May is Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month!

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A warm summer wind blows across your face as you sit at a light waiting for it to turn green. Do you turn left, right, go straight… It doesn’t matter because its 77 degrees and you’re just here for the ride. You turn left and your motorcycle roars into the hustle and bustle of a small downtown built in the early 50’s. Kids run around the outside of an ice cream shop while a dog barks from behind a white picket fence. Red roses are in bloom, the sky is blue and friends shake hands saying, “How do you do?” What a wonderful world.

Motorcycles have a long history in this country and are an important part of Americana. From the steam powered “bicycles” of the 1960’s to Marlon Brando in The Wild One, we have embraced motorcycles both for their feats of engineering and the attachment to counterculture. Anyone can ride and anyone who does ride knows why. There’s a beauty in the technology, a freedom and a certain danger that comes along with riding a motorcycle.

There are certain things that you can do to protect yourself when out for a ride. We would all like to believe that being on a motorcycle is always safe, but there are many factors that increase the chances for fatal accidents.

 

Here are some great tips for staying safe out there this summer.

  1. Wear a Helmet – This cannot be stressed enough. In recent years, Michigan instituted a policy stipulating that wearing a helmet while on a motorcycle was no longer mandatory. We can quote numbers all day long, but the reality is that you are safer on the road if you wear a helmet. Deaths and serious injuries have increased because people make the choice not to wear a helmet when they ride. Say what you will, but there’s no arguing with common sense.
  1. Know the Weather – Being cognizant of weather conditions will help you in a lot of ways. You will know whether or not today is a good day to ride. Being caught in a downpour and having to pull over under an overpass while cars blindly zip past at 60mph is in itself a terrible idea. A rule of thumb is “if storm clouds are creepin’, the hog should be sleepin’.” Well, that was just made up, but it makes sense.
  1. Get a License– Taking a motorcycle safety class and getting the proper endorsement is a sure way to be positive that you’re safer on the road. These classes teach you a variety of different techniques for properly operating a motorcycle. You will learn what to wear to protect yourself, strategies on avoiding trouble and how to maneuver your hog in the worst situations.
  1. Get the Gear – Imagining you’re famous and pulling up to a red carpet event. People are lining the streets with the anticipation that they might see you. You get off your ride and slowly take off your helmet as paparazzi camera flashes bounce off your leather jacket. You slowly unstrap your matching protective gloves as you black boots knock your kickstand into place. Now, reimagine all this with you in a Looney Tunes t-shirt, ripped jeans and a pair of Converse. One is not nearly as cool as the other. In this day and age, they make everything from gloves with plastic joints to cover every knuckle to airbag vests that surround you in case of an emergency. How much does the extra cost of safety gear outweigh the cost of your health and well-being?
  1. Pay Attention – An accident is not always your fault. If you’re safe and aware of your surroundings then a lot of the time you may never need to worry, but the sad reality is that others on the road are not thinking like you. Distracted Driving has become more of a problem than ever and may be the reason why we see more fatalities in motorcycle crashes each year. As more and more motorcycles hit the road during the summer months, drivers have to reacclimate themselves to sharing the road. Be aware of your surrounds and especially other drivers because they may not be aware of you.
  1. The Road Are Hazardous – The Polar Vortex took a toll not only on our health but on the health of our roads. Michigan suffered the worst winter on record. It’s just not possible that there was a worse one! This took a serious toll on our roads. Potholes are out of control and when they will get fixed seems like a mystery. And not just Michigan, but anywhere. Road conditions play a serious part in your safety as a motorcyclist. Keep an eye of for orange barrels as well. Construction is always in full effect during the summer months.
  1. Drive Safe! – Summer is fun and meant to be enjoyed. Staying safe on the road means staying sober, using turn or hand signals and enjoying the ride. Make sure to keep both wheels on the ground (we’ve all seen YouTube videos of a wheelie gone wrong), maintain your motorcycle to avoid technical mishaps, check your air pressure, and one of the most important things you can do is enjoy yourself. Nobody likes road rage and it’s incredibly unsafe to operate a motor vehicle in a negative state of mind.

Take care of yourself out there this summer.The open road can be one of the most exciting things there is. You never know what kind of adventure life can take you on, but make sure that you’re safe so you can continue enjoying the ride.

 

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Insuring All of your Toys in Time for Summer

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Imagine it’s the beginning of summer and you are having a huge house party on the lake. All your friends cannot wait to go on your boat or spend an afternoon on the jet skis.  One of your friend’s shouts from a distance, “All aboard!” The boat is ready for its first ride of the summer.

The boat and your jet skis are fueled up and ready to go! There’s even a line forming to use them when suddenly you realize the insurance policy on your boat and jet skis has expired! Now no one can use these fun summer toys unless your insurance agent is Jim Carrey from the Mask and can arrive in split second to renew your policy.

Today I am going to save you the embarrassment of this horrible situation and help save you some friendships along the way.  Here are some ways to save money on your insurance for your favorite summer toys like your boats, jet skis, swimming pools and even recreational vehicles.

 

Insuring Your Boat

If you are fortunate to have a boat, Homeowner’s or Renter’s insurance may provide all the coverage you need.  For larger boats or personal watercraft like jet skis you will need a separate watercraft.  Premiums depend on how avid of a boater you are.  Sailboats are less expensive to insure than speed boats.

Here’s an interesting fact: boat owners in Miami Florida pay the highest premiums because of hurricanes and year round use of boats.  In the Midwest and on the East coast, they pay lower premiums because they use their boats less.

 

Insuring Your Swimming Pool

It is always nice to take that first dip of the summer in your swimming pool.  Interestingly enough regular homeowner’s insurance may not be enough for you.  Swimming pools can be extremely dangerous and can also increase your liability risk because you stand a greater chance of being sued or having to pay someone’s medical expenses if they are injured using your swimming pool.

An interesting fact… According to US Consumer Product Safety Commission 400 children younger than 15 drown each year in swimming pools.  Just put your head around that figure. It is absolutely staggering.  If you do put in a new pool, it is best to get liability coverage.  It would be very advantageous to get an umbrella policy if available in your state.  It will increase your coverage beyond what you have on other policies. Also review the local standards and codes where you live. It might be mandatory in your area to have extra safety equipment such as fences and locks.

 

Insuring Your RV

RV stands for recreational vehicle. This can include everything from gigantic motorhomes with showers and slide out walls to your simple pop-up trailer. You will need a separate policy to cover these while out on the road. When an RV is parked in your driveway or garage many people out to have comprehensive coverage in the event that something damages the vehicle.

With an RV policy, you will not only receive coverage on the vehicle itself but you can opt-in for Replacement Cost of Personal Belongings. This includes any personal belongings that are inside the vehicle that are damaged in the event of an accident.

Two important things to note… Make sure that you suspend collision coverage on your recreational vehicle while it’s in storage and always opt-in for emergency expenses. These expenses can protect you in the event that your vehicle breaks down. You will be covered for things like lodging, meals and travel back home.

 

Remember before that first beautiful summer day to  look over your boat, jet ski, swimming pool and any other policies you have.  Make sure each policy is active. The time you spend now lining up your policies will only make that first boat ride all the more sweet.  Get insured and get ready to enjoy all the fun that summer brings.

 

 

 

The Dangers and Prevention of Distracted Driving

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We’re all guilty… At some point in our life we’ve all taken a bite out a hamburger, read a text message, stared too long at a billboard, daydreamed during a long car ride, and swerved just enough to make our hearts skip a beat. It’s becoming a part of our culture. The attention span is no longer what it used to be and car accidents due to distracted driving are increasing every year.

Staying Focused Behind the Wheel

How often do you go for a drive only to wind up at your destination and not really remember the drive over? It’s hard to stay focused in a world filled with distractions, but it is possible. Here’s some great tips that will allow you to concentrate while driving.

  1. Keeping your car clean and tidy – It’s easy to be distracted by things rolling around on the floor of your car or a stack of papers that keeps blowing around when you open a window. Keeping your car clean and tidy will keep any distractions at bay. You will know where everything is and you won’t find yourself reaching around or taking your eyes off the road
  1. Eat up before hitting the road – One thing we love to do is grab a quick bite to eat while headed out on a long car ride. It makes sense. You spend all this time packing, getting work papers ready, getting dressed… that you tell yourself that you need to get on the road ASAP. Only then do you realize that you forgot to grab breakfast. Eating and driving is never a good idea. Holding a hamburger in one hand while sipping a pop in the other can only lead to some serious distracted driving. What are you holding the wheel with, you knee?
  1. Buckle up those kiddies – Keeping kids safely buckled up should be your first priority when travelling with little ones. Makes sure that all car seats are in their proper position and that all the kids are tucked into their seatbelts before you even sit down in the driver seat. This will not only give you peace of mind, but it will keep them from moving around and keep them safe.
  1. Putting the devices away – its goes without saying that texting and driving is not a good idea. The face everyone likes to point out is that checking a text message even just for 5 seconds at 60mph is the equivalent of driving a football field. Whatever it is that’s so important on that phone can wait. This is one of the main reasons driver’s get into distracted driving accidents and the numbers are going up. Cell phones have great features that will automatically send a response text message saying “Can’t talk right now. Driving.” Or “Give you a call back in a few.” If you’ve never tried it you should. You can even create your own “away message.
  1. If it’s taking away your attention then it’s distracting – Something is never as important to you as being safe while behind the wheel. If you find that some other task is taking away your attention then either take care of it before you get into the car or pull over. Sometimes it helps to create a mental checklist and ask yourself “is there anything else I need to do before getting in the car?” If there is and it can’t wait then take care of it before driving.

Distractions come in all shapes and sizes. It doesn’t matter what it is but it does matter that you ignore it. By letting yourself get distracted on the road you are opening up you world to an endless possibilities of dangers. Be safe, put the phones away, get things taken care of beforehand, and make sure you eat because the last thing you want to be doing is calling up your insurance company and letting them know you were just in an at-fault accident because you were distracted.

Painful Potholes on the Bumpy Road of Life

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Imagine Clark Griswold and his family driving cross country on one of their famous summer adventures. This time they are heading to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to enjoy the scenery and beautiful landscape. Suddenly, they cross into the border of Michigan and their relaxing journey turns into a bumpy, unpredictable ride full of Potholes and cracks in the road. This happens to millions of families each summer when they cross the state line into Michigan. We are home to the worst roads in the country and they are only getting worse.

Here are some numbers that will make you realize why many families like our friends, the Griswold’s, may want to avoid Michigan for summer vacations.

 

The Sad Reality of Michigan Roads

Even before this recent, brutal Michigan winter over one-third of Michigan’s highways were rated in poor condition with only forty-eight percent rated fair and 19 percent deemed good. The kicker is that since 2004 the percentage of Michigan roads that were in good and fair condition has steadily declined while those roads in poor condition have been on the rise. This has led to much concern for millions of Michiganders who drive these roads on a daily basis.

Recently, a headline from the west side of the state made national news. A road construction crew that was out repairing potholes found their vehicle stuck in… drumroll please… a gigantic pothole. When our construction crews that fix the roads can’t even use them then we have a problem.

Here is some statistics that will blow your mind.  Of the 50 states, Michigan spends the least amount on the roads.  Michigan spends $174 per person on the roads compared to Illinois and Ohio which spend $235 per person.  Ohio spends $315 per person. The average Michigan motorist spends $357 a year on blown tires, bent rims and other repairs due to bad roads.

But don’t fret because there are some ways that could potentially help alleviate these horrible road conditions that the usual patch up work cannot.

 

A Solution to the Problem?

In other cities throughout the country research and development has created several other options which can improve road conditions. In Boston, city workers are using a silly-putty material. It is shape shifting goo that hardens under pressure of cars driving over top of it.  This type of material is more expensive but will help city workers to repair potholes more quickly and efficiently than before.

The Boston deputy commissioner, Elmo Baldassari, said that officials are hoping two of the test products that his office demonstrated could help his staff repair potholes on the fly rather than putting in temporary fixes that may only last a short amount of time.  “We’re not afraid to look at technology that’s cost effective.”

Michigan has had some recent legislation from Governor Rick Snyder that would raise the amount of money that the state uses to repair potholes and damaged roads across state.  Snyder is looking to implement an annual budget of 1.2 billion dollars to help alleviate this problem, but the legislation is currently held up and is not moving forward anytime soon.

So, I guess that when you plan your relaxing family summertime vacation you may want to take a detour around our great state of Michigan unless you are prepared for a bumpy and potentially costly adventure. You may want to plan your vacation in a safer place for driving like the rainforests in Central or South America. You may not have as much fun but at least it will be an easier drive on your car than Michigan roads.

 

Detroit City is the Place to Be… Unless You Need Auto Insurance

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The Motor City…

A vibrant metropolis with an indomitable fighting spirit and a history born on four wheels. Our auto industries have lived through great depressions and recessions, government bailouts, reputation damaging recalls, the invasion of “the foreign car”, and they have continued to strive forward; an upward battle into an endless current.

With an auto industry intrinsic to our foundation and an economy so incredibly reliant on it, why is it that insurance for cars is so gosh darn expensive if you live within the city of Detroit? In fact, it’s more expensive than any other city in the country.

According to a recent study by the website NerdWallet.com, Detroit is the most expensive city for auto insurance. With an annual average premium of $10,700.23, we beat New Orleans by double and are more than 10 times that of Winston-Salem, NC which comes in around $969.

Insurance premiums are a fickle thing. The safer something is, the cheaper it is to insure, but if you live in an area where people are constantly filing claims then you’re going to be paying a lot more than everyone else. Detroit just so happens to be one of those places for several reasons…

 

Break-ins/Theft – Some of us have heard the term “Detroit Diamonds”. When a car window shatters the tempered glass breaks into thousands of little pieces so that it can’t cut you. If you look closely, you will find these glass pieces in and around the streets of Detroit. This is almost a sure sign of a break-in and most likely a theft. They happen constantly.

Along with this is Catastrophic Loss. We’re not just talking CD players being stolen but rims/tires, parts for the scrap yard and even entire cars that are never seen again. Sometimes cars are taken to chop shops are within 2 hours your new 2014 Mustang in is 2,014 different places.

MCCA Fee – This is a fee that is particular to Michigan. The Michigan Catastrophic Claim Association states that Michigan has no cap on what insurers could be required to pay in medical expenses in the event of an accident. Basically, I hit you/you hit me and one of us is seriously injured then the medical bills are taken care of by our auto insurance.

This fee is somewhere in the vicinity of 93 bucks per vehicle and is mandatory. If you have four cars then you’re paying (93 x 4 = 372) a lot of money each year!

Road Conditions – This one is interesting. Since Michigan is in the North Temperate Zone within the Continental Climate area, we have some warm, beautiful summers and brutal, unforgiving winters. Just ask our roads. Each winter water slowly trickles under highways and driveways where it will eventually freeze/unfreeze, expanding/compression until the road is no more.

This in turn creates potholes which destroy our vehicles. It also creates major construction each summer as we repair our damaged roads. Construction = Congestion which can seriously hike up insurance premiums.

 

There is a fighting spirit amongst the City of Detroit. She’s been here a long time and she will be here for a long time. There will be no collapse to this city because our people will keep rebuilding. There are things that need to be worked on. Crime can seriously affect our pocket books, but even more so our livelihood. It’s the sad reality of the place many of us call home.

So, the next time you’re going to a Tigers game or seeing Broadway in Detroit at the Fisher Theater, walk the street and look for the Detroit Diamonds because each time they sparkle in the sunlight… Well, I think you get the picture.

What Does it Mean to be At-Fault?

ImageMany of you may remember the episode of Sanford and Son where Fred gets in a car accident and over embellishes how hurt he was so he could collect a major payday. He eventually blows his cover and loses out on all the money. This would be a great example of insurance fraud.

In the insurance industry you are either considered to be a No-Fault insurance state or an At-Fault insurance state.  The two are very different in the way claims are paid when there is an accident.  Here’s a nice little summarization that will explain the difference between the two

What Does Fault Mean”

Websters defines the world Fault as “responsibility for a problem, mistake, bad situation, etc.” Currently, there 38 at-fault states and 12 no-fault states in the United States.  Here in Michigan we are known as a no-fault state.  When two people are involved in an accident the victim cannot sue the person who was at fault. The victim’s insurance company will pay the medical expenses and property damages occurring during the accident. This may seem unfair to the victim but insurance companies deal with people of all different risk so it really evens out in the end.  In fact, the person who was at fault could see a significant rise in their premium payment.

The positive side to being a no- fault insurance state is that it takes cases which involve small claims out of the court system. Personal Protection Insurance is mandatory in 13 states in the country. If you have PIP insurance and are hurt in accident, you can receive maximum benefits whether or not the accident was your fault. On top of medical bills and lost wages, PIP insurance can also cover expenses like transportation to medical appointments and lawn repair. The only downfall to this is that it will cost you more money to carry this type of insurance.

What about No-Fault?

Now we did not forget about you at fault states.  There are 38 of you in the country.  There are two types of policies that are most common in these states.  Full-Tort system and the Limited tort system.  Let’s start with the Full-tort system. A victim in an at fault state can sue the person at fault and can sue for Medical damages, lost wages, pain, and suffering.  The premium is much higher for full-tort insurance than other policies. The Limited Tort system is similar except one major difference the victim is not allowed to sue the other driver for pain and suffering. The victim can still sue for medical expenses and lost damages.

God forbid you are ever in an accident, so before you go get fitted for a fake cast and rent a wheelchair to take to court check to see if you are a no-fault state or an at-fault state.  If you are in an at fault state make sure to find out from your insurance agent if you have a full-tort policy or a limited-tort policy. The last thing you want is to be like Fred Sanford and jump up in the middle of court out of your wheelchair and expose the fact you were never injured at all.

5 Real Ways to Save on Auto Insurance

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With the beginning of spring (and summer not far behind) it’s time to bid adieu to shoveling the snow, scraping your car windows, shivering in the cold weather, the dreaded Polar Vortex, and most of all, the endless onslaught of potholes. Here in Michigan this is a problem that has plagues us during the winter and spring months which inevitably leads to ceaseless stress and constant damage to our automobiles.

But there is always a silver lining! With Michigan having the highest Auto Insurance rates in the country we must dig deeper into the discounts that many may not even know exist. Whether you’re young or old there’s a lot of ways to make you happy by saving all kinds of money.

Here’s a quick list of just some of the many discounts that insurance companies offer drivers on their Auto Insurance premiums.

  1. Education Discounts

Good Student – Students under 25 get a discount on their Auto insurance by keeping their grades up in school. This discount applies to students that have proof of one of the following:

  •  High school students with at least “B” average
  •  College students with a 3.0 (out of 4.0) grade point average or higher
  •  Dean’s List or Honor Roll students
  •  Students ranked in the top 20% of their class or in the top 20% in national standardized tests

You’re also eligible for a nice discount if you’ve taken even just a few college courses, have a bachelor’s degree, master’s, or even a PhD. Be ready to submit proof of eligibility (a copy of a report card, grade-point average, degree, etc.) when requesting this discount.

  1. Safety Discounts

Insurance companies do not like to reward those that are accident prone. Why would they? If people are always filing claims then no one is making any money. This is why if you’re a safe driver then you may be eligible for the following:

  • Diminishing Deductible – Your deductible decreases every year that you don’t file a claim.
  • Accident Forgiveness – You’re first accident is waved after a set number of years without another one.
  • Accident Prevention – Drivers, typically those over 55, are eligible for a discount provided they pass an accident prevention course.
  1.  Multi-policy Discount

Have more than one car? Have a boat, house, snowmobile, RV, or wave runner? Many companies offer what are known as multi-policy discounts. By insuring all of your toys under one company you are eligible for a big discount on everything. This one is very common but can be often overlooked.

Make sure to look into what your discount could be by consolidating all of your policies under one roof. You may end up saving yourself thousands of dollars a year!

  1. Owning a Home

Are you a homeowner? Do you have a mortgage or is your house paid in full? These are very important factors in determining an auto insurance premium. Insurance companies love those who own their home over those who rent because homeowners are looked at as more financially stable and therefore, less of a liability.

And if you have a mortgage free home your discount is even bigger! Put this together with a multi-policy discount and you are really going to start to see a big decrease in your premium.

  1. Where You Live

Like we said before, living in the State of Michigan is probably the fastest way to get an increase in your Auto Insurance premium. The MCCA (Michigan Catastrophic Claims Association) requires a fee that Michigander’s pay on every single auto policy. It covers medical expenses in the event that you are in an accident with someone who has no insurance.

The fee averages between $85-95 per vehicle! And this has to be paid annually. Four cars times $95 over ten years… carry the one… and you’re paying $3800 in a single decade!!

Now if you live in an area with a lot of claims (i.e. Detroit) then you are automatically going to be paying a higher premium. The more claims people are filing in a specific geographic location, the more an insurance company will require those residents to pay. That’s just the way it goes. The less claims, the cheaper the premium. Unfortunately, Detroit is the most expensive city in the country to have Auto Insurance.

We can only hope that these small bits of wisdom help brighten your day. Remember that before you take your boat or car out for a spin this summer, think about these discounts because you might save yourself a substantial amount of money. Imagine how much more you’ll enjoy the sun this summer knowing that everything is safe, secure and a lot cheaper!