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Daniel T. Murray Blog: auto

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For most of us, the act of driving is part of our daily routine; it feels like second nature. But safe driving requires our focus and attention. Left-hand turns top the list of the most challenging and dangerous driving maneuvers. In 2013, 31% of Arbella Insurance Group’s severe accidents—claims totaling at least $100,000 in bodily injury and property damage—involved a left-turning vehicle.

As those with the largest set of crash data, the insurance industry has a responsibility to better educate consumers on the risks of left turns and other dangerous driving moves. Municipalities should also work to build and restructure roads and intersections to lessen the risk for drivers. The U.S. Department of Transportation reports that nationwide, 53.1% of crossing-path crashes involve left turns. Additionally, a study by New York City transportation planners found that left turns were three times as likely to cause a deadly crash involving a pedestrian.

The reason left-hand turns are so dangerous is because the act itself disrupts the flow of traffic. Drivers must gauge the speed and distance of oncoming cars, cross the opposite lane, and watch for pedestrians or bicyclists—many of whom are becoming increasingly distracted themselves, largely due to cell phones. All driving, but particularly left turns, requires vigilance to other drivers’ movements in addition to just your own. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that close to half of the 5.8 million car crashes in the U.S. are intersection-related and the majority of those are the result of making a left turn.

So what can we in the insurance industry do to help mitigate the risks associated with left turns? We must communicate the risks involved with left-hand turns and encourage our insureds to make the maneuver as safe and risk-free as possible. This can be done by sharing safety information through social media targeted at customers and independent agents. Content for these communications can include recommendations for using intersections controlled by left-turn arrows, jug handles or rotaries; paying close attention to distracted pedestrians; staying alert when combating the sun or oncoming headlight glare; and paying close attention to other vehicles’ speed and actions, rather than anticipating what they will be. Also consider communicating the benefits of eliminating left turns from daily driving routines—the average commuter may be surprised to know that research shows consecutive right turns are faster and more fuel-efficient. This can be especially impactful to commercial customers who are better able to regulate the routes and movements of their drivers.

Could the future of driving be free of left turns? Perhaps, but it’s unlikely. Thankfully, vehicle-to-vehicle communication technology (V2V)—the dynamic wireless exchange of data between nearby cars—has reportedly advanced to such a degree that the NHTSA could start requiring it in all new vehicles as soon as 2020. Having this technology on the road could prevent as many as 592,000 left-turn and intersection crashes a year, saving 1,083 lives. But until these vehicles are the majority on the highway, left turns will continue to pose serious risks to drivers, and we need to continue to mitigate those risks through increased communication and improved engineering on all roads across the United States.

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Posted 9:12 AM  View Comments


I'll give you 2 hints: Lyft and Uber

Every year one story involving insurance seems to capture the public’s attention and this year that story was ridesharing.

The popularity of commercial ridesharing, which connects drivers and riders for a fare with the click of a button on a smartphone app, has skyrocketed across the country in recent years. However, transportation network companies like Uber and Lyft have not only “disrupted” the taxi’s traditional drive-for-hire business model, but have also presented challenges for policymakers and insurers who have a vested interest in protecting the public.

The story that emerged this year had its roots in regulations passed by the California Public Utility Commission in the fall of 2013 and really emerged into public view New Years’ Eve when a driver for Uber struck and killed a 6-year-old in San Francisco. Since then, as the transportation network companies expanded their operations across the country, controversy, cease-and-desist orders, fines for operating without a license, and legislative and regulatory battles have followed.

The narratives involved were quite simple: “upstart tech firms fight cumbersome regulations that stifle innovation and jobs,” “taxis seek level playing field regarding regulations,” “marketplace innovation is great, but the vehicles used in ridesharing services must be properly insured to protect the public.” The TNCs marshalled celebrity investors, a loyal customer base and everyday people who drive for the services to convince policymakers their operations were different from taxis. Meanwhile, the taxis relied on their army of drivers and experience navigating regulatory avenues to preserve their business model. Sometimes lost in the heat of battle over whether TNCs should be subject to the same regulations as taxis are important insurance implications that need to be addressed. However, the insurance industry diligently worked to keep consumer protection front and center.

Faced with the competing interests, city after city, state after state has struggled to find the best way to balance regulations and ensure adequate consumer protections. Because there is very little in statute dealing with TNCs, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) and more than 20 state insurance departments and public service commissions have issued consumer alerts or advisories highlighting the potential insurance gaps in coverage for TNC activity and encouraging TNC drivers to talk with their insurers to understand their exposure.

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Posted 8:44 AM  View Comments


Having insurance is a lot like carrying an umbrella with you at all times: Most of the time it feels burdensome, but boy, are you glad to have it when the rain comes.

The right insurance policies are key to a healthy financial life. Below, we've explained briefly which those are, plus when you should purchase them.

Keep in mind that insurance policies are largely personal. Everyone's situation and needs are different, and as your life changes (say, you get a new job or have a baby) so should your coverage.

One of the best things you can do to get the best coverage for your needs is to educate yourself: Get multiple quotes, read your policy closely before signing on, and don't hesitate to ask questions when you don't understand.

Also note that while the policies below are arranged by age, of course they aren't all set in stone. If you become a homeowner in your 40s instead of your 30s, for example, that's when the need for homeowner's insurance will kick in.

Here's a brief overview of the policies you need and when you need them:

In Your 20s

Health insurance. While the Affordable Care Act has brought health insurance to the headlines, the simple fact remains that for most of us, healthcare in the U.S. is impossible to afford without insurance. (Not to mention that under the ACA, you usually have to pay a fine if you go without coverage.) Under the law, children can stay on their parents' policies until age 26. If that's you, you'll need coverage immediately after that period. If you have a job, you can usually obtain it through your employer.

You'll stop needing it: Never.

Auto insurance (when you get a car). There were over 5.6 million accidents in 2012, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety administration. If you have a car, you need auto insurance. Insurance rates vary according to everything from who is driving the car (like your teenager) to your driving history.

You'll stop needing it: When you no longer own a car.

Disability insurance (when you get a job). Disability insurance is meant to provide income should you be disabled and unable to work. It's estimated by the Social Security Administration that over 25% of today's 20-year-olds will be disabled before retirement.

If you're relying on your income to live, you should have disability insurance. Most people who are traditionally employed should be able to secure a policy through their employer, while people who are self-employed will have to take out an individual policy. Some people may prefer the increased coverage provided by buying private policies to supplement those from their employers. This is even more important if you have dependents relying on your income.

You'll stop needing it: Once you exit the working world around age 65, which is often the end of the longest policy you can buy.

Renter's insurance (when you rent your own place). Renter's insurance, while not a baseline requirement like health or auto insurance, is something any renter will be glad to have in the case of a fire, leak, or storm. While policies differ, they're generally low cost (think $30 a month) and cover costs including the replacement of your personal property as well as a temporary living situation should you be unable to occupy your rented home. Note that, if needed, you can usually add coverage to this policy for an engagement ring.

You'll stop needing it: When you stop renting.

In Your 30s

Life insurance (when you get married and/or have children). Life insurance, like disability insurance, is meant to replace your income for those relying on it should something go terribly wrong. There's one situation in which pretty much everyone agrees some type of life insurance is a good idea: When you have dependents, such as minor children or a spouse who doesn't work.

You can calculate your coverage needs at lifehappens.org. Again, many people will be able to get coverage through their employers, but not always as much as they need. Some experts recommend replacing up to 10 times your annual income.

You'll stop needing it: When your dependents are no longer relying on you for financial support. For that reason, term life insurance (a policy that only covers you for a set amount of years) tends to be a better fit for many parents, whose kids will grow up and become financially independent.

Homeowner's insurance (when you buy your own place). This is one of those non-negotiables: If you own a home, you need homeowner's insurance, which should cover everything from the structure itself to your belongings to liability should someone be injured on your property. Note that if you live in an area of the country that's subject to flooding, earthquakes, or other natural disasters, you may need to purchase additional coverage that isn't included in your primary policy.

You'll stop needing it: If you sell your home and go back to renting, or make other living arrangements.

Pet insurance (if you have a pet). Pet insurance isn't necessarily a must-have, but if you're the type to shell out $8,000 for your dog's surgery, it might be worth considering. Some plans even cover routine vet visits and vaccinations, and most will reimburse 80-90% of your vet bills for a premium that ranges from about $100-$300 per year.

You'll stop needing it: When you no longer own a pet.

In Your 40s

Long-term care insurance. Long-term care insurance is exactly what it sounds like: It covers care for people who are aging or disabled and need help with daily living, whether that means a nursing home or an attendant. This is the sort of thing people don't think about until they get older and realize this might be a reality for them, but of course, as you get older you get more expensive to insure. That's why it's a good idea to start looking at long-term care insurance well before you need it. Bankrate.com has a great explanation of how shopping sooner rather than later can save you money.

You'll stop needing it: Never.

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Big savings are not all they seem, at least when it comes to buying auto insurance.

The just-released J.D. Power 2014 U.S. Insurance Shopping Study finds that poor service is a leading reason why customers shop for and switch to a new auto insurer, rather than price.

Declining satisfaction with new price is also the primary reason customers are less satisfied when they do switch insurer, according to the study findings.

J.D. Power notes that some 30 percent of auto customers shopped for a new insurance provider in 2013, of which 36 percent ultimately switched insurers.

Perhaps surprisingly, increases in premiums do not drive shopping as much as poor experience.

Customers who have a poor experience with their insurer shop at a rate of 28 percent – more than double the rate of shopping among those who experience a premium increase (13 percent).

Another key takeaway is that customers are tolerant of rate increases at a certain level. However, rate hikes of more than $200 can triple the rate of customers who switch insurers.

A press release quotes Jeremy Bowler, senior director of the insurance practice at J.D. Power:

Price, however, is still important in the selection process with eight in 10 customers selecting the lowest-price insurer.

Price is also an increasingly important driver of new-buyer purchase experience satisfaction once customers have selected a new insurer. Overall new buyer satisfaction with the auto insurance buying experience averages 821 (on a 1,000-point scale), down significantly from 828 in 2013.

J.D. Power notes that the decline in satisfaction is driven by a 17-point drop in the price factor, which has the greatest impact on customer satisfaction.

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A report just released by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) puts a $277 billion price tag on the economic costs of traffic crashes in the United States in 2010, a 20 percent increase over its 2000 data.

The economic costs are equivalent to approximately $897 for every person living in the U.S. and 1.9 percent of U.S. Gross Domestic Product, the NHTSA says, and based on the 32,999 fatalities, 3.9 million non-fatal injuries, and 24 million damaged vehicles that took place in 2010.

Included in these economic costs are lost productivity, medical costs, legal and court costs, emergency service costs (EMS), insurance administration costs, congestion costs, property damage and workplace losses.

When you add in the $594 billion societal cost of crashes, such as harm from the loss of life and pain and decreased quality of life due to injuries, the total impact of crashes is $877 billion.

It’s interesting to note that the most significant components were property damage and lost market productivity. In dollar terms, property damage losses were responsible for $76.1 billion and lost productivity (both market and household) for $93.1 billion.

The NHTSA explains that for lost productivity, these high costs are a function of the level of disability that has been documented for crashes involving injury and death. For property damage, costs are mainly a function of the very high incidence of minor crashes in which injury does not occur or is negligible.

Another takeaway from the survey is the impact of congestion, which accounts for some $28 billion, or 10 percent of total economic costs. This includes travel delay, added fuel consumption, and pollution impacts caused by congestion at the crash site.

There’s a separate chapter of the NHTSA report devoted to congestion impacts that includes some fascinating data.

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Posted 9:05 AM  View Comments


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Daniel T. Murray, Inc.
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