Are Your Safe Driving Skills Up To Par?

As if we didn’t already have enough distractions, on-board GPS systems, portable DVD players, iPods, and Smartphones have created more driving distractions than ever before. And, it’s certainly not atypical for a vehicle simultaneously to have ringing phones, cartoons blaring from the backseat, a GPS incessantly yelping orders out, and fast-food fries flying around like ninja weapons.

Even though elements like the above have been proven to make it nearly impossible for a driver to devote their full attention to the road at all times, many drivers still think they’re perfectly safe drivers. Here’s a simple yes-or-no quiz:

  1. So long as I’m not watching, it’s okay for passengers to watch a movie on the vehicle’s in-dash video screen.
    No. Not only do most front seat, in-dash video screens generally have a feature that prevents it from showing entertainment or business video when the car is moving, but it would also be completely unsafe to do so since it would inevitably catch the driver’s peripheral vision and distract them. Furthermore, many state laws regulate the placement and use of on-board video screens.
  2. Have there been any criminal cases alleging electronic devices were the causative factor in vehicle accidents?
    Yes. One example would be a 2004 case that took place in Alaska. The driver was allegedly watching something on his DVD player when he struck another vehicle and killed two people. Although the driver claimed he was only adjusting his CD player, he was charged with second-degree murder on the premise that he engaged in conduct showing an indifference to human life.
  3. In-dash monitors for rear-view camera and navigation purposes can be installed in the front seat.
    Yes and no. If the device has the feature that prevents it from showing entertainment and business video, then it can be installed and used in the vehicle’s front seat.
  4. Is it okay to drive as you eat or drink?
    No. Although driving as you drink coffee or eat a granola bar usually isn’t as distracting as watching a movie or text messaging is, it’s still an unsafe driving practice. The bottom line is that doing and thinking about anything aside from driving can distract you from the road and lead you to look away, remove your hands from the steering wheel, or become mentally preoccupied.
  5. Does driver distraction cause very many accidents?
    Yes. More than 6 million crashes, 3 million crash-related injuries, and 42,000 crash-related deaths occur each year in the U.S., of which driver distraction accounts for 1.2 million to 1.8 million, or roughly 20%-30%.
  6. Do federal laws govern the use of mobile devices like a GPS unit in moving vehicles?
    No. In some states, there are state laws that prohibit the use of hand-held cell phones in moving vehicles, but there aren’t any federal laws regulating the use of mobile devices in moving vehicles.
  7. Can the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) regulate cell phone usage in moving vehicles?
    No. Cell phone laws are enacted at the state or local levels. However, the NHTSA is able to regulate the use of motor vehicle equipment and devices.
  8. Are lawmakers concerned with vehicle crashes related to driver distraction?
    Yes. During the past decade, several states have already passed or presented legislation related to driver distraction and vehicle crashes, and the number of states looking into such laws grows every day.
  9. Do any states totally ban hand-held cell phone use while driving?
    Yes. Nine states, including California, Connecticut, Washington, New York, New Jersey, and Utah, prohibit all drivers from using hand-held cell phones while driving. Additionally, 30 states and the District of Columbia ban novice drivers from using both hands-free and hand-held cell phones.
  10. Can your employer be held liable if you’re using a cell phone and crash into someone or something?
    Yes. Your employer can be held liable in a court of law. Under respondent superior, an employer can be held liable in civil court for employee acts committed within the course of employment.

How many did you answer correctly? Maybe you’ve learned a few new facts, or maybe you gained a new respect for what you already knew. Either way, it’s time to put down the food, turn off that cell phone, and start keeping your mind and body focused on the road ahead of you.

Why You Should Require Liability Insurance For Those You Do Business With

Are the people you do business with insured? You might want to ask them. If a vendor, contractor, cleaning crew, gardener/arborist, or other service provider does not have insurance, you may be out of luck if they cause property damage or injury. Also, people who do not carry insurance are probably less likely responsible than those who are insured. They may not be the ideal people you would want to hire. It’s worth paying a little more to get someone who is insured.

Never just take the word of a vendor. Many who are not insured may say “yes” because it’s likely they don’t want to embarrass themselves. Instead, ask them to have their broker send a certificate of insurance. By having their broker send (fax or email) it to you, you know the policy has been paid for and has not been cancelled.

Some vendors, especially small firms, will try to convince you that they do not need insurance. Do not fall into this trap as you will be letting an amateur convince you to purchase product or service that lacks the protections an insurance policy provides. As a courtesy to existing clients, we can give you advice on any insurance certificate that is emailed or faxed to us. Suggestions on who you should request insurance certificates from:

  • Contractors who are working on a home or commercial remodel
  • Repair or installation service for your auto, home, or business
  • Service contractors, such as gardening and maids/cleaning services
  • Independent Contractors or Contract Employment
  • Professional Services, such as such as a CPA, Consultant, Mortgage Broker, Staffing Firm, Insurance Broker, Architects/Engineers, and others who provide professional services (professional liability)
  • People who rent or lease from you

Types of Insurance you should request:

  • General Liability
  • Workers Compensation – for operations that have workers on your premise
  • Commercial Auto Coverage – for those who use vehicles on the job
  • Professional Liability (Errors & Omissions Insurance) – for those who provide professional services

Should you request a certificate for every purchase? It’s your call, but if someone is entering your premise or you are purchasing a bigger ticket item, you should strongly consider asking for insurance documentation.

The Stromsoe Insurance Total Protection Team hopes this article helps. If you have any questions, comments or concerns, please just let us know.

Here are 4 Easy Ways to Reach Us:

  1. Call 951-600-5751 or 877-994-6787
  2. Fax 951-677-6265
  3. Email – insure@siaonline.com
  4. Visit – www.siaonline.com – 24/7

Online Insurance as Opposed to an Insurance Agency: What’s The Difference

Just as one might use a CPA to prepare their income taxes or an attorney to help them with their estate planning, many choose to use an insurance agency to write their insurance policies. This choice is mainly made because a person feels they need professional advice during the process. Of course, everyone will have different needs and circumstances surrounding their purchase, and this is why an insurance professional’s advice can be an invaluable asset. If you’re debating buying insurance online versus through an independent insurance agency, then you should ask yourself a couple of questions:

  • Do I know for certain what specific coverage(s) I need to be properly protected?
  • Do I know all the questions I should be asking before making an insurance purchase?
  • Will the online purchase truly result in saving both time and money?
  • Can I obtain all my insurance policies through a single online insurance provider?
  • If I purchase online, am I certain that I am receiving all discounts that apply to me?
  • Can I call the online insurance provider and receive insurance advice when needed?
  • If you purchase online insurance, in the event of a claim, who will stand by your side?
  • Is the personal information I’ll be providing kept secure?

You want to know exactly what coverage(s) you need and that the insurance you’re purchasing meets those needs adequately. Insurance can vary greatly from state to state, meaning that it’s equally important for your insurance source to be knowledgeable. You certainly don’t want to purchase an insurance policy and discover down the road that it doesn’t protect you during a claim. Making an insurance purchase with an online company that fails to connect professional insurance advice to your personal insurance needs can leave you at risk of being without the coverage(s) you need. You shouldn’t be the only one taking time to ask questions. And when that unfortunate claim does occur, who will help you when the insurance company doesn’t want to pay your claim? When you purchase through an independent insurance agency, we are here to help and support you through the entire claims process.

One of the best ways to determine if you’re really saving money by purchasing your insurance online is to get a quote of your policy online. Do keep in mind that most online companies don’t offer multi-policy discounts, such as for home and auto. This is because most offer homeowner’s insurance through a different company, if at all. On the other hand, an independent insurance agency typically allows you to select coverage from several different insurance companies, Stromsoe Insurance Agency currently offers over 59 insurance companies and we shop the marketplace for you, and we can help you determine which company will offer you the most protection for your insurance dollar. Another consideration is that independent insurance agencies typically have a much more stringent screening process in relation to these insurance companies.

Unlike independent insurance agencies, many online companies will either not have the services that you need readily available or have a system that you must sign into and learn to navigate before being able to obtain what you need. One such example would be obtaining insurance documents, such as a certificate of insurance. Let’s say you’re using your vehicle to take your child and some of his/her classmates on a field trip. You learn the day of the trip that you must have evidence of your insurance before going. If you use an independent insurance agency, the documented can be faxed or emailed to the school or your smart phone with a quick and simple call. A second example would be how an insurance agency can help you meet some very challenging needs associated with needing a hard to place insurance policy. Despite the trend for online shopping, independent insurance agencies continue to thrive because of the solid reputations they build from customer satisfaction.

Insurance is often required – auto insurance by your employer, homeowner’s insurance by your mortgage lender, or even coverage(s) an owner of a space you’re trying to rent for a professional or personal function may require of you. Such requirements can often be like trying to understand the tax code. If you use an independent insurance agency, then you can email or fax any insurance requirements to your insurance agent for quick and efficient resolution.

Carefully consider how you go about purchasing your insurance. Surprises are the last things you want when it comes to the vital protection of insurance. If you have any uncertainty about what you’re really getting with online insurance, then you might want to rethink your decision. If you’d like to avoid the one-size-fits-all approach of online insurance and receive the knowledge and expertise of an independent insurance agent, then you may consider opting for a professional, independent agent to prepare your insurance policy.

If you would like to request your Free Insurance Quote or if you have more question about what an independent insurance agency, like Stromsoe Insurance Agency, offers it’s clients in addition to an insurance policy, please contact our knowledgeable team at 877-994-6787, that’s 877-99-INSURE.

Keeping Your Identity Safe From The Internet and Telephone Scams

What would you say the fastest growing crime in the United States is today? If identity theft came to mind, then you’re exactly right. Statistics by the Federal Trade Commission show that over 20% of all identity theft cases involve the internet and telecommunications. While you might think identify theft scams are easy to spot and avoid, the criminals behind such scams devote themselves to putting together emails, phone calls, and websites that appear enticingly legitimate.

Most email and telephone identity theft scams ask you to provide your Social Security number, credit card account information, or banking account information. According to the Identity Theft Resource Center, unless you initiate the call and know you’re speaking with a legitimate representative from the company you’re doing business with, you should never give out any personal or financial information.

Of course, there are innumerable scams circulating the country. The following are a few of the most commonly seen:

Moving Money Scams / Nigerian Money Offers. The “can you help me move my money from my country” scams were around before the internet was even a thought. Despite people being aware of the con, these scams still make $100 million each year. The scammers will send out mass emails. They claim to be in a foreign country, often Nigeria. They ask the recipient to assist them in moving their money out of their country and promise to pay the recipient from helping them. The explanation for the request is often a heartbreaking tale or humanitarian cause like a sick relative needing a surgery.

Phisher / Account Verification Scams. These scams involve the scammer purchasing domain names that closely resemble that of legitimate and reputable businesses. One of the most recent scams involved the E-Bay domain name. The scammers purchased domain names like change-ebay.com and ebay-verification.net and sent out mass emails asking consumers to provide their personal and credit card information. The emails often asked the recipient to verify a purchase or made threats to cancel the account if the recipient didn’t provide the information. Other companies being used in alike scams include: AOL, PayPal, MSN, Discover Card, Best Buy, and Bank of America. Even if you’ve recently purchased an item or made a transaction with a company, you should never comply with emails asking for personal or financial information. Most companies don’t conduct business in such a manner. To make sure, use the official phone number for the involved company to find out if the request is legitimate.

Get Your Free Credit Report Scams. Most correspondence related to getting a free credit report will turn out to be a scam in one way or another. Free is usually the relative word since most receive a bill charging for the service after it’s used. Other free credit report scams are simply after your Social Security number.

You’ve Won a Free Gift Scam. The phone call or email saying that you’ve won a free gift is luring. The scammer will claim the gift is free, but that they need your credit card information to cover the shipping and handling. With your credit card number in hand, they can use it for a lot more than shipping and handling. Just remember that few things are free and those that are don’t require a credit card.

You’ve Won the Canadian or Netherlands Lottery Scams. According to the FBI, this scam has collected approximately $80 to $100 million so far. Keep in mind that you first must buy a ticket or enter a lottery to win it. If you haven’t purchased a ticket, you haven’t won.

Questionnaires. This is a request for your personal and financial information under the guise of a friendly questionnaire. The scammer often claims to be a childhood or old social network friend. The questionnaire may blatantly ask you for your info or be subtly collecting information related to your account passwords by asking you your birthday, favorite things, name of your kids, and such. Delete the questionnaire. Giving false information only alerts the scammer they’ve reached someone willing to respond and possibly provide inadvertent information in the future.

IRS Audit Scams. Scammers have sent out emails claiming the recipient must undergo an e-audit within 48 hours or face penalties and interest. The e-audit questionnaire asks for personal and financial information. Be aware that the IRS doesn’t correspond with taxpayers about audits via email and certainly doesn’t have anything called an e-audit.

Resume Scams. Identity theft even occurs from sending out a resume. Scammers can place a print or online help wanted ad just like a real employer can. Never place your birthday or Social Security number on resumes. That information can be collected by legitimate employers during the interview stage.

The best way to stay safe is NOT responding to anything you feel has the potential to be a scam. Most email carriers will have a ‘Mark as Spam’ button (or something similar to that) that you may click while reading the email.

We hope this article helps keep you and your loved ones safe. If you have any questions, comments or concerns, please just give us a call, we are happy to help.

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Dog Bite Prevention Tips

If you own a dog, you should be aware that it is not completely unlikely that your dog might bite. According to 2009 figures from the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention), approximately 4.5 million Americans are bitten by dogs every year. Of these bites, about one in five result in wounds that require medical attention. Furthermore, the property/casualty industry pays out hundreds of millions of dollars to satisfy dog bite claims each year. But you can take steps to make it less likely that your dog will bite.

Prior to bringing a dog into your household:

  • Speak with a professional such as a veterinarian, animal behaviorist, or a responsible breeder to find out which breeds of dogs are the best fit for your household.
  • Dogs with aggressive natures are not appropriate for households with children.
  • Pay attention to cues that a child is apprehensive about a dog. If a child seems fearful of dogs, wait before bringing a dog into your household.
  • Before buying or adopting a dog, spend time with it. Exercise caution when bringing a dog into a household with an infant or toddler.

If you decide to adopt or purchase a dog:

  • Spay or neuter your pet since this action reduces aggressive tendencies.
  • Don’t ever leave young children or babies alone with a dog.
  • Don’t play aggressively with your dog. Avoid wrestling or tug-of-war games.
  • Teach your dog submissive behaviors such as rolling over to expose the abdomen, and giving up food without growling.
  • Seek professional advice from a veterinarian or responsible breeder if the dog develops aggressive or other unwanted behaviors.

Teach children special safety precautions to take around dogs:

  • Children should not approach an unfamiliar dog
  • Don’t run from a dog or scream
  • If an unfamiliar dog approaches, remain motionless
  • If knocked over by a dog, roll into a ball and lie still
  • Report stray dogs or dogs displaying unusual behavior to an adult.
  • Avoid making eye contact with a dog.
  • Do not disturb a dog that is sleeping, eating, or caring for puppies.
  • If bitten, immediately report the bite to an adult.

Be a responsible pet owner and protect yourself and others from dog bites, pain and suffering, as well as insurance claims! Call the Stromsoe Insurance Total Protection Team and make sure you are properly protected today.

Here are 4 Easy Ways to Reach Us:

  1. Call 951-600-5751 or 877-994-6787
  2. Fax 951-677-6265
  3. Email – insure@siaonline.com
  4. Visit www.siaonline.com