The Future of Insurance with Smart Cars

With more cars connected to the web, helping us navigate, talking to other cars as we zoom down the road and sometimes even driving for us, it won’t be long until our autos can also make an insurance claim for us after an accident.

Consider that more cars are being built with sensors and technology that allows them to communicate with external parties. It’s not hard to imagine that the car could communicate immediately with emergency services and your insurance company if there is an impact.

The emergency authorities could be notified in real time with detailed information about the condition of the vehicle and the location of the accident.

Insurers are currently teaming up with tech firms and are developing programs that would prompt your vehicle to report immediately to your insurance company’s data center if it’s been in an accident, which could start the claim. These programs could also:

  • Arrange for immediate roadside assistance.
  • Arrange for a replacement vehicle or rental.
  • Provide a data-rich first notice of loss to your insurance company.
  • Assess the vehicle damage using onboard sensors and using predictive analytics to determine the cost of repairs.
  • Create predictive estimates and parts requirements lists, and then send that information to dealers or parts procurement companies.
  • Identify which shop is best positioned to repair the vehicle, based on shop scorecards and availability.
  • Keep you informed of what is happening at all times, via mobile communications.

 

Right now, all of the technological parts of this puzzle are in place, and insurers are working with tech companies on apps to make it happen.

Pioneering partnerships

Insurance companies are also currently working to create partnerships with auto manufacturers to make all this a reality.

The most notable of these partnerships involves General Motor’s OnStar system, with the auto giant having secured relationships with about a half dozen auto insurance companies already in the US.

In Europe, BMW and Allianz have a similar partnership.

The evolution is ongoing, but in the next few years, as cars become smarter, it won’t be long until we see the next stage in development for car insurance that will make your life easier and also give you an added sense of security.

Top 8 Reasons Why Homes Catch Fire and How to Prevent Them

Fires are the most common claim for homeowners and they can start in a variety of ways.

The causes of these fires range from food left unattended on the stove to candles left burning. A majority of these fires are preventable with some forethought and care to minimize the risks.

Here are the eight most common causes of house fires as identified by the National Fire Protection Association.

  1. Candles

The NFPA says more than half of all candle fires start because of candles that were left too close to flammable items. They should always be kept at least 12 inches away from anything that can burn.

Remember:

  • Never leave a candle burning near flammable items.
  • Never leave a candle burning in an unoccupied room.
  • Candles should fit securely into holders so they won’t tip over.
  • Blow out any candles before leaving a room or going to sleep.

 

  1. Smoking

There are some 17,600 smoking-related fires a year, resulting in 490 deaths and more than $516 million in property damage.

Remember:

  • If you smoke, consider doing so outside.
  • Use wide, sturdy ashtrays to catch butts and ashes.
  • Look for cigarette butts under furniture and between seat cushions to make sure no lit butts have fallen where they can’t be seen.
  • Don’t smoke in bed or on your sofa.

 

  1. Electrical and lighting

Electrical fires can be caused by an equipment malfunction, from an overloaded circuit or extension cord, or from an overheated light bulb, space heater, dryer or other appliance.

Remember:

  • Don’t overload outlets or electrical cords.
  • Don’t leave Christmas lights or halogen lights on overnight or when not at home.
  • Have an electrician perform an annual checkup of your wiring.

 

  1. Dryers and washing machines

The most frequent causes of fires in dryers are lint/dust (29%) and clothing (28%). In washers, they are wire or cable insulation (26%), the appliance housing (21%) or the drive belt (15%).

  • Remember:
  • Clean the lint screen often and don’t run the dryer without it.
  • For gas and propane dryers, make sure there aren’t any leaks in the lines.
  • Vent the dryer to the outside of the house and ensure nothing blocks the vent pipe.
  • Keep the area around the dryer free of combustible materials.

 

  1. Lightning

NFPA says an average of 22,600 fires per year are caused by lightning strikes.

During lightning storms, remember:

  • Do not use computers, TVs or other electrical equipment.
  • Unplug major electronics to minimize damage.

 

  1. Children playing with fire

The NFPA says that children start an average of 7,100 home fires per year, causing about $172 million in property damage.

Remember:

  • Keep matches and lighters out of the reach of children.
  • Teach children fire safety at an early age.
  • Make sure children have adequate supervision.

 

  1. Christmas trees

The NFPA says an average of 230 fires are attributed to Christmas trees each year and they are more likely to be serious because of the factors that can contribute to the fire: a dry tree, electrical lights and a fuel supply (gifts) under the tree.

Remember:

  • Keep trees watered and dispose of them before they are dry.
  • Turn off tree lights before leaving the house or going to bed.
  • Check lights for any shorts or other electrical issues before putting them on the tree.

 

  1. Cooking

Two-thirds of cooking fires start because the food or other materials catch fire. Fires are more likely to start on a range (57%) as compared to in the oven (16%), mainly due to frying. Most injuries occur when the cook tries to put out the fire.

Remember:

  • Be alert when cooking and don’t leave food unattended.
  • Don’t throw water on a grease fire; put a lid on the pan to smother the fire.
  • If an oven fire flares up, turn off the oven and leave the door shut until the fire goes out on its own.
  • Keep clothing, pot holders, paper towels and other flammable items away from the stove.
  • Have working smoke detectors in the house. Keep a fire extinguisher nearby, just in case.

Dog Owners Liable When Their Pets Bite

There were over 90 million dogs residing in people’s homes across the United States in 2018, according to the American Pet Products Association.

Unfortunately, there are more than 5 million dog bites reported each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Of that amount, almost 900,000 require medical care, and about 50% of those cases involve children.

While insurers will cover most dogs, some will not insure a long list of specific breeds. Dobermans and pit bulls are on many of the exclusion lists. Some insurers do not discriminate by breed and instead determine a dog’s status by individual evaluation.

If their pets bite guests or people who come on their property, owners are almost always liable for the damages. A dog does not have to be on a list of vicious breeds to make an owner liable.

If an owner knew of a dog’s tendency to bite and it can be proven through records of similar incidents, the owner may be sued for negligence and the damages are likely to be higher than if the bite was unexpected and the dog had not shown aggressiveness to humans in the past.

That said, the owner may not liable if the dog did not have a known propensity to bite and was not considered a vicious breed. For example, a mellow basset hound biting a person for the first time may not result in responsibility by the owner. However, a pit bull biting a person for the first time would likely result in the owner being held liable.

In some states, insurers are not allowed to deny coverage to people with certain breeds of dogs, and they are not allowed to cancel policies if people obtain questionable breeds. However, dog owners are required to buy additional liability insurance in some states if they own certain breeds of dogs.

There are three types of laws that put liability on dog owners:

  • A bite statute places automatic liability on the owner for any injuries.
  • A one-bite rule places liability on the owner only if they knew of the dog’s propensity to bite.
  • Negligence laws place liability on an owner if the owner is careless in controlling the animal.

Impact of dog bites

In 2018, dog bite claims accounted for about 35% of all liability claims among homeowners. The total amount paid by insurers in claims was over $600 million.

The average cost in the US in 2018 for claims of this type was more than $39,000. Costs have risen steadily over the past few years, which is mostly due to the rising costs of medical care and the larger settlement awards for lawsuits.

Not all claim amounts are attributable only to dog bites. In addition to biting people, dogs also knock down children and elderly individuals, which results in additional injuries. They also knock cyclists off of their bikes and cause damage to both the cyclists and their bikes. Other factors also increase the severity of some incidents and lead to higher claim amounts.

What you can do

Dog owners can help reduce the number of claims made by being responsible. Keep pets in crates or in a locked room when guests visit or when service workers come to the house.

For outdoor pets, provide sturdy fencing and a locked gate. Always display signs that alert people of the dog’s presence. If there is no fence around the yard, keep the dog on a leash when taking it outdoors.

To be safe, do not let strangers pet your dog. One incident can be costly, and may even result in the animal being put to sleep in some places.

To learn more about preventing costly dog bites, call us.

Will Your Policy Cover Neighbor’s Lawsuit?

Not all of your neighbors are neighborly and sometimes disagreements can arise, from your barking dog to perhaps painting your home a color that’s not pleasing to some others living on your block.

And while you may be able to settle most of these issues through discussions and action, sometimes those complaints can escalate to lawsuits. Before this happens, it is important to know what types of provisions a homeowner’s policy offers for legal issues.

Homeowner’s insurance is really a package of protections. It covers damage to your own property, and it covers your liability, meaning legal responsibility, for injuries to others and damage to the property of others for which you become legally responsible. To an extent and under specified circumstances, the insurance provides coverage that applies to civil lawsuits.

Most individuals think that a homeowner’s policy will cover most lawsuits that are filed against them. But that’s not true.

Say for example, you tear down the fence and replace it with one with higher boards and colors not approved under the subdivision’s code. If the subdivision has rules about the permissible colors and acceptable maximum height of fences, it will try to get the new homeowner to comply.

Homeowners who refuse might find themselves facing a lawsuit for violating the code. The courts will likely favor the subdivision’s rules, and a homeowner’s policy will not provide coverage for defending against the lawsuit. Therefore, it is important to understand exactly what legal issues are covered under the policy.

That’s why if neighbors sue you for erecting eyesores in your front yard or making excessive noise, you will typically not be covered as the alleged issues do not physically harm other people or physically damage their property.

 

So what’s covered?

Under the personal liability portion of the standard homeowner’s policy, the insurance company will typically cover you and your family members against lawsuits in cases when you are sued for causing some physical damage, such as if your dog bites a neighbor or a guest falls on your porch steps due to faulty railing.

Personal Liability Insurance (Coverage E) is the section of a standard home insurance policy that protects you or covered family members against lawsuits. This type of insurance coverage would protect you in various situations where a suit is presented.

Standard home insurance policies will typically include a minimum of $100,000 for each liability claim occurrence. Some common exclusions of this policy include lawsuits involving the transmission of a communicable disease; mental, physical or sexual abuse; or anything involving the sale, manufacture or distribution of a controlled substance.

Some homeowners choose to take out an extension of this liability coverage if they feel they need to further protect themselves against liability lawsuits. One common reason for taking out such an extension would be if your home includes a swimming pool.

Another type of liability coverage is personal injury liability or an umbrella liability policy which protects the insured against lawsuits involving:

  • libel,
  • slander,
  • defamation of character,
  • false arrest,
  • detention,
  • imprisonment or malicious prosecution,
  • invasion of privacy
  • wrongful eviction, or
  • wrongful entry.

 

This policy can also cover liability protection for auto accidents with the minimum underlying auto limits. (Be sure to talk to your agent about this.)

 

Injuries covered too

The standard policy also includes another liability, portion medical payment coverage, which is also known as MedPay. This section will cover medical costs in the event that someone is injured on your property and does not want to sue you.

MedPay would cover injuries sustained on your property when a lawsuit is not present, such as the following examples:

  • A neighbor falls on your steps, hurts her back and does not want to sue.
  • A neighborhood child falls on your driveway, sprains his ankle and his family does not want to sue.
  • Your dog bites a friend, who does not want to sue.

 

Typical MedPay coverage will be $1,000 per injured person. Some homeowners choose to take out an extension of this coverage if they feel they need extra protection.

MedPay does not cover injuries sustained:

  • Due to the transmission of a communicable disease.
  • Because of physical/mental/sexual abuse.
  • Resulting from the sale, manufacture or distribution of a controlled substance.

Scammers Swoop in for Your COVID-19 Economic Impact Checks

As with any time of crisis, vultures swoop to take advantage of unsuspecting consumers ― and now they’re targeting people with fake COVID-19 messaging purporting to be from the IRS. Don’t be fooled, these are attempts to defraud you and even steal your identity.

The IRS says scammers are making calls, sending e-mails and text messages to taxpayers stating that they can receive their coronavirus outbreak impact payment or tax refund early by responding. The agency warns that if you receive a phone call, e-mail or text asking you for personal information so you can receive funds, you should not comply. The IRS will not reach out to you in that way.

Taxpayers should watch not only for e-mails but text messages, websites and social media attempts that request money or personal information.

 

Impact payment phishing attempts

The IRS and its Criminal Investigation Division have seen a wave of new and evolving phishing schemes related to the $1,200 economic impact payments that the government is paying to taxpayers starting in April. Many of these attempts are directed at retirees.

People that have signed up for direct deposit for their tax refunds in the past will have the funds directly deposited into their accounts. Those that haven’t, can go to the IRS website from April 17 onwards to provide their banking information online on a newly designed secure IRS portal.

The IRS will mail checks to the address on file for people who do not sign up for direct deposit.

Seniors should be especially wary as scammers will often target them during crises. The IRS says retirees who don’t normally have a requirement to file a tax return do not have to take any action to receive their economic impact payment. It stresses that IRS personnel will not be trying to contact them by phone, e-mail, mail or in person to elicit information that can be used to complete the form on the economic impact payment portal.

The IRS is sending these $1,200 payments automatically to retirees, and they do not need to provide any information to receive them.

 

Scammer techniques

The IRS informs taxpayers that scammers may:

  • Emphasize the words “Stimulus Check” or “Stimulus Payment.” The official term is economic impact payment.
  • Ask the taxpayer to sign over their economic impact payment check to them.
  • Ask by phone, e-mail, text or social media for verification of personal and/or banking information, saying that the information is needed to receive or speed up their impact payment.
  • Suggest that they can get a tax refund or economic impact payment faster by working on the taxpayer’s behalf. This scam could be conducted by social media, or even in person.
  • Mail the taxpayer a bogus check, perhaps in an odd amount, then tell them to call a number or verify information online in order to cash it.

 

Take action

If you receive unsolicited e-mails, text messages or social media attempts to gather information that appear to be from either the IRS or an organization closely linked to the IRS, you can help shut the scammers down by forwarding the information to phishing@irs.gov.

Also, if someone calls and asks for your information for the payments, the IRS recommends that you not engage with them in any way and just hang up.

For official IRS details on the COVID-19 pandemic and economic impact payments, you can visit the Coronavirus Tax Relief page on the IRS website.

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.

Have a Prized Collection? It May Not Be Properly Insured

If you’re like most collectors, you’ve put time, money and effort into your endeavor, be that stamps, baseball cards, jewelry, fine art, wine or other collectibles. Your collection is probably valuable to you financially, and some pieces may also hold a sentimental value.

However, if the collection is destroyed or damaged, there is a strong likelihood that your homeowner’s insurance policy won’t cover the loss. Consider the following ways a collection can be damaged or lost:

  • Breakage – Damage caused by dropping an item.
  • Mechanical breakdown – Spoilage (like wine) due to climate-control system failure.
  • Break-up of drain or sewer – A collection may be destroyed if you have a drain or sewer failure, and especially if you keep your collection in the basement or cellar.
  • Natural disaster – A collection is fully or partially destroyed in an earthquake, flood or other weather-related event.
  • Diminished value – Due to cosmetic or water damage to the item.

Obviously, you don’t want to put your hard-earned collection at risk. Consider a collections policy to protect your valuables properly. This is a specially designed insurance policy for people who want to protect their valued collectibles.

 

Value of having a collections policy

Unfortunately, most people don’t realize their homeowner’s insurance does not offer adequate protection to their collectibles, For example, did you know that the standard homeowner’s policy will cover only up to $500 worth of jewelry? Remember, your deductible is probably more than that also.

Instead, you can get a collections policy, which can be tailored to a few items in your collection or for blanket coverage of an entire collection.

 

Features of a collections policy

  • No deductible
  • 50% more coverage is available at the time of a loss, if the item is worth more than the value scheduled
  • Mysterious disappearances are covered
  • Worldwide coverage is included
  • Coverage during shipping
  • Covers theft both inside and outside your home.

 

Depending on the insurance company, you have the option to include the following:

  • Blanket coverage of a collection up to $10,000 per item, with the option to raise it to $100,000 in some instances.
  • Insuring the true value of items within your collection.
  • Inflation protection at the time of loss if the value of an item has increased over time.
  • Coverage for new purchases and for items on loan for up to 90 days.
  • Discounts for collectibles kept in a safety deposit box, safe or other secure place.

 

One of the keys to ensuring prompt and full payment should you suffer damage, loss or theft is to document your investments. Do this by:

  • Keeping all original documents, including purchase receipts, auction catalog or private seller information.
  • Keeping photos and detailed descriptions of items, including those with unique marks and vintage or production year.
  • Maintaining an updated inventory list, including descriptions, counts and storage locations.
  • Getting routine, professional appraisals of your collection and keeping a running record of appraised values.

 

The takeaway

By not properly insuring your collectibles, you’re unnecessarily exposing yourself if any of those valuable items are damaged or destroyed. You can call us to discuss options for how to best cover your collection.

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

Will Your Homeowner’s Policy Cover a Mold Infestation?

Mold is a perennial problem for homeowners and, if left untreated, can cause health problems for members of your family.

People exposed to mold on a daily basis can have a number of reactions, including:

  • Asthma
  • Eye irritation
  • Itchy skin
  • Sneezing and runny nose
  • Coughing and sore throat.

 

While these symptoms can be signs of other health issues, if you have a mold infestation they would likely be more pronounced in evenings and mornings and on weekends, when are you are more likely to be spending time at home.

If mold is left untreated, affected areas also need to be scrubbed and it can affect the value of your home if you plan to sell it at some point.

But there are steps you can take to reduce the chance of mold building up in your home. And if you do have mold, your insurer may cover cleanup unless you haven’t been diligent about upkeep.

 

When insurance covers mold remediation

Your insurer will provide coverage if the source of the mold is a peril already covered in your homeowners’ policy, such as water damage.

Some examples of when coverage would kick in:

  • Your water heater breaks and the water leaks out. The moisture eventually allows black mold to flourish on the walls near the unit.
  • You have a fire in your kitchen and firefighters extinguish it with water. A few months later, mold starts growing.
  • Your washing machine breaks and floods the laundry room. Even though you clean it up and replace the machine, moisture persists behind the baseboards and mold begins to grow.

 

Mold is not covered if you’ve failed to maintain your home or neglected to fix issues like a leaky shower or faucet for years – or if a non-covered event like flooding hits your home.

The average cost of remediating mold damage runs between $15,000 and $30,000, according to the Insurance Information Institute. Some policies will limit what they pay, so make sure to read the fine print of yours to see how much coverage you have.

If you suffer water damage from a burst pipe or other mishap, make sure to keep records and photographs of all damaged areas so you have proof if you need to file a mold claim later.

If you do discover mold, take the following steps:

  • Call us or your insurance company. The insurer will send out an adjuster to assess the damage and make an estimate of the cost to repair the damage.
  • Since mold thrives in wet and or moist conditions, open a window or run a dehumidifier or fan in the room to dry it out as much as possible. This can slow the growth of mold.
  • Don’t clean any of the mold off the walls.
  • Take pictures of all damaged areas and any property or furniture that has been damaged by the mold. If you had a prior leak that ended up causing the mold growth, hopefully you took photos and documented the damage, which you can use to support your claim.
  • If you had a prior event like a burst pipe, use your records to support the argument that the mold is related to your initial water damage claim and that the two events are therefore part of the same claim. That way you won’t be subject to having to pay a deductible on two claims, when they should be treated as one.

 

Prevention

The key to avoiding mold in the first place is prevention and basic upkeep. That means fixing any leaks immediately when you notice them.  And if you live in a humid area, you can install dehumidifiers in your home or regularly run your air conditioners during the most humid times.

Other steps you can take:

  • Install exhaust fans in kitchens and bathrooms.
  • Avoid installing carpets in damp areas like basements or bathrooms.
  • Don’t allow water to accumulate under house plants.
  • Regularly clean out your gutters.

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

Are You an Airbnb Host? Make Sure You’re Covered

If you have been considering becoming an Airbnb host to generate some extra income and make use of that extra room that you never use, you’ll want to make sure that you are covered in case of injury to one of your guests.

You may also be concerned about theft by a guest or any damage they may cause in your abode, none of which you’d want to pay for out of pocket. 

Hosts are covered by an Airbnb policy, but it’s not comprehensive and those gaps could leave you exposed to a claim or lawsuit if the loss to the guest is severe enough.

 

Airbnb’s insurance plan

Airbnb carries something called Host Protection Insurance, which all hosts are covered with at no charge. The plan will cover up to $1 million of liability for you and your landlord (if you have one) against property and physical damage claims by third parties.

For example, if one of your guests falls down the stairs because of an obstruction and they file a lawsuit against you, the insurance could cover the cost of defending and also paying out an award.

Similarly, if one of your guests injures another guest or a tenant in the apartment building you live in, Airbnb’s insurance would also cover that.

And if your puppy gets into the guest’s room and devours a $200 pair of shoes and some $300 headphones, Airbnb’s policy would also kick in.

What’s not covered by Airbnb

•          Damage to personal property like furniture, stereo equipment, your prized china set, etc.

•          Theft of your valuables.

•          Sickened guest due to issues at the property, like mold.

•          Slander and defamation. Both can be grounds for a lawsuit and if a guest sues a host for either one, the host will not be able to file a claim through Airbnb.

•          Harm caused by intentional criminal acts. This is actually excluded on any insurance policy, even homeowner’s or renter’s coverage.

 

Do you have a coverage gap?

Fortunately, most homeowner’s and renter’s insurance policies will cover your personal property if it’s damaged or stolen by an Airbnb guest.

While most people who own a home will have homeowner’s insurance as the lender requires it, the majority of renters do not purchase renter’s insurance, which they should, particularly if they are an Airbnb host. It will provide the extra security you need in case a guest sues you for something the Host Protection Insurance won’t cover.

Here are some other tips:

•          Keep the insurer updated. If something happens when a renter is visiting and the insurer does not know that the home is being rented out, there could be major issues with coverage. Insurers want and need to know about the home, who is living in it, or if how it is being used changes.

•          The insurer may deny coverage by citing business use of a home. When a home is rented out frequently, it could be considered a business. A home insurance policy does not cover regular business activities taking place in the home. Talk to an agent to discuss renting basics, renting frequency and what will happen if a guest is injured based on a current policy.

•          Consider landlord coverage. If you are frequently renting out your place, then you definitely may have a problem if you need to file a claim. Often, landlord insurance would cover most of the issues that would arise as an Airbnb host.

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

 

Interactive Dashboards, the Newest Source of Distracted Driving

Safety experts are raising concerns about the latest evolving distraction in cars: the interactive dashboard.

You already know that fiddling with your smartphone while driving is illegal, highly dangerous and can lead to a serious accident or death. These evolving displays, however, can be just as distracting, leading to the same dangers.

The interactive screens are highly popular and carmakers will continue rolling them out to boost revenue and attract buyers. Auto manufacturers say these dashboards will make driving safer because the voice controls and large touch screens will keep drivers from fumbling for their phones.

But David Strayer, a professor of cognition and neural science at the University of Utah who has authored a number of studies on distracted driving, disagrees. He says that interactive dashboards “are enabling activities that take your eyes off the road for longer than most safety advocates would say is safe.”

His research shows that reading the average text message, which can be done on many new interactive car screens, takes about four seconds, enough time to distract a driver from what’s happening on the road.

And as technology continues evolving, so do the dangers. There are systems on the market that:

•          Allow drivers to sync their phones and check for mentions of them on Twitter – and to even push those tweets to the dashboard.

•          Alert the driver when text messages arrive and they can press a button to hear the message read aloud.

•          Allow the driver to upload a photo taken on a smartphone and request mapping to the place the picture was taken.

•          Allow the driver to sync their smartphone and get a scaled-down version of the phone on the display.

•          Don’t rely on syncing with smartphones, and instead mimic what phones can do, like checking for nearby attractions while on the move.

 

Few governing laws

The laws on dashboard displays are spotty and only a few states have statutes that forbid the use of videos on the dashboard display that are not used for navigation – like cameras for reversing the vehicle.

Meanwhile, federal motor vehicle standards only require that screen brightness be adjustable.

 

What you should do

While there are few laws in place governing the use of these systems, you should use common sense and use them as you would legally use your phone.

If you have a vehicle with an interactive screen, use it sparingly and avoid interaction while the car is on the move.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends the following to reduce distraction in cars with interactive dashboards:

•          Don’t use functions that include photographs or moving images unrelated to driving.

•          Any task should require less than six taps in order to be completed.

•          Drivers should be able to complete tasks in a series of 1.5- or 2-second glances, for a total of no more than 12 seconds.

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