Category: driving safety


Thinking of a side hustle? Check with your insurance agent

Today, it seems like everybody’s got a side hustle, which is essentially just a fancy rebranding of what used to be called moonlighting. But today’s moonlighting often comes with a twist …. these gigs often involve using your personal car or home to generate extra income. Whether it’s driving for Lyft, dropping off packages for Amazon, delivering meals through DoorDash, renting your home through Airbnb or just taking advantage of a tourist influx during a big local event by renting out your home, five words of advice: check with your insurance agent.

If your goal is earning some extra cash, make sure you understand and are covered for potential risks. You might think you are covered by working for a third-party service, but if you injure yourself or someone else while working, if you damage or lose someone’s property or if you suffer a loss to your own property, you may be on your own. Here are just two examples:

Home rental – If you want to start renting out all or a portion of your home through a peer-to-peer rental service, what happens if a guest is injured on your property? Or if a guest burns the whole place down in a cooking fire, will your rental service cover your home replacement?

Some services, such as Airbnb and VRBO, offer programs such as host guarantees or host liability insurance. On first glance, these may look adequate – $1 million liability coverage should be enough, right? But like most things, you need to read the fine print because there are conditions, limitations and exclusions that could leave you exposed to serious loss. You also should not assume that your own homeowners policy will provide coverage in a home rental scenario. Insurance Information Institute says:

Standard homeowners and renters insurance policies are designed for personal risks, not commercial risks. Some insurers now offer a home-sharing liability insurance policy that can be purchased on a month-to-month basis, but there may be exclusions and limitations, so read the policy carefully. If you plan to rent out all or part of your home on a regular basis, many companies will consider this a business use and you may need to purchase a business policy—specifically either a hotel or a bed-and-breakfast policy.

Ridesharing – Check with the service you are contracting with about any coverage that they might offer – states are increasingly mandating that third-party services provide some coverage, but again – there could be conditions, limitations and exclusions that leave dangerous gaps in your coverage. And it’s a mistake to assume that your own personal auto insurance will cover you. Insurance Information Institute says:

Generally a standard personal auto policy will not provide coverage for ride-sharing. A standard personal auto insurance policy stops providing coverage from the moment a driver logs into a TNC ride-sharing app to the moment the customer has exited the car and the transaction is closed.

They also advise:

Prospective drivers should ask the TNC what level of coverage it provides. Drivers should also contact their own auto insurer to address gaps, if any, in their liability protection. It is also recommended that TNC drivers review a copy of their TNC’s insurance contracts so they know the exact terms and conditions of the coverage.

Learn more: Ride-sharing and insurance: Q&A

These are just two common examples of so-called side-hustles, but other income-generating activities might call for other types of coverage, such as product liability or home business coverage. Your agent can also help you assess the adequacy of coverage offered by a third-party.  If you are considering a side-hustle, give your independent insurance agent a call to talk things over.

Reprinted from Renaissance Alliance – no usage without permission.

Your annual reminder: Any dog can bite

This week is Dog Bite Prevention Week and the US Postal Service would like to remind you that although there are about 78 million good doggies here in the U.S., “any dog can bite.” They should know. Their carriers suffer about 6,000 dog attacks a year. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 4.5 million people are victims of dog attacks each year. The most susceptible to dog attacks are small children, the elderly and postal carriers, in that order.

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) says that most, if not all, the dog bites that occur are preventable. They tally some recent numbers: In 2017 there were nearly 350,000 people treated at hospital emergency rooms for non-fatal dog-related injuries. Of those people, there were nearly 10,600 children two years old or younger who visited emergency rooms as a result of dog bites​.

Liability Insurance and Dog Bites

Besides the human and canine trauma that can result, dog bites are also a costly problem. In 2018, dog bites and other dog-related injuries tallied $675 million in liability claims, according to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) and studies by State Farm. In terms of states, California is #1, with 2166 claims at an average claim cost of $45,542. Florida is #2, with 1281 claims at an average claim cost of $43,893. Texas, Illinois and New York round out the top five states in terms of claims counts and expenses. You can check to see where your state falls on this III interactive state-by-state dog bite liability map.

Your homeowners insurance policy will typically cover and claims related to dog bites, up to the liability limits. If you have a dog, you should talk to your agent about liability limits and also the type of dog you have. I talking about dog bite liability, III says that

“Some insurance companies will not insure homeowners who own certain breeds of dogs categorized as dangerous, such as pit bulls. Others decide on a case-by-case basis, depending on whether an individual dog, regardless of its breed has been deemed vicious. Some insurers do not ask the breed of a dog owned when writing or renewing homeowners insurance and do not track the breed of dogs involved in dog bite incidents. However, once a dog has bitten someone, it poses an increased risk. In that instance, the insurance company may charge a higher premium, nonrenew the homeowner’s insurance policy or exclude the dog from coverage.”

See our prior post on dog breeds that are sometimes blacklisted by insurance companies.

Helpful dog bite prevention resources

Dogs attacks occur for a number of reasons. The dog may be protecting territory. They may feel threatened by strangers or startled. They may be annoyed if they are eating. American Humane offers these tips for dog owners:

  • Never leave a baby or small child alone with a dog, even if it is a family pet.
  • Interactions between children and dogs should always be monitored to ensure the safety of both your child and your dog.
  • Teach your children to treat the dog with respect and not to engage in rough or aggressive play.
  • Make sure your pet is socialized as a young puppy so it feels at ease around people and other animals.
  • Never put your dog in a position where s/he feels threatened.
  • Walk and exercise your dog regularly to keep him/her healthy and to provide mental stimulation.
  • Use a leash in public to ensure you can control your dog.
  • Regular veterinary care is essential to maintain your dog’s health; a sick or injured dog is more likely to bite.
  • Be alert, if someone approaches you and your dog – caution them to wait before petting the dog, give your pet time to be comfortable with a stranger.

Find more dog bite prevention tips:

Reprinted from Renaissance Alliance – no usage without permission.

It’s National Work Zone Awareness Week

Highway road construction zones are a dangerous place, an area where accidents are more likely to happen. Workers perform their jobs in a high-risk environment as multi-ton metallic vehicles speed by them all throughout their shift. But despite the vulnerability of the road workers, drivers are the most frequent fatality in work zone crashes. Between 2016 and 2017, fatal crashes in work zones increased by 3 percent while fatal crashes outside of work zones decreased by 1.5 percent.

Work zones are a highly dangerous and unpredictable environment for drivers, who encounter narrow lanes, sudden stops and traffic pattern shifts. Work vehicles can be entering and exiting. Normal road markings may be obstructed, replaced by unfamiliar signage. Paved shoulders are not in place.

This week marks National Work Zone Awareness Week, April 8-12 – a campaign to raise awareness about the risks for workers and the general public alike, and to offer a reminder to “drive like you work here” around work zones for the safety of all.

Here are infographic tips from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration – copy them  and share them on social media.

 

Reprinted from Renaissance Alliance – no usage without permission.

New consumer protections for prepaid debit cards

Prepaid debit cards are more and more common in our daily lives. They’ve become the standard for gift cards. Parents find them a convenient way to send a child off to college with a stipend of credit to use for spending and emergencies. Some employers even use them to pay their workers. And, increasingly, instead of issuing a check for a refund, more and more companies are issuing prepaid credit cards. A report in the LA Times talks about some of the problems that practice can create for consumers: More refunds are being made with prepaid debit cards. Is that a good thing for consumers?

Just a few of these problems include:

  • You become fair game for marketing from the financial firm that issues the card
  • The card may have a finance charge if it is unused for a period of time, eating into the value
  • Prepaid cards are often forgotten and go unused
  • You have to read the fine print to learn about fees, expiration and other terms of use
  • Some cards have limitations on where they can be spent

New consumer protections now in effect

Starting on April 1 of this year, consumers will have more protection when they opt for prepaid debit cards, thanks to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau – but to activate that protection, users must register the cards on the card issuer’s website. Consumer Reports explains: New Prepaid Card Rule Goes Into Effect.

Prepaid cards issued on April 1 and thereafter will have clear disclosures of key fees on the outside packaging so that consumers can compare cards before they buy.

Consumers who use these cards will also be protected from liability in cases of unauthorized transactions or fraud, as users of debit cards have long been.

The rule applies not only to the plastic you buy in brick-and-mortar stores but also to payroll cards, cards for government benefits such as Social Security. It also applies to funds held in dedicated “stored value” accounts on mobile person-to-person payment services like Venmo and Cash.

Among the protections that the article explains in detail:

  • Protection from unauthorized errors and charges
  • Disclosure if the card has no FDIC insurance coverage
  • Basic account information at no charge
  • Limits on how overdrafts are handled

Prepaid cards are popular for a variety of reasons. They’re more secure than cash and they work much like a debit card, but they don’t require pre-approved credit. But until now, consumer protections have been limited.

As with most financial vehicles, if pays to be a savvy consumer. US News featured a good overview, including the pros and cons, in an article about how prepaid credit cards work. It talks about the types of cards, offers alternative payment options, and compares the benefits to those of secured credit cards and debit cards. Be an informed consumer!

Reprinted from Renaissance Alliance – no usage without permission.

Home burglars reveal the tricks of the trade

How do home burglars choose a home to rob? What makes it easier or harder for them to break into a home? What can homeowners do to ensure their home is not a target? To learn the answers to these questions, Portland Oregon KGW TV’s investigative team sent letters to inmates currently serving time for burglary in the Oregon Department of Corrections. Inmates were surveyed anonymously about how they broke in, when the crime occurred and what they were looking for. See: We asked 86 burglars how they broke into homes

Here’s an eye-opening video as a KGW reporter rides around a neighborhood with a former home burglar who talks about how he cased homes and commit robberies.

The linked article above is also worth reading. When asked “What is the one thing homeowners can do to avoid being burglarized?”: “Burglars suggest homeowners make their property visible with good lighting and trimmed bushes and trees. You should get to know your neighbors and alert police if you see anything suspicious.”

  • “In my opinion, I think homeowners should always leave a TV or radio on,” said one inmate.
  • “Get a camera and make it visible!” wrote another.
  • “Put bars on your windows and doors, get an alarm, keep an extra car in the driveway, keep lights, TVs and radios on when you leave your home,” read one questionnaire.
  • “Home alarm, know your neighbor so they can report suspicious people around the neighborhood,” said a burglar.

More secrets from robbers

For another brief video and tips from burglars see How do you prevent a burglary? Convicted thieves tell all – KSL in Salt Lake City.

We previously featured a post on Burglar Secrets: Expert advice on how to protect your home.. While links to the original article we cited are no longer operational, we excerpted several tips in the post. Among them,  mistakes that burglars said people often make:

  • Bragging about valuables, new purchases
  • Leaving doors and windows unlocked or garage doors open
  • Failing to enable security systems
  • Leaving valuables visible through windows
  • Leaving valuable things like bikes and riding mowers laying about in the yard
  • Having uncovered windows that allow views into the home

Talk to your insurance agent

Your home insurance company might also have good information about keeping your home safe. And if you have home security systems, you may earn a discount on your insurance policy – talk this over with your independent insurance agent.

Reprinted from Renaissance Alliance – no usage without permission.

Tips for driving safely around large commercial vehicles

Any time you are driving your car on the highway or on your city and town roads, you are navigating a vehicle that weighs about 5,000 pounds, while sharing the road with 12.5 million giant commercial vehicles. A fully loaded bus can weigh 30,000 to 44,000 pounds, according to the American Public Transportation Association. And according to The Truckers’ Report, the legal weight for an eighteen wheeler is 80,000 lbs. Plus, factor in any oversize or overweight permits. The length of time to stop an eighteen wheeler is 40% greater than that of an automobile.

How confident are you about your driving skills? Having a collision with any other vehicle is a serious matter, but the stakes are even higher when it comes to collision with a 30 or 40 ton vehicle! There are no mere fender benders in an accident pitting your car against this weight class.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has issued Our Roads, Our Safety, a national safety campaign shaped to raise awareness about sharing the road safely with large trucks and buses. They offer Tips for Passenger Vehicle Drivers, as well as Tips for Bicyclists and Pedestrians, both of which are worth checking out. We found the infographics that illustrate the driver tip list particularly helpful and have reprinted them below. They offer useful visual guides for blind spots and space considerations when driving around large commercial vehicles.

diagram showing how to give trucks extra turning space

diagram showing the stopping distance for large vehicles

Reprinted from Renaissance Alliance – no usage without permission.

Fraud alert: This is (not) the government calling

Think you are too smart to fall for phone scams? Not so fast. In 2018, American consumers lost more than $488 million to a type of fraud that the Federal Trade Commission (FRC) calls “imposter scams.”

One particularly common and effective type of imposter scam is the fraudster posing as a government official. In fact, the FTC says that fake government calls now top the list of imposter scams. We’ve frequently posted about IRS tax season scams. In the Washington Post, Michelle Singletary warns that the latest hoax calls  tell you that your Social Security number is being suspended. There re several variations to the scam, often elaborate stories about how your Social Security number turned up in crimes.  The end goal is to either get you to reveal your number or to pay a fee to “reinstate it.” Some scenarios even threaten arrest. She quotes an FTC official:

“If you get a call out of the blue from someone claiming to be from a government agency like the Social Security Administration or IRS asking you for personal information or money, it’s a scam,” said Andrew Smith, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.

Check out the tips and advice she offers for how to spot and avoid this scam. And here’s an FTC infographic for a typical telephone IRS scam – it’s a pattern that is common for SS# and other governmental scams, too.

IRS phone scam infographic

Reprinted from Renaissance Alliance – no usage without permission.

Retired car features that people miss

Hey – why doesn’t my car turn signal make a sound anymore? Audible turn signals are just one of the new car features you may overlook on a test drive, but later look back on nostalgically. New car advances are great – we’re all driving safer, more fuel efficient vehicles than our parents did – or even than we did, a decade ago. Safety features like air bags, seat belts, anti-lock brakes, cars designed to hold up under crash criteria, rear cameras and other innovations are now fairly standard in new cars. But despite the innovation, many car buyers wax nostalgic for standard features that have all but disappeared or are on the way out. One of the most surprising car features that is going the way of the dinosaurs in many new cars are spare tires, a topic we’ve discussed before (See Does your new car have a spare tire? Don’t count on it!)

AAA features a fun article that talks about 10 Car Features That No Longer Exist in New Vehicles. Some features like front bench seats have been gone or scarce for so long that it’s doubtful if most young people even recall them. Others, like the disappearance of ashtrays, are largely a feature of changing consumer habits. Check out the list – hand-cranked windows, audible turn signals, simple controls and more. Plus, the comments are fun – people list even more bygone favorite features. The most frequently mentioned missing convenience is a Hi/Lo foot-operated dimmer switch that used to be on the floor of the car. Other people said they miss clutches, air vents in the floor, light bulbs that are easy to replace and rear windows that go all the way down. And even though the older, heavier cars were less safe, many people miss the large bodies and the heft and feeling of security that metal and steel offered.

Before you get too sad about bygone Happy Days-era car features, check out this list of what you can look forward to for the future. Consumer Reports offers a preview of up-and-coming vehicle features: Must-Have Features to Get in Your Next New Car, ranging from safety features to convenience. They break both categories down into “must have” and “nice to have” features, as well as a few that they suggest taking a pass on. Here’s their clip on some of the safety features in action.

Remember, whether you are looking for auto insurance  for a vintage classic car or a high-tech new vehicle with all the bells and whistles, your local independent insurance agent can scour the market for the best options.

Reprinted from Renaissance Alliance – no usage without permission.

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