Had an Accident? Put Your Smart Phone to Use

AUTOMOBILE ACCIDENTS happen every minute of the day. But according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), most people do not know what steps to take or what information to share – or not share – after an accident.  They may even put their identities and safety at risk by sharing too much personal information.

To combat identify theft and also help motorists in gathering all the info they need to properly file a claim, the NAIC recently introduced its Wreck Check mobile application for use on iPhones and Android devices.

A recent NAIC survey revealed consumers were unsure about auto accident best practices, such as when to call the police or what personal information to exchange with the other driver after an accident.

Consumers generally need only share their names and correct vehicle insurance information, which should include the phone numbers of insurance providers.

Sharing additional personal information, such as driver’s license numbers and home addresses, puts consumers, their property and their safety at risk.

The Wreck Check mobile application outlines what to do immediately following an accident and takes users through a step-by-step process to create their own accident report.

It also provides tips that make it easy to capture photos and document the necessary information to file an insurance claim. Additionally, the app lets users e-mail a completed accident report directly to themselves and their insurance agents.

Drivers can visit InsureUOnline.org for additional information about what to do following an auto accident.

Also on the site is a downloadable accident checklist, which can be found here:

http://www.insureuonline.org/auto_accident_checklist.pdf.

Capturing Crash Details – a Checklist

  • After a collision use your phone camera to thoroughly photograph the scene. Try to take pictures of:
  • Your car, and the damage it sustained
  • The other cars involved in the accident, and the damage they sustained
  • Any skid marks
  • Any vehicle parts, shattered glass or other debris that may have fallen onto the road
  • The accident site (i.e., the intersection, parking lot or other location), as well as the environment/weather conditions, and
  • Any visible bodily injuries to you, passengers and other parties (if feasible and consented to, of course).

If you have any questions or would like to speak to a professional advisor, please contact ACBI Insurance at 203-259-7580.

Settling Claims on Your Own Risks Voiding Your Policy

While your insurer has the responsibility to investigate and pay claims made on your firm’s commercial general liability policy, you also have responsibilities to ensure your claim is paid.

Two of the key parts of your responsibilities are:

  • Notifying your insurer of the claim as soon as possible.
  • Not taking the claim into your own hands before notifying the insurer.

Commercial general liability (CGL) coverage is usually written on an occurrence basis, meaning that the policy will cover events that occur during the period the policy is in force. In other words, if an occurrence hits towards the end of the policy and notification is made after the policy lapses, the insurer would still be required to cover it.

Let’s look at your responsibilities under a CGL policy after occurrence that may lead to a claim.

 The late claim

Under the standard CGL policy, you are required to notify the insurance company of an occurrence that may result in a claim being filed against the policy “as soon as practicable.” Practicable, however, is not defined, but courts have generally ruled that it means “as soon as possible” or the time in which a reasonable person would have filed the claim.

The rule of thumb is to contact your insurer or us as soon as you think you may have suffered an event that will require a claim to be made.

Most certainly, if you file a claim so late that it compromises the insurance company’s right to settle the issue, then this would be deemed a violation of the policy.

The provision spells out the specific items that should be sent to the insurance company. It requires that you authorize the insurance company to obtain additional records and information, and cooperate with them in the investigation of the claim.

There have been numerous court rulings that have demarked when is too late, like the case of Dallas Plaza Hotel.

 The dawdling hoteliers

A U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2016 held that Dallas Plaza Hotel had waited too long to file a claim with its insurer after suffering hail damage in July 2009.

The court ruled that because the hotel had waited more than 19 months to file the claim, it was impossible for the insurer, American Insurance Co., to ascertain exactly when the damage had occurred.

The hotel’s property policy required that the insured make “prompt notice” of any claims.

 Settling matters yourself

The other way to get the claim voided is by doing the following without the insurance company’s consent:

  • Making any voluntary payments
  • Assuming any obligations
  • Incurring any expenses (other than first aid).

In short, the insurance policy bars you from settling the matter on behalf of the insurer and then seeking reimbursement from them.

If you have any questions or would like to speak to a professional advisor, please contact ACBI Insurance at 203-259-7580.

Easy Tips For Locating a Water Leak

 

Most water lines connected to homes are metered to track usage for billing reasons. If a water line has a leak, the monthly usage bill can be very high. For this reason, it is important for homeowners to be vigilant in reviewing their bills. If a bill seems higher, it is time to look for a leak. Water leaks that are significant are usually detected by the utility company, and the utility provider typically notifies the affected customer. Most water leaks start out small and are easy to find with a few simple steps.

Hot Water Tanks
The valves for these tanks are usually connected to a drain that may be leaking without the knowledge of the homeowner. If the drain pipe cannot be removed, listen for a hissing sound that indicates a leak.

Toilets
To find a leak in a toilet, first remove the lid from the tank. Listen for any sounds of water draining or for hissing noises. If these noises are noted, try to locate their source. Some leaks can be fixed and some cannot. When the leak is not possible to fix, call a plumber. If no leaking noises are noted, add a few drops of food coloring to the tank. After about five minutes, check the bowl for coloring. If the water is colored, this indicates a leak in the flapper. It is possible to complete this repair with a kit, but some people may feel more comfortable calling a plumber.

Meter Line
When the toilets have been ruled out for leaks, look at the meter line running to the house. Locating the leak for the plumber will save plenty of money, so this is an important step. Turn the shutoff valve to the off position. Remove the lid on the meter, and watch the meter’s dial. In some cases, grass or dirt may be covering the meter head. When it is located, watch to see if the meter is turning. A turning meter indicates a leak somewhere between the meter and the house. Look for greener grass, muddier ares or soft spots in the yard that may indicate a leak to report to the plumber. Alternately, if the meter is not moving, the leak is somewhere in the house.

Leaks By The House
Put a metal screwdriver on the metal part of each hose bib connected to the house. Place the thumb knuckle over the top of the screwdriver. Touch the area just in front of the ear to the thumb knuckle. This creates an effect similar to a stethoscope. If any sounds are noted, remember what they sound like and where they are. When noises are louder in one hose bib than the other, this means the leak is closer to the bib where the noise is more audible. If no noises are noted on the hose bibs, try the same tip on the faucets in the house. Be careful to avoid scalding when doing this with the hot water heater.

Additional Leak Sources
Check all of the taps, irrigation systems, hoses and sprinklers on the property. Also, check the shower heads for any leaks. This is a step that many people overlook, and repairing a shower head is a simple DIY task. People who have a swimming pool or hot tub should check the unit for leaks.

Not all leaks can be identified by using the tips in this guide. Some leaks can be very hard to locate and will require the attention of a professional plumber. However, homeowners should never ignore leaks. They will only worsen when they are not addressed immediately. Taking the time to complete these steps may pay off for some homeowners, because plumbers will not have to charge as much if the leak’s location has already been pinpointed.

Losing Everything Due to Inadequate Auto Liability Coverage

 

While there are minimum legal requirements for auto coverage, this minimal coverage may not get you off the hook in many cases should you actually be involved in an accident.  The state’s goal is to make the required insurance affordable, but in many cases this results in minimum coverage that is not adequate for most people to drive on the road and meet their true financial obligations. Even limits that are several tiers above the minimum may not be adequate for some drivers, because once those limits are exhausted, any remaining damages must be paid out of pocket.

Bankruptcy is the first thought that comes to the mind of some, but bankruptcy does not come without problems. Bankruptcy will probably hurt or even eliminate your chances of getting credit in the future; even if credit can be obtained, it will cost you a lot more and come with conditions. In addition, many employment backgrounds checks include a credit check. Also, bankruptcy is not always an available option, especially if you have assets or own property. Because the costs and lost opportunities that result from bankruptcy are significant, it’s not an option most people want to or should choose. For that reason, this article discusses your obligations and how to minimize your risk of ever filing for bankruptcy, losing your home, or paying for damages that could be covered by higher liability limits.

Let’s look at an example of how coverage applies. Suppose that you have $100,000 of coverage, your car’s brakes fail, and you rear-end the car in front of you with very high impact, paralyzing the driver. Do you think $100,000 would be sufficient to pay for a lifetime of medical care and lost wages? Would you settle for that amount if you were paralyzed? Chances are most would not. Accidents like this can happen to anyone, and planning in advance can help you to avoid serious trouble and serious financial consequences if an accident should occur.

Once your limits have been paid by the insurance company, it becomes your obligation to pay for any further damages. In the example mentioned in the previous paragraph, if the injured party is justified in asking for $3 million, your insurance company would pay the $100,000 for which you are covered and you would then be expected to pay the remaining $2.9 million. Alternatively, the injured party could take you to court and this could easily cost you hundreds of thousands in legal fees in addition to any judgment granted to the plaintiff.  Filing for bankruptcy would also be an option, or, if you have assets, you would have to pay what you have and possibly lose everything. Your wages also may be garnished to pay any judgment.

In any case, not having adequate liability let alone minimum limits set by the state are not really a solution. Premiums in most cases are not significantly more, and also an umbrella policy available in increments of a million would cover liability for all the cars in your household for one low premium. With such options available, why risk damaging your future with a bankruptcy or, worse yet, losing everything you own because you did not plan in advance to set up coverages that would protect you?  It does not cost you anything to discuss the options with your agent. You may also wish to consult with your attorney or a personal injury attorney who can point out the importance of making sure you properly address your liability limits. For more information, call ACBI at 203-259-7580 or visit our website.

Stay Safe by Keeping Tabs on Hurricanes through Mobile Apps

Technologies may change by leaps and bounds, but the forces of nature remain raw, powerful and – oftentimes – destructive.

While technology may never rival the power of nature, it has proven to be an invaluable tool in helping people protect themselves against the potential damage hurricanes bring. Information is the tool meteorologists and hurricane experts rely on the most – thanks to technological advances such as satellites and radars.

Today, these technologies are simply a touch away from anyone who has a smartphone or tablet – be it an iPhone, iPad, Android device or the newest Windows 8 tablet. Beyond combining several gadgets in one sleek package, these devices can now empower any user with valuable hurricane information – through a growing range of hurricane apps.

As the country faces another hurricane season, it might be wise to add “download hurricane apps” to your hurricane preparedness list.

The Choices before the Storm

What app, you ask? The choices seem to be growing steadily with emerging software developers and increasingly accessible technologies. As with most apps, the basic features of most hurricane apps are similar:

  •  Visual

A picture of a hurricane is definitely worth a thousand words. This is why almost all hurricane apps provide high-resolution images of hurricanes as well as maps tracking their projected paths through satellite and radar.

  •  Informative

Apart from providing warning information such as a hurricane’s estimated time of landfall, wind speeds and duration, many apps include checklists and planning maps, among other preparation tools. One of the top-rated apps by users and the media, Hurricanes by American Red Cross, for example, includes comprehensive details such as step-by-step to-do instructions when cell towers are down and the power is out. This app also goes a step further by including a built-in test that will enable users to find out how ready they are for the hurricane.

  •  Geographical

Do you want information that covers the whole country or prefer tracking hurricanes in a specific area? Hurricane Hound Free by STKI Concepts, for instance, covers the Atlantic and Eastern Pacific basins. It lets users choose the ocean basin they are interested in, one of three graphical themes, and their preferred wind speed units.

  •  Interactive

Many apps easily connect to Facebook, Twitter, email and other social media to let users get in touch with their family and friends, and update them of their current circumstances. WDSU Hurricane Central by HTVMA Solutions, Inc. even lets users share their hurricane photos and videos.

Other considerations that may limit your choices are the apps’ hardware and software requirements. Aside from the performance, speed and graphics quality of your device, an app, such as Hurricane Software by HurricaneSoftware.com, may also require GPS and internet connection to function optimally.

The only way to know which apps suit your needs the most is trying them out yourself. After all, it only takes several minutes to download and install each app – except for some which may also cost you about 99 cents to a few dollars.

These paid apps are often mainly ad-free versions of the free apps, or include some value-added functions. For example, SeaStorm by Poignant Projects, which can be downloaded for $1.99, packs more punch with an optional forecast model viewer add-on. It has an interactive map complete with panning, zooming and individual model point information, as well as selectable models, start time and run length.

Before you decide on keeping all apps that you have tried, ask yourself: What good will 10 great apps do you when they drain your device’s battery and memory faster than a hurricane’s maximum sustained wind?

Rate your apps based on your own criteria and choose the top two or three apps to keep – and update regularly.

Covering All Bases

Remember that preparing for a hurricane means also preparing for possible flooding, storm surge, high winds and tornadoes.

Downloading an app is one step out of many. You may also install other disaster preparedness apps to complement your hurricane app, but make sure that you cover all bases by planning several strategies for different scenarios.

For long-term protection, ensure that your family, as well as homes, businesses and other properties, are covered by adequate insurance. Most homeowners’ insurance policies, for instance, do not cover flooding. Review your existing policies – and update or upgrade if necessary.

After the Hurricane

How did your apps help you before, during and after the hurricane? Find time to leave ratings, comments and suggestions on the apps’ download page. Apart from informing potential app users of your actual experience, your feedback will also help software developers improve the apps – and possibly save lives and properties.

What The Weather Experts Are Doing To Prepare For A Worsening Hurricane Season

 Are you properly protected?  Call ACBI at 203-259-7580 or visit our website

Weather experts predicted a very early and active hurricane season for 2013. The hurricane season lasts for six months and starts on the first day of June. Experts said the chance of having up to 20 storms during those months was about 70 percent. Of these storms, they predicted that up to 11 could become hurricanes, which means the wind gusts would be higher than 74 mph. They also predicted that as many as six of these storms could be major hurricanes. To be considered a major hurricane, a storm must have wind gusts higher than 111 mph. The seasonal average at the time of their prediction was three major hurricanes, six hurricanes and 12 storms.

After several devastating hurricanes hitting the United States during the past decade, many people become increasingly nervous when hurricane season arrives each year. Experts are committed to forecasting these storms as soon as possible to save more lives and minimize damages. It is important for concerned citizens to remember that tropical storms and hurricanes are not exclusive to the coastal areas. As these storms move inland, they bring heavy rainfall, flooding, strong winds and even tornadoes with them.

There are three climate factors affecting how hurricanes form in the Atlantic. These include the following:

– Water temperatures that are warmer than average in the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean.

– Continual atmospheric climate patterns that are part of African monsoons.

– No expected development of El Niño to suppress the formation of hurricanes.

Experts say oceanic and atmospheric conditions in the basin of the Atlantic will create stronger hurricanes in larger numbers. These include wind patterns from Africa, warmer water in the Atlantic Ocean and weaker wind shear. Experts are working on ways to improve their storm tracking abilities.

One of the new developments introduced in early 2013 was an improved forecast model. The National Hurricane Center’s communicating procedures and data gathering techniques were also improved. Experts have plans to add a supercomputer that is capable of running upgraded research to depict the structures of storms and forecast their intensity more precisely.

Additional improvements include a Doppler radar that will provide real-time transmissions to aircraft. This will make it easier for forecasters to analyze storms that are moving or developing rapidly. It will help them improve their model forecasts by up to 15 percent. The National Weather Service also made some changes to keep warnings in effect or to be reissued for stronger storms that are changing. The flexibility allows them to provide a continuous stream of warning information to the public.

Passenger Car Drivers More Likely to Die in Crashes With SUVs Regardless of Safety Ratings

Most consumers who are shopping for a new car depend on good crash safety ratings as an indicator of how well the car will perform in a crash. But a new University at Buffalo study of crashes involving cars and sport utility vehicles (SUVs) has found those crash ratings are a lot less relevant than vehicle type.

The study is being presented May 16 at the annual meeting of the Society of Academic Emergency Medicine in Atlanta.

In head-on collisions between passenger cars and SUVs, the UB researchers found that drivers in passenger cars were nearly 10 times more likely to die if the SUV involved had a better crash rating. Drivers of passenger cars were more than four times more likely to die even if the passenger car had a better crash rating than the SUV.

“When two vehicles are involved in a crash, the overwhelming majority of fatalities occur in the smaller and lighter of the two vehicles,” says Dietrich Jehle, MD, UB professor of emergency medicine at Erie County Medical Center and first author.

“But even when the two vehicles are of similar weights, outcomes are still better in the SUVs,” he says, “because in frontal crashes, SUVs tend to ride over shorter passenger vehicles, due to bumper mismatch, crushing the occupant of the passenger car.”

When crash ratings were not considered, the odds of death for drivers in passenger cars were more than seven times higher than SUV drivers in all head-on crashes. In crashes involving two passenger cars, a lower car safety rating was associated with a 1.28 times higher risk of death for the driver and a driver was 1.22 times more likely to die in a head-on crash for each point lower in the crash rating.

The UB researchers conducted the retrospective study on severe head-on motor vehicle crashes in the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) database between 1995 and 2010. The database includes all motor vehicle crashes that resulted in a death within 30 days and includes 83,521 vehicles involved in head-on crashes.

“Along with price and fuel efficiency, car safety ratings are one of the things that consumers rely on when shopping for an automobile,” says Jehle. These ratings, from one to five stars, are based on data from frontal, side barrier and side pole crashes that compare vehicles of similar type, size and weight. The one to five star safety rating system was created in 1978 by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Jehle notes that after manufacturers addressed the roll-over problem with SUVs that plagued these vehicles in the 1980s and 1990s, rollover crashes are now much less common in SUVs.

“Currently, the larger SUVs are some of the safest cars on the roadways with fewer rollovers and outstanding outcomes in frontal crashes with passenger vehicles,” he says.

Jehle says that prior studies on frontal crashes have found that compared to passenger cars with a 5-star crash rating, cars with a rating from one to four stars have a 7-36% increase in driver death rates.

“Passenger vehicles with excellent safety ratings may provide a false degree of confidence to the buyer regarding the relative safety of these vehicles as demonstrated by our findings,” says Jehle. “Consumers should take into consideration the increased safety of SUVs in head-on crashes with passenger vehicles when purchasing a car.”

Co-authors with Jehle, all from UB, are: Albert Arslan and Chirag Doshi, MD candidates in the School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences; Joseph Consiglio, data manager/statistician for the UB Department of Emergency Medicine and a graduate student in the Department of Biostatistics in the School of Public Health and Health Professions; Juliana Wilson DO, a post-doctoral scholar in the Department of Emergency Medicine and Christine DeSanno DO, a resident in the UB Department of Emergency Medicine.

 Source: University of Buffalo, Shared via Claims Journal, by Denise Johnson

5 Myths About Home Fire Sprinklers

The Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) is helping to dispel five common myths about fire sprinklers, and highlighting the benefits of home sprinklers to kickoff Fire Safety and Awareness Week (May 6-12), which is part of National Building Safety Month in May.

5 MYTHS ABOUT HOME FIRE SPRINKLERS

1. When one sprinkler goes off, all the sprinklers activate.

The sprinkler heads react to temperatures in each room individually, allowing only the sprinkler closest to the fire to activate. In fact, 90 percent of fires are contained by the operation of just one sprinkler.

2. A sprinkler could accidentally go off, causing severe water damage to a home.

Records show that the likelihood of this occurring is very remote. In addition, residential fire sprinklers are designed and tested to minimize such accidents.

3. Water damage from a sprinkler system will be more extensive than fire damage.

The sprinkler system will limit a fire’s growth. Therefore, damage from a residential sprinkler system will be much less severe than the smoke and fire damage if the fire had continued unabated, or the water damage caused by firefighting hose lines.

4. Home sprinkler systems are expensive.

The cost of installing home fire sprinklers averages $1.61 per square foot for new construction, according to the Home Fire Sprinkler Cost Assessment report produced by the Fire Protection Research Foundation. To put the cost of a sprinkler system into perspective, that is roughly the same amount people pay for carpet upgrades, a paver stone driveway or a whirlpool bath – none of which save lives.

5. Requiring residential fire sprinklers will inhibit new home construction.

A 2009 study conducted on behalf of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) compared residential home construction in four counties in Maryland and Virginia – two with sprinkler mandates and two without. The study concluded the presence of sprinkler mandates did not have a negative effect on the number of homes being built.

Benefits of Fire Sprinklers

A residential fire occurs every 87 seconds, according to the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA), with half of all home fire deaths occurring between 11:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m., according to the NFPA.

Residential fire sprinklers can contain a fire and may even extinguish it before firefighters arrive, according to the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition. This provides valuable extra time to get everyone out of the house. Sprinklers reduce civilian fire deaths by an estimated 83 percent; reduce direct property damage by more than two-thirds per fire; and are responsible for an estimated 65 percent reduction in firefighter injuries, according to the NFPA.

The District of Columbia adopted a fire sprinkler installation building code requirement for all residences built after Jan.1, 2011. The result – fire deaths declined in the District from 33.4 in 2009 to 8 in 2011 and 2012 combined. In Maryland, State Fire Marshal Steven Barnard cited the state’s fire sprinkler requirement in newly built, multi-family dwellings as a significant factor in the 22 percent drop in fire-related deaths in the state in 2012.

“There is no disputing the fact that residential fire sprinklers can save lives and prevent significant property damage,” said Julie Rochman, IBHS president and CEO. “To that end, IBHS urges state lawmakers to protect the lives, safety and welfare of their constituents by adopting a residential fire sprinklers requirement for all new homes in their state building code.”

Source: IBHS at DisasterSafety.org

Home Insurance Claimants Who Use Agents Happier Than Those Who Don’t

One of many reasons to use an Independent Agent for your insurance needs.  Please visit our website or call ACBI at 203-259-7580 to see how we can assist you.

Satisfaction among home insurance claimants who file through agents is 50 points higher than it is for those who file claims directly. However, the percentage of customers filing through direct channels continues to increase.

That is according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2013 Property Claims Satisfaction Study, which also found that overall homeowners  insurers continue to get high marks for claims handling even as they have faced two of the heaviest years-—2011 and 2012 — for claims. Overall satisfaction in the 2013 study is 832 (on a 1,000-point scale), significantly increasing from 823 in 2011 and 818 in 2010.

In a separate study last September, J.D. Powers said customer satisfaction was at a record high.

For the approximately eight percent of homeowners in the U.S. filing a property claim this year, the average settlement amount is $8,517, up from $7,937 in 2012. While the amount of the settlement to cover contents increases by nearly $250 year over year, the amount to cover the cost of repairs increases to $7,844 in 2013 from $7,151 in 2012. The average out-of-pocket expenses paid by homeowners nearly doubles to $3,888 in 2013 from $1,945 in 2012.

The most frequent reasons for filing a claim are tornado/hurricane (33%); hail (22%); and water damage not caused by weather (14%).

The study, now in its sixth year, measures satisfaction with the property claims experience among insurance customers who filed a claim for damages covered under their homeowners’ policy by examining five factors: settlement; first notice of loss; estimation process; service interaction; and repair process.

“Despite increases in both the frequency and average severity of property damage in the U.S. during the past two years, the fact that customer satisfaction remains high is a testament to how diligently the personal insurance industry has responded to its customers,” said Jeremy Bowler, senior director of the insurance practice at J.D. Power and Associates.

While overall satisfaction remains relatively stable year over year, satisfaction with the service interaction process declines by nine points in 2013, compared with 2012. Much of that drop in satisfaction likely is due to the continuing trend of homeowners filing their claim via direct channels—typically online or by calling a call center—rather than through an agent., according to researchers.

The study finds that 68 percent of customers file their recent homeowners claim through direct channels, a significant increase from 57 percent in 2012. Satisfaction is 50 points higher among customers who file a claim through their agent, than among those who file a claim through direct channels.

“For the industry average, the call center experience fails to deliver the same level of service as an agent,” said Bowler. “Especially during times of hardship when someone’s house has been destroyed or their valuable possessions have been lost, it’s difficult for a call center representative to replicate the personal relationship customers get with an agent. However, a select few direct insurance companies buck this trend, achieving call center service scores that compete favorably with the best agency writers.”

Among customers surveyed for the 2013 study, 72 percent who filed with an agent say their agent helped put them at ease, while just 56 percent who filed direct say their call center representative did the same.

Reprinted from InsuranceJournal.com

Top 10 Driving Distractions Involved in Fatal Car Crashes

Of the more than 65,000 people killed in car crashes over the past two years, one in 10 were in crashes where at least one of the drivers was distracted. That’s according to police report data analyzed by Erie Insurance in the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), a nationwide census of fatal motor vehicle traffic crashes maintained by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Erie Insurance consulted with the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety in its analysis.

Erie-Insurance-Distracted-Driving-Infographic-725x1024

“Distracted driving is any activity that takes your eyes off the road, your hands off the wheel, or your mind off your primary task of driving safely,” said Doug Smith, senior vice president of personal lines at Erie Insurance. “We looked at what law enforcement officers across the country reported when they filled out reports on fatal crashes and the results were disturbing. We hope the data will encourage people to avoid these high-risk behaviors that needlessly increase their risk of being involved in a fatal crash.”

The analysis, which looked at data from 2010 and 2011, showed police listed the majority of drivers who were distracted as “generally distracted” or “lost in thought.” Police also listed several more specific types of distractions.

Below are the top 10 distractions involved in fatal car crashes:

Rank Distraction Type Percentage of
Distracted Drivers
1 Generally distracted or “lost in thought” (daydreaming) 62%
2 Cell phone use (talking, listening, dialing, texting) 12%
3 Outside person, object or event, such as rubbernecking 7%
4 Other occupants (talking with or looking at other people in car) 5%
5 Using or reaching for device brought into vehicle, such as navigational device, headphones 2%
6 Eating or drinking 2%
7 Adjusting audio or climate controls 2%
8 Using other device/controls integral to vehicle, such as adjusting rear view mirrors, seats, or using OEM navigation system 1%
9 Moving object in vehicle, such as pet or insect 1%
10 Smoking related (includes smoking, lighting up, putting ashes in ashtray) 1%

Smith added that because FARS data on distraction is based largely on police officers’ judgment at the time of the crash, and because some people may be reluctant to admit they were distracted when being interviewed by police after a fatal car crash, the numbers are difficult to verify and may, in fact, under-represent the seriousness and prevalence of driving distractions.

The data is meaningful, however, because unlike surveys in which consumers self-report the types of distracted behaviors they engage in, the FARS data is based on actual police reports on fatal crashes.