Please read and comment on our blog about a wide variety of insurance topics. Please feel free to ask us any questions.
Have you ever looked at another vehicle at a stoplight or on the highway, seen a dog sitting in the driver’s lap or leaning over their shoulder, and thought, “how cute,” only to quickly realize your first thought should have really been, “how dangerous,” instead? Those exact contradicting thoughts crossed my mind when I saw the above picture posted on Facebook recently.
We are warned about keeping our focus as drivers: to stay off the cell phone and not text when behind the wheel; we are warned to not play with the radio or reach for items on the back seat or on the floor; but seldom are we warned that animals are among the most distracting “passengers” we can have in our vehicles.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) distracted driving accounts for over 10% of all U.S. highway fatalities. Not surprisingly, most surveys list “unrestrained cats and dogs inside the car” as one such internal distraction (http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/05/19/pets-and-distracted-driving/). A survey by Nationwide Mutual Insurance, in which 90% of pet owners said they often travel with their pets, found 8% of drivers admitted to driving with those pets on their laps. In a 2011 pet safety survey conducted by AAA, 52% of drivers admitted to petting their animals while behind the wheel, even when those animals were in the backseat. Another study recently completed at the University of Alabama – Birmingham indicates the crash risk for drivers who always drove with their pets nearly doubled in comparison with those who never drove with their pets; this crash risk was especially evidenced among drivers in the 70+ age bracket (http://www.nbcnews.com/business/driving-pets-increases-crash-rates-study-says-6C9743684). Those are some significant statistics.
The Humane Society of the United States advises that we can travel safely with our pets by keeping them properly restrained in either safety harnesses or pet carriers in our back seats. Several states have taken up legislation to penalize drivers for driving with unrestrained animals in their vehicles. Although Hawaii is currently the only state that specifically prohibits a driver from driving with a pet on their lap (http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/05/19/pets-and-distracted-driving/), Arizona, Connecticut, and Maine all have broad-enough distracted driving laws to enable law enforcement to penalize residents for such behavior as well. New Jersey is currently looking to pass a new law that could fine drivers up to $1,000 for having an unrestrained animal in a moving vehicle (http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/lifestyle/2012/06/n-j-other-states-turn-focus-to-pets-in-fight-against-distracted-driving/). Rhode Island and Oregon are reportedly considering similar legislation, though attempts in California and Virginia have failed in the past several years.
So, not only for our own safety, but for the safety of our beloved pets, we need to save the lap time for the sofa and make sure we properly restrain our pets in safety harnesses or carriers when we’re behind the wheel. For additional animal car trip and safety tips, visit http://www.paw-rescue.org/PAW/PETTIPS/DogTip_CarSafety.php
“Bonded and Insured” is a phrase I have often seen in advertisements for many businesses – including contractors, car sales, and cleaning services – but not one that I ever gave much thought. So, when Jim suggested I write this week’s blog on the difference between insurance and surety bonds, I thought, “Hmmm, aren’t they the same thing?” Apparently not…and I’m sure I’m not the only one surprised to learn there is a difference!
Consider this scenario: A moving company is insured and bonded – the insurance will protect the moving company if one of the vans is damaged in a car accident, but the bond will protect the customer if his belongings are not received as promised.
Okay, I was starting to see the distinction…but I wanted to be really clear. After a little more research, I learned there are 5 key differences between Insurance and Surety Bonds:
1. The Contract
Insurance: a form of risk management. It is a two-party contract between the insured and the insurance company. This contract (insurance policy) assumes a guaranteed promise that the insured will be compensated by the insurance company in the case of a covered loss.
Surety bond: a contract among at least 3 parties. It is issued by one party (the surety) on behalf of a second party (the principal). This contract guarantees that the second party will complete an obligation to a third party (obligee). If the obligation is not met, the third party can recover its losses from that bond.
Insurance: Protects the insured against a risk.
Surety Bond: Protects the obligee.
3. The Premium
Insurance: The premium paid is designed to cover the potential losses.
Surety Bond: The premium paid is for the guarantee the principal fulfills his obligation.
Insurance: Losses are expected and insurance rates are adjusted to cover losses depending on many factors.
Surety Bond: Losses are not expected so surety bonds are issued only to qualified individuals or businesses whose projects require a guarantee.
Insurance: When a claim is paid the insurance company usually doesn’t expect to be repaid by the insured.
Surety Bond: A surety bond is a form of credit, so the principal is responsible to pay any claims.
Insured and Bonded. I guess, simply stated, one part (insured) protects the business against loss, while the other part (bonded) protects the consumer from breach of contract from that business…turns out that is one pretty important phrase.
I have noticed a lot of activity at the local college where I walk. Windows are being washed, trash is being collected, and landscaping beds are being weeded and pruned – all in preparation for the Class of 2012 graduation ceremonies. It is an exciting time in the life of a college (soon-to-be) graduate, but it is also a stressful time because it brings along so many changes. Even before the cap and gown is donned, before the band begins to play Pomp and Circumstance, before all the congratulatory wishes, there are so many decisions to be made. Will he/she go on to graduate school or enter the work place? Will he/or she live at home or rent an apartment with friends/colleagues? What will he/she do about insurance? Ah, there’s a question most young people probably aren’t thinking about as graduation day approaches…but it is a fact that insurance needs will change for the college graduate.
Here are the key insurance concerns for the college graduate to consider:
1. Auto insurance: While many college students carried their own insurance, a majority have been covered under their parents’ policies. It’s important to get the best coverage for the best possible price. Be sure you have the appropriate amount of coverage for the following:
a. Bodily Injury Liability: Applies to injuries that you cause to someone else. Consider buying more than the state-required minimum to protect your assets.
b. First Party Benefits (in PA): Can cover medical payments, lost wages, accidental death and funeral costs.
c. Property Damage Liability: Pays for damage you, or someone driving your car, may cause to someone else’s property.
d. Collision: Pays for damage to your car resulting from a collision with another car, object, or as a result of flipping over.
e. Comprehensive: Reimburses you for loss due to theft or damage caused by something other than a collision with another car. A higher deductible is one way of lowering your premium.
f. Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage (in PA): Reimbursement if you are hit and injured by an uninsured or hit-and-run driver.
2. Renter’s Insurance: If you are renting an apartment or house after you graduate, it is important to understand your landlord’s insurance will only cover the costs of repairing the building if there is a disaster. You need your own coverage to protect yourself and your belongings. Renter’s insurance provides protection in 3 ways:
a. Coverage for Personal Possessions: Covers the cost of your possessions in the event of a theft, fire, or other covered disaster. Determine that you have enough insurance to replace your personal belongings.
b. Liability Protection: Covers you against lawsuits for injury or property damage done by you.
c. Additional Living Expenses: Covers you for any additional living cost incurred after a loss.
3. Health Insurance: Going uninsured should not be an option. Don’t jeopardize your future. Be familiar with the options:
a. Employer based: Understand the coverage and how much, if any, you will need to contribute.
b. Individual: If you are young and healthy, individually purchased health insurance may be an affordable option for you.
c. Your parents’ health insurance plan: New health care regulations permit you to remain under your parents’ health insurance policy until age 26.
d. Short-term: Give thought to short-term coverage if you expect to have employer-based health insurance within six months.
So, as graduation day approaches, take a few minutes to talk to your soon-to-be graduates about their changing insurance needs. Chances are – with the myriad of decisions they have facing them amidst all the excitement of those upcoming commencement ceremonies – they aren’t even thinking about insurance! It’s important. And, of course, I also think it’s important to talk with an independent agent about your personal needs and concerns to make sure your proud graduate is properly covered
We have always been fairly responsible about routine maintenance concerns. We make sure to visit the dentist every 6 months. We have our cars serviced regularly – oil changed, tires rotated. We keep up with home maintenance – the furnace is serviced, the chimney is swept, and the gutters are cleared – regularly. So you can imagine my shock to hear there was something important we had been neglecting!
After our routine furnace-cleaning last week, the service man asked me, “When was the last time you had your dryer vent cleaned?” I thought out loud, “The last time? I’m not sure there was ever a first time.” He went on to tell me the dryer vent was completely blocked, creating a very dangerous fire hazard! Something he was so concerned about that he wrote on my receipt, “Dryer vent is a fire hazard. Please have serviced.” Well, I wasted no time addressing the condition of the vent. The minute he left, I sat down at my computer and googled “dryer vent cleaning” – the very first hit out of 550,000 turned out to be Searsclean. I made an appointment to have it serviced the very next day! And then I did some more research…
According to the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA), clothes dryer fires are responsible for about 15,600 building fires with 15 deaths and 400 injuries per year. 70% of those dryer fires are caused by a “failure to clean”; the accumulation of lint in the dryer vent restricts airflow, creating a highly-flammable area. There are several things you can do to help ensure this doesn’t happen in your home:
The USFA has a great brochure with more information and safety tips (http://www.usfa.fema.gov/downloads/pdf/statistics/v7i1.pdf).
Without a doubt, I was very lucky the furnace man pointed out our clogged dryer vent. In fact, while I had the vent serviced that next day, I heard that service man ask the very same questions I had heard the day before, “When was the last time you had your dryer vent cleaned? Are you aware it is completely blocked, creating a very dangerous fire hazard?” Wow…we had really been neglecting something very important on our regular home maintenance checklist. Having the dryer vent cleared is definitely now on our yearly maintenance schedule!
Are you ready? It’s that time of year again…the SUPER BOWL! This year the Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers will play in the 47th NFL Super Bowl. Even people who aren’t exactly “sports nuts” get excited about the big game. You can feel the energy around “water-coolers” everywhere… talk of Super Bowl parties, bowl history, the half-time performances, and, of course, those unforgettable Super Bowl commercials!
Do you remember that the Rams punted Pittsburgh back on their own 25-yard line in the 1980 Super Bowl? No? Hmm…well, neither do I! But I bet there’s a pretty good chance most of us remember the commercial that aired during the game that same year featuring “Mean Joe Green” tossing his jersey to a young fan and “Had a Coke and a Smile”. And, if you are old enough to have been around for the 1975 Super Bowl, you may not even remember which teams played but probably recognize “Two all beef patties special sauce lettuce cheese pickles onions on a sesame seed bun” from the McDonalds’ commercial that aired during the big game that year. Those Super Bowl commercials get our attention!
With an estimated 150 million people watching the big game, the Super Bowl is one of the most watched television broadcasts of the year. And because many of us do not turn our attention from the screen during the commercials, it is no surprise advertisers will pay big money to promote a product during one of those time slots. According to an article in the Huffington Post, a 30-second commercial during the game will cost the advertiser around $4 million!
Here are some interesting facts about Super Bowl commercial history:
Whether or not the game will prove exciting enough for Monday morning talk around the “water cooler” is yet to been determined…but one thing we can be sure of is that there will be talk of those commercials!
By the way this may not have been a Super Bowl commercial, but it is still the favorite in our house: