Tag Archives: southern california

Stricter Laws For Hand-Held Devices While Driving

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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

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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.

 

The Pros And Cons Of Owing An Electric Car

Should you or shouldn’t you buy an electric car.  That is the question.   Trying to decide which is the right car for you can be a difficult decision because there are so many variables at play.  Therefore, we have put together a list of pros and cons of buying an electric car to help you decide whether or not an electric car is right for you.

Pros:

  • You will save a great deal of money on gas.
  • There will be less maintenance involved because it’s all electric and no longer uses oil so you will not be paying for any more oil changes or any other expensive repairs that afflict a gas-powered car.
  • An electric car may seem more expensive; however, they come with huge State and / or federal tax credits which could save you up to $7500 in some cases.
  • An electric car helps protect the planet.

Cons:

  • Many people carry a huge fear that they will run out of power without being near a charging station.
  • You will have to install a charging station at your home.
  • The battery life is about 10 years at which time they will have to be replaced and they are very expensive.  Most replacement batteries cost well into the thousands of dollars.
  • Even though you won’t be paying for gas, you will still have to charge your car which will cost you in electricity.  For most people, the electricity used averages about $20 per month. 

If you would like a free auto insurance coverage comparison, please contact Integrity First Insurance in Thousand Oaks, CA.  We have been offering quality insurance products to the people of Southern California and the Conejo Valley since 1981.  We will provide you with personalized service and will shop the best possible rates for your unique situation. 

Tweeting Just the Facts

Trivia gurus or just people looking to start up an interesting conversation will be excited to hear about the twitter feed uberfacts.  This feed is dedicated to bringing you the "most unimportant things you’ll never need to know".  It’s frequently updated, which means that soon your feed can be filled with interesting tidbits meant to stimulate your brain stem!

For example, did you know that you will experience your billionth second of life when you are thirty one years old? Or that there are so many different apple varieties that if you ate one everyday, not only would you keep the doctor away but it would take you more than twenty years to try every single one!  Take a look at the "artists" icon on the iPhone and iPod touch; if the silhouette looks familiar that’s because it’s of U2’s lead singer: Bono!

For more information about coverage in the Conejo Valley, Thousand Oaks, or Southern California, contact Integrity First Insurance.

Preparing to be Safe This Memorial Day

As Memorial Day Weekend gets closer it is time for a few reminders about summertime safety. More traffic will be on the roads, we will be using our grills more often, and our activities move to the outdoors.

Here are a few tips to help you safely get through the weekend and the summer.

  • Use long-handled utensils when grilling out and always have them clean.

  • Never use a grill in an indoor space.

  • Keep cold foods refrigerated and hot foods up to temperatures.

  • When driving, make sure you and your passengers and buckled-up.

  • Follow boating rules.

  • Use sunscreen when spending time in the direct sunlight.

  • Keep an eye on plants like poison ivy.

  • Make sure your car is ready for summer weather, Check your tires, lights, and windshield wipers in particular.

Now is a good time to have a review of your homeowners insurance and auto insurance coverage. Contact us at Integrity First Insurance of Southern California. We are proud to serve the Thousand Oaks, and Conejo Valley area and would be happy to provide a free, no-obligation quote for you.

Making Sure Your Family Can Keep That Home You Just Bought

The amount of paperwork involved in the purchase of a home can be overwhelming. If you’ve recently purchased a home, there is one more piece of paperwork you should consider. That is a life insurance policy that provides coverage in the amount of the outstanding mortgage.

Sadly, upon the death of a loved one, many families find themselves in a position of either struggling with their house payments, or being faced with moving. This can be avoided with the proper amount of life insurance. Remember, the amount of the mortgage balance should be the minimum amount of coverage. That is because your family will also be faced with the other costs of home ownership, including repairs, maintenance, taxes and insurance.

The good news is there are a variety of forms of insurance that can work in concert to provide you the best coverage at an affordable price. If you live in the Thousand Oaks or Conejo Valley area, contact us for a free, no obligation quote. We are Integrity First Insurance of Southern California and we will be glad to work in finding you the coverage your family deserves.