What Additional Living Expense Coverage Means to Homeowners

Suffering major damage to a home is a traumatic event for any family. The experience brings shock, worry about family members and pets, grief at the loss of treasured possessions, and stress about the overwhelming task of replacing it all. Right on the heels of these emotions comes a more immediate question: Where will the family live now, and how will they pay for it? Fortunately, standard homeowner’s policies provide coverage for loss of use of a home.

The standard policy contains three Loss of Use coverages: Additional Living Expense, Fair Rental Value, and Civil Authority Prohibits Use. Additional Living Expense coverage pays for the homeowner’s necessary increase in living expenses when the home, damaged by a covered cause of loss, becomes unfit to live in. For example, assume that a severe windstorm knocks a tree into a home’s upstairs. It wrecks three bedrooms and two bathrooms, causing pipes to break and damaging electrical wiring. Since the policy covers windstorm damage and the home is unsafe for the family to occupy, this coverage will pay the extra amount the family must spend to live elsewhere for a period of time. However, the insurance company will pay only the amount necessary for the family to maintain its normal standard of living. If the family was not living in a luxury condo before the loss, the company will not pay for them to live in one after. The company will pay for the shortest period of time necessary to repair or replace the damaged property or to permanently relocate.

It is important to note that the insurance pays only for the increase in costs, less any costs that decrease. If the family had a mortgage payment of $1,000 per month, the rent for a temporary home is $1,200, and utility costs are $50 less, the insurance will pay $150 per month.

Fair Rental Value coverage applies to homeowners who rent out part or all of the premises. Should a covered cause of loss damage the home and make it uninhabitable, the insurance will pay the rental value that the homeowner loses. Coverage lasts only for the shortest time necessary to repair or replace the premises, and the company will reduce the payments by the amounts of non-continuing expenses. For example, if the rental value was $1,000 per month but the cost of heat, electricity and water was $400, and all of these services ceased during the repair period, the insurance will pay the $600 difference.

Recently, an airliner crashed into a neighborhood near Buffalo, New York. In addition to the tragic loss of lives, the crash destroyed one home while barely affecting the others on the street. However, law enforcement authorities required occupants of surrounding homes to evacuate for several days while recovery crews cleaned up the site. These families probably benefited from Civil Authority Prohibits Use coverage. This insurance pays for the increased cost of living elsewhere for up to two weeks when civil authorities prohibit the homeowner from using her residence because of direct damage to neighboring premises caused by a covered peril. Once again, the company will pay only the amount above non-continuing expenses and only the cost of maintaining the family’s normal living standard.

The amount of insurance that applies to these coverages is normally some percentage (typically 30 percent) of the amount covering the home. For example, a policy covering a home for $200,000 would provide $60,000 coverage for the loss of use coverages combined. A professional insurance agent can answer questions about them. Plan ahead; it is always much better to find out how much coverage you have before the worst happens.

Outta the Way! Understanding Move Over Laws

You’re cruising down the highway when you suddenly see flashing red lights on the shoulder up ahead. What do you do? Stop your car? Speed up and drive quickly past the scene? Crane your neck as you drive past to get a better look? Or ignore the lights altogether and go along your merry way?

None of the above. When you see a police car, ambulance or roadside assistance vehicle on the side of the road with its lights flashing, you should MOVE OVER.

Every year, thousands of U.S. law enforcement officers and emergency responders are killed or injured on our nation’s highways. According to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, more than 150 U.S. law enforcement officers have been killed since 1997 after being struck by vehicles along our nation’s highways. In response to this tragic trend, most U.S. states have enacted laws to help ensure the safety of law enforcement officers and emergency responders.

Move Over Laws 101

These laws, fittingly named “Move Over” laws, require motorists to move away from emergency vehicles stopped on the side of the road with their lights flashing.

As of March 2009, 43 states had passed Move Over laws. However, only 29 states offer protection for drivers of tow trucks and other recovery vehicles.

Although Move Over laws vary slightly from state to state, the basic details are pretty much the same. Generally, motorists are required to change lanes when possible to give safe clearance to law enforcement officers and emergency responders on the roadside. If motorists are unable to change lanes, they are required to slow down to at least 20 mph below the speed limit.

A little-known law

Unfortunately, most motorists are still unaware of these laws. Just 29 percent of Americans have heard of Move Over laws, according to a national poll by Mason Dixon Polling & Research, sponsored by the National Safety Commission.

According to the same poll, 86 percent of those surveyed support enacting Move Over laws in all 50 states, and 90 percent believe traffic stops and roadside emergencies are dangerous for law enforcement officers and first responders. 

In an effort to get the word out about life-saving Move Over laws, a coalition of traffic safety and law enforcement groups launched a nationwide public awareness campaign. Known as “Move Over, America,” the partnership was founded in 2007 by the National Safety Commission, the National Sheriff’s Association and the National Association of Police Organizations. The coalition was recently joined by the American Association of State Troopers.

Common questions

Here are answers to motorists’ frequently asked questions about Move Over laws:

If I see an emergency vehicle on the side of the highway with its lights flashing, should I immediately switch lanes?

No, the first thing you should do is slow down so that you can figure out your next move. If you’re on a multi-lane highway, change lanes as soon as it’s safe to do so. Move over so that there is at least one empty lane between you and the emergency vehicle on the roadside.

What if I can’t switch lanes soon enough or if I’m on a two-lane road? Should I stop my car?

No, do not stop your car unless you are directed to do so by a law enforcement officer or another emergency responder directing traffic. If you stop, you will block the flow of traffic, which could result in an accident. If you cannot switch lanes due to traffic or if you are on a two-lane road, simply slow down to at least 20 mph below the speed limit before you pass the emergency vehicle.

How can I prevent having a wreck myself while trying to move over from emergency vehicles?

When you spot an emergency vehicle with lights flashing on the roadside up ahead, the most important thing to do is keep your eyes open and stay alert. Scan the roadway ahead of you and stay aware of vehicles around you. This will allow you to anticipate potential problems and assess the situation so that you can react quickly and safely.

 

Whether or not your state has enacted Move Over laws, all motorists should do the responsible thing and follow these general safety rules. After all, it could mean the difference between life and death for an emergency responder or law enforcement officer.

Tackling Child Safety Seat Challenges

If you’re about to hit the road with young kids in tow, listen up. It’s extremely likely that you either have the wrong child safety seat in your car or that your seat is not installed incorrectly. As a matter of fact, nearly three out of every four child seats in U.S. cars show an obvious mistake in selection or installation that could pose a risk to the child’s safety.

Of course, with a barrage of different child seat options, safety regulations and complex installation instructions, it’s no wonder parents often get confused. However, one tiny child seat blunder could result in tragic consequences. So before you strap in your precious cargo and get motoring, take a closer look at that child safety seat.

Here are a few things every parent or caregiver should know about child safety seats:

The right seat

Countless parents make their first child safety seat misstep in the store simply by purchasing the wrong type of seat. Here’s a quick guide on what type of seat you should buy your child:

  • Rear-facing seats: Infants should ride in rear-facing child safety seats for as long possible, according to pediatricians and safety experts. You should not switch your child to a forward-facing seat until she is both one year old and weighs 20 pounds or more.
  • Forward-facing seats: Once your child has his first birthday and reaches the 20-pound mark, you can switch him to a forward-facing seat. Your child can continue to ride in a forward-facing seat until he grows tall enough that his ears are level with the top of the seatback, his shoulders go beyond the top-most harness slots or he reaches the seat’s weight limit, as specified by the seat’s manufacturer. (Refer to the seat’s manual or look on the back of the seat for the weigh limit.) Forward-facing seats typically have a weight limit of 40 pounds.
  • Booster seat: Once your child is too big for a forward-facing seat, you should switch him to a booster seat. (The average child typically moves into a booster seat around the age of four.) According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, your child should continue riding in a booster seat until they are 8 years old or 4’ 9” tall. Here’s another way to test whether your child still needs a booster: if he can bend her knees comfortably at a 90-degree angle when he sits with his spine flat against the seatback, your car’s shoulder belt straps across his chest (as opposed to his throat), and the car lap belt fits across his hips (not his stomach), then he is probably ready to ride without a booster seat.
  • Back seat: Once your child is big enough to stop riding in a booster seat, he should ride in the back seat of the car until he is at least 13 years old. Of course, he should wear a lap and shoulder seat belt at all times, as should everyone in the car.

Some states have passed specific child safety seat laws, so make sure you know and abide by the law in your state.

The perfect fit

Another child seat mistake many parents make is the way the harness fits on their child. Experts say many parents do not pull the harnesses snugly enough on the child.

To ensure that your child’s harness fits properly, try the “pinch test.” If you pinch the car seat strap lengthwise and there is a loop of any size between your thumb and forefinger, the harness is not tight enough.

Proper installation

Of course, the biggest challenge with child safety seats is installing them correctly. Because every car and child seat is different and installation manuals are often incredibly confusing, parents are bound to make mistakes when installing their child’s seat.

Luckily, in 2002, the federal government mandated LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children). This system improves child safety by eliminating the need to use seat belts to install a child safety seat in a car, and it also makes the installation process a little easier. Cars with the LATCH system have anchors located in the back seat where child safety seats can easily be fastened. Nearly all vehicles and child safety seats manufactured on or after September 2002 include the LATCH system. However, if you have an older car or child seat, you will still need to use the seat belt to install the seat.

To ensure that your child’s safety seat is installed correctly, find a child safety seat expert in your area. You can find a list of certified CPS (Child Passenger Safety) Technicians and Child Seat Fitting Stations at www.nhatsa.gov or seatcheck.org. You can also call 866-SEAT-CHECK or the NHTSA hotline at 888-327-4236.

Ten Safety Tips for Driving in the Rain

With the dawning of Spring often comes a deluge of rain showers and thunderstorms. While a soft Spring rain may seem innocent enough from the safety of your home, even a gentle shower can cause major problems on the road. Thousands of car accidents each year are caused by rain and wet roads—and motorists who don’t know how to drive on them.

During and after a rainstorm, a film of water quickly forms on asphalt roads. This sheath of water causes tires to lose traction, which means drivers can easily lose control. However, slippery roads are not the only danger to driving in the rain. Drivers also lose visibility during a rainstorm. Heavy rain can be absolutely blinding, fogging up the windows and even blocking your headlights. These things all add to an extremely dangerous situation.

If you find yourself on the road during a rainstorm, follow these safety tips to ensure you arrive alive:

  1. Be especially careful when the rain first starts. When the roads are dry for a long period of time, engine oil and grease builds up on roads and highways. As soon as the first drops of rain start to fall, the water mixes with this build-up making the roads incredibly slick. This is why the first few hours of a rainstorm can be the most hazardous for drivers. If the rain continues to fall for a few more hours, the water will eventually wash away the greasy build-up.
  2. Slow down. You should always drive at a slower speed when the roads are wet. The faster you drive in a rainstorm, the more likely you are to have an accident. Leave the house earlier than usual to give yourself additional travel time so you won’t feel the urge to rush.
  3. Brake earlier and slower. When you need to slow down or stop on wet roads, ease on the brakes earlier and with less force than you would normally. This decreases your risk of hydroplaning and keeps a safe distance between you and the car in front of you. It also alerts any drivers behind you to slow down. If you stop too suddenly in a rainstorm, you could get rear-ended.
  4. Turn off cruise control. When you have cruise control turned on during a rainstorm, your car could actually speed up if you hydroplane. Plus, when you use cruise control, you’re probably not paying as much attention to the road. Turn off the cruise control and stay alert at all times when driving in the rain so you can react quickly if necessary.
  5. Avoid big “puddles.” If you spot a huge puddle in the road up ahead, drive around it or take a different route. Sometimes seemingly shallow puddles can actually be 5 or 6 feet deep—and that amount of water can cause serious problems for your car’s electrical system. Depending on how deep the water is, it could even float your car. If you aren’t sure just how deep a puddle is, steer clear of it altogether.
  6. Turn on your headlights. Even if just a few raindrops are falling, turn on your headlights. Not only will this help you see the road, but it will help other drivers see you. However, don’t use your high beams in the rain. This can actually reduce your visibility and blind other drivers.
  7. Turn on your defroster. Your windshield can fog up quickly during a rainstorm, which can cause you to lose sight of the road. Turn on your front and rear defrosters and the A/C to defog your windows.
  8. Keep an eye out for pedestrians. In a rainstorm, a pedestrian’s view of the road could be obscured by their rain slicker hood or umbrella—which means they may accidentally step into the road at the wrong time. If you are driving in a city or another area with pedestrians, keep a close eye out for people in the road.
  9. Pull over when things get bad. If the rain is falling so hard that you can barely see the car in front of you, pull over and wait for the rain to slow down or stop. After all, it’s much better for you to make it to your destination a little late than not at all.
  10. Don’t brake if you hydroplane. If you feel your car starting to hydroplane, don’t brake suddenly or turn the steering wheel. This could send you into a skid. Instead, ease off the gas pedal slowly and steer straight until you feel your tires regain traction. If you have to brake and don’t have anti-lock brakes, tap the brake pedal lightly. If you do have anti-lock brakes, you can brake normally.

Beyond the Law: Setting Stricter Limits for Your Teen Driver

Research shows motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of teen deaths. Tragically, 3,490 teenage drivers (between the ages of 15-20) died in car accidents in 2006 alone, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

The IIHS, along with other driving safety groups, has spent decades studying teen vehicle fatalities to determine what specific behaviors put teenage drivers in the danger zone. Their research reveals that driving at night, driving with passengers, receiving a learner’s permit before the age of 16 and getting a full license before the age of 18 put teens at a much higher risk of having an accident.

Unfortunately, state laws have failed to keep pace with the latest research. Many critics say states simply aren’t doing enough to protect teens on the road. That’s why the IIHS is imploring parents to step up and set stricter driving limits for their teen drivers.

If you want to keep your teenager safe on the road, consider the following advice the IIHS has to offer:

Make them wait

According to the IIHS, 16-year-olds have the highest rate of car crashes than drivers of any age. Sadly, many of these accidents prove to be fatal. This is why the institute strongly encourages parents to wait until their child turns 16 before allowing them to get a learner’s permit and until 17 to get a driver’s license.

Once the teen receives their learner’s permit, the IIHS says parents should put their teen through a learner stage that lasts at least six months. Parents should supervise a minimum of 30-50 hours of their teen’s driving before allowing them to get a full license.

After the teen earns their driver’s license, the institute says parents should restrict their teen’s driving until he or she is at least 18 years old. Specifically, teens should not drive at night and be limited to just one or no non-adult passengers.

Restrict night driving

Once your teen has earned his license, it’s crucial to restrict him from driving at night until he is at least 18. A 2003 IIHS report shows that driving between the hours of 9 p.m. and 5:59 a.m. triples a 16-year-old’s risk of having a fatal car crash.

Not only is it harder to drive in the dark because of low visibility, but teens are typically more tired at night. Driver fatigue is a major contributing factor when it comes to night-time teen crashes. Of course, the chance of teenagers consuming alcohol also increases as soon as the sun sets. According to the NHTSA, 31 percent of teen drivers killed in 2006 had been drinking.

Limit teen passengers

More than half of all deaths in crashes of 16 and 17-year old drivers occur when passengers under the age of 20 are in the car with no adult supervision. When a teen driver has a teen passenger in the car, they are twice as likely to have a fatal crash, according to IIHS. When a teen has three or more teenage passengers, their risk of a fatal crash is three times higher than if they had no passengers.

Of course, it’s no surprise why this is the case: passengers often cause distractions for teen drivers. However, researchers also believe that teens often “show off” for their teenage passengers by speeding and making riskier choices on the road.

Don’t let state laws dictate the driving limits for your teenager. The research shows that state legislation is simply too lenient for most teenagers. As soon as your child is old enough to understand, start preparing him or her for your unique household driving rules. If you make the idea of “no driver’s license until you’re 17” a family mantra, your teen will be prepared for it when the time comes.

Of course, if you tell your 15-year-old she’ll have to wait until she’s 17 to get a full driver’s license, you’ll probably meet some serious resistance. You’ll also have to listen to endless complaints when you tell your teen he can’t drive at night and is not allowed to have passengers. While it’s never fun to play the “bad guy” or upset your teen, it will be well worth it in the long run. Stick to your guns—after all, it could save your child’s life.

For more information on teen driving safety, visit www.iihs.org.

Can I Borrow Your Car — And Your Insurance?

“Bill, can I borrow your truck? I have to pick up a new mattress.” Questions like this are routine. Friends and neighbors borrow and lend their vehicles. College roommates borrow their friends’ cars. Six cars are parked in a driveway at a party and one needs to be moved so another car can pull out. The owner tosses someone the keys and tells him to move it. When situations like these end with an auto accident, whose insurance pays – the owner’s or the borrower’s?

In general, the vehicle owner’s policy is primary and pays first in the event of a loss. If for some reason the owner’s policy does not cover the loss or provide enough insurance to fully cover it, the borrower’s policy will apply. For example, assume that Joe has a policy with an insurance limit of $100,000 for injuries to one person and Bill’s policy has a limit of $250,000. Joe borrows Bill’s car and severely injures a pedestrian, resulting in damages of $300,000. Since Bill owns the car, his policy will pay first. It will pay $250,000 (his limit of insurance,) and Joe’s policy will pay the remaining $50,000. If Bill’s policy does not cover the loss (for example, if he had let the policy lapse,) Joe’s policy would pay all of its $100,000, but Bill and Joe might be individually responsible for paying the balance.

The owner’s insurance will also be primary for damage to the car itself. However, the borrower’s insurance can make up for a difference in deductible. Suppose Joe has a $500 collision deductible on his car and Bill’s collision deductible is $1,000. Joe totals Bill’s $5,000 car in an accident. Bill’s insurance will pay $4,000 for the car ($5,000 minus the $1,000 deductible,) and Joe’s insurance will pay $500 (Bill’s deductible minus Joe’s $500 deductible.) If Bill’s insurance is uncollectible because he didn’t buy collision coverage, Joe’s policy will pay $4,500 ($5,000 minus the $500 deductible.)

A person must have the car owner’s permission to borrow before the owner’s insurance will cover him. The insurance company will consider the person to have permission if he had a reasonable belief that he could use the car. For example, if Bill at one time said to Joe, “Take the car whenever you need to; the keys are on my desk,” and Joe had in fact borrowed it several times with no objection from Bill, it would appear that Joe had a reasonable belief that he could use it. On the other hand, if Bill never said anything to Joe about using the car, and Joe had to search Bill’s home to find the keys, Joe’s belief that he could use it might not appear to be so reasonable. In this case, Bill’s policy might not cover Joe’s liability for injuries or damages. Worse, Joe’s policy might not cover him, either.

Permission must come from the vehicle’s owner, not from a member of the owner’s family. Joe will not have coverage if Bill didn’t give him permission but Bill’s teenage daughter told him to use it. However, the daughter has coverage if she borrows the car, with or without permission. A member of the owner’s family has coverage without having to prove they had permission. To be considered a family member, such a person must be related to the owner by blood, marriage or adoption.

Before borrowing someone else’s car, we advise people to do the following:

  • Make certain you have the owner’s permission.
  • Make certain the owner has insurance in-force on the car.
  • Check your own insurance to see if it will cover damages the owner’s policy doesn’t cover.

An insurance agent can assist you with the third item. Ask the questions ahead of time to avoid unpleasant surprises later.

Driver’s Ed: For Your Teen or the Birds?

For decades, parents have sent their teenagers to driver’s education classes. Whether their child was taught by the high school gym teacher or a true driving expert, parents took comfort knowing that their teen was learning the safest driving techniques. That is, until 30 years ago when a federal study showed that learning to drive from a professional had no effect on the number of teen car crashes and fatalities.

More recent studies by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) have revealed that driver training, whether taught in high school or at driving school, may not benefit teen drivers. As a result, word on the street is that driver’s education classes simply aren’t effective.

Driver’s ed: Still worth your while?

Despite the studies, anecdotal evidence still shows that it could be worth your time and money to send your teen off to driver’s ed. Why? First of all, teens have to learn how to drive from someone—and if you’re not up to the task, you may need to turn to a pro.

Plus, teenagers may be more likely to listen to and absorb information from a driving instructor than their parents. After all, many teens simply “turn off” their own moms and dads. You know the old saying: In one ear and out the other.

On top of that, if you have any bad driving habits of your own, whether it’s a lead foot or a tendency to get distracted from the road, your teen will pick up these behaviors if you teach them to drive. This is exactly why a driver’s ed class could still prove to be beneficial for your teen.

Find the right program

Of course, driver’s ed classes are not all created equal. That’s why driving experts urge parents to take a closer look at a driver’s education program before enrolling their teen in the course.

But what exactly are you looking for? For starters, the program should focus on much more than simply how to pass the driver’s test. After all, you can pass the driver’s exam and get your license but still be an unsafe driver on the road. Experts say a good driving course should teach teens about risk reduction, including hazard recognition, vehicle handling, space management and speed management.

You get what you pay for

While a public school driver’s ed class may be affordable and convenient, not all of these classes are as effective as private driving school courses. Many public school districts have been forced to cut driver’s ed programs due to budget constraints. If your teen’s public school offers a course, be sure to scrutinize the program closely before enrolling your teen. You might discover it’s worth it to pay a little more for a privately-taught course.

Most private driver’s education courses charge between $250 and $350. If you pay much less than that, your teen probably won’t get the proper driving and safety techniques.

But how can you be sure you’re getting your money’s worth? Experts say you should look for a program that offers the following:

  • At least 36 hours of class lasting 9 weeks or longer
  • A minimum of six hours of on-the-road training, spread out over several days
  • A written curriculum or study plan the instructor is willing to share with you (When you look at the study plan, make sure it isn’t just focused on passing the driver’s test, but also about basic skills, defensive driving, safety, etc.)
  • An open door policy that allows parents to make suggestions and ask questions
  • Plenty of extra advice for parents trying to reinforce good driving skills

You may also want to look for a course that incorporates digital teaching methods, such as computer games. After all, this generation of teens is extremely technical—there’s tons of evidence that shows today’s teenagers learn more from “interactive teaching” than a chalkboard and textbook.

Ask for recommendations

You may also want to ask parents of teenagers who are already driving where they sent their children for driver’s education. Your colleagues, friends and neighbors may be able to recommend a great course—or at least steer you away from a bad one.

Stay involved

Even if you decide to send your teen to a driver’s ed course, it’s important to stay involved with your son or daughter’s driving education. Ride with your teen as often as possible, on weekends, after school, etc. This will allow you to monitor their progress and ensure they are learning safe and effective driving skills.

Hand Over the Keys! Having the “Big Talk” with a Senior Driver

Even though we know we’ll probably have to face it eventually, it’s a discussion all adults dread: the “Big Talk” about driving with a senior parent or grandparent. No one looks forward to telling their parent or grandparent it’s time to hang up the keys. However, when you notice your aging mom has dropped her driving speeds to 30 mph below the speed limit or you discover that your dear old dad no longer acknowledges stop lights, it’s time to have the talk.

If you have an aging family member who shouldn’t be behind the wheel, here are a few tips for broaching this delicate topic with them:

Know the warning signs

If you don’t spend a lot of time with your senior parent or grandparent, you may be uncertain about whether or not it’s time for them to stop driving. However, there are a few warning signs you should keep an eye out for that will help you make the decision.

For example, every time you visit, you may notice new dents and scratches on their car, their garage door or their mailbox. They may tell you about multiple near-accidents (although some will claim it wasn’t their fault) or they might continually receive traffic tickets or warnings. They may complain that they often miss street turns or can’t see traffic signs at the side of the road. These are all signs that it’s time to have the “Big Talk” with your senior parent.

Don’t hesitate

It’s natural to be anxious about telling your mom or dad they need to stop driving. Your parents have been telling you what to do for your entire life. So, it’s awkward when the tables turn and you suddenly have to tell the people who raised you what’s best for them.

However, look at it this way: your parent will be better off getting this advice from you and the rest of your family than receiving an order from the state motor vehicle department. As family members and people who love and know them, you and your relatives are the best candidates for telling your parent it’s time to give up driving.

Broach the topic delicately

Once you’ve determined the time has come for the driving discussion, try to get the all of the adults in your family involved. Work together to come up with the best approach for telling the senior driver it’s time to hang up the keys.

When you have the discussion with your parent or grandparent, try to keep the conversation adult-like. Do not treat the senior like a child—talk to them as you would about any other adult matter. Instead of being accusatory and saying things like “You did this” and “You’re not doing that,” try to use “I” to describe how you perceive the situation. For example, you may say, “I think you’re having a hard time seeing the road,” or “I worry about you having a terrible accident.”

If your parent resists, point out that they have a responsibility to others, as well. You may want to talk about how horrible they would feel if they killed or injured an innocent person because of a driving mistake. Typically, this is enough to convince a person that they shouldn’t be on the road.

However, if your parent simply refuses to give up driving and they haven’t had any accidents, you may have to give in and allow him to keep driving for another year. As they are still sharp of mind, they may still be able to manage a car.

On the other hand, if your parent has the beginnings of dementia, they should absolutely not be behind the wheel. If your loved one is suffering from the onset of dementia, you may have to sell the car and tell them it just isn’t available anymore or disable the car and tell them it no longer runs. This may seem cruel, but remember—it’s for the safety of your loved one and other drivers.

Be sensitive

Although you may tempted to firmly tell your parent, “Hand over the keys!” this is probably not the best way to approach the matter. Try to understand that this is going to be a tough transition for you loved one. After all, how will mom make it to her beauty parlor appointments or to church? How will dad get to the doctor or his poker parties? Try to see things from their perspective, and be sensitive to their feelings.

Many seniors fall into a deep depression after they stop driving because they feel a loss of freedom and control over their lives. This is why it’s so important to come up with alternatives to driving. As you discuss the change with your parent, discuss possible solutions for how they will get around. Maybe you, your siblings and other relatives could take turns driving them to their appointments and functions. Alternatively, you could purchase a mass transit pass for them so they can take the bus or the subway. You may also consider hiring a home-care agency that will transport your parent from point A to point B.

Whatever you do, don’t just firmly lay down the law with your parent and banish him or her to their house forever. Put yourself in their shoes, be delicate and offer clear solutions.

Men vs. Women Drivers: Does Gender Really Matter on the Road?

For years, insurance companies have regularly charged female drivers less for auto insurance coverage than males. Insurance companies claim it’s because women drivers statistically have fewer car crashes. However, no studies have actually proven that there is a difference between men and women’s driving abilities.

Looking at the stats

Over the past ten years or so, male fatalities have outnumbered female fatalities 2-to-1 in car accidents, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Men also have a higher rate of collisions that result in just property damage—also a 2-to-1 ratio.

According to the American Insurance Association, men are involved in 50 percent more fatal crashes per 100 million miles driven than females. This divergence is most prominent in drivers in their late teens and early to mid-20’s. 

Examining the male crash phenomena

No one can pinpoint exactly why men have more car crashes than women. Many researchers argue nature versus nurture theories. Some researchers blame natural male biochemicals—one study claims that high testosterone levels in men causes them to take more risks behind the wheel. On the other hand, some researchers say that men are products of their culture. These experts say society has taught males to act more competitively in general, which makes them more aggressive drivers on the road. Other studies point out that women are better multi-taskers, which makes them better drivers.

However, many people simply don’t buy into any of these studies. Skeptics say a person’s gender simply cannot predict whether or not they are a safe driver. The National Organization for Women’s Insurance Project points out that men simply have more crashes than women because they drive more miles each year. Because men are on the road more, they expose themselves to a more risk.

The gap narrows
Recent statistics show that the gap is narrowing between men and women crashes. Between 1975 and 2003, female fatalities in car accidents increased 14 percent, while male fatalities dropped by 11 percent.

Some experts say this is simply because women are on the road more these days. On top of that, an increasing number of women are becoming more aggressive on the road. If this trend continues, experts say insurance companies may soon stop taking gender into account as they calculate drivers’ insurance premiums.

A few states lead the way

Despite the latest research, insurance companies in most states continue to use gender as a factor in calculating premiums. Of course, insurers also take other things into account, including annual mileage, the type of car, the person’s previous driving record and even their Zip code (whether they live in the city, the suburbs or a rural area).

However, a handful of states, including California, Connecticut, North Carolina and Pennsylvania, no longer allow insurance companies to use gender as a factor to assess risk and calculate premiums.

The Right Homeowners Insurance Can Be a Homesaver

Homeowner’s insurance is an essential purchase. Mortgage holders require their borrowers to keep this coverage in force while the mortgage has a balance. However, the coverage is just as important for those who own their homes free and clear. Few individuals have sufficient funds to rebuild a destroyed home. For this reason, it is important for homeowners to have the right coverage, not just any coverage. Failure to consider a few factors can leave them with a too-small claim check or even no claim check at all. Probably the most important of these are the amount of insurance on the home and the perils that could possibly damage it.

Insurance industry consulting firm MSB has estimated that as many as two-thirds of American homes are underinsured, by an average 21 percent. This means that a home that would cost $100,000 to rebuild is probably insured for only $79,000. It is important for the insurance limit to reflect building costs in the area, not the prices that homes are selling for. It should also take into account the cost of rebuilding to comply with local codes, the expense of not buying materials in bulk, and any custom features the home has. For a nominal fee, MSB offers an online tool to help homeowners calculate their insurance needs at www.accucoverage.com.

Homeowner’s insurance typically covers damage caused by fire, lightning, vehicles, windstorms, and several other perils, but it does not cover everything. For example, it does not cover damage caused by flooding. Too many people fail to consider this; more than 40 percent of New Orleans homes damaged by Hurricane Katrina lacked flood insurance, and the insured rate was higher there than in other affected areas. Homeowners who live near ponds, creeks, lakes or oceans should give serious consideration to buying flood insurance from the National Flood Insurance Program, and even those who do not live near water should think about it. Officials with the NFIP estimate that one in four flood claims occurs in low- to moderate-risk areas.

Other perils that the policy may not cover include earthquakes, mudslides, mold infestations, and gradual rotting of building components. Homeowners in areas with frequent seismic activity should consider separate coverage for earthquakes and other types of earth movement.

The amount of insurance and the scope of the coverage have a major impact on the policy’s cost, but another influential factor is the deductible — the amount the homeowner pays out of pocket before the company pays. Higher deductibles result in lower premiums because the company is spared the expense of handling small losses that fall below the deductible. Each homeowner must decide the deductible amount that she can comfortably afford. Since homeowners often pay insurance premiums for many years without suffering a loss, the savings from the higher deductible discount may well offset the higher out-of-pocket expense if a loss occurs.

There are several other considerations homeowners have when they buy insurance. Do you have expensive pieces of jewelry, collectibles, musical instruments or artwork? Do you run a business out of your home? Do you or your children own laptop computers? Are you a landlord? Do you own snowmobiles or boats? Operate a home day care center? You may need special coverage for all of these. To identify your coverage needs and determine the cost of insuring them, speak with a qualified insurance agent who insures many homes. She can present options and provide information about the financial strength of companies and their claims handling practices.

Homeowner’s insurance is not just another expense. It is a vital part of a homeowner’s financial plan. Take the time to make certain you have the right coverage at a reasonable cost.