Study: Some Older Drivers More Susceptible to Making Errors When Distracted

Posted by Benji Riggins on June 22, 2012 under Interesting Info | Be the First to Comment

When you hear the phrase “distracted driver,” what comes to mind: a teen texting while behind the wheel, or an older driver? According to researchers, certain older drivers might be particularly susceptible to making driving errors when distracted.

New research suggests that older drivers who show limitations on a Useful Field of View (UFOV) test make more driving errors when distracted. Useful field of view is defined as “the area over which a person can extract information in a single glance without moving his or her head or eye.” Drivers with limitations in UFOV are more likely to have problems in demanding driving situations and have an increased risk of crashes.

The study, led by Joanne M. Wood, Ph.D., FAAO, of Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia, included 92 drivers who averaged 74 years old and who underwent the computerized UFOV test. Drivers then performed a closed-course driving test three times. On two occasions, they did the driving test with in-car visual or auditory distracters, consisting of simple math problems presented on a video screen or audio speaker.

Drivers who had limitations in UFOV were most likely to have problems on the driving test related to both visual and auditory distracters. They also took longer to complete the driving test – possibly reflecting slower driving speeds, which are common among older drivers. In particular, drivers who scored lower on the “selective attention” subtest of the UFOV had decreased performance in the presence of distracters. These drivers also were more likely to be rated at high crash risk on the UFOV.

In contrast, older drivers who did better on the selective attention subtest had better overall performance on the driving test, even with distracters. The selective attention subtest was a better predictor of performance on the driving test than the other two UFOV subtests (visual processing speed and selective attention).

Minimizing Distractions

Previous research has shown that the UFOV test is highly effective in predicting crash risk among older adults, with or without vision problems. The new study suggests that distractibility is an important contributor to problems in driving performance and to crash risk predicted by the UFOV test.

“Our results have important implications for the design of in-vehicle devices, such as satellite navigation devices and mobile phones (even when hands free),” Wood and coauthors wrote. “The effects of distracters are likely to be exacerbated as the driving environment becomes increasingly complex.”

The researchers believe that older drivers with “more extensive constriction” of their UFOV should be warned of their possible increased risk of driving errors – and especially should minimize distractions while driving.

“The result is consistent with the observation that many have made that as you age you find in-vehicle distractions (like a radio or noisy conversation) to be more annoying,” said Anthony Adams, OD, Ph.D., editor-in-chief of Optometry and Vision Science. “It certainly raises even more questions about the wisdom of in-vehicle screen displays and cell phone use!”

The study appeared in the April issue of Optometry and Vision Science, the official journal of the American Academy of Optometry.

By Laura Walter

Transportation Chief Calls for National Ban on Cell Phone Use While Driving

Posted by Benji Riggins on June 19, 2012 under Interesting Info | Be the First to Comment

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood called on Thursday for a federal law to ban talking on a cell phone or texting while driving any type of vehicle on any road in the country.

Tough federal legislation is the only way to deal with what he called a “national epidemic,” he said at a distracted-driving summit in San Antonio, Texas, that drew doctors, advocates and government officials.

LaHood said it is important for the police to have “the opportunity to write tickets when people are foolishly thinking they can drive safely or use a cell phone and text and drive.”

LaHood has previously criticized behind-the-wheel use of cell phones and other devices, but calling for a federal law prohibiting the practice takes his effort to a new level.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that 3,000 fatal traffic accidents nationwide last year were the result of distracted driving. Using a cell phone while driving delays reaction time the same amount as having a blood alcohol concentration of .08, the legal limit, the highway agency said.

But Gary Biller, president of the National Motorists Association, said laws banning specific actions like talking on a phone or texting are not necessary because those actions are already covered by existing distracted-driving laws. It would be more productive, he said, to invest resources in campaigns that discourage inattentive driving in general.

“It shouldn’t matter if the driver is distracted by a conversation with another vehicle passenger, tuning the radio, eating a snack, or talking on a cell phone,” Biller said in a statement. “Existing laws cover all those distractions and more.”

LaHood said, however, he was not as concerned about people who eat, apply makeup, or perform other distracting activities in cars because “not everyone does that.”

“But everyone has a cell phone and too many of us think it is OK to talk on our phones while we are driving,” he said at the summit, sponsored by insurance company USAA, the Texas Department of Transportation and Shriners Hospitals for Children.

LaHood was joined by people who have been hurt in accidents caused by motorists talking on cell phones, including children in wheelchairs who were paralyzed. Such accidents are “100 percent preventable,” he said.

He compared the situation facing the United States today with the problem of drunk driving 20-30 years ago.

“It used to be that if an officer pulled you over for drunk driving, he would pat you on the back, maybe call you a cab or take you home, but he wouldn’t arrest you,” LaHood said. “Now that has changed, and the same enforcement can work for people who talk on cell phones while driving.”

Thirty-eight states have laws restricting or outlawing the use of electronic devices while driving, LaHood said.

LaHood said his department was researching the effect that hands-free devices and new systems like Ford Motor Company’s Sync have on distracting drivers. He said he has called the CEOs of major car companies and encouraged them to “think twice” before placing too many Internet-based systems into new cars.

By Jim Forsyth
(Editing By Corrie MacLaggan and Philip Barbara)

15 Most Family-Friendly Cars

Posted by Benji Riggins on June 11, 2012 under Interesting Info | Be the First to Comment

There are more than just minivans for today’s mobile family.

Need a car that’s family-friendly? There’s a surprisingly broad range of offerings available and that doesn’t mean you’ll be stuck picking from a pile of minivans.

In fact, there were only two of those classic family-movers among the list of the 15 most family-friendly cars compiled by Parents magazine and online research firm The list also included a mix of midsize sedans, crossovers and SUVs, a pair of hybrids and even some downsized economy models sized for various-sized families and budgets.

Of the 15 vehicles on the list, 14 of them have already earned a coveted “Top Safety Pick” designations from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and, Parents and Edmunds noted, every model comes with a mix of safety features including, at a minimum, antilock brakes, electronic stability control and a minimum of six airbags.

Only two minivans, including the Honda Odyssey shown here, made this year’s list.

Japanese makers dominate the list, with seven individual models, followed by four Detroit offerings. But Korean makers Hyundai and Kia landed three products with Germany’s Volkswagen rounding out the tally.

Curiously, some of the prices quoted were out-of-date, however, and did not include destination charges, typically adding about $800. The revised figures for base models – in this case gathered from Edmunds’ competitor,, are shown, below, however, and include those delivery fees. also adds the EPA fuel economy numbers for the models in the high-mileage category, listed as City/Highway/Combined miles per gallon.

•Toyota Prius V, starts at $27,310, 44/40/42
•Honda Civic Hybrid, starts at $24,990, 44/44/44
•Chevrolet Cruze Eco, starts at $20,120, 28/42/33 (with Manual Transmission), 26/39/31 (with Automatic)

•Chevrolet Sonic, starts at $14,660
•Ford Focus, starts at $17,295
•Hyundai Elantra, starts at $16,120

•Mazda 5, starts at $20,420
•Kia Sorento, starts at $23,950
•Honda CR-V, starts at $23,325

•Volkswagen Passat, starts at $21,360
•Toyota Camry, starts at $22,815
•Kia Optima, starts at $20,250

•Dodge Durango, starts at $29,990
•Toyota Sienna, starts at $25,870
•Honda Odyssey, starts at $29,205

To compile the list, Parents and Edmunds say they consider prices and features, conducted their own tests and then “consulted parents who own and drive these vehicles every day.”

by Paul A. Eisenstein

Corvettes Still Hot: NICB Reports More Than 1 in 10 Stolen

Posted by Benji Riggins on June 8, 2012 under Interesting Info | Be the First to Comment

New “Classics” Supplement Tallies Thefts from 1981-2011

When the first Chevrolet Corvette rolled off a makeshift assembly line in Flint, Mich. on June 30, 1953, it penetrated a sports car market dominated by European models.

As quintessentially American as apple pie, the Corvette soon became a shiny symbol of U.S. performance and craftsmanship.

However, as the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) illustrates in its second Hot Wheels Classics report, the road for America’s oldest continuously produced sports car has not always been smooth.

Like other popular objects of significant beauty and value, the Corvette is highly coveted—and apparently frequently targeted by thieves.

In reviewing Corvette theft data ranging from 1953 to 2011, the NICB identified an alarming 134,731 theft records.

It is important to note that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) required vehicle identification number (VIN) standardization beginning with the 1981 model year, and therefore confidence in pre-1981 records is low because of inconsistency in reporting protocols and VIN systems. Consequently, NICB incorporated information dating from 1981 and later to compile this latest report.

During the 30-year period from 1981 to 2011, a total of 90,427 Corvettes were lifted in the United States and Puerto Rico. During that same period, 862,918 Corvettes were produced in the United States. However, from 1953 through the end of the 2011 model year, a total of 1,526,747 Corvettes have been produced. The year with the most U.S. production was 1984 with 51,547. The year with the fewest Corvettes produced was 1953, when just 300 units were built.

As for the top 10 states where the most Corvette thefts occurred, California leads the nation with 14,002. Of the 30-year total of 90,427 thefts, 63,409 of them—or 70 percent—occurred in the top 10 states.

NICB does point out that total vehicle thefts have been waning in recent years, which is likely little consolation to proud owners.

By Christina Bramlet,

Dog Bite Claims on the Rise

Posted by Benji Riggins on June 1, 2012 under Claims | Be the First to Comment

Dog bite claims increased 16 percent in 2011 compared to 2010, and have grown close to 48 percent since 2003, according to figures released by the insurance industry.

On the eve of National Dog Bite Prevention Week, the Insurance Information Institute and State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co. released figures indicating that dog bites are costing the insurance industry hundreds of millions of dollars each year.

I.I.I. says that, in 2011, dog bite claims amounted to close to $479 million with a total of 16,292 claims filed.

I.I.I. says the increase can be attributed to “increased medical costs as well as the size of settlements, judgments and jury awards given to plaintiffs, which have risen well above the rate of inflation in recent years.”

According to Bloomington, Ill.-based State Farm, the company paid more than $109 million in claims resulting from 3,800 dog bite claims in 2011.

California was number one on State Farm’s list for dog bite claims and money paid out, with 527 claims for an estimated $20 million. Illinois was second with 309 claims and $10 million.

In conjunction with National Dog Bite Prevention Week, which runs May 20-26, the U.S. Postal Service released its list of the top 25 dog-attack city rankings.

Los Angeles was number one with 83 attacks, followed by San Diego with 68 and Houston with 47.

The Postal Service says that, nationwide, there were more than 5,577 postal workers attacked in 1,400 cities. The attacks on workers cost the Postal Service close to $1.2 million last year.

According to the center for Disease Control and Prevention, there are more than 4.7 million people bitten by a dog each year and 800,000 seek medical attention for their bites. Of those bitten, more than half are children.

As part of a campaign, the participants in National Dog Bite Prevention Week have issued a series of tips to reduce the risk of dog bites.

Among the steps:
•Socialize your dog so it know how to act with other people and animals.
•Discouraging children from disturbing a dog that is eating or sleeping.
•Avoid exposing your dog to new situations in which you are unsure of its response.
•Never approach a strange dog and always avoid eye contact with a dog that appears threatening.

By Mark E. Ruquet,

NAIC: 59% Homeowners at Risk of Property Loss

Posted by Benji Riggins on May 29, 2012 under Insurance News | Be the First to Comment

According to a NAIC report, thousands of homeowners are cleaning up and filing insurance claims following an outbreak of devastating tornadoes across the U.S., but are those possessions properly protected to the fullest extent?

According to the February 2012 survey included in the report identified above from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), more than half (59%) of Americans don’t have a home inventory of their possessions, putting them at risk for inadequate home insurance coverage, should severe weather strike.

The recent survey showed that 59 percent of consumers have not made a list or inventory of their possessions. After a tornado or hurricane strikes, water and wind damage can destroy any conventional shoebox system of storing receipts and owner’s manuals.

But even for those individuals with a home possessions inventory some do not have a comprehensive enough system to be reimbursed for storm losses. The survey showed that 48 percent do not have receipts; 27 percent do not have photos of their property; and 28 percent do not have a back-up copy of the inventory outside the home. These are essential to claiming client’s entire losses. Furthermore, 59 percent of people with inventories have not updated their inventories in more than a year, meaning new purchases and gifts may not be covered.

“Violent weather events affected approximately 80 percent of the nation’s population over the past six years. These storms have left widespread destruction in their wake,” says Kevin M. McCarty, NAIC President and Florida Insurance Commissioner. “Creating a detailed inventory of your possessions is one the best ways to ensure you have the right amount of homeowners or renters insurance for you and your family, he continued.”

Coverage for Storm Losses

Before severe weather strikes, consumers can use their inventory to evaluate their coverage and determine if they need to update their policies. It’s important to know that how much is reimbursed varies greatly from policy to policy. On average, home contents are reimbursed only up to 50 percent of the home’s insured value, i.e., $50,000 to replace the contents of a home insured for $100,000. Of course, home inventories also help in the case of home burglaries losses when items are stolen.

Contents coverage includes replacing a home’s furnishings and the insureds clothing and other possessions. The standard homeowners policy would cover the purchase price less depreciation applied to those items. Under a policy with replacement cost coverage insured’s are covered for the cost to replace items.
Contents replacement coverage includes:
•Clothing, furniture, and electronic equipment,
•Portable and window air conditioners,
•Portable microwaves and dishwashers,
•Carpeting that is not already included in property coverage, and
•Clothing washers and dryers.

Home Inventory Process Assistance

So who can your clients turn to in accomplishing this important documentation? They can set up their own database and make a home video recording but for many this process seems time-consuming. Here are a list of entities available for collaboration with agents and brokers to help make this process easy for their clients:
•KC Home Inventory
•Hobson Inventory

These documentation service providers prepare complete and thorough documentation of your personal property to equip clients in the event they need to file an insurance claim. The documentation is designed to maximize claim reimbursement, make the claim process less difficult, and expedite the settlement.

In addition the NAIC has an app available for smart phone users. The NAIC myHOME application makes it easier for consumers to document their valuables, update their inventories and store the information for easy access after a disaster. The app is free and available for both iPhone® and Android® smart phone users.

By Michael Meulemans, Guide

Home Insurance Goes Through the Roof

Posted by Benji Riggins on May 25, 2012 under Insurance News | Be the First to Comment

Faced with falling home prices and climbing maintenance costs, struggling homeowners may soon face another setback: higher insurance premiums.

After rising steadily for the past few years, homeowner insurance premiums are expected to jump another 5% this year to $1,004, according to the Insurance Information Institute. That’s the biggest yearly increase since the market downturn and will mark the first time the national average premium is above $1,000.

Premiums will rise even higher in some states. In Georgia, GuideOne Insurance will raise rates by 12% on average starting this month. Farmers Insurance is increasing rates in Texas by 10% on average. Last month, Allstate started raising rates by 15% in Pennsylvania. And Florida insurer Citizens Property Insurance Corp. and North Carolina Farm Bureau are raising rates on some condo and homeowners by 21% and 6%, respectively.

The higher premiums come at a challenging time for American homeowners, as millions are behind on their mortgage payments and many owe more on their home than it’s worth. Insurers say the higher premiums are partly to cover their rising costs: Insured catastrophe losses in the U.S. totaled $35.9 billion in 2011, compared to a 2000 to 2010 average of $23.8 billion, according to the III. The companies are also paying more in premiums to so-called reinsurers, which provide insurers coverage for widespread catastrophic events, says Steven Weisbart, senior vice president and chief economist at the III.

Meanwhile, insurers’ returns on their investments — roughly 70% of their assets are in bonds – have been low, he says, and they’re looking for other ways to make up that lost revenue. “The only other place insurance companies can get money from is premiums,” he says.

Typically, when policyholders are informed of premium increases they shop around for better prices, but experts say that’s become harder to do. As insurers exit some markets altogether, homeowners are left with fewer companies to choose from. For instance, starting in May, State Farm will not renew roughly 11,000 homeowner policies in five coastal counties in Texas. The company says it’s trying to lessen its exposure to future losses.

To lower premiums, some homeowners increase their deductible, which means they’ll have to pay more out of pocket if disaster strikes before their insurance kicks in. But this strategy might not be as helpful this time around, since some insurers are dropping other types of coverage that were previously part of basic homeowner insurance policies. When coupled with a high deductible, a homeowner’s expenses could soar.

Allstate, for instance, recently introduced a new homeowner’s policy in Kansas and Oklahoma that doesn’t pay out the full cost of replacing all roofs that incur windstorm or hail damage. Kevin Smith, a company spokesman, says Allstate will determine which roofs qualify based in part on their age and condition. If Allstate declines to pay the full cost, it will pay the current value of that roof and the homeowner will be on the hook for the difference. The company says the homeowner’s other option is to purchase so-called replacement cost coverage for roof losses in addition to their basic policy.

Even if homeowners find a lower premium, it might not stay low for long. Experts say many insurers filed requests with states to raise rates this year. (When states approve higher rates, that leads to higher premiums for policyholders.) For instance, last month, Pennsylvania received requests from Erie Insurance and Travelers to increase premiums by roughly 9% by June and July, respectively, according to the state’s insurance department. (The companies didn’t respond to requests for comment.) In Georgia, most of the major companies filed requests to raise rates from 18% to 22%, says Steve Manders, director of insurance product review at the state’s department of insurance. The states say they don’t usually approve requests for increases by the exact amount insurers ask for.

By AnnaMaria Andriotis

Top 10 Claimed Items

Posted by Benji Riggins on May 24, 2012 under Insurance News | Be the First to Comment

Electronics is bumped out of the No. 1 position in value and volume for property insurance claims made in 2011. Find out what takes its place.

Jewelry claims bumped electronics out of the No. 1 ranking position in value and volume for property insurance claims made in 2011, according to new data.

The annual Contents Claims Index (CCI) by property insurance software and service provider Enservio found that the number of jewelry items claimed grew 57 percent compared to 15 percent growth in the electronics category for the same year. The average price per piece of jewelry claimed increased by 11 percent with jewelry claims more prevalent on the West Coast of the United States.

“Jewelry is a high-dollar item, very small and you don’t have to substantiate it when you lose it as long as it’s not scheduled,” said Keith Pequeno, SVP of market place and corporate marking with Enservio. “It’s a high-value, easy-to-claim item depending on an insurance policy. It’s also an item that is the most claimed and the least replaced. So this should lead to more scrutiny of these types of claims and the items they contain.”

Jewelry topped the list at 17 percent of replacement cost value (RCV) followed closely by electronics at 13 percent, according to the 2011 CCI. Apparel and furniture tied for the number three spot at 11 percent, followed by home goods at 9 percent.

“The economy is playing a part here as well,” Pequeno told Insurance Networking News. “People are hesitant about going out and splurging on the big screen TV. Even though we see the sticker prices on these big ticket items actually lowering, it seems that consumer confidence is still a bit stuck in neutral. We could see this shift as we look at next year’s index. Remember it may look like a decrease but it really is a 15-percent increase year over year.”

The full CCI list and each item’s RCV is as follows:

1. Jewelry – 17 percent

2. Electronics – 13 percent

3. Apparel – 11 percent

4. Furniture – 11 percent

5. Home goods – 9 percent

6. Tools – 4 percent

7. Appliances – 4 percent

8. Sporting goods – 3 percent

9. Books and magazines – 3 percent

10. Bed and mattress – 2 percent

Within the electronics category, TV, laptops and desktop computers have maintained their top ranking as the most claimed items year-over-year.

“Going into 2013, we know we will see similarities but we should also start to see newer subcategories rising like tablets, e-readers and smart phones being claimed,” Pequeno said.

Insurance Networking News

Juliette Fairley

Mild winter leads to more car-animal collisions

Posted by Benji Riggins on May 21, 2012 under Interesting Info | Be the First to Comment

The mild winter led to at least one unexpected consequence: many more costly collisions between cars and wildlife on American roads.

Insurer Chubb Corp (CB.N) received 35 percent more claims for car-animal collisions in the first three months of 2012 than it did for all of 2011, the company said on Wednesday.

If those figures hold across the industry, they would mark a sharp reversal. State Farm, the country’s largest auto insurer, has reported a decline in car-deer incidents for three years running, through last summer.

In a post on the company’s risk blog, Chubb executives speculated the warm weather may have pushed both people and animals onto the roads.

“It is difficult to pinpoint exactly why the numbers have risen, but I suspect the unusually mild winter may have made for a more active wildlife population,” said Ray Crisci, worldwide auto manager for Chubb’s personal insurance unit, adding that conditions may have led people to drive more, too.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the winter of 2011-2012 was the fourth-warmest ever in the United States.

Car-animal collisions may not seem high-risk, but they account for roughly 4 percent of light vehicle crashes and some 200 deaths annually, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has said.

Based on an estimated insured cost of $2,800 per collision, according to the Insurance Information Institute, that represents a cost of nearly $700 million a year.

(Reporting By Ben Berkowitz; editing by John Wallace)

Tropical storm forecast kick-starts the 2012 hurricane season

Posted by Benji Riggins on May 18, 2012 under Interesting Info | Be the First to Comment

The 2012 hurricane season might get an early start, with the possibility of a tropical depression or storm in the western Caribbean some time next week, according to a cutting-edge forecast Tuesday by federal scientists.

The Climate Prediction Center predicted moderate chances that a tropical depression or a storm will form in the Caribbean during the last week of May.

Even if no storm develops, the prediction signals that the Atlantic is becoming primed for tropical activity as June 1, the official start of the six-month hurricane season, nears.

“It’s something to pay attention to. It might be a little earlier than normal,” said Eric Blake, a specialist with the National Hurricane Center.

While the two-week tropical hazard forecasts by the Climate Prediction Center are not very accurate now, meteorologists there are working with the National Hurricane Center to improve them. Within a few years, the two agencies plan to start making a joint two-week forecast, with the hurricane center taking the lead on the first week and the climate center handling the second, said Blake, who gave a presentation about the project at the Governor’s Hurricane Conference here on Tuesday.

He said the hurricane center began working with the climate center on the two-week outlook shortly after the busy 2005 hurricane season.

“The challenge has really been eliminating the false alarms,” Blake said.

The two-week outlook mostly relies on thunderstorm activity around the global tropics to predict where chances are increased for a tropical storm or depression to form. Clusters of thunderstorms occasionally move around the globe in a weather pattern called the Madden-Julian Oscillation or MJO. When the thunderstorms are over the Caribbean and Africa, the chances for tropical storms to develop in the Atlantic increase, Blake said.

But because weather is so variable, forecasts that extend beyond a week tend to have a large margin of error. The five-day forecast for tropical activity, however, is getting much better.

Blake said the hurricane center will experiment this year, in-house, with predicting the formation of tropical storms five days in advance. If the forecasts pan out, weather buffs, fishermen, shipping businesses, emergency planners and those in the oil and gas extraction industries could benefit from those forecasts beginning next year.

By Kate Spinner