Drunk driving. Something that injures and kills innocent people everyday. Something that can be prevented. Something that doesn't have to happen, but still does.
In the United States, one person dies from an alcohol-related car crash every 53 minutes or so. Think about that- every hour at least one person dies. On average, one person gets injured in an alcohol-related car crash every 90 seconds. That's a minute and a half. By the time you finish reading this article, somebody has been injured.
It is estimated that 1 out of every 2000 road trips taken in the United States is driven under the influence of alcohol. How many cars do you pass on the way to work, to school, to the grocery store? Although time of day is definitely a factor, the statistics remain the same, there's a .05% chance that any driver is under the influence. Don't let that driver be you.
Repeat Offenders in MA
If you think driving drunk is scary, think of all the repeat offenders out there. They drive around completely intoxicated in one of mankind's greatest weapon: the car.
In Massachusetts, we have more than 20,000 three time repeat offenders who have been caught. There are probably several thousand more out there who repeatedly offend this safety precaution that go uncaught and unpunished.
Everytime a drunk driver hits the road, they do nothing but endanger. Uncaught drunk drivers may not have caused mayham and chaos, but everytime they go out and drive around drunk they risk safety and lives, including their own. Repeat offenders are lucky to be alive and/or unharmed; it's not typical for a drunk driver to have a clean, safe experience.
Why Do It?
Although you have the repeat offenders who drive drunk all the time because they feel invincible, at one point these drivers had to make their decisions to do so. And what influenced their decision? Alcohol definitely had something to do with it.
Alcohol influences judgement and decision making skills- everybody knows that- but not everybody knows how.
In our bodies we have these chemicals called neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters travel through neurons and synapses in our body to elecit reactions from us. Adrenaline that you get when doing something daring, such as skydiving, is an example of a neurotransmitter. Serotonin is another neurotransmitter that is associated highly with happiness.
Alcohol also has a chemical makeup. The typical alcohol contains a hydroxyl group OH that is composed of oxygen and hydrogen. Other groups may be attached, but this isn't a chemistry class and you don't need to know that.
The chemicals in alcohol interfere with proper processing of the other neurotransmitters in the body. This causes signals to not be fully delivered and otherwise messed up.
The part of the brain does the decision making is the frontal lobe. That's the very front of your head. If you place your hand on your forehead, your frontal lobe is just centimeters from your fingers, and is also protected by a thick skull. However, if you let alcohol inside your brain, no skull thick enough can prevent you from making terrible decisions using your impaired frontal lobe.
How to Prevent Drunk Driving
Drunk driving can be prevented so easily. All it takes is for a drunk person to not drive. Planning how to get home and how to do so safety before any event that involves alcohol is the key.
- Have a designated driver (no alcohol for him/her)
- If everybody is drinking, ask someone not attending the event to assist with driving
- Go to the event with the idea in mind that you will not be driving- being mentally prepared while sober will help you keep that idea true even when alcohol is in your system
- Hosts: take away car keys so people do not have the option of driving themselves home
- Hosts: have possible sleeping arrangements prepared just in case people are unable to leave
- If you are trying to prevent others from drinking and driving, read our blog here which contains six easy steps
Other Effects of Alcohol
People make the decision to go out and about drunk driving because of impaired judgement. But the other alcoholic effects occur while driving.
If we go back to the whole neurotransmitter scene, we can figure out that all actions and muscle movements that people make are caused by these neurotransmitters. Driving requires mental and physical ability, and alcohol affects both. Judgement is affected (you might see a red light as green and drive right through a busy intersection) as well as physical ability (slower reaction times; you can't brake fast enough and end up crashing, you cannot turn down a side road, etc.).
Because drunk driving is such a safety hazard, there are severe legal penalties to doing so. Several crimes include:
- Vehicular homicide: killing a person using a motor vehicle while the driver is drunk
- DUI Child Endangerment: operating a motor vehicle while drunk when a child is in the car
- If your blood alcohol is over .08, you are considered drunk legally
- Having an open container of alcohol in car
Penalties for these different crimes vary, but they are all very severe. They can range from a suspended license to a felony. For a list of laws for Massachusetts, click here. Read our blog here about the difference between a DUI and an OUI.
Please don't drink and drive. And please don't allow others to do it either. It causes too much pain and suffering. If we all help each other out in situations like these, we can reduce and hopefully eliminate drunk driving all together.
You can teach an old seadog a few new tricks.
This I learned the nautical way when in early May, I enrolled in the Cohasset Maritime Institute's Learn to Row program. CMI rows in four-oared fiberglass composite boats specially designed for the waters off Cohasset. These unique, handcrafted boats hold four rowers plus a coxswain. Each rower sits on a sliding seat using the same sweep stroke of competitive college and high school programs. Boats are stiff and sturdy but still lightweight, a seaworthy cousin to the fragile and sleek racing shells, and are well-suited to the sometimes choppy waters of Massachusetts Bay. In addition to the joy of rowing in the beautiful ocean waters, the CMI's program accomodates a wide range of rowing abilities, strengths and intensities. Equal numbers of men and women row at CMI. They also have a separate, three-season program for youth entering eighth grade and up.
For the first two weeks, we engaged in rowing training sessions. We were then given the opportunity to extend our memberships for the entire summer season. This meant committing to row two or three times weekly for an hour and a half each row. For me, this resulted in an early sunrise row at 6am on Saturdays and 6:30 sunset row on Monday evenings and subbing as needed. It is serious business making a commitment to your boat as a missing oarsperson can dock the entire boat. The rows are rain or shine with only lightning curtailing a row.
Depending on your scheduled row time, you and your crew members will prep the boat trailing the boat for the short walk to Cohasset Harbor from the boathouse. Then with the direction of the coxswain with an "up in two" the boat is lifted from the trailer into the water. Cold water alert! It is here that the most direct contact with chilly Cohasset Harbor waters takes place getting the boat in and out of the water. The crew gracefully joins the boat after deciding on their seating position. The first position "stroke" sets the pace for the boat so it is often taken by the most experienced oarsperson. Once everyone settles in place locking in their oar, adjusting foot locks, we are off for our hour and a half advanture as the coxswain directs us out of Cohasset Harbor.
Once we enter the channel past the harbor, we take a quick break to take a roll call on where we will row for the day. If the waters are choppy, this may limit options but most days bring rows to historic Minot Lighthouse or past Sandy Beach or to North Scituate. If the tide is just right, we may even have the opportunity to pass under Cunningham Bridge into Little Harbor or under infamous Border St. Bridge into the Gulf River.
It is utterly breathtaking to see the sights. On any given row you may see a flock of osprey descending on a school of fish or a sole piper standing on a sandbar. I countinue to be awestruck rowing a mile offshore to greet the storied Minot Lighthouse. Or look over your shoulder and you see the sunset over the Boston skyline. Some lucky rowers encounter harbor seals rollicking on the rocks.
Summer rowing season will conclude as our wonderful coxswains return to college. It's been an incredible experience for this novice rower and I already miss the coxswain calling upon us to "let it run!" Until next summer!
Should you purchase Earthquake Coverage? Direct damages due to Earthquakes are NOT covered under the standard homeowner’s policy. The answer for most people is a crystal clear ‘it depends.’
The first, most important and most obvious consideration is location. Do you live in an area prone to Earthquakes? If that answer is no, then you’re probably safe forgoing coverage. If the answer is yes, read on. If the answer is ‘I’m not really sure,’ then here’s a map of the USA’s geological ruminations this past week. The visual should give you a pretty good idea whether you live in a risk zone or not.
This map is available at all times for current data, by the way, just visit the Recent Earthquakes Page (HL http://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/recenteqsus/)
For those who live in high risk areas (yes, California, we’re talking to you), purchasing Earthquake Coverage is a very important option to consider. Remember that you don’t purchase insurance for things that are necessarily likely; you insure yourself against the unlikely financially devastating event.
Take life insurance, for example. The likelihood of a bacon-bringer passing prematurely is very small, and most families don’t expect to need it. However, they purchase coverage anyway because of the financial nightmare that would ensue IF it did happen.
Of course, there are always those who wouldn’t purchase auto insurance if it wasn’t mandated, or home insurance if they don’t have to; some people much just prefer to roll the dice. Some are wealthy enough to walk away from a destroyed home, and some have so little equity that it doesn’t make financial sense to insure against earthquakes.
But if you don’t consider yourself a member of the groups above, at least considering coverage is a wise idea.
So what does protection entail? That will depend on the conversation you have with your insurance provider. Coverage will vary state to state, but in high risk areas, both basic and expanded coverage is available, having made great strides in the past few years. In low risk areas such as my desk here in Massachusetts, a simple earthquake endorsement will cover damages due to earthquakes, landslides, volcanic eruptions, and other earth movements.
Best of luck in your decision!
Life insurance costs have come down consistently over the past 20 years, reflecting the fact that people are living longer. Medical advances, awareness of the benefits of diet and exercise, and vehcle safety all contribute to this trend. The hardest part about life insurance for most people is initiating the process. Nobody wants to pressured into buying something they don’t need and don’t want. Fortunately today, it’s easier than ever to get a no-pressure quote from us. We use SBLI for most customers needs, since they’re always competitive, and always easy to work with.
SBLI has an online needs calculator to assist you with deciding on an amount. We offer the same great rates and coverage options, but you also get our help with deciding the best match for you, as well as navigating the underwriting process. You choose the time period you want insurance to last, and you’re on your way…
Underwriting is easy too. When you first speak with us, we’ll ask a few questions about your height and weight, family history, and any hazardous hobbies you do to get a realistic sense of your underwitting category, so you can plan on costs that are realistic. Once you decide on what you need, we arrange to have a licensed paramedic meet you at your home or office for the medical part. Getting around to the right amount of life insurance is fast, easy and economical.
What is reckless driving, what are the penalties, and how will it affect your insurance?
I’ve found that very few people have actually put time into answering these questions on the internet; so here’s a guide about the basics of reckless driving in Massachusetts.
Reckless driving is legally defined as a mental state in which the driver displays wanton disregard for the rules of the road. The standards of reckless driving in Massachusetts are not specifically defined, but subjectively noted as a manner that shows you are indifferent to whether someone could be seriously injured or killed. Here are some things that will generally constitute a reckless driving charge:
- An egregious violation of the speed limit (this usually means driving 20-30 mph over the limit or on the highway or in a residential area)
- Unsafe lane changes (we’ve all seen this happen; people weaving in and out of lanes on the highway to pass as many people as quickly as possible)
- Drag Racing
- Passing on a solid line or passing on a curve.
- Passing a stopped school bus.
- Leaving the scene of an accident
Reckless driving also usually goes hand in hand with impaired/drunk driving charges.
Reckless Driving Penalties
Reckless driving by itself is a misdemeanor in the state of Massachusetts and is generally handled on a case-by-case basis. Because it is a criminal charge, there will be a fine and not more than two and a half years of incarceration in extreme cases. There is also the possibility of your license being suspended or revoked again depending on your offense.
The harsher penalties are going to come from your insurer.
Reckless Driving and Your Insurance
Reckless driving not only carries with it legal costs and time in court: it also upends your insurance. The cost is only the first part; losing your choice of an insurance company is the real kicker. We rated a 2008 Ford Taurus, with $100,000/$300,000 liability limits, and including collision and comprehensive coverage, driving 12,000 miles per year, living in Pembroke. Of our dozen or so companies that we represent, Peerless Insurance offers the best rate for our rater, at $543 per year.
Then she gets caught and pinned with a Reckless Driving charge.
Hello MAIP, the Massachusetts Auto Insurance Plan, aka, the Pool. Because insurance companies don’t want to insure someone with a reckless driving charge, MAIP is a state run mechanism that assigns a carrier to take that driver. MAIP is subject to a ceiling rate, meaning whoever gets the assignment can only charge as high as the MAIP rate, which in our case is now $1,489. Same coverages, same Pembroke home town, but one Reckless driving.
Thus, not only did your auto insurance cost nearly triple, you lost your choice of insurance companies as well. Two hands on the wheel!
You’ve just had a fender bender and then find out your insurance company won’t go to bat for you to avoid the dreaded ‘at-fault’ tag for the accident. Aren’t they supposed to? Isn’t that what you’d expect from a risk partner?
Yes, they are
and in fact, it’s always in your insurance company’s interest to have the other driver considered at-fault. And having your financial interests and the insurance company’s financial interests both trying to find the other drive at-fault is the best alignment possible.
Here’s why your interests align:
the insurance company for the at-fault driver ends up paying most or all of the cost of the accident. That’s a big incentive. It you’re at-fault, they’ll pay your collision AND the repairs to the other driver’s car, even when the other driver goes through his own insurance. (This is a process known as subrogation where the non-at-fault company gets paid after the fact by the at-fault driver’s company).
So why don’t they fight harder?
In short, legal reality. Massachusetts traffic law has been litigated and argued for about a hundred years. That’s a lot of case law. And even the most skilled lawyering can’t get you ‘not at-fault’ if the case law is against you (excepting documented extenuating circumstances).
Massachusetts traffic law has been summarized in the “Standard of Fault”. Distilled down to the very basics, the at-fault driver was usually in one of these situations:
- Not yielding to oncoming traffic
-Crossing traffic to turn left
-entering a main road from a side road
- Hitting someone in the rear
–not stopping in time
It’s always good to get fresh information at the accident, to avoid ‘description drift’. See out tips on right after an accident to understand how to protect your interests. Or call us at 800-649-3252.
A Guide to Determining How Much Insurance to Buy for Your Home
On nearly every homeowners quote I present to customers, the #1 question I receive is how I determined the amount of coverage to use for the home, or the “Dwelling Coverage” amount.
What is Dwelling Coverage?
The Dwelling Coverage (often referred to as the ‘Replacement Cost’) is not the market value of the home, the assessed value of the home, nor the mortgage amount used to buy the home, but the amount of money it would cost to rebuild the home if it is ever destroyed by a fire. Land is also not a factor in this amount.
How does Dwelling Coverage work?
Your independent insurance agent will calculate the dwelling coverage by entering the square footage, year built, style of home, foundation type, garage type, # of bathrooms, type of kitchen, material of the interior & exterior walls, type of flooring, and energy infrastructure (to name a few) into a replacement cost calculator provided by the insurance company. The insurance companies keep up to date replacement cost calculators by continually updating the current prices for building materials and labor. The insurance companies create these calculators to ensure that their customers are getting the proper protection and so the insurance company is covering homes to their proper replacement value.
Now, here is the important part. Once the agent presents the quote to the customer, the customer decides if they are happy with the dwelling coverage. I would urge, if you trust your agent, to use the dwelling coverage amount the agent has come up with. After all, this is what an agent is for. This will ensure that you have adequate coverage for your home.
Can't I opt for less dwelling coverage?
In a tough economy, customers try to find savings anywhere possible, and one area is their insurance. Most homeowners believe they can simply lower their insurance coverage (dwelling coverage) to save some money. This is true, but it comes with a heavy cost due to the coinsurance clause.
Insurance companies require homeowners to carry at least 90% in coverage of the dwelling/replacement cost, which is the coinsurance clause. So in our example of $300,000, the insurance company would require at least $270,000 in dwelling coverage to satisfy the 90% or more insured-to-value requirement. Insurance companies offer discounts for homeowners who insure to the full replacement cost. The customer will sleep easy having full coverage on the home.
What does that mean in a claim?
Now let’s say that the homeowner decided that he/she wants to lower the dwelling coverage to $250,000, which is 83% of the replacement cost. Let’s also say the homeowner suffers a $100,000 claim. The insurance company will penalize the homeowner with a penalty of 17% taken directly from the claim. It is calculated by the following:
($250,000/$300,000) X $100,000 = $83,333.
The homeowner may have saved a few hundred dollars in premium by lowering their dwelling coverage to $250,000, but have now taken a penalty of $17,667 at the time of the loss, vastly eliminating the saving they thought they found earlier. Instead of receiving $100,000 for the claim, the insured is now only receiving $83,333.
In conclusion, it may seem like the obvious area to save money on your homeowners insurance, but lowering the dwelling coverage on your policy can negatively affect you during a time of a claim, or a total loss. That is not the time to realize you made a bad decision.
Use an independent agent to ensure you are getting the best coverage available for your home, and allow the agent to find discounts for you that don’t affect your coverage.
For many young adults, college is an incredibly liberating experience and a time of emotional and intellectual growth as fledgling freshman adventure further along the path of higher education. Unfortunately, many of the high tech gadgets and electronics that pepper dorm rooms can also find it an incredibly liberating experience… as they adventure out of the dorm in the hands of a thief. The reality is that theft on college campuses does occur, according to the Newton’s 2nd law of theft:
Expensive Electronics + Doors Left Open + The Occasional Dorm Party = Theft
Fortunately, insuring the things your student takes away to college can easily and affordably be insured. Here’s what you should know.
- You’re probably already covered: Most students are covered under their parents’ homeowners policy, as long as they still list their primary residence as their home address rather than their dorm room. No need to fear if your student has enough electronics littering his or her dorm room to disrupt aircraft radar within a five mile radius; there is generally a 10% coverage rule that protects 10% of the value of your personal belongings worldwide (which includes hotel rooms, temporary residences, etc). Even so, it’s probably a good idea to call your insurance provider and double check that your college bound daughter or son is covered.
- Yes, that includes Healthcare: A recent change in national law recently superceded the state’s coverage policy. The old law stated that all full time students who are still dependent are covered under their parents’ policy to age 25. The new healthcare legislation further extended this to all non-married children up to 26 years of age.
- The abandoned car: many students go off to college and leave their cars at home. Make sure you aren’t paying top dollar for a car that will sit in your garage all year and only endanger the lawnmower next to it. Call your insurance agent and ask for a discount if the car will not be at school. Furthermore, ask if good student discounts are available should your studious scholar return home to use the vehicle.
- After Graduation: After your college student graduates and takes up residence elsewhere, the rules of the game change. They will no longer be covered under your homeowner’s policy, but will instead most likely need tenant insurance for their apartment or rented house. However, these policies are very affordable and will cover anything in the apartment that would break if someone “turned the apartment upside down and shook it” (Meehan Insurance).
Even with this information, it’s a good idea to call your professional insurance provider and have a conversation about your son or daughter’s coverage before they leave for college. The short amount of time on the phone could save you time, money, and headaches in the future.
Additionally, an ounce of prevention is worth a time honored cliché (or a pound of cure). It’s worth taking the time to prevent the theft of items that your students own. You can protect laptops from theft by purchasing a notebook combination lock (several affordable products are listed here). Another good use of time is to photograph all valuable items and take down serial numbers and other information then store them in a GoogleDocs document; if you have a google account, you already have access to this feature. If you don’t, setting up an account is free, easy, and you can access your documents from any computer with internet access. Taking preventative measures before the next dorm party can keep your son or daughter’s electronics from “walking out” in the middle of the chaos.
For more insurance tips, information, resources, and quotes, visit us at the A. G. Gordon, Inc website.
The weather is getting nicer which means there are more people out on the road driving, walking, running, riding… We have many equestrians in our area and most drivers seem to be courteous when approaching them on the road. Unfortunately, there are fewer trails around than there were 20 years ago which translates to equestrians having to use the roads more to reach a trail. Please use caution when passing a horse since they can spook easily. Here is a section from the Massachusetts Drivers Manual for guidance.
http://www.mass.gov/rmv/dmanual/chapter4.pdf (page 101)
Animals and Horse-Drawn Vehicles
Always give the right-of-way to an animal that someone is leading, riding, or driving. Animals are easily scared by motor vehicles. When you get near an animal or horse-drawn vehicle, be careful and do the following.
• Slow down.
• Stop if the animal or vehicle is coming toward you or is crossing your path. Allow the animal to pass.
• If the animal or vehicle is traveling in the same direction as you, allow plenty of room
for passing safely. Drive at a reasonable speed.
• Do not honk your horn or make a loud noise.
• If the animal you are passing looks scared, you must pull your vehicle to the side and stop.
• Proceed only when it is safe.
• You must stop if a rider or driver signals you to do so.
The law applies to horses, cows, and any other draft animals.
In rural areas, take extra care when passing hay rides. These are usually animal drawn and full of passengers.
Liability issues and claims are proving to be more costly than actual physical damage for homeowner policies.
According to the Center for Disease Control, there were 4.7 million dog bites this past year and 50% occurred on the residence premises. These accounted for approximately 1/3 of all homeowner claims. Carriers often decline writing coverage if there are particular breeds within the household, such as Pitbulls, German Shepherds, Akitas, Rottweilers, Doberman Pinschers, Siberian Huskies, and others that may exhibit aggressive behavior or have previously had a biting history. Some companies may accept such a breed if they are provided evidence of the dog’s participation in an obedience training course.
Another major issue of concern for homeowner carriers are swimming pools since drowning is the leading cause of fatal injury to children between the ages of 1 and 4. Customers are required to comply with local regulations regarding the pool such as fencing and locked gates. It is worthwhile to note that customers can also be held liable for injuries to strangers using their pool without permission.
Trampolines account for over 100,000 emergency room visits per year according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Companies can refuse to provide coverage for homes that have trampolines on the premises or may place exclusion clauses or require safety measures, such as nets surrounding the apparatus.
The National Safety Council has reported that falls account for 26% of injuries and deaths in the home. Approximately 2.8 million children were treated in the emergency room last year for fall injuries. Treehouses have been the cause for many of these injuries due to the height of these structures. Carriers may exclude or decline providing coverage or apply a surcharge for these risks.
Homes with guns on the premises increase the risk of homicide by 40% according to the New England Journal of Medicine. Companies require that these remain properly secured with safety locks and kept out of the reach of children.
Heating fires account for approximately 36% of home fires. Since many insurance customers use wood stoves as a secondary source of heat, companies now require proof that these were properly installed, adhere to town building codes, and have been inspected.
Other causes of potential declination of coverage are the presence of zip-lines and exotic pets at the home.
Insurance customers should make it a point to discuss with their agents if any of the above situations apply to them. It is not worth jeopardizing coverage or having a liability claim denied if the carrier was never made aware of the presence of any of the above. Contact us at www.agordon.com for any questions.