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.

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.

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.

Determining Who Is at Fault in an Auto Accident

Determining who is legally responsible in an auto accident requires identifying who the negligent party is.

In most cases, common sense can be used to determine fault, but often drivers do not know exactly which laws were broken by the at-fault party. This makes it more difficult to prove a case to an insurer when making a claim.

There are a few places to look for this supportive information.

 

Police reports

If you or the other party called the police or 911 after the accident to report injuries, there will be a police report.

If that’s the case, you can contact your local law enforcement traffic division to ask for a copy of the report.

Many police reports contain a responding officer’s opinion about who was at fault. If one party clearly violated any laws, the officer will write that in the report.

Typically, any mention of the other party breaking traffic laws will be enough to sway your insurer that you were not at fault.

 

State laws

As backup, you can search your state traffic laws to find out if the other party violated the law.

You can often find information on the DMV website, or you can get a copy of the driver handbook that will typically outline most instances of traffic violations. The handbooks include language that is written in laymen’s terms so they are easy to understand.

Law school libraries and local public libraries may have more detailed versions of these codes.

 

No-doubt liability

In some accidents, the other driver is almost always considered at fault.

For example, if another motorist hits the back of your car, the insurance company will typically consider them at fault because it is most likely they were either following too closely or failed to react in time when you put on your brakes.

One of the basic rules of the road in every state is that a driver should follow a vehicle ahead at a safe enough distance to be able to stop even if the other person brakes suddenly.

Also, damage is easy to prove with a rear-end accident. One driver’s vehicle will be damaged on the front end, and the other driver’s vehicle will have damage to the rear.

That said, for drivers who are rear-ended, there are still a few situations where their carelessness is a contributing factor to the accident.

If the insurance company investigates the claim and finds that your brake lights were out, this could reduce the amount of compensation you receive and you could be considered at fault.

Your compensation may also be reduced if you ignored mechanical issues that should have been fixed and were a contributing factor to the accident.

Another example of an accident where there is a clear violator is a left-turn accident.

Anyone who makes a left turn and is struck by a vehicle on the other side of the road that is going straight in the opposite direction is an at-fault driver unless:

 

•          They were making the left turn at a green turn light.

•          They were at a four-way stop and had the right of way.

•          The oncoming vehicle was greatly exceeding the speed limit, which made it difficult for you to judge how fast they were coming towards you.

 

Also, the turning driver will have damage on the side of the vehicle, and the oncoming vehicle will have damage to the front end or the side if the turning driver tried to swerve.

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

Five Ways to Reduce Accidents among Your Driving Employees

We’ve often discussed the scourge of distracted driving in America, brought on in large part due to the use of smartphones and leading to a significant spike in vehicle accidents, injuries and deaths. That in turn has led to a jump in both commercial and personal auto insurance pricing.

The risk for businesses is even greater as a careless driving employee can result in a substantial liability claim, particularly if a third party is injured. If one of your drivers is found to have been engaged in distracted driving, any judgment or settlement for a personal injury could easily cost more than $1 million.

While you can hold meetings about the dangers of distracted driving and what your driving employees can do to reduce the chances of crashing, in the end it comes down to trusting that they will do the right thing.

So what can you do? We suggest a holistic approach to the issue.

 

  1. Understand distracted driving

Just how bad is the distracted driving problem? In 2015 alone, 3,477 people were killed and 391,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers. During daylight hours, an estimated 660,000 drivers are using cell phones while driving. That creates enormous potential for deaths and injuries on U.S. roads.

But smartphones are not the only source of distraction. Road safety experts say there are three types of distraction for drivers:

  • Manual – This can include looking around for a lost object in the car, reaching under the seat or behind to the back seat.
  • Cognitive – This can include a driver who is lost in thought and not paying full attention to driving.
  • Visual – Anything that makes a driver takes their eyes off the road, like looking at the GPS or searching for a song on an iPod.

 

Some distractions actually are a combination of two or all the above, like texting or posting stuff on Facebook.

All of your training for your driving employees must emphasize the need to address all types of distracted driving, and should include scenarios to help them make proper decisions when behind the wheel.

  1. Hire good drivers

When hiring personnel who drive, consider what their primary responsibility is. For example, if you own a plumbing operation, your drivers are not necessarily going to be professional drivers, since their primary duty is fixing plumbing issues.

But if you are hiring any workers who will be driving as part of their job, even if it’s not their primary responsibility, you should still make sure they are good drivers by checking their driving records.

Hiring safe drivers is one of the best ways for you to ensure you are putting safe drivers behind the wheel. After all, past driving behavior is the best indication of future performance.

If you think any prospect will be driving as part of their job, you should pull their DMV records. Look for anything serious like DUIs or frequent citations for moving violations. You should decide what your level of tolerance is for driving histories.

In addition, check their resumes to see whether they were driving as part of any of their prior jobs, and if they have experience driving the same type of vehicle they would be driving for you.

Also ask about any medications the applicant may be taking, as some can affect their driving.

Finally, consider requiring candidates that would be driving to take a road test as part of the recruitment process.

  1. Coach current employees to be safe drivers

You should hold regular training for all of your current employees that may drive as part of their job, even if they are only running to the office supply store or on an occasional errand.

You should attack this in a three-pronged approach:

  • Pull their DMV driving records annually.
  • Subject them to road tests where they are graded on their safe driving.
  • Hold an annual meeting to go over safe driving policies; reinforce the dangers of distracted driving and stress the need to always focus on the task at hand.

 

You should also have safe driving policies in writing that are enforceable. Your policies should list all the behaviors your workers are prohibited from engaging in while driving.

Some rules you can include:

  • Never answer the phone while driving, even if you have a hands-free device.
  • Bar programming a GPS while on the move and require that they pull over when safe to do so.
  • Never hold your smartphone in your hand while driving.

 

Your policy should also specify the consequences and any disciplinary action for breaking the rules.

You should maintain records of these policies. This is of utmost importance if one of your employees is in an accident and accused of negligence. Your policy and proof of training can protect your organization.

 

  1. Take advantage of technology

Many companies are installing GPS tracking devices in their vehicles so they can receive real-time information about a vehicle’s location and rate of speed. This gives you valuable insight into any dangerous habits your drivers may be engaging in.

You can also install technologies that will block cell phone signals while the vehicle is moving.

 

  1. Have procedures for dealing with accidents

Despite your best efforts, your driving employees may still have accidents. They should be trained in the procedures they should follow after an accident.

Some companies include accident kits in their vehicles. They are typically a small bag or box that’s kept in the glove compartment.

The kit should explain what they should do, including:

  • Taking photos from all angles after an accident.
  • Completing a form on which to record details of the accident, including where it took place, how it occurred, the damage to third parties, the other driver’s insurance information, road conditions, and more. Require your drivers to take down all the details at the scene of the accident.
  • Calling the police in the event of an accident.

Employees should not discuss who was at fault with the police, but they can work with them to document the accident. Plus, a police officer can provide a calm, outside perspective on a stressful situation.

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

Are You Covered for Personal Use of Company Vehicle?

Getting a company car is a coveted perk for employees, but it can also cause some coverage issues with your personal auto policy.

The standard auto policy excludes coverage for non-owned vehicles furnished or available for your regular use.

This means you are relying solely on the company’s insurance for protection. If for any reason the company’s policy does not respond if you are in a traffic accident, you have no coverage.

The company’s business auto coverage will also not provide you protection if you use the vehicle outside the scope of the employer’s permission. This can leave a big gap if you or a family member use the vehicle in a way that wasn’t part of the original agreement.

 

Nightmare scenario

Your company gave you permission to use the car, but you are the only one allowed to drive it. Your spouse takes the company car to the grocery store and on the way she crashes into another vehicle.

Unfortunately, you have no coverage on either your policy or the company’s policy. In other words, you would be on the hook for damage to the vehicle and possibly the other vehicle, as well as for medical costs for any injuries sustained by either party in the accident.

 

The solution

If you are given a company car, you should consider adding an “extended non-owned coverage for named individuals” endorsement to your policy. You should name each member of your family of driving age.

This endorsement will fix the gap in coverage when an employee is furnished an auto for their regular use (or even has one available for their regular use out of a pool of vehicles). But, note that this is only for liability coverage and there is not going to be any physical damage coverage for the vehicle.

This endorsement is inexpensive and can provide peace of mind. It is a good idea anytime you have regular access to a vehicle you do not own.

If the insurance company won’t add the extended non-owned endorsement (or a similar one) to the personal auto policy, or can’t add it, the next option would be to buy a named non-owned policy to fill the gap in coverage.

In effect, this accomplishes the same thing as the extended non-owned coverage for a named individual, but may be more expensive.

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

 

 

 

What Drivers Need to Know about Backover Accidents

When it comes to avoiding objects while traveling in reverse, rear cameras are more effective than parking sensors. However, they are not helpful in every situation. Researchers recently conducted a study with drivers in an empty parking lot in Los Angeles. Their study results showed that cameras were more helpful than parking sensors in preventing backward crashes into pedestrians. They also found that cameras alone worked better in these situations than cameras and parking sensors combined.

Children are often the unfortunate victims of backward pedestrian crashes. There are many driveway tragedies of this nature every year in the United States. Experts estimate about 300 people are killed and about 18,000 are injured annually in backward pedestrian crashes. These accidents typically occur in driveways and parking lots. Elderly people and young kids are more likely to be killed than older kids or younger adults. Many vehicles have large blind zones, and this increases the backover risk. Trucks and SUVs are commonly involved in these accidents, because it is hard for drivers to see children who are playing or lying on the ground from a higher blind zone.

This study was the second study that examined parking sensors and cameras affecting visibility for backover collisions into pedestrians. The first study used people of varying sizes from small children to average-sized men in over 20 different vehicles. All of the vehicles chosen were made between 2010 and 2013. Researchers carefully looked at how each type of technology improved detection and visibility in each of these vehicles.

During their study, researchers placed a painted pole behind a vehicle to show the varying heights and head sizes of kids who were between 12 and 15 months, between two and three years and between five and six years. They analyzed which parts of the pole were visible. The pole with the band representing the youngest age group was far more difficult to see than the ones with bands representing older children. Unless the driver was further than 27 feet away from the pole, the smallest height could not usually be seen. Large SUVs were the worst offenders if they did not have any added technologies. However, small cars ranked the highest in this area of safety.

One exception to this was the Hyundai Sonata, which had a high trunk and a sloping rear window. The blind spot on this vehicle was more than 40 percent larger than the blind spot on a Ford F-150 truck, which had side mirrors designed for enhanced visibility while towing. On average, experts said that backup cameras reduced blind spots by about 90 percent. Parking sensors were also helpful in reducing blind areas. However, parking sensors only added between two and three percentage points beyond those provided by just cameras.

Does Anyone You Know Drive a Company Car? Then Read This.

Picture this. Larry has been a salesman with the firm for some time, and has been driving a company-owned car for most of his tenure there. It makes sense: Larry uses the car a great deal to travel on sales calls, and so it’s very efficient for him to simply use the same car for his own personal use. Larry is unmarried and has no driving age children. Therefore, no one else in the household drives.

Now, auto insurance is not a problem either. The company owns the car, so the company pays the insurance premiums. Larry is listed as an authorized driver on the company policy, and so is perfectly street legal.

But what happens if Larry winds up behind the wheel of another car? That’s what happened in this case: Larry got a call to fly to Chicago on a family emergency. He got to the airport and rented a car. Larry didn’t opt for additional insurance coverage from the rental car. He thought he was covered by the company.

Alas, Larry was distracted by the family emergency, and had an accident on the way home. He was at fault. No one was hurt, but he had caused a good deal of damage to a car in front of him.

The problem: When he called his company’s insurance company to file a claim, they told him he was on his own. The company policy only covered Larry in the company car, or a car the company rented. This last rental was Larry’s business, and not the company’s. Larry was on the hook, personally, for over seven thousand dollars in damage to the vehicle in front of him.

It could have been a lot worse.

The fix.

If you drive a company car, or if you manage a company that owns cars driven by your employees who retain them for their personal use, you can do something about this risk. Ask your agent about a specific type of coverage called other car coverage. There are a couple of different forms of coverage out there. But this endorsement extends insurance coverage to the employee even when driving a vehicle not rented or owned by the company.  This coverage can extend to spouses, too – provided they share the same household.

Another approach is to add each similarly-situated employee to the company’s auto insurance policy as an individual named insured. This would also extend coverage to the employees of the firm so named without the need for them to acquire a personal auto policy (PAP) if they need to rent a vehicle for some reason.

If you have any questions about the proper way to protect yourself, call ACBI at 203-259-7580 or visit our website.

The Deadliest Driving Distractions Every Driver Should Avoid

Passengers, pedestrians and other motorists are endangered by distracted drivers. Statistics show that drivers who are holding electronic devices while driving are four times more likely to experience a serious accident. Teen drivers are more likely than any other age groups to be in fatal crashes resulting from distractions. There are several dangerous distractions that every driver should avoid.

Smoking
Recent research shows that about 10 percent of people who are in fatal crashes are distracted. Only about one percent of crashes result from smoking. However, drivers who are trying to light cigarettes or dispose of ashes are in greater danger of causing an accident.

Moving Objects
Moving pets, children or various objects are the culprits of some crashes. Only about one percent of accidents occur due to moving objects. Drivers should make sure children remain in their seats and have their safety belts securely fastened. Pets should be kept in carriers or in seat restraints.

Adjusting Controls
About one percent of crashes occur as a result of drivers adjusting buttons or other controls in the vehicle. It is important to ensure these controls are set before driving. Some features may not be possible to set ahead of time. For example, setting the cruise control or using the windshield wipers while driving may be necessary. When this is the case, drivers should be aware of their surroundings.

Eating And Drinking
Approximately two percent of distracted drivers were eating or drinking at the time they crashed. Drivers should stop if they need to eat or drink. Even when stopping for coffee, it is important to either wait until arriving at a destination to drink it or drink the beverage before pulling out of the parking lot.

Searching For Lost Items
People who were searching for maps, electronic devices or other items while driving accounted for about two percent of fatal crashes. Drivers should pull over to a safe area and stop before searching for any items in the vehicle.

Friends
Drivers who were distracted by or talking to their passenger friends while on the road accounted for about five percent of fatal crashes. Although it may be tempting to converse with friends while driving, it is important to stay focused on the road and surroundings at all times.

Outside Event
Almost every person has seen a distracting billboard, crash or other event outside. Many people crane their necks or slow down to look. These are dangerous habits, and about seven percent of accidents were caused by such behaviors. Drivers should always avoid slowing down for outside distractions.

Cell Phones
Talking, texting or reading cell phones while driving are all common ways people cause accidents. In several states, it is illegal to use a handheld mobile phone while driving. Texting while driving is illegal in almost 40 states, and about 12 percent of fatal crashes happen as a result of this practice. A person who is texting and driving is more likely to cause an accident than an intoxicated driver. In addition to this, more than 11 teen deaths per day and 1.5 million accidents per year are caused by drivers who are texting. To avoid the temptation, consider installing special software to disable the phone while the vehicles is moving.

Lost In Thought
There are an endless things a person could possibly be thinking about while driving. Whether a driver is looking for an address, trying to listen to the radio or daydreaming, accidents caused by general distractions account for more than 60 percent of all fatal crashes. It is important to stay mentally focused at all times.

Avoiding harmful practices is a good way to not only stay alive on the road but also to keep insurance rates lower. To enjoy the lowest possible rate, drivers need to consistently maintain a record that is free of negligent accidents. It is also important to stay vigilant and watch for distracted drivers in other vehicles on the road. To learn more, call ACBI at 203-259-7580 or visit our website

Several Vehicles Win Top Safety Pick+ or Top Safety Pick from IIHS

 

There were 22 vehicles that earned the top safety rating, whih is Top Safety Pick+, from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety for 2014. This was due to their high levels of protection during crashes and for having front crash prevention technology. Another 17 vehicles earned Top Safety Pick for their performance in crashes.

The IIHS implemented new criteria for their 2014 awards. To earn a Top Safety Pick rating, a vehicle must perform well in the moderate overlap front, roof strength, side and head restraint tests. This must occur during the first test, and the vehicle must also perform acceptable or good during the small overlap front test. This was a newer form of test, which was introduced in 2012. In addition to a basic rating for front crash prevention, the same level of performance in those tests is required to earn the higher Top Safety Pick+ rating.

Experts said they made it tougher for auto manufacturers in 2014 to pass the tests. Although the front overlap test was not used as much before, it has now been incorporated as a standard in all test sets. They also decided to provide extra recognition to manufacturers offering proven crash avoidance technology. Since 2006, the IIHS has been awarding Top Safety Pick ratings and has toughened its criteria two times. To reward manufacturers for acceptable or good performance in the small overlap test, the Top Safety Pick+ award was introduced in 2013. For this specific test, 25 percent of a front end on the driver’s side must travel at 40 mph to hit a rigid barrier. The test simulates what happens when a vehicle’s front corner collides with an object or another vehicle.

To earn the Top Safety Pick+ award now, a manufacturer must make a vehicle that not only keeps passengers safe but also prevents or mitigates front-to-rear collisions through special systems. Front crash prevention incorporates automatic braking and warnings and is supposed to help drivers who are not alert to avoid hitting a stopped or slowing vehicle in front of them. These types of systems have been appearing more and more often throughout vehicle fleets. This means there are more Top Safety Pick+ winners than Top Safety Pick winners for 2014.

Experts say that consumers who want the latest in passenger protection and crash prevention technology have many more vehicles to consider than before. They hope that manufacturers will continue this trend of producing vehicles that earn the highest safety ratings. Ultimately, they hope to see these features become a standard for all manufacturers and all vehicles.

The winners of the Top Safety Pick+ award range from warning systems to auto-brake systems. One vehicle’s system avoided a crash at both 25 mph and 12 mph. However, many of the winners of this award only qualified if they were also equipped with the optional front crash prevention systems. This means they still met the regular Top Safety Pick award standards without them, but obviously performed much better with them.

Some of the winners for 2014 for the top safety award were not winners in 2013. Some examples include the Infiniti Q50, the Acura RLX, the Acura MDX, the Toyota Highlander and the Mazda 3. All of these models had been fully redesigned. There was also a new model called the Chevrolet Spark, which is a mini-car that won the regular Top Safety Pick award. To learn more about vehicles with top safety ratings and better insurance rates for safer vehicles, call ACBI at 203-259-7580 or visit our website.