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Colorado Insurance Blog

Keep Your Pets Safe in a Disaster

A safe home, a regular routine, a soft bed – the things that bring you comfort bring your pet comfort, too. It’s so important to give some advance thought to how you’d handle your pet responsibilities during and after a disastrous storm or other event.

Your family emergency plan should include considerations for Fluffy or Fido. Not just so they’re comfortable, but so they’re safe, too.

Here are some emergency planning tips for families with pets:

Prepare Now so You and Your Pet Are Ready Later

  • Make sure your pet has ID. Always have your home address and/or phone number on a tag attached to your pet’s collar – or printed on the collar itself. You might also consider having a microchip implanted in case those tags fall off.
  • Keep a current photo of your pet handy. This is important for identification purposes in the event there’s no microchip or tags. If you really want to be prepared, create a “Lost Pet” flyer and keep a few printouts in your emergency kit.
  • Identify shelters or hotels that accept pets. Keep a list of their phone numbers and addresses, and include your local boarding facility’s number in case you need to drop off your pet. You could also create list of friends or family outside the area who can host you and your pets.
  • Think security. It’s a good idea to have a secure carrier or harness so pets can’t escape if they panic.
  • Create a separate pet emergency kit. You should have emergency supplies for you and your family – don’t forget your animal friends! Canned or moist food is best for them, as it can reduce their need for water. Other things to include: blankets, bottled water, pet first-aid supplies, vet records, extra collar and leash, food dishes and other supplies specific to pet type (such as cat litter, etc.).
  • Consider a buddy system. Talk with friends and neighbors and create a plan where you can help each other care for pets during emergencies. If one of you isn’t home when disaster strikes, the other agrees to see to the animals’ needs for care or evacuation. Be sure to discuss where to meet after an evacuation.

See to Your Pet’s Needs During a Disaster

  • Don’t leave pets outside or tied up. They may become frightened and escape. And, remaining outside can put them at greater risk of harm.
  • Separate dogs, cats and other animals. Even if they normally get along, stressful situations can lead to irrational behavior.
  • Have more unique pets, such as birds? Talk to your veterinarian about their specific needs in emergencies.
  • Keep a supply of newspapers. If your pets cannot go outside, you’ll need to create space indoors for them to … well, you know. Protect those areas with newspapers, towels or other items.
  • If at all possible, do not leave your pets behind if you need to evacuate. If you must, however, confine them to a safe area inside your home with access to plenty of food and water. Even leave the toilet seat up in case their other water runs out. And, it’s a good idea to leave an easily seen sign detailing how many pets are in the house, and how you can be reached.

Continue to Be Cautious Once It’s Over

  • Watch your pets closely. They may still be frightened, even days after a disaster. And, even familiar areas may have changed, so keep them on leash and stay close. Remember, there may be downed power lines or other hazards still present.
  • Re-evaluate how things went. Could your emergency plan have been better? Are there things you wish you had included in your pet’s disaster kit? Do you need to research more shelters and other facilities that will accept pets? Now’s the time to do it – before the next emergency.

If you’re like most people, you consider your pets part of the family. Including them in your plans, and taking steps before a disaster strikes, will make it easier to keep the whole family together.

Reposted with permission from the original author, Safeco Insurance®

Top image by Flickr user Lottie

10 Things You Should Know About Insurance In Colorado

1. Extreme weather impacts insurance rates in Colorado.

Hail and heavy rains can cause damage to cars, homes, boats, motorcycles, etc. Many claims are filed when there’s a big storm, which leads to the average insurance rates to increase.

2. Car insurance is more expensive in Colorado than in many other states.

The average car insurance rates have increased by more than 50% in the past 10 years. There are plenty of reasons that car insurance is increasing across the country, and more specifically in Colorado.

Read more about the increasing rates in Colorado in our blog 5 Reasons Insurance Rates Keep Increasing in Colorado

3. Population increases lead to rate increases.

The rapidly increasing population and crowded roads in Colorado has led to more accidents and higher car insurance rates.

4. The minimum liability limits to legally drive in Colorado are $25K/$50K/$15K.

Although you can legally drive with the minimum limits, they aren’t enough to protect your family and your future. Higher limits can save you a lot of money in the long run.

3 Ways You Can Protect Yourself From Personal Injury Attorneys

5. Homeowners in Colorado are more likely to file a roof claim than those in most other states.

Between 2017-2019, Colorado had the second most hail claims in the US. The only state with more in that span was Texas. With such severe hail storms in Colorado, most residents will file a roof claim in their lifetime.

6. As of 2019, 16.3% of drivers in Colorado are driving without insurance.

According to the Insurance Information Institute, the national average in 2019 was 12.6%. Colorado is well over the national average, which is why our Uninsured Motorist coverage rates are on the rise.

Want to know more about the importance of Uninsured Motorist coverage? Check out our blog Do I Need Uninsured Motorist Coverage If I Have Health Insurance?

7. Wildfires have a big impact on insurance in Colorado.

Homes in wildfire-prone areas are difficult to insure and come with a big price tag.

Here’s more information about the impact of wildfires on insurance in Colorado: What You Should Know About Wildfires and Insurance

8. Even though Colorado is a landlocked state, there is still risk of flooding.

Flooding doesn’t only happen near large bodies of water. Rapid rainfall or runoff from areas previously damaged by wildfire can cause severe flooding. You can add a flood endorsement on some home policies in Colorado, or buy a separate policy to cover your risk.

Read about flood insurance here: Flood Insurance 101 

9. Vacation rentals, like AirBnb and VRBO are becoming more popular in Colorado.

Colorado is an ideal vacation destination for many in both the summer and the winter. That means the demand for vacation rentals is skyrocketing. Renting out a second home or even a room in your current home is a great way to bring in some extra income. Luckily, there are plenty of options available for insuring homes used as a vacation rental, but it’s important to get the right coverage.

Vacation Rental Property Insurance: What You Need to Know

10. Rental car rates often skyrocket during hail season.

After a big hail storm, many people need a rental car while their car is getting fixed. With a limited inventory, most rental car companies sell out and the rates become inflated. Check your car insurance policy to make sure you have enough rental car coverage to account for higher costs associated with hail season.

What is “Broad Form” Auto Insurance and Why is it Risky?

What is Broad Form Auto Insurance?

Broad Form auto insurance is very basic liability insurance that covers only one driver. Only the driver named on the policy is covered, so if anyone else ever drives their vehicle(s), for any reason, they would have no coverage. Essentially; instead of covering most drivers that aren’t excluded by the policy like regular auto policies, Broad Form policies exclude every single driver that’s not listed on the policy.

Since it only covers the one driver, it rates for the person rather that the vehicle(s). You’d pay the same amount regardless of how many vehicles you own and it extends to any vehicle the policyholder operates.

Unlike traditional auto insurance, Broad Form policies don’t cover an entire household. You can’t get a policy with your spouse and your kids, you can only get a policy for one individual driver.

What is NOT covered by Broad Form insurance?

  • Damages to your own vehicle
    • That means you can’t get Comprehensive or Collision coverage for your car, so you’d have no coverage to repair your car from an accident, hail damage, theft, or any other cause of loss
  • Your own medical payments
    • There’s no option to add Uninsured Motorist coverage or Medical Payments coverage
    • You wouldn’t have any coverage for your injuries even if you were involved in a hit-and-run or an accident with an uninsured driver
  • Injuries to your passengers
    • Like with your own medical bills, your passengers wouldn’t have any coverage for their injuries in an accident either
  • Liability payments if someone else drives your car and causes an accident
    • A Broad Form policy only covers the driver listed, so if your spouse, child, friend, co-worker, or anyone else drives your car, they’d have zero coverage
  • Roadside Assistance, Loss of Use (Rental Car Coverage), Gap Coverage, etc.

Who does Broad Form coverage make sense for?

Some people consider Broad Form coverage a good option if they have older cars that they don’t want physical damage coverage on and only need liability insurance. Personally, I disagree. In my opinion, the most glaring coverage gap between a Broad Form policy and a normal auto policy isn’t to coverage for your vehicle, it’s the Uninsured Motorist and Medical Payments coverage.

Those are the coverages that will help pay for your bills if you get injured in an accident. Hospital bills can pile up very quickly and paying those expenses out-of-pocket can cause financial ruin.

Read more in our blogs, What is Uninsured Motorist Coverage? and Do I Need Uninsured Motorist Coverage If I Have Health Insurance?

I would only recommend Broad Form coverage to someone who has enough funds built up to handle those expenses on their own. While Broad Form coverage does provide basic liability insurance and meets the minimum limits required by the state, it’s almost like choosing to “self-insure.” It’s a way to pay the least amount of money, but have the least amount of security in the event of a loss.

Facts About Broad Form Insurance:

Broad Form coverage is so limited it doesn’t meet the insurance requirements for most states

Only 11 states accept Broad Form insurance:

  • Colorado
  • Delaware
  • Idaho
  • Iowa
  • Maryland
  • Mississippi
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • Ohio
  • Tennessee
  • Washington

Most reputable insurance companies don’t offer Broad Form auto insurance

Since Broad Form policies leave large gaps in coverage and aren’t considered good policies, most insurance carriers won’t even offer that type of policy.

10 Things to do to Prepare Your Home for Fall

Fall is a wonderful time — if your home is ready for it. So enjoy the last few weeks of warmer weather, but do a little preventative maintenance while you’re at it. You’ll fix small problems before they become big, and big ones before they become catastrophes.

Here are 10 tips to help:

  1. Look up. Examine your roof closely. Moss should be removed and debris cleared from gutters and downspouts. Repairing damage is crucial before fall weather is in full swing.
  2. Look down. Check for signs of animals and insects around your home and garage, including the basement and crawlspace. If you need help getting unwanted guests out, don’t hesitate to bring in a professional.
  3. Keep things warm. Heat escapes through leaks around windows and doors, so seal up any drafty areas. Outside, put covers over faucets before temperatures drop.
  4. Keep things dry. Drain outdoor hoses, faucets and irrigation systems. Look in the basement and crawlspace for wet spots. And make sure your water heater or boiler aren’t leaking.
  5. Clear the air (or vents and filters, at least). When’s the last time you checked your dryer vent? You should take a look at attic vents and exhaust ducts as well. And change that furnace filter, too!
  6. Take a walk. Cracks in your driveway or walkways will only get bigger, so get them fixed soon. If your deck has signs of wear, make repairs while the weather is still good.
  7. Get a tune-up. You or a professional should clean and tune your furnace, boiler and/or water heater, as well as your oven and range.
  8. Don’t play with fire. Before building your first fire of the season, check for soot or creosote build-up.
  9. Don’t play with fire extinguishers, either. But check them to ensure they still have pressure. Don’t have fire extinguishers? Put them on your shopping list, ideally one for each floor.
  10. Don’t forget those smoke and carbon-monoxide detectors. Replace batteries when needed, and test regularly that alarms are working.

Reposted with permission from the original author, Safeco Insurance®.

Top image by Flickr user Lali Masriera.

Does My Car Insurance Cover a Rental Car?

Whether or not an auto policy will cover a rental car is one of the most common questions I hear. The truth is, that question can mean two different things, and often leads to follow-up questions.

1. Does my insurance coverage extend to a car I’m renting (like on a vacation)?

You’ll have to check with your specific policy to be absolutely certain, but in general the answer is yes. Your liability coverage should extend to a car you a renting. If you have Comprehensive and Collision coverage on your policy, that would likely extend as well at no additional cost.

2. Does my insurance policy pay the daily fee to rent a car?

This is a more complicated answer and really depends on the situation and what coverage you pay for on your policy.

If you’re going on vacation or renting a car because your car is having mechanical issues, your policy would not pay for the rental car.

If your car was damaged in an accident, by hail, or some other covered loss, then your policy would pay for the rental car as long as you have selected rental car coverage on your policy. That coverage can go by several different names depending on your insurance provider, so it may show up on your declarations page under one of the following names:

  • Rental Car Reimbursement
  • Loss of Use
  • Additional Expense

Generally, that coverage has both a daily maximum limit and a per occurrence maximum limit. For example, your policy could cover a rental car for up to $50 per day, with a maximum limit of $1,500 for the entire claim. That adds up to $50 per day for up to 30 days. Some policies have only a maximum per occurrence limit without a daily cap, or some have no limits at all.

Most policies also have a weight or size limit for what rentals the policy will extend to. For example, many policies won’t cover a moving truck because of the gross vehicle weight limit.  The exact limitations will vary by policy, so be sure to check yours before assuming you’ll have coverage.

If you aren’t sure what coverage or limits your policy provides, call your agent and have them go over the coverage with you.

Should I buy rental car insurance from the car rental company?

That depends on the coverage you have on your policy, and in some cases your credit card.

Some credit cards provide insurance coverage for a rental car when you pay for the rental car using that credit card. You can usually call the number on the back of the card to talk about what coverage your credit card company provides.

If you have Comprehensive and Collision coverage on your auto insurance policy, you may not need to purchase insurance from the car rental company. The risk of relying on your policy is that it generally won’t cover any additional expenses you may be charged if the rental car is damaged and not able to be rented to others while it’s being repaired. Sometimes the rental car company will charge you for the daily cost they are losing out on while they can’t rent a car that was damaged in your possession. Most auto policies won’t cover that cost, but a policy through the car rental company may.

Another benefit to buying coverage through the car rental company is that if you have a claim, it’s not on your policy. Since the claim wouldn’t be on your policy, you wouldn’t see a rate increase at the next renewal because of the claim.

At the end of the day, each person has to consider the costs and benefits of relying on their policy or buying coverage through the rental car company and decide what’s best for them.

Will my policy cover me if I rent a car in another country?

Most US auto policies only extend coverage in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. If you’re renting a car in another country, you should purchase coverage specific to that country. Every country has their own insurance requirements and laws, so even if your policy did extend you may not be meeting that country’s requirements and could end up in legal trouble.

If my car is totaled in a claim, when do I have to return the rental car that was provided?

Once your car has been deemed a total loss and your adjuster has notified you, the clock starts ticking. Your policy will only continue paying for the rental car for a limited amount of time. After that has expired, you’ll have to either pay out of pocket for the rental car or return it.

The exact time frame will depend on your insurance carrier. Each company has their own guidelines, ranging anywhere from 1 day to 1 week, or possibly longer. On average, you’ll only have a couple days to return the rental car before you have to pay out of pocket.

Luckily, it shouldn’t come as a complete surprise if your car is totaled. As long as you’ve been in regular contact with your adjuster, they should give you a heads-up that a total loss is a possibility. That way you can start your search for a new car before your car is officially deemed a total loss.

If you have any questions about insurance for rental cars, give us a call today. We’re always here to help and happy to answer any questions.

What is Uninsured Motorist Coverage?

Uninsured Motorist coverage pays for expenses incurred if you’re injured in an accident caused by a driver that is uninsured. It’s generally coupled with Underinsured Motorist coverage, which pays for the same expenses but if the driver is considered underinsured, meaning their liability limits are lower than your chosen Underinsured Motorist limits. Those coverages together are often referred to at UM/UIM coverage.

Are you required to have Uninsured Motorist coverage?

Uninsured Motorist coverage is required in Colorado unless a signed rejection form is signed. You also have to sign a form if you elect to have your Uninsured Motorist limits lower than your liability limits.

So technically, no. You don’t have to have Uninsured Motorist coverage. But it’s recommended and you have to waive and sign away the rights to the coverage if you don’t want it.

If you choose to reject or lower your UM/UIM coverage but you don’t return the signed form in a timely fashion, the insurance company will add that coverage back to the policy and add the premium to your bills. That’s because insurance companies are required by Colorado law to either provide the coverage or retain a signed rejection or coverage selection form.

Who does it cover?

  • Drivers on the policy
  • Family members who live in the household
  • Passengers riding with an insured driver

Why is Uninsured Motorist coverage important?

In 2019, more than 16% of drivers in Colorado were uninsured. That means about 1 in every 6 drivers was driving with no insurance. If one of those drivers were to cause an accident and you, a family member, or a passenger were injured, they would have no coverage to pay for your medical bills, let alone any other expenses you might incur.

Coverage for things health insurance won’t cover

Many people assume they don’t need UM/UIM coverage because they have health insurance. While health insurance may help pay some of the bills, I wouldn’t put all of my eggs in that basket. For one, health insurance has limits of what they will cover and what is considered “in network.” If your ambulance ride or ER doctor isn’t in your network, you could be left covering that whole bill yourself.

Even if your health insurance does cover your medical bills, you’re still responsible for your health insurance deductible. With the rising costs of health insurance, many people are choosing higher deductible plans. That could leave you paying the first $5-10K out-of-pocket before you see your health insurance provider pick up the bill.

There are also some things that health insurance is never going to cover, like your lost wages, funeral expenses, or pain and suffering. Those are all things that Uninsured or Underinsured Motorist coverage can help pay for. If someone loses their life in an accident with an uninsured or underinsured driver, or if they’re out of work for a period of time while recovering, UM/UIM coverage can step in and relieve the financial stress.

Read more in our blog Do I Need Uninsured Motorist Coverage If I Have Health Insurance?

You may not know what insurance your passengers have

Do you ask everyone that gets in your car what health insurance they have? My guess is no.

You might let a coworker ride with you to lunch one day, carpool with a cousin to a wedding, or pick up your kids friends from soccer practice. All of those passengers would be covered by your UM/UIM coverage. Without knowing what health insurance they have (if any) or what their deductible is, you’re taking a gamble with their financial future if you don’t have Uninsured Motorist coverage to help protect them.

Not only that, but your passengers may not be able to afford being out of work for an extended period of time if they are injured in an accident. Your UM/UIM coverage can go a long way in helping them get back on their feet.

Who do you or your family members ride with?

Your Uninsured Motorist coverage also follows you and your household members when you’re a passenger in other cars. I know I don’t ask people what coverage they have on their car insurance policy before I get in the car with them, so I feel more comfortable knowing that I at least have coverage for the limits I chose for my family.

Uninsured Motorist vs Underinsured Motorist

You’ll have the same limit for both coverages, but they each have a specific scenario for when they will kick in.

Uninsured Motorist coverage extends when a covered person is injured in an accident that is caused by a driver with absolutely no liability insurance.

Example:

Sally had $100K in medical bills from an accident caused by Bob. Sally’s UM limits were 100/300 ($100K/person and $300K/accident), but Bob didn’t have any auto insurance. Since Bob doesn’t have liability coverage to pay for her bills, Sally’s policy would step in and pay the full $100K. If Sally didn’t have UM coverage, she would have to pay out-of-pocket or sue Bob for the damages.

Underinsured Motorist coverage extends when a covered person is injured in an accident that is caused by a driver whose bodily injury liability limits are lower than the covered person’s selected Underinsured Motorist limits.

Example:

Mary had $100K in medical bills from an accident caused by Jim. Mary’s UIM limits were 100/300 ($100K/person and $300K/accident), but Jim’s liability limits were only 25/50 ($25K/person and $50K/accident). Jim’s policy would only pay up to $25K of her medical bills because that is the per person limit. Since Mary’s UIM limits were higher than Jim’s liability limits, her policy would step in to pay the rest of the $75K of medical bills.

When is a Car Considered Totaled?

The short answer is that a car is considered a total loss when the cost to repair the vehicle is more than the vehicle is worth. The exact requirements for totaling a car can vary in each state, but the general guidelines are consistent.

Let’s explore how/when a car is considered totaled and what that means for the car and insurance.

Salvage Vehicles in Colorado:

According to the Colorado DMV, a car is considered a total loss when “the cost of repairing the vehicle to a roadworthy condition and for legal operation on the highways exceeds the vehicle’s retail fair market value immediately prior to such damage.”

To be considered a salvage vehicle, it must be damaged by collision, fire, flood, accident, trespass, or other occurrence, excluding hail damage. Hail damage alone doesn’t result in a salvage title in Colorado since the car is still considered roadworthy.

Once a car qualifies as a salvage vehicle, the owner must surrender the title to the DMV to get a salvage title. On the salvage title application, the owner must disclose the type of damage that resulted in the salvage vehicle.

What factors do insurance companies consider when determining if a car is a total loss?

Insurance companies look at a combination of the following factors:

  • The damage to the vehicle
  • The current value of the vehicle (immediately prior to the loss)
  • The vehicle’s salvage value
  • State rules and regulations
  • Availability and accessibility of replacement parts
  • The ability of the damage to be repaired to roadworthy condition
  • The length of time it’ll take for repairs
  • The potential for hidden damage

If you’re in an accident and the other driver was at-fault, their liability insurance will pay to repair your vehicle. In a case where the cost to repair your car is more than the car is worth, the insurance company can declare your car a total loss and pay out the actual cash value of your car.

In an accident where you were at-fault and have collision coverage on the vehicle, then your insurance policy will cover the damage to you car. And if it’s something other than an accident that causes damage, like hail, vandalism, or flooding, you’d need to have comprehensive coverage on the car for your policy to pay for the repairs. When it’s your collision or comprehensive coverage paying out, the settlement will be the actual cash value, less your chosen deductible.

Actual Cash Value: The market value of the car, or what someone else in your area would reasonably pay for the same car. It’s essentially the replacement cost minus depreciation for age and wear and tear.

What happens if a car is declared a total loss?

You can release the car to the insurance company and accept the actual cash value, or keep the car and take a lesser payment. If you choose to keep the vehicle, the insurance company will subtract the salvage value from the settlement offer and you’ll be given the difference. Essentially you buy back the salvage title.

If the insurance company was providing you with a rental car, there is generally a limit of time they will continue to provide the rental after informing you that your car is a total loss. Many companies will pay for the rental car for another 2-5 days, after that you would have to return the rental car or pay out of pocket.

What if I have a loan on my car that is totaled?

Unless you have purchased additional coverage, the presence of a loan or lease on your car doesn’t impact the claim payout offered. If you owe more than what the car is worth, you could end up paying the difference out-of-pocket.

If you have Gap coverage on your policy, your insurance company will pay the difference between the car’s value and what you owe on your loan or lease. I highly recommend Gap coverage for any car that has a loan or a lease.

How is the value of my car determined?

Any or all of the following details can determine the actual cash value of a vehicle:

  • Make
  • Model
  • Year
  • Mileage
  • Condition
  • Upgrades
  • Local Market

Can I insure a salvage title vehicle?

Yes, there are options available for insuring a vehicle that has been deemed a total loss. Each insurance carrier has their own guidelines when it comes to insuring salvage vehicles, and some won’t insure them at all. But there are carriers that will offer coverage, though it might be limited, for a totaled vehicle.

Some insurance companies will allow you to keep comprehensive and collision coverage on a previously totaled vehicle, but the payout for any claim would take into account the damage to the car. Other companies will only allow you to carry liability coverage on a salvage title car.

In Colorado, hail damage alone doesn’t require a salvage title, but insurance companies can still limit the coverage they provide based on the previous damage. Since hail damage is generally cosmetic and doesn’t often impact the safety of the vehicle, it’s easier to find coverage for a car that was totaled from hail damage as opposed to an accident.

The best way to get the coverage you want on a vehicle that has been totaled is to work with an insurance broker, like Integrity First. We work with many different insurance companies, so we can find a fit for the coverage you need. Give us a call today if you have questions about a salvage vehicle or want to get a quote.

The Deadly Reality of Distracted Driving

Distracted driving is credited with causing thousands of accidents every year. As many as 1,000 people are injured in a distracted driving accident every day.

There are plenty of things that can go wrong while driving. You can blow a tire or slip on ice, both of which might be out of your control. Driving distracted is not an accident though, it’s a choice. You can help make the roads safer by keeping your full attention on the road.

Examples of Distracted Driving:

  • Talking on the phone, even if it’s hands-free
  • Texting
  • Browsing social media or the internet
  • Eating or drinking
  • Putting on makeup
  • Looking at a map or setting your navigation app
  • Changing the radio station
  • Smoking or vaping
  • Reaching for something

According to DriveSafe Online, there are 3 types of distracted driving:

  • Visual distractions take your eyes off the road
  • Manual distractions take your hands off the wheel
  • Cognitive distractions take your mind off driving

There are many different forms of distracted driving, but texting is widely accepted as the most dangerous since it involves all 3 types of distracted driving.

In Colorado, texting while driving is prohibited. For drivers under the age of 18, no cell phone use is allowed, even if it’s hands-free. Teens have a higher risk of being in an accident caused by texting and driving due to the combination of their lack of driving experience and the desire to constantly be connected to their phones.

In 2019, 39% of high school students reported texting or emailing while driving during the past month.

-Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia

It’s important for parents to teach their teens the importance of focusing their attention solely on driving and not on talking, texting, or posting on social media. The first step is modeling that behavior. If your kids see you on your phone while driving, they will assume it’s okay to do and are more likely to engage in distracted driving themselves.

Frightening Statistics:

  • 3142 people were killed in distracted driving accidents in 2019
  • An estimated 36% of drivers use a smartphone app at a red light or stop sign, and 35% continue to use their phone while driving
  • Texting while driving doubles the chances for a car accident and triples the odds of your vehicle leaving the road, going over a curb, crashing into a tree, or colliding with a sign
  • Using a cell phone while behind the wheel reduces the amount of brain activity associated with driving by 37%
  • High school students who admit to texting while driving are also less likely to wear a seat belt and more likely to drink and drive
  • If you text while driving 55 mph, it’s the equivalent of driving the entire length of a football field without looking up
  • A person who texts while driving is 6 times more likely to be in an accident than someone who is driving drunk

Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia suggests the following strategies to break the habit of teen cell phone use while driving:

  • “Do not disturb while driving” settings can remove the temptation to use a cell phone while driving because notifications and messages are silenced while behind the wheel and can be set up to automatically come on. To increase adoption, this could be the factory default setting.
  • Applications that track driving behavior are being used by auto insurance companies to offer personalized rates for safe driving behaviors. A recent survey of 16- and 17-year-olds led by Dr. Delgado found those who admit to texting while driving may be convinced to refrain from this risky behavior if there was a financial incentive.
  • Applications that passively track cell phone use while driving give parents the opportunity to monitor their teens’ behaviors behind the wheel and to enforce house rules that prohibit cell phone use while driving for any reason and at any time.
  • Parents need to model safe driving behaviors, including no cell phone use while driving, well before their teens reach driving age.
  • Parents need to refrain from contacting their teens when behind the wheel. A CIRP/Penn School of Nursing study found that teen drivers receive the most calls from their parents.
  • Parents can provide their teens with safe alternatives to talking or texting while driving:
    • complete any call or text before starting the car
    • check in only after arrival
    • pull over to text or make a call

Understanding the risks of distracted driving is just the beginning. The best way to keep yourself and others on the road safe is to pledge not to drive with distractions.

You can put your phone on Do Not Disturb before you leave, know where you’re going before you start the car, and avoid eating and drinking during the trip. It’s also important to be aware of the distracted drivers around you so you’re ready to react if they make a sudden move that puts you in danger.

Help your loved ones stay safe by talking to them about the dangers of driving distracted.

Sources:

Staff, D. S. O. (2020, October 2). 12 Important Texting and Driving Statistics. DriveSafe Online®. https://www.drivesafeonline.org/defensive-driving/12-important-texting-and-driving-statistics/.

National Center for Statistics and Analysis. (2020, December). Overview of motor vehicle crashes in 2019. (Traffic Safety Facts
Research Note. Report No. DOT HS 813 060). National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Opportunities to Reduce Youth Distracted Driving. Center for Injury Research and Prevention. (2021, April 1). https://injury.research.chop.edu/blog/posts/opportunities-reduce-youth-distracted-driving-0.

Cell Phones. Teen Driver Source. (n.d.). https://www.teendriversource.org/teen-crash-risks-prevention/distracted-driving/cell-phones.

How to Keep Your Holiday Weekend Safe and Fun

Most Americans spend the 4th of July weekend swimming, BBQing, and enjoying fireworks. It’s a great time to catch up with family and friends and celebrate our great country.

Unfortunately, this holiday also brings more trips to the ER than most other days of the year. Between traffic accidents, firework disasters, and grilling mishaps, there are many ways to get hurt during the 4th of July celebrations.

Luckily, there are some simple steps you can take to ensure a fun and safe weekend.

Firework Safety

  • Follow the local firework laws. Fireworks that leave the ground are illegal in all of Colorado, but each county has its own guidelines for other types of firecrackers. 9 News lists the laws and regulations for each county for the summer of 2021.
  • Keep kids clear of any area where fireworks are being lit. Kids can run up at the last minute, so make sure there’s an adult in charge of any kids nearby.
  • Dress Safely. Wear close toed shoes and consider eye and ear protection.
  • Don’t shoot anything towards cars, houses, plants or people. Be careful not to damage any property or injure anyone. Colorado has a very dry climate, so if a firework hits a tree or a patch of grass a fire can spread quickly. Soaking nearby trees or bushes before lighting any fireworks can help avoid a fire.
  • Have water handy. Keeping a fire hose or a bucket of water nearby can prevent an accidental fire.
  • Keep your pets in a safe place. Many dogs get really anxious on the 4th of July and are more likely to escape. If you think your dog may get nervous about fireworks, consult your vet about the best way to help them.

BBQ Safety

  • Make sure someone is watching the grill. Avoid a potential fire by keeping a close eye on the grill while it’s on, and keep kids away from the hot surface.
  • Clean your grill before the BBQ. Built-up grease can cause a fire that could quickly spread to your house.
  • Keep your grill a safe distance from your house or fence. The National Fire Protection Association recommends keeping grills at least 10 feet from any structure.
  • Check the temperature of food. Use a meat thermometer to make sure all food is fully cooked before you serve it to your guests. You could find yourself on the other end of a lawsuit if you give everyone food poisoning.
  • Don’t let your guests drink and drive. Encourage a designated driver, Uber/Lyft, or let people spend the night if drinking will be involved. The 4th of July weekend is notorious for increased drinking and driving accidents. Do your part to keep the roads and your friends safe.

Water Safety

  • Consider the weather conditions before deciding to swim. Some conditions can create undercurrents that can increase the risk of drowning.
  • Don’t leave kids unattended. Looking away for even a minute could lead to a terrible accident. Floaties and life jackets can help keep kids safe, but there still needs to be an adult watching at all times.
  • Avoid drinking while swimming. Your reflexes can be dulled from alcohol consumption and may increase the risk of injury.
  • Don’t dive until you check the depth of the water. Always go feet first unless you’re sure you won’t hit your head.
  • Try not to swallow the water. There can be harmful bacteria that can cause illness.
  • If you’re taking a boat out, watch for swimmers and other watercraft. Keep life jackets on board and encourage your passengers to wear them in case of an accident.

Top photo by Stephanie McCabe on Unsplash

10 Tips to Help Prevent Identity Theft

Shopping online. Visiting the doctor. Buying gas. In nearly all of the things we do from day to day, there’s the risk of identity theft.

You could unknowingly give your information to a fraudster thinking you’re shopping at a legitimate site. Your doctor’s office could experience a data breach. Or, you could come across a tampered credit card reader at the gas pump.

The risks your identity faces go on and on. So, what can you do to stop it? Unfortunately, virtually no one today can completely negate the risk of identity theft. But, we can all take some important steps to help prevent it.

Here are 10 sensible habits to adopt that will help you protect your identity:

  1. Limit what you carry in your wallet, and know what’s there in case it goes missing. First things first, don’t carry your Social Security card on a regular basis. Instead, keep it in a locked safe at home. Have a form of identification or some other card with your Social Security number (SSN) on it? Carry a photocopy of it instead of the real thing, and cut out or otherwise render your SSN unreadable. As for credit cards, only carry the ones you need. Finally, make photocopies of the front and back of the cards you always keep in your wallet and store them in your home safe. If one (or all of them) goes missing, you won’t have to search high and low for the card issuer’s contact information.
  2. Keep your computers, software and other electronics secure and up to date. This means using strong passwords or enabling passcodes – remember not to write them down. It also means installing firewall, spyware and virus protection. Keep everything up to date (and backed up) for the latest security enhancements. For your portable devices, consider installing software to remotely wipe your data or locate the device if it’s ever lost or stolen.
  3. Don’t over share. Does every entity that asks for your (or your child’s) SSN really need it? Take a moment to think instead of automatically jotting it down. At the very least, maybe only the last four digits will do. In addition, be careful what you share online. Posting your full address, phone number, license plate number or your birth date online, even if it’s in a photo, may help others piece together a full picture of your identity.
  4. Do check your credit reports throughout the year. You’re entitled to a free credit report from each of the three bureaus once a year. And, since the information on each report is oftentimes largely the same, you can stagger your requests and receive a different report once every four months. Once you receive it, check your report for accounts and other activity you don’t recognize. Even a credit check from a company you haven’t done business with could be an attempt at identity theft. To order your free credit reports, call 1-877-322-8228 or visit http://www.annualcreditreport.com/.
  5. Keep an eye on your accounts. Your account statements can alert you to identity theft sooner than your credit report, in most cases. Check regularly for unauthorized charges or withdrawals and other illicit activity, such as address changes or additional cards you didn’t request.
  6. Watch your surroundings. Whether you’re using the ATM or a portable device, you want to be sure others nearby aren’t watching as you type in your PIN or password. And, just because you don’t see anyone nearby doesn’t mean they’re not there. If you’re using a shared or public WiFi, everyone else on the same network may see the data, including passwords or account numbers, you submit. Be sure to conduct sensitive transactions on secure networks.
  7. Reduce your mail. Start by opting out of pre-approved credit card offers by calling 1-888-5OPT-OUT and following the prompts. This should stay in effect for five years and help curb the risk of someone else obtaining a new credit card in your name. Next, sign up for paperless billing with your financial and service providers and/or schedule automatic payments through your bank. The less mail containing personal and account details that comes to your home, the less likely it is to fall into the wrong hands.
  8. Be skeptical when someone asks for your information. Scam artists don’t always have to steal your information. Sometimes they convince you to give it up willingly by telling you via a phone call, email, snail mail or text that you won a prize or need to verify your account. To claim the prize or account, you’ll, of course, need to supply some sensitive information. Requests like these are almost always inauthentic – what’s known as a “phishing” scam. So, stay on guard and contact the entity through a known, verified method to inquire about the matter, rather than providing personal details on the spot.
  9. Mind your garbage. If you’re throwing out account statements or other documents with personal information, you’re making it easy for dumpster divers to learn a little, perhaps a lot, about you. They may even learn enough to take over one of your accounts. So, shred your sensitive documents and then recycle them – don’t just throw them out in the garbage.
  10. Tidy up at home. Tax returns, credit cards you use infrequently, checkbooks, passports, birth certificates – these and other important documents should all be stored under lock and key. Whether it’s in a home safe or a locking desk or file cabinet is up to you. And, don’t leave the code or key in an easily discoverable place.

Despite your best efforts, you may still discover that your identity has been stolen, If so, take immediate action to:

  • Fill out the Federal Trade Commission’s Identity Theft Affidavit.
  • Take your affidavit to the police and file a report. Be sure to get a copy for your records. It will come in handy if you need to close fraudulent accounts, straighten out your credit report and more.
  • Call your financial providers to request new account numbers and, if needed, cards.
    Contact one of the three credit bureaus to place a fraud alert, which will encourage creditors to contact you before opening new lines of credit, on your credit report. The bureau you contact will share it with the other two.
    Experian: 1-888-397-3742
    Equifax: 1-800-525-6285
    Transunion: 1-800-680-7289

And, if you’re involved in a data breach and offered free credit monitoring, be sure to take advantage of it.

In today’s world of hyper connectivity and speed, it’s easy for your information to end up in the wrong hands. But, by being cautious with how you use and share your information, and checking for misuse, you can help keep your identity secure.

Reposted with permission from the original author, Safeco Insurance®.

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