Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Road trip! Know the laws where you drive

Before you head out on your road trip, consider your itinerary. Traffic laws and enforcement in states that you visit may differ from the state where you live.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration offers a website with a map detailing state distracted driving laws. Click on the state to see restrictions on cell phone and texting use by age, in school zones or construction zones.

The Governors Highway Safety Association also offers a convenient map describing many traffic-related laws. Click on the state for a list of laws and restrictions connected to seatbelts, speeds, older or younger drivers, motorcycle helmet use, child safety seats, impaired or aggressive driving and driving in work zones. Another source for state traffic regulations is the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Your automobile or travel club may also be able to provide information specific to the states you plan to visit.

Here’s a summary of some common traffic-related laws:
Speed limits for passenger cars vary from 55 to 75 mph on interstate highways, and limits can change between urban and rural areas.
Cell phone restrictions vary widely. In 11 states and the District of Columbia, all drivers are prohibited from using handheld cell phones. Several other states ban all cell phone use – handheld or hands-free –  for young drivers.
Texting while driving is a bad idea no matter who or where you are, but the penalties you may face for breaking the law could vary. In 41 states and the District of Columbia, text messaging is banned for all drivers. Some states put additional restrictions on young drivers.
Seat belt enforcement may be either primary or secondary. For a primary offense, a law enforcement officer can cite you directly for not using your seat belt. In states where enforcement is secondary, you would be cited only in conjunction with another traffic infraction.
Child safety seats are required in all 50 states for children who meet certain requirements, and all states except Florida and South Dakota also require booster seats for older children. Check the chart for weight limits and fines in each state.
Young drivers in some states are limited in the number of passengers they may carry, and passengers may be limited to immediate family members only.
Headlights may be required even during the day in some states if weather conditions require you to use windshield wipers or when visibility is restricted by fog. Look for a sign at the state line.
Stop light and speed cameras may be in use in some communities. Most states do not have laws restricting these enforcement measures, so don’t be surprised if you drive through a municipality that uses them. In most cases, the use of enforcement cameras is posted on signs at city limits.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Why "Spending 15 Minutes or Less" Can Hurt You

Buying insurance is one of the most important decisions you’ll make. Who you buy it from can be the difference between devastation and recovery when disaster strikes.
We are grateful that you chose to buy through an independent insurance agent.
Today’s TV and media ads bombard you with the message that purchasing insurance is as simple as grocery shopping. In truth, it’s not. You can’t pick a product off the shelf and be on your way.
Finding the right coverage requires due diligence on your part and ours, something you can’t get from a 15-minute phone call, a celebrity or even a talking lizard.
Why do people prefer independent agents?
Consumers feel the difference. Almost 60 percent of consumers who purchased insurance through a direct channel 10 or more years ago reported switching back to an independent agent because they wanted more value, according to a 2013 study conducted by InsightExpress, an independent marketing research firm.
Consumers switched back to an independent agent because they wanted one point of contact to handle their insurance questions and needs. They wanted guidance from an experienced insurance professional, the study said.
That’s what we do. Independent insurance agents represent multiple insurance companies. We are familiar with underwriting styles and have researched the nuances of numerous policies.
Risk management is key
We also provide advice on the ins and outs of risk management, meaning we explain coverage options and how having or not having that coverage could impact your entire situation.
Our philosophy is to look at the big picture. We believe your insurance program is there to protect all of your assets. What you choose for one type of coverage, such as auto insurance, can have an impact on all of your assets.
Some competitors will lure you with a lower rate on a single type of insurance, but less coverage. You may think you got a deal, but you could get burned later.
When our clients ask for a quote, we don’t just do the comparison shopping and run the numbers – we strive to find the best coverage and rates for your particular needs.
How things go wrong
Independent agents offer a complete package, whereas some competitors are interested in only one piece. For example, they might sell auto insurance and tell you that insurance shouldn’t be “bundled.” Looking at it piecemeal instead of as an entire solution is where we’ve seen clients get hurt.
Imagine you purchased lesser coverage through a company that said they’ll take 15 minutes to save you money on auto insurance. When you signed up, the representative didn’t ask about the value of your home or tell you that your level of coverage should involve looking at the value of your assets. Later, you cause a major car accident. Your auto insurer writes a check that doesn’t cover the victim's expenses, and with that, the insurer’s obligation to you is over. But this doesn’t cover a hurt passenger’s expenses, so he sues you for $1 million. If your home is your biggest asset, you face losing it and your savings.
When you work with an independent agent
In that scenario, we could have helped and suggested umbrella coverage. But with a telephone or online quote, this may not have been an option. Our agency is here for you throughout the life of your policy. We answer questions, handle issues and adjust your coverage as needed. To file a claim, you call us, not an 800 number. We advise you and walk you through the process. Personal attention is part of the package.
Our competitors are at a disadvantage because they sell for a single insurance company and are limited to the options offered by their employer. Bottom line, our competitors represent their insurance company. As independent insurance agents, we represent you.