shoe and the bottom of the tread.  The tread will be reduced, over time, through wear.  It is important to monitor this and replace your shoes when necessary.

·        For added traction look for shoes that are designed with snipes or small cuts that divide the tread shape into three or four moveable parts.  These are also great indicators of wear and will assist you in determining when to replace your shoes.

·        There should be at least two millimeters of space between the tread pattern for maximum safety.  If the treads are located too close together they could generate a hydroplaning effect on a wet surface.  There must be enough space for liquid to be channeled through to the outer edges of the outsole.

For comfort it is a good idea to choose a shoe with extra support in the heel of the insole.  As an added bonus today’s shoe manufacturers produce occupational footwear that is stylish enough to be worn in everyday life.

Why You Should Require Liability Insurance for Those You do Business With

Are the people you do business with insured? You may want to ask them.

If a vendor, contractor, cleaning crew, gardener/arborist, or other service provider does not have insurance, you may be out of luck if they cause property damage or injury. Also, people who do not carry insurance are probably less likely responsible than those who are insured. They may not be the ideal people you would want to hire. It’s worth paying a little more to get someone who is insured.

Never just take the word of a vendor. Many who are not insured may say “yes” because it’s likely they don’t want to embarrass themselves. Instead, ask them to have their broker send a certificate of insurance. By having their broker send (fax or email) it to you, you know the policy has been paid for and has not been cancelled.

Some vendors, especially small firms, will try to convince you that they do not need insurance. Do not fall into this trap as you will be letting an amateur convince you to purchase product or service that lacks the protections an insurance policy provides. As a courtesy to existing clients, we can give you advice on any insurance certificate that is emailed or faxed to us.


Suggestions on who you should request insurance certificates from:

  • Contractors who are working on a home or commercial remodel
  • Repair or installation service for your auto, home, or business
  • Service contractors, such as gardening and maids/cleaning services
  • Independent Contractors or Contract Employment
  • Professional Services, such as such as a CPA, Consultant, Mortgage Broker, Staffing Firm, Insurance Broker, Architects/Engineers, and others who provide professional services (professional liability)
  • People who rent or lease from you


Types of Insurance you should request:

  • General Liability
  • Workers Compensation – for operations that have workers on your premise
  • Commercial Auto Coverage – for those who use vehicles on the job
  • Professional Liability (Errors & Omissions Insurance) – for those who provide professional services


Should you request a certificate for every purchase? It’s your call, but if someone is entering your premise or you are purchasing a bigger ticket item, you should strongly consider asking for insurance documentation.

Don’t Let Water Damage Delay Your Construction Project

Water, water everywhere — and it can bring your entire construction project to a halt. From rain entering a structure through openings in the roof and unfinished windows to plumbing systems that leak when tested to flood waters that appear when snow melts, water damage is a significant cause of loss to buildings under construction. It can ruin interiors, spur the growth of mold, damage electrical equipment, and cause slip-and-fall accidents. It can also result in major construction delays as affected areas dry out and damaged materials are discarded and replaced. Even when insurance applies to the loss, the contractor will pay at least some of the costs out of pocket in the form of deductibles, debris removal costs that exceed the insurance coverage, and income lost due to delays. Preventing water damage claims adds to a contractor’s bottom line.

Prevention begins before construction does. During the planning phase, a contractor should:

* Develop a quality control program, if one does not already exist, and make any necessary changes to it based on past experience;

* Review the building plans and specifications for areas that may be susceptible to water infiltration, such as areas around plumbing systems, roof flashing, and foundations;

* Evaluate the potential effects of the materials on building systems for vulnerability to water damage; and

* Schedule testing of systems that use water early in the project before much finish work is done.

During the construction process, a number of steps can help prevent water damage, including:

* Establishing a team to track, monitor and repair actual and potential water problems;

* Tracking and resolving all water issues at least weekly;

* Testing for problems frequently and quickly resolving any that are discovered;

* Delaying the installation of finishes until all building openings have been enclosed;

* Inspecting the work to ensure that it meets all specifications; and

* Covering finishing materials stored inside the building with water resistant materials.

The contractor should test the roof for leaks upon its completion. The roof should be kept free of scrap and unused materials and monitored for the development of low spots. Any low spots detected should be corrected as soon as possible. Automatic sprinkler systems should be tested for both functionality and leakage; any problems should be immediately addressed. Before letting water into the piping, the contractor should conduct air pressure tests and monitor for loss of pressure. When the piping is charged with water, the contractor should do so one area of the building at a time so that each segment of the system can be evaluated and no large discharges are overlooked. The contractor should have the piping system monitored for several hours after it is opened to water.

After construction is finished, the water damage team should continue to track and resolve water issues on a weekly basis, resolving any that arise as quickly as possible. Should water damage occur, take immediate steps to limit and mitigate the damage.

The contractor’s insurance company may have technical experts who can assist with preventing water damage claims. It is worthwhile to check with the insurance agent to find out what resources are available. A contractor’s history of preventing or suffering water damage losses can make or break its reputation for quality work. Focusing on prevention will help the contractor get future projects, increase profits, and lower its insurance costs.

Safety Experts Say Smoke Alarms Are Decreasingly Effective

In early 2006, a federal jury ruled that the design of ionization smoke alarms was defective in a fire that trapped 56-year-old William Hackert Jr. and his 31-year-old daughter Christine in their house near Albany in 2001. However, even before this ruling, safety experts were already questioning whether this type of smoke alarm is adequate to deal with the threat of fast-burning synthetic materials prevalent in American homes.

Ionization alarms, which use radioactive material to detect smoke, react earlier in fast-burning flaming fires. Photoelectric alarms, which detect changes in light patterns, react earlier in slow smoky fires. Experts agree that both types save lives. However, a problem arises because the time needed to escape has shortened significantly because of fast-burning synthetics used in furniture and carpets. Smoke alarm use standards may need to change to accommodate this phenomenon.

In 2001, Consumer Reports recommended that homeowners install at least one of each type of alarm on every level of a house to provide sufficient warning time for different types of fires. A recent report from the Public/Private Fire Safety Council noted that some test escape times were “tight or insufficient” with either alarm for bedroom or living room flaming fires. The group suggested that Underwriters Laboratories (UL) modify its standard to require faster detection of smoldering fires. Current UL smoke alarm standards require alarms to respond within 4 minutes of a flaming fire and in a smoldering fire before smoke obscures visibility by more than 10 percent per foot.

In today’s homes, the synthetics in furnishings, fabrics and carpeting smolder longer, but burn faster than natural materials like wood and cotton, which char as they burn. Synthetics melt and pool which produces significantly more energy when they burn. This has shortened the time between first flames and combustion of an entire room due to accumulated heat and gases to approximately 2 to 4 minutes. The average time between first flames and complete combustion 30 years ago when the UL standard was developed was 12 to 14 minutes.

In February of 2006, UL began studying the smoke characteristics from 40 materials commonly found in homes in the effort to make alarms more effective. Also under study are the byproducts of today’s smoke, which can be lethal. Results of these studies are expected by the end of the year.

Another reason for UL concern is the increase in U.S. fire fatalities in the past 12 months to a rate of about 3,500 annually. One likely factor is the increasing use of candles as mood lighting. Candles now cause about 18,000 fires a year, triple the number five years ago.

States Without Motorcycle Helmet Laws May Be Contributing to Unnecessary Deaths

Last year traffic deaths reached their highest level since 1990 due to an increase in motorcycle and pedestrian fatalities. Motorcycle deaths rose for the eighth consecutive year in a row. This according to a new study titled “Characteristics of Motorcycle-Related Hospitalizations: Comparing States with Different Helmet Laws” conducted by researchers at West Virginia University and funded by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

In fact, the research shows that almost nine percent of all U.S. traffic deaths are attributed to motorcycle riding. In 2004 more than 4,000 people were killed in motorcycle accidents, which represents an 89 percent increase since 1997. Another 76,000 people were injured.

The researchers also discovered that states without universal helmet laws had more crash victims hospitalized with a primary diagnosis of brain injuries. These states reported 16.5 percent of accident victims suffering brain injury as opposed to 11.5 percent in states where helmet use is mandatory. The in-hospital death rate among states without mandatory helmet laws was 11.3 percent versus 8.8 percent for those requiring helmets.

Conducting a state-by-state analysis of injuries, the researchers found that patients from states with no universal helmet laws had a 41 percent increase in risk of a Type 1 traumatic brain injury. Type 1 brain injuries are more likely to result in permanent disability, including paralysis, persistent vegetative state, and severe cognitive deficits.

The research also showed that a large proportion of patients with severe brain injuries would require long-term care. Hospitalized patients in states without universal helmet laws are more likely not to have private health insurance. This means that the public will carry the financial burden for the care these patients require. The findings went on to suggest that partial use laws are of modest use because there is only a slight difference in the age distribution of hospitalized cases if you compare states that require those under a certain age to wear helmets to states with no helmet laws.

Universal helmet laws require all motorcycle riders to wear helmets while riding. States with partial helmet laws only require motorcycle riders who are under age 18 or 21 to wear a helmet while riding. The study is based on data from 33 states. It is the largest study and most current one available on the hospital care of motorcycle accident victims. Of the 33 states studied, 17 had universal helmet laws, 13 had partial use laws, and 3 had no helmet laws.

Securing Auto Insurance for a Foreign Employee

For a foreign employee temporarily transferred to work in the U.S., getting permission to own and drive a car can be a long and tedious process. Before the non-U.S. citizen can apply and be granted a driver’s license, in most states he or she must be issued a social security card, which usually takes two to eight weeks. Also, most auto insurance companies will only insure a driver with a valid driver’s license. Finally, large corporations usually impose their own practices and rules on foreign nationals to protect them against liability in case the non-U.S. employee has an accident.

An insurance agent or broker that is familiar with the licensing and insurance requirements in each state can often help ease the process of a non-U.S. citizen acquiring a driver’s license and insurance coverage.

Lately, in an attempt to encourage global trade, many states have arranged driver’s license reciprocity agreements with other countries. These agreements usually exempt foreign drivers from having to obtain a driver’s license in the state where they are temporarily living. Whether a specific state has reciprocity with another country can be determined by calling the state’s department of motor vehicles.

An example of a state that has accepted some reciprocity with other countries is New York. In New York, the foreigner holding a driver’s license from his or her own country does not need to apply for a New York license unless they become a permanent resident of New York.

Once the requirements for a driver’s license are met, there are several insurance companies that will provide coverage to foreign visitors. Usually these are “non-standard” divisions within the insurers.

Because obtaining a driving record from a foreign country is difficult and time consuming, underwriters regard persons from another country as having no driving record and usually place them in a “high-risk” pool. The policy is the same as for any high-risk driver, with premiums substantially more than those paid by a U.S. driver with an excellent driving record.

When applying for auto insurance in most states an International Driving Permit will not substitute for a U.S. driver’s license. An IDP only provides evidence that the non-U.S. citizen has a valid driver’s license in his or her own country. An IDP, however, will enable a foreign national to rent a car.

Although renting a car may be feasible for a brief stay of several weeks or even a month, the cost of the various insurance coverages, especially the collision damage waiver, offered by rental car companies can be expensive. Charges for such coverage can be $15 to $40 per day depending on the type of vehicle rented. In just a month or two these charges could add up to much more than the cost of a six-month auto insurance policy.