Tag Archives: auto insurance

Personal Umbrella Policy…Do You Need One?

Daily life can be full of uncertainty. Accidents happen and things can go wrong in an instant. You want the security of knowing that when the unexpected happens, you have safeguards in place to protect you financially. Personal umbrella insurance provides an extra layer of liability coverage* designed to help safeguard you from potentially devastating claims and lawsuits.

For example, let’s say your auto insurance policy has $250,000 in liability coverage, but you are in an accident where an individual has suffered severe injuries requiring hospitalization and you’re found to be at fault. Medical expenses can quickly escalate and when you factor in compensation for pain and suffering, loss of earnings and future care, you may find your liability limits aren’t sufficient for the damages caused. If a suit was filed and a jury awarded the injured parties more than your policy limits, your savings and equity in your home could be at risk.

No one wants to find themselves in this situation. But how do you prepare for it? Umbrella insurance can provide the coverage needed for these losses.

What is Umbrella Insurance?

While you may not think twice about buying homeowners insurance or auto insurance, the liability limits provided may not be sufficient to protect your assets.

That’s where umbrella insurance comes in. An umbrella policy provides $1 million to $5 million in additional liability coverage. While the coverage is optional, it may protect you in the instance of an unfortunate accident.

What other scenarios would an Umbrella policy cover?

  • Your dog accidentally injures your neighbor’s child
  • Your mail carrier trips over a crack in your driveway, resulting in injury and disability
  • An overgrown tree in your yard crashes through your neighbor’s roof

 When does an Umbrella policy activate?

Umbrella Insurance activates when damages from a covered claim exceed the limits in the underlying policy — everything from a lawsuit resulting from your dog biting the mailman to critical care for a driver you injure in an auto accident who is hospitalized for months.

Don’t sacrifice peace of mind and protection over the possibility of a split-second accident that could result in a lifetime of financial stress. Speak to your agenttoday about adding Umbrella Insurance coverage to your policy.

*Not all coverages may be available in all states.

Differences Between Gasoline and Diesel

Several automobile manufacturers offer diesel-powered cars, but are they a good option?

Many of us have pulled up to the gas pump at our local convenience store, absentmindedly picked up the nozzle at the end of the green hose and spent a few seconds of confusion wondering why it wouldn’t fit into the fuel filler of our car. We eventually realize it was the hose for diesel, not gasoline, and put it back on its holder.

Seeing those hoses at the gas pump does make us wonder, though. What’s the difference between a gasoline engine and one that runs on diesel fuel, and why would someone choose one over the other?

In fact, gasoline and diesel engines have much in common. Both are internal combustion engines, and each convert the chemical energy in fuel into mechanical energy. Both incorporate pistons that move up and down inside cylinders, with that movement driven by the combustion of fuel in each. Those pistons are attached to a crankshaft, which turns as the pistons move to provide the energy that moves the vehicle.

The difference between the two engines involves the way the fuel is ignited. In the gasoline engine, the fuel is mixed with air in the cylinder. The piston compresses the mixture, which is then ignited by a spark from the spark plug.

In the diesel engine there is no spark plug. Instead, it’s the compression itself which ignites the air/fuel mixture, creating the contained explosion that keeps the pistons moving.

Power versus performance

When most of us think of a diesel engine what comes to mind are the 18-wheelers we see on the interstate. While it’s true those rigs run on diesel, there are plenty of other diesel-powered vehicles on the road. They aren’t very common in the United States, but in Europe more than a third of all cars on the road are powered by diesel fuel.

The main advantages of a diesel engine compared with a gasoline one come in terms of fuel efficiency, engine reliability and power. Because diesel engines are built to withstand higher compression, they tend to be more reliable and last longer than gasoline engines. Diesel fuel is thicker than gasoline, and as such provides more power and mileage per gallon.

Gasoline engines, on the other hand, are lighter and deliver higher performance than diesel engines. There aren’t diesel engines in sports cars for much the same reasons there aren’t gasoline engines in big trucks. In addition, gasoline engines tend to be less expensive to repair simply because they’re more common.

With all that in mind, which type of engine is the best choice? The answer is that, as with many things, it all depends.

Years ago, diesel fuel was significantly cheaper than gasoline, but today the opposite tends to be true, making any savings in fuel costs relatively minor. Diesel engines tend to be more reliable than gasoline ones, but diesel-powered cars tend to cost more up front and repairs are likely to be more costly. Conversely, gasoline-powered cars are easier and less expensive to maintain and fuel efficiency is constantly improving.

Although diesel fuel used to be associated with black smoke belching from the exhaust, today’s diesel is relatively clean-burning. Newer diesel-powered cars produce lower levels of carbon dioxide than gasoline-powered cars, but higher levels of particulates and nitrogen oxides. When adding environmental concerns to the mix, gasoline engines have a slight advantage over diesel ones.

The bottom line? If you’re looking for a lightweight passenger car that will go from zero to 60 in the blink of an eye, a gasoline engine may be the best choice. If you’re looking for a car to tow a boat to the lake on the weekend, diesel may be the way to go.

Tips for Teen Drivers

Year after year, motor vehicle accidents continue to take the lives of thousands of U.S. teens. That’s why it’s vital for young people to treat driving as a privilege that comes with great responsibility.

To bring attention to these startling statistics and help parents teach teens safe driving habits, Mercury created the Drive Safe Challenge. The Drive Safe Challenge champions not only safe driving but provides education as well, helping young people understand traffic laws and the importance of proper car maintenance, while also offering tips on how to select the right vehicle.

As part of the Mercury Insurance Drive Safe Challenge, we asked participating Mercury Insurance Drive Safe Challenge instructors and the social media community for their top tips for teen drivers.

1. Get to Know your Car

“Be patient with yourself; everyone started at the exact same position you are now.” —@lcfromsp

Once you have your license, it’s easy to want to get behind the wheel, start the ignition and take off before understanding all of the vehicle’s controls. Before you operate your car, we recommend that as a first step you read the owner’s manual. This will help inform how the vehicle functions and what the lights on the dashboard and instrument panel signal. Some vehicles come with a quick reference guide for the more important features and functions to make the task of learning easier.

As a best practice, we also recommend investing some time to learn basic car maintenance, too. Open the hood and check the oil levels, locate the toolkit and jack, learn how to change a tire, check the pressure and measure tire tread depths. Your teen’s vehicle should also have a vehicle emergency kit. The time you invest here could benefit your teen greatly in the future should he or she have troubles on the road.

2. Adjust your Driver Settings

“Take this seriously!” —@mamahainlen

Before you get moving, get situated and establish a pre-start car routine. Make sure your feet easily reach the pedals without your knees touching the dash. Position your seat so you can easily operate the accelerator and brake pedals without having to lift your heels from the floor. Also, adjust your seat height to ensure you have an unobstructed view of the road.

Adjust the rearview and outside mirrors to gain the largest field of view and remove as many blind spots as possible. Proper position will allow greater steering control as well as increased vision around your vehicle.

3. Remove Distractions

“Avoid distractions! Know yourself and don’t take risks!” —@malkomes1

“Nothing is more important than eyes on the road at all times.” —@billingsbeachhomes

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, most crashes are the result of distracted drivers. Distractions such as drowsiness, noisy or overly active passengers, eating and multi-tasking will all result in unsafe driving conditions. Reduce or remove these types of distractions while on the road so you can focus on keeping yourself and your passengers safe while driving.

It’s no secret that technology plays a major role in distracted driving and potential accidents. Keep in mind there isn’t a call, text, song or social media post that’s worth putting your safety in jeopardy. Put your phone down and set it do not disturb mode before getting on the road. If there’s an emergency and you must make a call, safely pull to the side of the road.

Keep your eyes scanning well down the road and watchful of possible hazards from the roadsides as well. Also, note what’s immediately ahead of you to better anticipate what’s coming up next. If you’re fiddling with the radio or checking a text, your response time to make a quick stop, slow down or switch lanes will be seriously impeded. Looking forward also gives you time to plan for an impending emergency situation.

4. Maintain Distance and Remain Cognizant of Speed

“Don’t be in a rush, just drive calmly.” —@skasbaum

Rear-end collisions make up a substantial portion of total injury crashes.  Following too closely behind a car hinders your ability to come to a full stop without a collision and limits your sightlines and ability to anticipate what’s coming. Instead, allow plenty of space to break or change lanes if needed.

Understanding what’s behind or around your car is just as important. Use your rear view and door mirrors every 15 to 30 seconds to quickly detect and respond to hazards, and always check your blind spots before changing lanes. Knowing what’s around your car in addition to what’s ahead will make you a more proactive driver.

Speeding results in countless fatalities each year. In addition to breaking the law, the consequences of speeding can be much more severe. When you speed, you risk loss of vehicle control and the ability to mitigate crash severity if you do experience a collision. Always remain cognizant of the speed limit on the road you’re traveling.

You can learn more about safe driving on the Mercury Insurance Drive Safe Challenge as well as browse additional statistics, resources and driving tools. It’s never too early to start the discussion with the teens in your home about safe driving. Through education and open conversations around healthy driving habits, we can prepare young drivers to face the challenges they may encounter on the road.

5 ‘Must Do’ Steps to Insuring Your Engagement and Wedding Rings

Once you have the perfect wedding rings picked out, it’s important to make sure you protect your precious investment. According to The Knot’s Real Weddings Study, Americans spend an average of $6,351 on an engagement ring. Here are some tips for adding your rings to your homeowners or renters insurance policy, along with other ideas for keeping them safe.

1. Find out the current value.

Your insurance company needs to know the current value of your wedding rings to provide sufficient coverage to repair or replace them. Keep the original purchase receipt on hand and make sure to inform your insurer with details about the gem’s four Cs — color, cut, clarity and carat size.

2. Have the ring appraised.

If your ring is an heirloom that has been passed down through generations in your family, find a jewelry store that has a certified gemologist or a quality appraiser on staff. Be prepared to pay up to a few hundred dollars for the appraisal and to drop your ring off for a week or so. When the appraisal is completed, you’ll receive an insurance replacement report that informs the retail replacement value of the ring. The insurance replacement document also will include information about the physical properties of the stone and metal. The gemstone will be described by characteristics such as shape, weight, clarity, color, polish, symmetry and fluorescence, which dictate the price of the ring.

Be sure to have your ring appraised every few years as the cost of precious metals and stones fluctuates. This step will ensure that you have the right amount of coverage because when the price goes up, you’ll be fully insured for the replacement value. And when the price goes down, you’ll save on premiums.

3. Stay organized.

Don’t toss that receipt! If you need to replace your ring, you’ll need to provide some paperwork for a speedy claims process: the original receipt, the appraisal certificate, any warrantees or coverage policies from the jeweler. Keep everything together in a file or folder so that it’s organized and easily accessible.

“First and foremost, always keep an up-to-date inventory of your possessions,” said Jane Li, Mercury’s senior product manager. “Be sure to take photos, provide descriptions, documentation to support what you paid for the item, and include the purchase date, serial numbers and copies of receipts when possible.”

At the same time, take stock of any other expensive jewelry or valuables you have on hand, and gather the receipts and certificates for those. When you get your ring insured, you can also get coverage for your other valuables, too.

4. Inquire about coverage options.

If you already have a homeowners insurance policy, call your insurer and ask about coverage options for your rings. Most homeowners policies provide minimal coverage for jewelry and high value collectibles, so you may need to purchase a “personal articles” or “floater” policy to provide protection for these items. This way, if you lose your wedding ring while scuba diving on vacation or damage the metal band while working, your insurance company will pay the cost to replace or repair the ring. There is an extra cost for these policies, however, and this cost will be determined based upon the value of the items you are insuring. Talk to you agent to learn more about these policies.

5. Keep your ring looking brand new.

If your ring is a family heirloom and you had it appraised, the gemologist or appraiser will let you know if there need to be any repairs. Some common repairs include fixing the prongs that hold the gemstone in place and cleaning the ring and stones. Also make sure that the ring fits snugly, so it doesn’t slip off during exercise or other activities.

Once you have your ring professionally cleaned, it’s a good idea to clean it on your own at least once a month by soaking it in a mixture of warm water and dishwashing soap for 30 minutes. Gently brush any diamonds or gems with a soft toothbrush and let the ring air dry to avoid scratching the metal.

When doing housework that involves harsh chemicals like bleach, avoid wearing your ring so you don’t damage the metal. Take off your ring while doing work with your hands, such as gardening or crafting, and put it someplace safe until you’re finished.

At home, invest in a safe for when you aren’t wearing your ring. When traveling, be sure to stow away your rings in the hotel room’s safe. While it’s good to know you have insurance in case something happens, you should always take precaution to protect your rings as best as possible.

Marissa Hermanson is a lifestyle and wedding expert whose work has been featured on The Knot, Southern Living and Cosmopolitan. She currently writes for Larson Jewelers, an online jeweler offering a wide variety of unique wedding rings.

Homeowners Should Reassess Insurance Coverage Annually

Make sure you aren’t underinsured

Homeownership is part of the American Dream, and for many people a home is their largest single purchase and most valued asset. Unfortunately, many homeowners don’t realize that their possessions and homes would be in jeopardy if they were inadequately insured and lost due to fire, flood or another disaster. So it’s important that you ask yourself one simple question: Do I have enough insurance to repair or replace my home if it is damaged or destroyed?

Most homeowners would say yes, but recent studies indicate that many homeowners lack sufficient insurance to rebuild after a disaster. In fact, according to Marshall & Swift/Boeckh, which provides building-cost information to insurers and government agencies, 61 percent of all homes are underinsured by an average of 18 percent.

As one of the nation’s leading insurance providers, Mercury conducts an annual review of its customers’ homeowners coverage limits based upon estimated replacement costs in their neighborhoods, and as a result of these calculations may adjust the policy limit. These estimates are tied to general factors in each area and are supplied by appraisal agencies.

This is only part of the process, however, as we recommend that you also get an insurance checkup from your agent once a year to help you make an informed decision about the coverage you need. No one wants to pay a higher premium, but construction costs have increased dramatically over the past several years and it’s important for you to make sure that any potential loss has satisfactory coverage.

This is especially important if you have made improvements to your home and have not incorporated these improvements into your coverage. And even if you haven’t made any improvements to your home, we still recommend a review to make sure that your coverage limits are adequate to cover the cost of rebuilding in your area, because every neighborhood can be a little different.

The National Association of Homebuilders annually tracks building costs, and the average price per square foot for residential construction in the Western states jumped 36 percent between 2002 and 2007.

So take a moment to reassess your coverage and protect your family’s future. To help you get started, here are a few things you should consider and discuss with your agent:

  1. When was the last time you evaluated the amount of coverage on your home? If it’s been more than a year then it’s time to talk to your agent about your coverage.
  2. Do you have extended replacement coverage? Mercury offers home insurance with additional coverage of up to 150 percent of your home’s policy limit. After a disaster, without extended coverage, you may not have enough coverage to rebuild or repair your home and replace its contents, so this benefit can really help if you suffer a loss.
  3. Have you made any improvements to your home? If so, then you should make sure that you have enough coverage to replace these new features.
  4. Get your house appraised. If it’s been several years since it was last appraised then it may be time to get an independent appraisal from a licensed professional. This will help to better establish the amount of coverage you need, but remember to have the appraiser calculate the cost to rebuild your home with similar quality features in today’s market, which may be different than the actual value of your home.
  5. Keep a detailed record of your home’s contents and unique features. Photos and video recordings of designer kitchens, big screen TVs, and other special features will greatly speed the claims process in the event of a loss.
  6. Carefully read all of your policy and coverage documents. Your agent is always willing to help answer any questions you may have, or help you find a professional who can answer your questions.

You ultimately know your home better than anyone else, so you will need to decide what’s right for you.  We are happy to assist you in evaluating your current policy limits and coverages to help you make sure that you have the right coverage.

 

5 Steps to Take When You’re a Victim of Identity Theft

Identity theft is one of the top consumer complaints in the U.S., according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), with nearly 400,000 complaints lodged in 2016. Common schemes criminals use to steal someone else’s identity include dumpster-diving to steal unshredded bills and other documents containing personal information; sending suspicious emails or phishing scams to trick victims into revealing account numbers and passwords; stealing mail to obtain preapproved loan and credit card offers; credit card breaches and ransomware attacks. Thieves use this information for anything from opening accounts and stealing your money to getting medical treatment.

Falling victim to identity theft can be an unsettling experience and many people don’t know where to begin to restore their good name and credit, what to do or even who to call if it happens to them.

Here are five important steps to take immediately if you fall victim to identity theft:

1. File a police report – This is the first step to take if there is any indication of identity theft. Many fraud departments will require a copy of this report to validate a customer’s status as an identity theft victim.

2. Place a fraud alert with credit bureaus – Fraud alerts signal creditors to verify a person’s identity before authorizing a new credit account in his or her name. Place 90-day alerts with the three major credit bureaus: Experian at (888) 397-3742, Equifax at (800) 525-6285 and TransUnion at (800) 680-7289, as soon as you suspect your information has been compromised. Pro Tip: A good rule of thumb to follow before falling victim to identity theft is to check your credit reports at least twice a year. This will alert you to unauthorized credit cards, loans or other activities that are associated with your name. Free reports are available at www.annualcreditreport.com.

3. Cancel all credit and debit cards – This will go faster if you keep an up-to-date list of credit and debit card numbers at home in a secure location for quick reference.

4. Contact banks and credit unions – Be sure to close checking accounts and any other connected (e.g., savings, loan, credit card) accounts. If necessary, request stop payments on uncleared checks and stolen check numbers. Open a new checking account and request new debit and credit cards, if applicable.

5. Contact other providers – Notify your homeowners, condo or renters insurance carrier, as well as your auto insurer of your situation, so you aren’t dinged with unpaid premiums and to make sure they know no one else is able to file claims under your name. You should also contact the places (e.g., libraries, gyms, and wholesale clubs) where you have memberships.

Mercury Insurance has partnered with CyberScout, the leading data security and identity theft protection firm, to help Mercury customers proactively manage their identities and work to repair them if theft is suspected. This coverage is available to Mercury homeowners, renters and condo owners policyholders. Contact Integrity First Insurance Services to learn more @ 805.495.1122.

Don’t Drive Angry

Why can’t we all just get along?

Many of us have had to deal with aggressively impolite drivers – people who tailgate, cut you off, lay on their horns and make inappropriate hand gestures as they speed past you in an expression of displeasure for whatever inconvenience they perceive that you’ve caused them.

“Displays of aggression on the road are becoming an all-too-common occurrence,” says Stephanie Behnke, claims innovation director for Mercury Insurance. “People who engage in these driving behaviors aren’t focused on the wellbeing of others – they don’t stop to think about how dangerous their actions are and that they’re putting themselves and those around them in danger.”

More people on the roads = aggression

fatal crashes driversAggressive driving has become more prevalent as the population and number of licensed drivers grows and traffic congestion continues to increase. According to a report compiled on aggressive driving by the Transportation Research Board of the National Academics for the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP), aggressive driving is a rampant problem that contributes to an estimated 56 percent of all fatal crashes.

So what exactly is “aggressive” driving?

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) defines aggressive driving as “a combination of moving traffic offenses so as to endanger other persons or property.” Moving traffic offenses include:

  • Speeding
  • Unsafe lane changes or passing on the right
  • Following too closely
  • Failure to yield
  • Disregard of traffic control devices
  • Reckless driving
  • Failure to signal.

Two or more of these actions coupled together are considered a display of aggressive driving.

According to a 2013 report issued by NHTSA, aggressive driving continues to play a substantial role in traffic accidents. In fact, 67 percent of people surveyed in another NHTSA study on dangerous driving felt that their safety was threatened by other drivers.

Road rage

safety threatened driversWhile aggressive driving is a traffic offense, road rage – which NHTSA defines as the assault of a fellow motorist or their passengers with a vehicle or weapon – is a criminal offense. Fifteen states have passed laws to discourage aggressive driving and road rage:  Arizona, California, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Maryland, Nevada, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont and Virginia.

Seven of these states have specific provisions regarding harassment, intimidation, the creation of hazards, general lack of concern for the safety of others and the intent to injure other motorists. One state – Indiana – includes a clause about the unnecessary or excessive use of horns.

“Unfortunately, we can’t control the actions and reactions of other drivers,” Behnke said. “But, what we can do is meet road rage with anti-rage. Keeping your cool and ignoring the rude behaviors of others can help curb road rage and reduce risk, diffusing otherwise volatile traffic situations.”

The golden rule of driving

The NCHRP report mentions that frustration contributes to aggressive driving behavior. Drivers who experience frustration are more likely to project elevated levels of aggression triggered by contextual factors, such as the driver’s psychological disposition and traveling environment.

Practicing common courtesy on the road can go a long way. Instead of feeding into the rage of others, try implementing the golden rule: treat other drivers the way you would like to be treated. Resist the urge to honk your horn or brake check tailgaters, obey traffic laws and remain courteous when faced with angry motorists.

“National Courtesy Month is a great way to encourage people to think of others as they go about their daily lives,” Behnke said. “If you drive, you will encounter traffic and bad drivers, but rather than letting it get to you, try taking a deep breath and thinking about getting home safely to your family. It tends to put things in perspective.”

Practice anti-rage

Put your best foot forward and practice some of these anti-rage techniques when on the road:

  • Be mindful of those around you. Be considerate of other drivers, obey traffic laws and don’t switch lanes without using a turn signal. Check your blind spots and avoid cutting people off.
  • Think before you act. Before honking your horn or making a rude gesture in traffic, snuff the reaction. You never know the mentality of other drivers and these actions can escalate an otherwise harmless situation into a dangerous game of roadway retaliation.
  • Don’t brake check tailgaters. Brake checking other vehicles can lead to accidents. Be patient and move over to let the tailgater pass.
  • Don’t challenge other drivers on the road. Be courteous and allow merging cars into your lane. Don’t engage in speed wars or attempt to race other drivers.
  • Avoid aggressive drivers when possible. Steer clear of aggressive drivers on the road. Give them distance and don’t get in their path of travel.
  • Don’t talk on your cell phone while driving. Aside from the fact that this is illegal in many states, it takes your attention off of the road and may upset the drivers with whom you share the road.
  • Report aggressive drivers. If you feel that a driver is a threat to others on the road, take down their license plate number and call 911 to report them to the local authorities.

These tactics can help you avoid collisions while you’re on the road, but there are times when accidents are simply out of your control. Even courteous drivers can find themselves dealing with a fender bender on the roadside. Familiarize yourself with your insurance company’s claims process, so you’re prepared and know what to do in the event of an accident.

Movie Car Hacking Examples in Real Life

Hollywood has had a long fascination with automotive technology in big blockbuster films, often predicting what cutting-edge features automakers will incorporate into modern vehicles.

While living like a movie star in our everyday life is exciting, as vehicles become increasingly advanced and connected, the possibility for hacks is also making its way into the mainstream. This creates new security risks for modern-day vehicle owners, potentially allowing cybercriminals to cause havoc with your vehicle.

Here are some examples of how movie car technology has become an unintended threat:

1. Tomorrow Never Dies

James Bond fans might remember the scene from the 1997 film, Tomorrow Never Dies, where Bond uses a cell phone to take control of his BMW 750iL to evade pursuers. While Bond had Q’s help to develop gadgets to aid him in espionage for more than 50 years, car hackers have also discovered ways to commandeer vehicles—sometimes even miles away from them.

Hackers around the globe have demonstrated the ability to remotely control a vehicle – regardless if it’s a Corvette in England, a Jeep Cherokee in the United States or a Tesla Model S in China, software vulnerabilities allow hackers to input drive commands and take control. This poses a security risk to millions of drivers on the road as cybercriminals can literally take control of everything from wind shield wipers to acceleration and braking. These hackers can even turn off gauges and engines!

2. Transformers

The Transformers movie series has showcased some of the most state-of-the-art cars imaginable, featuring sentient vehicles battling over the future of humanity. The franchise’s arch-nemesis, Megatron, has a chief communications and intelligence officer – Soundwave – capable of hacking any electronic device. Although it’s unlikely that your vehicle will undergo a metamorphosis into a battle-ready machine, the technology from Transformers is already making its way onto our roads.

Autonomous vehicles are filled with cutting edge technology, including cameras and sensors. Through these ‘connected’ technologies, these vehicles speak to themselves (and potentially other vehicles around them) by understanding their surroundings. However, the connected technology in autonomous vehicles also provides an opportunity for hackers to take them over. The U.S. government has released protocols by which manufacturers must abide to harden vehicle defenses against these criminals.

3. Gone in 60 Seconds

The 2000 summer blockbuster, Gone in Sixty Seconds, shows car thieves utilizing both old and new school tactics to steal 50 cars in one night. One scene pairs old schooler Donny Astricky with his accomplice Mirror Man, who uses a copy of an electronic key to gain access to a Jaguar XJR X308.

Automotive tech has made modern cars a lot safer in 2016, right? Yes and no.

Present day hackers are using vehicle key fobs to unlock cars. Craig Smith, founder of Open Garages, a community for sharing and collaborating on automotive research, recommends “Keeping your electronic key fobs stored in a metal box like your refrigerator to keep hackers from picking up their signal and opening up your vehicle with a copycat signal.” While taking this measure may seem extreme, the danger is real.

Car thieves are also using laptops to steal vehicles. This year, a pair of hackers targeted a Jeep dealership in Houston, Texas, making off with over 30 cars during a six-month period by overriding the security software used by all Jeep vehicles.

Find out if your vehicle is vulnerable and the steps you can take to protect it.

Additional Resources

Preparation for Mother Nature

Heat waves, droughts, floods, earthquakes, wildfires, tornadoes and hurricanes torment Americans every year. During 2011-2013 the U.S. experienced 25 weather- and climate-related disasters, costing $175 billion in total damages, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Not everyone can pack up and move to Michigan – one of the states with the fewest occurrences of natural disasters – but there are steps you can take to prepare your home in the event a natural disaster strikes.

Scenario: Your home is located in a flood zone.

  • First and foremost, make sure you have flood insurance because standard homeowners and renters insurance policies usually don’t cover flooding. Flood insurance policies are available through the National Flood Insurance Program and typically have a 30-day waiting period from the date of purchase before they go into effect.
  • Elevate furnaces, water heaters and electrical components (switches, sockets, circuit breakers, and wiring) at least 12 inches above your home’s projected flood elevation and make sure they’re secured to a solid structure.
  • Anchor any fuel tanks.
  • Consider constructing barriers to prevent water from entering the building, as well as sealing basement walls with waterproofing compounds.
  • Locate the main power switch for utilities, as well as the main gas valve, in case you need to disconnect and close them during a storm.                                                                        Scenario: Hot, dry conditions may spark a wildfire.
  • Plant fire-resistant plants and shrubs.
  • Install fire-resistant roofing materials.
  • Regularly clean your roof and gutters and mow the lawn, clearing away clippings and dry twigs immediately.
  • Keep garden hoses attached to faucets to aid fire personnel.
  • Set aside household items like rakes, axes, saws, buckets and shovels that can be used as fire tools.
  • Consider installing protective shutters or heavy, fire-resistant drapes.
  • Mercury Insurance offers additional tips to help plan ahead and protect your home in the event of a wildfire.
  • Install screens over attic vents with a mesh size of 1/8 inch.

Scenario: An earthquake might occur.

  • Fasten shelves securely to walls and make sure large or heavy items are stored on lower shelves.
  • Secure heavy items to walls (pictures and mirrors) away from beds and areas where people sit.
  • Hire a professional to repair defective wiring and leaky gas connections. Also seek professional help to look for signs of structural damage and to repair deep cracks in ceilings and the foundation.
  • Locate safe spots in each room under a sturdy table or against an inside wall.
  • Keep a wrench near your main gas valve and learn how to turn it off.
  • Secure water heaters, furnaces, gas appliances and furniture by bolting them to wall studs.
  • Install cabinet latches to prevent them from opening and spilling contents, such as dishes and glassware.

Before any type of disaster strikes, you should also have an emergency plan in place for your family that includes a designated meeting place, emergency contact numbers and evacuation plan. Practice your plan at least twice a year to keep it fresh in everyone’s minds and make adjustments as needed. And if you have a pet, incorporate them into your evacuation plan, too.

You should also have an emergency kit that is easily accessible and includes basic survival items.

  • One gallon of water per person
  • Non-perishable food
  • Battery-powered or hand-crank radio (and extra batteries)
  • Flashlight
  • First-aid kit
  • Whistle to signal for help
  • Can opener
  • Blankets
  • Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
  • Portable charging station for cell phones

FEMA recommends keeping three-day supplies of food and water for each family member.

Consider packing prescription medications, glasses, important financial documents, copies of insurance policies (and your agent’s contact information), a recent copy of your household inventory, birth certificates, social security cards and other identification in a portable waterproof container. It’s also a good idea to include $500 cash in small bills since ATMs and credit card processing units may be inaccessible during a power outage.

If you’re affected by a natural disaster, Mercury Insurance recommends taking the following steps to facilitate the claims process:

When filing a claim

  • Contact your insurance provider immediately to report a loss.
  • Be prepared to provide your policy number.
  • Do not remove debris or damaged property that may be related to your claim.

Steps after filing a claim

  • Prepare a detailed inventory of destroyed or damaged property.
  • Offer photos or videotapes of your home and possessions to your adjuster, if these are available.
  • Keep copies of communications between you and your adjuster.
  • Keep records and receipts for additional living expenses that were incurred if you were forced to leave your home and provide copies to your adjuster.

Ready.govFEMA and the American Red Cross offer additional tips for protecting your home and family before, during and after a disaster.

Teens and Their Parents Learn Skills for a Safe Driving Experience

Teens are the most inexperienced drivers on the road, and drivers under the age of 20 are three times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash.1 The most important thing parents can do to help keep their young drivers safe on the road is to teach them good driving habits and lead by example.

tampa bay drive safe challenge

That’s why, in 2016, Mercury Insurance created its Drive Safe Challenge, a comprehensive website with tools – tips, videos, quizzes and much more – parents and teens can use to help prepare for life behind the wheel. In addition, Mercury has gone out into the community to offer free defensive driving programs that include hands-on driving skills training and interactive classroom sessions.

Mercury most recently teamed up with the Tampa Bay Lightning at AMALIE Arena for one of these community events on January 15. Participating teens and their parents learned collision avoidance and emergency maneuvers from professional driving instructors and participated in an interactive classroom session led by Tampa Police Department officers and the local chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD).

One of the teens, Nicolas DeMalteris (17), said of his experience “I ran over half of the cones on the distracted driving course. I had to text while driving. I don’t think it would be very smart to drive [distracted] on the road, and I won’t do it ever again.”

Mercury Insurance and the Anaheim Ducks hosted a similar event for teens and their parents on December 9, 2017 at Honda Center. Teens were able to meet Ducks Forward, Rickard Rakell, in addition to learning hard-braking, maneuvering on wet surfaces, and swerving to avoid objects in the road. This was the Ducks’s second time partnering with Mercury on the event.

“The Anaheim Ducks’ involvement in the Mercury Insurance Drive Safe Challenge underscores our commitment to making our community a safer place,” said Anaheim Ducks Vice President and CMO Aaron Teats. “The teens who participated today [December 9] learned valuable knowledge and skills about being safe on the road so we’re glad to lend a hand to such an important cause.”

Visit http://drivesafe.mercuryinsurance.com to learn more.

Best Regards,

Jason Mayling
Integrity First Insurance Services, Corp.
License #0834720
Email: jmayling@integrityfirstins.com
Phone: 805-495-1122 | Toll-free: 800-696-9193 | Fax: 805-371-8759
Web: IntegrityFirstIns.com | Blog: IntegrityFirstIns.com/blog