On Superbowl Sunday, Take Extra Care on the Road

caution_signA recent press release from the California Department of Insurance warned that on Superbowl Sunday more auto crashes occur that any other Sunday. Throughout California, there is a 77% increased risk of an alcohol-related fatal or injury crash this day.

We encourage you to plan ahead if you will be attending a party or watching the game at a restaurant or bar. A designated driver would be a good idea. Alternatively, you could plan to use the Uber or Lyft services.

New California Driving Laws for 2013

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – New rules that govern the California driving public will go in effect on January 1, 2013. These rules are the product of legislation passed by the Legislature and signed into law by Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. in 2012.

“The changes to California’s traffic safety laws are designed to protect the motoring public,” said California Highway Patrol (CHP) Commissioner Joe Farrow. “Citizens are encouraged to familiarize themselves with these new laws in advance of the new year. Adhering to the rules of the road may save your life, or the lives of your fellow motorists.”

The following are summaries of some of the new laws taking effect January 1, 2013:

Driving Under the Influence : (AB 2020, Pan)
The law no longer allows a person who has been arrested and is suspected of driving under the influence (DUI) of drugs, the option of a urine test. Prior to this change, a person had the option of submitting either urine or blood to determine the drug content of their blood.
Charter-Party Carriers of Passengers: Alcoholic Beverages: Open Containers : (AB 45, Chesbro)
This new law prohibits underage drinking in charter-party carriers (limos, buses, etc.) and makes the carrier and driver responsible for communicating this to their passengers. The law also requires a designee, who is at least 25 years of age, to be present whenever there are passengers who are under 21 years of age on board the vehicle and alcohol is being transported. The designee shall be responsible for ensuring the rules are followed, and the safety of the underage passengers throughout the duration of the trip.
Electronic Wireless Communications : (AB 1536, Miller)
This law allows California drivers to use hands-free technology to talk and text while driving. This will require the use of a device that is specifically designed and configured to allow voice-operated and hands-free operation to dictate, send or listen to a text-based communication. The device is required to also be used in a voice-operated, hands-free manner to be in compliance with the law.
Financial Responsibility and Insurance : (AB 1708, Gatto)
Drivers will now have the option of providing proof of insurance or verification of financial responsibility on an electronic device (smartphone, tablet, etc.), when it is requested by law enforcement.
High Occupancy Toll Lanes : (AB 2405, Blumenfield)
This law creates the Choose Clean Cars Act, which allows cars with a Clean Air Vehicle Sticker free access to carpool lanes that are converted to High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes.
Autonomous Vehicles : (SB 1298, Padilla)
This new law allows driverless cars to be operated on public roads for testing purposes, provided that each vehicle has a fully licensed and bonded operator in the driver’s seat to take control if necessary. The bill also instructs the Department of Motor Vehicles to adopt regulations that govern the licensing, bonding, testing and operation of autonomous vehicle technology.
Emergency Services: Seniors : (SB 1047, Alquist)
Similar to an AMBER Alert, the CHP would activate a “Silver Alert” upon request if a person, age 65 or older, is reported missing to a law enforcement agency and that agency determines that certain criteria is met. The criteria includes: the person is missing under unexplained or suspicious circumstances or the law enforcement agency believes the person is in danger due to age, health, mental or physical disability, environment or weather conditions; the person is in the company of a potentially dangerous person; or there are other factors indicating that the person may be in peril. Finally, there is information available, if given to the public, may assist in the safe recovery of the missing person.
Driver License : (AB 2189, Cedillo)
This law allows a driver’s license applicant who provides satisfactory proof that his or her presence in the United States is authorized under federal law, but who is not eligible for a social security account number, is eligible to receive an original driver’s license if he or she meets all other qualifications for licensure.
Automated Traffic Enforcement Systems : (SB 1303, Simitian)
This new law establishes consistency in the operations of red-light enforcement cameras throughout the state by requiring governmental agencies to follow specified guidelines regarding intersections, signage, and the notice to appear.
License Plates: Obstruction or Alteration : (AB 2489, Hall)
This new law prevents the altering and positioning of license plates from its original markings and clarifies the penalty imposed for obscuring the readability of license plates.
Child Passenger Restraints : (AB 1452, Hill)
Hospitals, clinics, and birthing centers will now be required to provide and discuss contact information regarding child safety seat requirements, installation, and inspection to parents and caregivers upon discharge of a child, if the child is less than eight years of age.
There are also two new laws related to recreational off-highway vehicles.
One (AB 1595, Cook) defines an off-highway motor vehicle to include a recreational off-highway vehicle (ROV) and establishes additional requirements governing its safe operation. The other law (AB 1266, Cook), which goes into effect July 1, 2013, prohibits a passenger in an ROV from riding in a seat location not designed and provided by the manufacturer. It also prohibits operation of the ROV if the passenger is not seated with both feet on the floorboard and able to grab the occupant handhold with the seat belt and shoulder belt or safety harness fastened.
Additional Registration Fees : (AB 1404, Feuer)
This law authorizes three counties (Los Angeles, San Diego and San Bernardino) to increase vehicle registration fees to help fund vehicle theft programs. Increases would be from $1 to $2 for passenger vehicles, and $2 to $4 for commercial vehicles.
Inflatable Restraint Systems : (AB 1854, Brownley)
This law makes it illegal for a person to knowingly distribute or sell a previously deployed air bag or component that will no longer meet the original equipment form, function or proper operation.
Driving Under the Influence: Alcoholic Beverage or Drug : (AB 2552, Torres)
Although this change in the law does not take effect until January 1, 2014, it distinguishes whether an individual was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Ultimately this change, singling out drugs with its own subsection in the Vehicle Code, will make it easier to track the prevalence of drugged driving in California. This new law, coupled with the efforts requiring the use of Ignition Interlock Devices, will help reduce impaired driving throughout California.

These points are only a synopsis of some of the new laws adopted. For complete information on chaptered bills enacted in 2012, please refer to the Legislative Counsel website at http://www.LegInfo.ca.gov.

Self-Driving Cars in our Future?

Google Robocar Racetrack RideI don’t know about you but I like the idea of a driverless car. While my commuting days are behind me, I can definitely see the advantages. I think the reality is that California missed the boat when it comes to mass transportation and we need something that uses what we have to deal with the constantly increasing number of people that need to get from point A to point B and self-driving cars might just be the ticket. Plus, I like the idea of taking a nap on the way.

Future Impact of Self-Driving Cars Would Be Big: Study

Rental Car Insurance May Be Worthwhile

LuggageWhile most auto policies cover rental car use, there are limitations. This article mentions some. Another is loss of use. The rental car company has the right to charge for the time that a vehicle is out of commission due to an accident. Some auto insurance policies cover this and others don’t.

How rental car insurance could save you money

Mercury Includes Free Roadside Assistance

Let it Tow by derrickcollins on FlickrFrom the Free-is-Good Department

Mercury Insurance now includes automatic Roadside Assistance Coverage to all policy holders at no charge.

Roadside Assistance Coverage is provided up to a limit of $75 for each occurrence for vehicles with Collision coverage and includes the following services: Towing, Locksmith Services, Jump-Start, Flat Tire, Fuel and Fluid delivery. They do limit the coverage to 5 occurrences per policy period.

For more information, just call us.

6 Steps for Parents to Deter Teen Distracted Driving

Distracted Driving by OregonDOT on FlickrDistracted driving is a major cause of injury and death in motor vehicle accidents. The following information from theUSDOT Distracted Driving Website details steps that parents can take to help reduce this problem.

Step 1: Set a good example

Kids learn from their parents. Put down your phone while driving and only use it when you’ve safely pulled off the road. According to the Pew Research Center, 40 percent of teens 12 to 17 say they have been in a car when the driver used a cell phone in a way that put themselves or others in danger.

Step 2: Talk to your teen

Discuss the risks and responsibilities of driving, and the danger of dividing their attention between a cell phone and the road. Show them the statistics related to distracted driving. And urge them to talk to others; friends take care of friends.

Step 3: Establish ground rules

Set up family rules about not texting or talking on a handheld cell phone while behind the wheel. Enforce the limits set by your state’s graduated licensing program, if one exists, or create your own family policies.

Step 4: Sign a pledge

Have your teen take action by agreeing to a family contract about wearing safety belts and not speeding, driving after drinking, or using a cell phone behind the wheel. Agree on penalties for violating the pledge, including paying for tickets or loss of driving privileges.

Step 5: Educate yourself

Find out more about this tragic problem. View the information and resources available at www.distraction.gov and www.ConsumerReports.org/distracted. The more you know, the more you will understand the seriousness of the issue.

Step 6: Spread the word

Get involved in educating and promoting safe driving in your community and through online social-media websites. Talk to friends, family, and coworkers. And support advocacy organizations such as the National Organizations for Youth Safety and FocusDriven.

Why do I need Auto Insurance?

It’s the law

You are required by law to show financial responsibility, which is usually done by purchasing insurance. This is to protect the other people who share the road with you.

Protecting yourself financially is smart

You as a driver of a motor vehicle are responsible for the accidents you cause. Having no insurance or inadequate insurance isnotsmart. People often look at the money they paid for their unused insurance as “wasted”. I think that’s the wrong way to look at it. I like to view insurance as this guy with a bag of money who promises to use it if needed. You’re paying to keep that guy interested in keeping his promise.


Liability is usually divided into two categories: Bodily Injury and Property Damage. Bodily Injury covers injuries to others (not you or your passengers) while Property Damage covers damages to things such as other people’s cars, their garage door, their tree and so on. Usually it is written down like this: 15/30/10, which means $15,000 in Bodily Injury coverage per person, $30,000 per accident, and $10,000 in Property Damage per accident. This happens to be the current minimum liability limits that California law requires. It’s also too low. $10,000 is all that would be paid out if you totalled a car. Now, how many new cars can be had for $10,000? The owner of the car will expect you to make up the difference. We always try to get customers to at least increase their coverage to 25/50/25, which is a good increase in coverage for a small amount of money.

Frequently, we are asked what an appropriate amount of insurance would be. Unfortunately, there is really no correct answer. One could always imagine an accident that would exceed a particular amount of insurance. The idea is to set a limit that is comfortable from the standpoint of protection versus cost.

Uninsured Motorist (UM)

Some of our clients try to skimp on this coverage however we discourage it. After all, it is the only coverage to protectyouand yourpassengers. In California, as many as 1 in 6 drivers may be uninsured. In addition, there is also Underinsured Motorist coverage which for California is combined with UM. This provides protection for injuries to your or your passengers when the other driver doesn’t haveenoughinsurance.


Comprehensive coverage is sometimes called “other than collision” and covers damage to the vehicle for causes such as fire, theft, windstorm, flood, and vandalism, but not loss by collision or upset.


Collision coverage is for damage to a vehicle due to colliding with another vehicle/object or overturning. One way of remembering what is covered by Collision versus Comprehensive is this: If you drive into a tree, that is collision. If the tree falls on your car, then Comprehensive would be the coverage involved.

Medical Payments

This is an optional (and very inexpensive) coverage for the insured and passengers. It usually has a lower limit but is paid out regardless of fault.

Why do I Need Uninsured Motorist Coverage?

The Importance of Uninsured Motorist Coverage

Frequently we see customers who select minimum limits on their Uninsured Motorist (UM) coverage. However, this could very well be a case of being penny-wise and pound-foolish. Uninsured Motorist is inexpensive but important coverage for you and your passengers.

Coverage for YOU

First of all, UM is coverage for you & your passengers. It was recently estimated that one out of every five drivers in California is uninsured. The next time you are on the road, look at the drivers around you. The odds are one of the four cars you see is uninsured.

Secondly, UM (in California) is coverage for both uninsured and underinsured (UIM) motorists. A motorist with minimum limits only has $15,000 available per person for the medical bills for you or your passengers and $30,000 for the entire accident, no matter how many people are involved.

UM is a very inexpensive coverage to buy. As an example, one personal auto policy I looked at that had $100,000 per person / $300,000 per accident limits for UM portion & was only $32!

Many people think that UM isn’t important because their collision and medical insurance will cover these expenses. However, even in the best of circumstances the medical insurance deductibles will not be covered. In addition, some medical insurance policies could exclude injuries caused by another. And, what about your passengers? Your medical insurance certainly wouldn’t cover them.

As a guideline, you may want to consider setting the limits for UM to be the same as your regular automobile liability limits. So, for example, if you have 100,000/300,000 liability limits, you would also want to have 100,000/300,000 limits.

Pizza Delivery May Not be Covered by Personal Auto Policy

Pizza Delivery by Tracy Hunter on FlickrBe aware. Your mileage may vary in this situation.

I frequently see kids driving around with the name of one or another pizza place on their car and wonder if their parents checked out the insurance for the employer. You see, your personal auto policy does not cover business use. That is the job of a Business Auto policy and why it costs more. These kids are usually in a hurry to get the pizza to the customer on time, so the risk can be significant.

On the other hand, I’ve read of court decisions that favored requiring the company with the personal auto policy to pay. Like so many other things in life, it depends. It depends on the wording of the policy, the jurisdiction, and the individual situation.

One should first check with the employer. The pizza company should have Delivery Coverage to cover both the company and their drivers. This would be on either their business auto policy or their company liability policy. Many pizza places don’t have it and so you would by relying on your personal auto policy. If they don’t and your kid gets into an accident, your insurance company may deny the claim leaving you to foot the bill. These are questions that are best asked beforehand.