Tag Archives: coverage

Stricter Laws For Hand-Held Devices While Driving

cell-phone-in-hand-while-driving

What Californians Need to Know About Assembly Bill 1785

Smartphone technology is ever-evolving and while these phones conveniently allow us to carry the Internet in the palm of our hands, they’re also a source of distraction for modern-day drivers.

Many states have passed laws against hand-held cell phone use to combat distracted driving, and California’s is about to get stricter.

Distracted driving has declined since 2009 due to laws regulating cell phone use for drivers, but it continues to be a big problem and it’s the cause of many collisions.

The new law Governor Jerry Brown recently signed, Assembly Bill 1785 (AB1785), prohibits ALL hand-held use of electronic devices while driving. Drivers should be encouraged knowing that the law is intended to protect them by keeping their undivided attention on the road. So, put down those smartphones while driving because it’s now against the law to:

  • Read, write or send a text message.
  • Hold your phone and talk.
  • Check or post to social media.
  • Take a video.

Basically, it’s against the law to use technology in your hands in any way while behind the wheel.

This new law requires drivers to mount their smartphones to the windshield or dash, similar to the mounting of GPS devices in vehicles, provided that the device’s use is activated by a simple swipe of the screen to turn features on or off. These conditions impose much stricter rules surrounding cell phone use in vehicles with the aim of reducing distracted driving crashes that are caused by smartphone or electronic device use.

Mercury Insurance wants to remind everyone that distracted driving is not worth the risk. Visit our Drive Safe website for driving tips, vehicle tips and tools to help keep you and your family safe behind the wheel.

 

Health Insurance Open Enrollment Ends Soon

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Open Enrollment for health insurance ends January 31, 2017. This is the deadline to change or get health insurance.

Please call Integrity First today @ (805) 495-1122. We can help find the best coverage available for the lowest premium.  We can help with Covered California, the marketplace exchange, or direct.  You may eligible for a subsidy to help pay your health insurance.  We offer Anthem Blue Cross, Blue Shield of California, Kaiser Permanente and more.

After January 31, 2017 you will need a special exception to buy medical insurance. If you do not have medical insurance there will be a fee/penalty.

The fee for not having health insurance in 2016 & 2017

The fee is calculated 2 different ways – as a percentage of your household income, and per person. You’ll pay whichever is higher.

Percentage of income

2.5% of household income
Maximum: Total yearly premium for the national average price of a Bronze plan sold through the Marketplace
Per person

$695 per adult
$347.50 per child under 18
Maximum: $2,085

Please call us today @ (805) 495-1122

Understanding Car Safety Ratings

Understanding-Car-Safety-Ratings

Although newer vehicles are generally more expensive to insure than older ones, consumers can often get discounts if their new vehicles have the latest safety features. Advances in crash and accident avoidance technology mean that consumers who buy a new vehicle equipped with the latest safety features are often less likely to be seriously injured in a car crash.

Safety ratings are a function of two major factors: prevention—how well the vehicle is designed to prevent an accident—and, crashworthiness—how well the vehicle performs in a crash.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety ranks its Top Safety Picks based on good, acceptable, marginal or poor performance in high-speed front and side crash tests, a rollover test, and evaluations of seat / head restraints for protection against neck injuries during rear impacts. Crash tests are conducted on a half-dozen types of vehicles, including large cars, mid-sized cars, small cars, minivans, mid-size SUVs, and small SUVs. You can also visit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website for a full report on recalls and defects.

Currently, some of the top-rated safety features are:

  • Adaptive front airbags
  • Side airbags
  • Side curtain airbags
  • Knee airbags
  • Electronic stability control
  • Anti-lock braking systems
  • Brake assist
  • Tire pressure monitors
  • Back-up sensors
  • Park assist
  • Blind-spot warning
  • Lane departure warning
  • Forward-collision warning
  • Smart headlights
  • Crash-alert systems (such as OnStar)
  • Built-in car seats

Technology is ever-improving, and, as time goes by, manufacturers and the government are standardizing these features. Doing your homework ahead of time and knowing what your options are can make the decision-making process smoother and get you into that new car faster!

Insurance 101 for College Students … And Parents Too

college-student-insuranceMoving away from home to go to college is an exciting time for most kids. It’s their first real taste of independence, but this newfound freedom also comes with increased responsibility.

Mom and dad aren’t around anymore to nag you about the hours you spend on your smartphone or to wake you up for school in the morning, but this also means they aren’t there to fix problems either. What, for example, would you do if someone were to steal your precious smartphone?

Students can easily get swept away in the excitement and bustle of the college social scene, forgetting that not everyone they meet at school has the best of intentions. Crime exists in most communities, and college life is no exception. According to the FBI, 97 percent of crimes reported by college students in 2012 were property crimes and a whopping 41 percent of these crimes occurred on campus grounds.

Students bring many pricey belongings from home – electronics like laptops, smart phones, tablets, televisions and gaming systems are common dorm room items. They may also have a skateboard, bike, vehicle or combination of all of the above.

Another on-campus threat to personal property is fires. Firefighters responded to an average of 3,870 college housing structure fires per year1. These fires caused an annual average of $15 million in personal property damage and losses.

So, how can you protect your belongings while you’re away at school? The first step is to check with your insurance agent to see if your stuff is covered under your homeowners insurance policy. Some policies, like those offered by Mercury Insurance, will extend coverage to college students living away from home.

Another option is to purchase renter’s insurance. Renter’s insurance is designed to protect property owners in the event that their belongings are stolen or damaged in a fire. It will also provide liability coverage in the event someone is injured while visiting your apartment or dorm room.

To maximize your college experience, here are a few tips to protect personal property:

Cover personal belongings with an insurance policy. Students who live on-campus may have coverage available through their parents’ homeowner’s policy. Some companies have policy options that extend personal property coverage for students away from home. Students living off-campus may not be covered by their parents’ policy and should look into purchasing renters insurance.
Create an inventory. Record the value of all personal property to determine the right amount of coverage needed in the event of a loss.
Always lock doors. Talk to roommates and make sure to communicate the importance of securing personal belongings.
Conceal valuables. Never leave electronics or other valuables out in plain sight, and do not advertise their presence on social media.
Secure valuable electronics, like TVs and laptops, to stable fixtures with locking mounts in your room so they can’t be easily removed. Also, protect personal electronics with passwords to guard accessibility and discourage theft.
Use a bicycle lock when you’re out and about or for added security while on-campus. Steel and titanium locks are difficult to cut and provide thieves with a challenge. Reinforcing these locks with cable locks, which can be threaded through wheels, will provide extra security.
Install or activate an alarm if you have a vehicle on-campus. Insurance companies frequently offer discounts for vehicles equipped with anti-theft devices. Students with good grades – at least a B average – may be eligible for an additional discount as well.
Ensure your auto insurance is up-to-date. Coverage for vehicles left at home while in school should be maintained to protect the vehicle from theft or any damage that may occur while it is parked. This will also protect you if you forget to notify your agent to add coverage back to your vehicle when you return.

Consult with your local Mercury agent to learn more about renters insurance and they’ll help build the protection plan that best suits your needs.

The bottom line: with greater independence, comes greater responsibility.

1 The National Fire Protection Association reports this annual average occurred during the five-year period from 2009-2013.

Technology to Help Prevent Texting While Driving

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The U.S. Department of Transportation reports that cell phone distractions while driving claim 6,000 lives and are the cause of 1.6 million crashes a year.

Today, distracted driving kills more people than drinking and driving, and research has shown that drivers under the age of 25 are more likely to use cell phones while driving.

So, what is being done to combat this epidemic? Educating drivers about the dangers of distracted driving is important, but it clearly isn’t enough. What can we do? One place to start is technology, because technology can play a powerful role in helping to remind drivers to refrain from using their cell phones while they’re on the road. Here’s a look at three inventions designed to put an end to distracted driving.

1. The SMARTwheel

The SMARTwheel is a high-tech steering wheel cover that was designed by six New Hampshire teens with the goal of ending distracted driving.

The idea came about when 14-year-old T.J. Evarts noticed that his friends who had recently gotten their licenses were often using their phones while driving. Knowing how hazardous texting and driving is, Evarts set out to find a way to deter his friends…and the SMARTwheel was born.

The cover easily slips onto the steering wheel and tracks when a driver has both hands on the wheel. Removing one or both hands from the wheel triggers a buzzer and flashing lights. The device even records trip data and grades driving habits using a mobile app connected to smartphones through Bluetooth so parents can track their teen’s driving habits.

2. ParentBlocked

ParentBlocked is a smartphone app that allows parents to disable and control their children’s cell phones at certain times of the day through remote access.

The app was created by concerned single mom, Lisa Mullins, who worried that her teenage daughter would be too tempted to use her cell phone while driving.

It allows parents to approve downloads and pick and choose which features they want to manage – for example, parents can disable texting and social media sites when teens should be focused on other activities, like driving. PB Safe Driving Mode will automatically shut down cell phone functions if your teen is moving faster than 10 mph but still allow emergency calls.

3. Drivesafe.ly

DriveSafe.ly is a mobile app that eliminates reading and typing on smartphones by using iSpeech software. The app reads text messages and emails aloud and drivers are able to respond to messages through speech.

Tech entrepreneur and iSpeech founder Heath Ahrens is the creator of the hands-free app, which is compatible with Bluetooth and radio transmitters. It also comes with a customizable auto-response. These features keep drivers connected while reducing distractions and promoting safe driving.

Distracted driving takes lives and these apps can help make a difference. We encourage all parents to visit the Mercury Insurance Drive Safe Challenge website where they can find resources and tools to reinforce the message and encourage safe driving habits and behaviors. There is even a Drive Safe Agreement for parents and teen drivers to sign.

 

Distracted Driving

distracted-drivingTexting, cell phones, eating and other distractions are causing an increase in traffic accidents

OMG! This is nothing to LOL about. Texting while driving is a leading cause of accidents for teenagers and it claims thousands of lives each year. 1 Texting while driving also reduces a driver’s reaction time so much that it’s the same as driving with a blood alcohol content of .08 percent, which would make you legally intoxicated.2

Additionally, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports that drivers are four times more likely to get into an accident when texting and driving. In 2013, 3,154 people were killed in traffic accidents involving distracted driving, including texting, with an estimated 424,000 people injured.3

Distracted driving is more than texting. Distracted driving occurs any time a driver takes their eyes off the road, their hands off the wheel or their mind off their primary task, which is driving safely.

Activities that can cause distracted driving include:

Texting
Using a cell phone or smartphone
Eating or drinking
Talking to passengers
Grooming (shaving, applying makeup, etc.)
Reading
Reading a map
Using a navigation system
Watching a video
Adjusting a radio, CD or MP3

The U.S. Department of Transportation reports that reading a text takes a driver’s eyes off the road for an average of five seconds. At 55 miles per hour, this is similar to driving the length of a football field blindfolded. 4 Texting drivers are 23 times more likely to be involved in a collision than attentive drivers. 5 Those simply aren’t good odds.

At the very least, a traffic accident caused by distracted driving is certain to lead to an increase in a driver’s car insurance rates.

These common sense steps can help prevent accidents and save lives:

Text messages can wait until your car is turned off.
Pull over to the side of the road to read that map.
Input the address into the navigation system before you leave.
Don’t blast the radio.
Allow enough time so you can eat at the restaurant and not while you’re driving.

Car Insurance Thousand Oaks CA

Do I Need Car Insurance Before Buying a New Car?

Find out what your Thousand Oaks, CA auto insurance needs for a new car.

Whether you’re choosing a flashy sports car for yourself or gifting your loved one with a new ride, deciding on a new car is a fun process! Selecting the make, model, and even color can sidetrack you from switching your auto insurance coverage. But when exactly do you need to purchase auto insurance when buying a new car?

Simply put, you don’t need auto insurance before you buy a new car, but you will need it before you drive the car home from the dealer’s lot.

If you know the exact car you’re going to buy, you can call your insurance agent with the information. After selecting the appropriate and available coverage for you and that specific vehicle, your agent can add the new car to your existing insurance policy.

Some people are more impulsive! They find themselves at an auto dealership wanting to buy a new car and immediately drive it home. For this situation, your auto insurer would still have to be called, but it can be done from the dealership. Supplying the agent with the necessary information about the vehicle, with the intent of driving the car off the lot immediately, means an insurance binder can be issued. This insurance is then effective immediately. It will serve as your insurance policy for the new car until your agent can add the new car to your existing policy.

If you don’t have an auto insurer because you don’t have a car currently, the car dealership may be able to refer you to one. This circumstance is a little trickier to work around as you’re not updating a current policy, so an insurer is unlikely to insure you over the phone then and there. To be prepared for this, establish a relationship with an insurer before you buy the shiny, new set of wheels.

Never drive a car without auto insurance! If you can’t get insured right away, leave the car at the dealership. For the best value of auto insurance within the Thousand Oaks area of California, contact Integrity First Insurance Services!

Home Security Tips

Useful tips to keep your Thousand Oaks, CA home safe while on vacation.

Planning for your next vacation can be very exciting. While packing up your bags and printing out your boarding pass, it is important to make sure that your home stays safe and secure while you are away. Keep these home security tips in mind while enjoying your next vacation.

  • Install a security system – new security technologies are making it much easier to keep your home safe while you are away. From video cameras that let you keep an eye on your house from your smartphone to central alarm systems that will alert the authorities for you.
  • Lock up – while it may seem simple, making sure that all of your doors and windows are locked before you head on vacation will help to keep your home safe. If a burglar doesn’t have to work hard to get into your house, they are much more likely to target your house. Make sure that all windows on the second story of your house are locked as well.
  • Hide your spare key – if you usually leave a spare key out, bring it inside. Thieves know the most common hiding places for spare keys and will have easy access into your house once they find it.
  • Befriend your neighbor – having a pair of eyes on your house while you are away will help to ensure the right authorities are alerted if something goes wrong. Ask a trusted neighbor to keep an eye on your house and let you know if something looks out of place.

Before heading out of town, make sure to take a look at your home insurance policy to ensure that you have the right amount of coverage while you are away. Contact the independent insurance professionals at Integrity First Insurance in Thousand Oaks, California for all of your Conejo Valley homeowners insurance needs to keep your house and personal belongings safe.

Health Insurance Open Enrollment Thousand Oaks CA

Health Insurance Open Enrollment is Almost Here!

Integrity First helps with Covered California open enrollment starting November 1st.

Health insurance open enrollment begins on November 1st for 2016 and will run through January 31st, 2016.

The researchers found 36 percent of uninsured Californians don’t understand that federal tax subsidies to offset the monthly cost of insurance are available for eligible customers. The survey was conducted for Covered California and randomly sampled about 2,200 legal state residents ages 18 to 34.

The Affordable Care Act requires most Americans to get health insurance or face a tax penalty. Every year, the tax penalty will increase. In 2016, the fine for no health insurance coverage is 2.5% of your yearly household income or $695 per person, $347.50 per child under 18. The maximum penalty is the national average premium for a Bronze plan. So why not get insured?

At Integrity First Insurance, located in Thousand Oaks, California, we can help you select the right Covered California health insurance plans.  As an independent insurance agency, we offer a variety of plans which can be tailored to your needs and budget though Covered California Insurance Exchange or outside the exchange. Contact us today to get started!

Fire Resistant Landscaping Tips

Reduce the fire risk at your Thousand Oaks, CA house with these tips.

The current drought situation means much more than strict water restrictions. It also means an increased risk of a wildfire that can completely destroy your house and personal belongings. Even if you do not live in a rural area, you are still at risk of experiencing a wildfire. Luckily, making a couple changes to your landscaping can help to keep your house safe. Keep these landscaping tips in mind to reduce your risk of fire damage.

Create a defensible space

  • Plants that are close to your house should be planted with plenty of space between each plant and should be low growing.
  • Incorporating hardscape elements in your landscaping, such as gravel, rock, and stepping stones can help to break up the vegetation in your yard, helping to slow down how fast a fire is able to spread.
  • Keep up with your regular yard maintenance, such as trimming your bushes and mowing your lawn to help contain any overgrowth.
  • Avoid using very flammable mulches, such as pine bark mulch, that is much more flammable and will easily catch fire.

Think before you plant

  • Find plants that are more likely to resist ignition during a wildfire, such as iceplant, rockrose, and aloe.
  • Look for fire-resistant shrubs to add some greenery to your yard, such as bush honeysuckles, hedging roses, and currant.
  • When picking out trees, consider hardwoods, such as poplar, maple, and cherry, which are not as flammable as pine and fir trees.
  • Most fire-resistant plants do not require a lot of water to help keep them looking their best, which can help you reduce your water usage throughout the drought.

Having the right home insurance policy in place can help to ensure that your home and belongings are protected in case of a fire. Contact Integrity First Insurance in Thousand Oaks, California for all of your homeowners insurance coverage needs.