David Kirkpatrick

November 21, 2009

Mobile phones and driving just don’t mix

Even “hands-free” cell phone use. I’ve written on this exact topic for an insurance website and cited the same studies referenced in this article. I’m not even going to comment on the inanity of doing any sort of texting while driving — sending or receiving — but anyone who has ever spoken on a cell phone when driving (a group that includes pretty much anyone who has access to a car and a mobile phone) knows there were times that you lost total awareness of something happening on the road around you, be it a traffic signal, a missed exit, a near miss on a lane change, or something else. The kicker to all the studies is research has very conclusively proven it doesn’t matter if the cell phone use is hand-held or hands-free, it is simply more dangerous — much more dangerous — than driving sans mobile device.

From the second link:

Studies from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, for example, show that drivers are four times more likely to have an accident if they are talking on the phone — hands-free or not — while driving.

The reason, researchers say, is that drivers often become engrossed in their conversation, rather than focusing on driving, even if their hands are on the wheel. “Once a conversation begins, we don’t see a difference between hand-held and hands-free,” says Adrian Lund, president of the institute.

And from the first link, the pull quotes I chose for this web content created for an insurance aggregator client:

How dangerous is mixing driving with cell phone use?

The quick answer is pretty dangerous. The National Safety Commission released the results of a number of studies showing distractions, particularly cell phone use while driving, cause many accidents.

Here are two excerpts from the NSC alert:

“A study conducted by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute concluded that almost 80 percent of motor vehicle crashes and 65% of near crashes involve driver inattention within three seconds before the event. While the study looked at all different types of driver distractions, it listed use of wireless communication devices (cell phones and PDAs) as the most common form of driver distraction”

And,

“An earlier University of Utah study showed that a 20 year old driver on a cell phone had the same reaction time as a 70 year old. Regardless of age, drivers on cell phones were 18% slower in stepping on the brakes, and 17% slower in regaining their speed after braking. They also kept a greater following distance and slower speed than drivers who were not using cell phones, which contributes to congestion on the roadways.”

Based on these statistics a number of states have banned cell phone use that isn’t hands-free when driving, many more cities and towns have passed similar bans and new cell phone related ordinances are being enacted on a regular basis. The studies into the safety of cell phone use find there is little difference in the distractions created by hands-free or hand-held conversations when driving. It goes without requiring emphasis that texting while driving is very distracting and dangerous.

November 6, 2009

Texting and driving just don’t mix — even hands-free

An interesting blog post from Dan Ariely, a visiting professor at MIT’s Media Library on the “tiny irregularities” of texting while driving:

Sad story out in the New York Times describing growing concerns about texting while driving. In Britain, a woman was sentenced to a 21-month sentence after it was found that she had been texting while driving, which resulted in the death of a 24-year old design student. In many ways, texting while driving illustrates a case in which tiny, individual irrational decisions can accumulate and cause widespread suffering, not only for the individuals who are texting, but their unsuspecting victims. Unlike cases of drunk driving, in which the driver’s decision making abilities are impaired, drivers who text are at their full wits to wait until they’ve pulled over to check their texts, and yet in the process they routinely underestimate the risk they impose to themselves and others.

The professor was quite wrong, however, on one aspect of the issue:

… we can hope that cell phone companies are continuing to explore voice activation technologies that can read text messages aloud and also transcribe them from voice — thereby by-passing the problem altogether.

In researching web content I created for an insurance website, I came across this research that finds hands-free listening  to mobile devices is not much safer than hands-on cell phone use because the issue is the distraction of the usage, not merely taking eyes off the road ahead (all bold text my emphasis):

Five states currently ban the use of hand-held cell phones in favor of hands-free devices while driving. However, several studies have shown that there is little difference between the two when it comes to minding the road ahead. Both hand-held and hands-free devices involve listening. The act of listening is what distracts drivers from paying attention to the road. A study conducted by Carnegie Mellon University placed participants in a functional MRI scanner that allowed researchers to observe brain activity while the subjects “drove” on a computerized roadway. Without distractions, the area of the brain that lit up most was the area involved in spatial perception (knowing where you are and what’s around you). When the same subjects were tasked with listening to and correctly answering a series of questions as they drove, the area of the brain that lit up most was the area involving language comprehension, while activity in the spatial perception area of the brain decreased by as much as 37 percent. Multitasking places high demands on the brain.

October 7, 2009

WeCompareInsurance.com — Now in Spanish

Filed under: Business, Technology — Tags: , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 11:17 am

A release from today:

http://www.wecompareinsurance.com/

October 07, 2009 08:50 AM Eastern Daylight Time  

WeCompareInsurance.com — Now in Spanish

Fast, free online insurance quotes now available in Spanish

DALLAS – WeCompareInsurance.com, an independent resource for comparing insurance quotes, announces its easy-to-use online application is now available in Spanish.

“Here at WeCompareInsurance we are very pleased to offer our application in Spanish,” says Sharlene Baker, co-founder and Chief Operating Officer of WeCompareInsurance. “We feel this market is under served, and in these difficult economic times we think it’s important to make it easier for our Spanish speaking users to fill out the free insurance application on our web site, and find out how much money they can save.”

The WeCompareInsurance application process is provided at no cost to website visitors seeking insurance and takes about five minutes. The application is presented to hundreds of insurance providers and brokers, and the top five offers based on each individual application are immediately returned for review.

Baker adds, “We are always searching for ways to help everyone looking for insurance find the best policy for their needs.”

In both Spanish and English WeCompareInsurance.com offers:

  • A quick and easy online application process.
  • Access to hundreds of insurance providers and brokers ranging from companies with nationwide reach to brokers located right in your neighborhood.
  • The opportunity to compare insurance quotes soon after completing your individual application.

Every insurance application is different. WeCompareInsurance excels in getting each application to insurance providers who can best meet those insurance needs.

About WeCompareInsurance.com

WeCompareInsurance.com was founded in early 2006 and is dedicated to providing free, fast and highly competitive quotes for seekers of auto insurance, home insurance, life insurance, health insurance and renters insurance. The company offers its free online application in both English and Spanish and provides its customers with the opportunity to compare insurance quotes from hundreds of competing insurance providers. WeCompareInsurance excels at matching insurance seekers needs to insurance providers offering great insurance quotes.

*****

Here’s a link to the same release in Spanish.

September 30, 2009

What is COBRA?

With all the talk about health insurance and ongoing unemployment, COBRA gets tossed around a lot in news and conversation. Here’s a quick overview of COBRA from WeCompareInsurance.

From the first link:

previous article covered how the recent government stimulus plan, known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), affects COBRA, but the more simple question is, “What is COBRA?”

COBRA stands for Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act and was passed by Congress in 1986 to provide health benefit provisions that provide continuation of group health coverage that would end, such as employer-provided health insurance for an employee who loses his or her job. COBRA amended the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, the Internal Revenue Code and the Public Health Service Act. If you qualify for COBRA you can keep your group health insurance for a period of time, but you do have to continue paying for your policy.

The following is taken directly from the Department of Labor’s website on COBRA on exactly what COBRA does:

What does COBRA do?

COBRA provides certain former employees, retirees, spouses, former spouses, and dependent children the right to temporary continuation of health coverage at group rates. This coverage, however, is only available when coverage is lost due to certain specific events. Group health coverage for COBRA participants is usually more expensive than health coverage for active employees, since usually the employer pays a part of the premium for active employees while COBRA participants generally pay the entire premium themselves. It is ordinarily less expensive, though, than individual health coverage.

You must meet a number of criteria to qualify for COBRA coverage, but if you do qualify make certain to complete your application and other paperwork within required deadlines. These deadlines do change – as in the ARRA event in 2009 – so it’s in your best interest to do some research and find out the current deadlines and requirements for COBRA. Currently typical COBRA lasts up to 18 months after the qualifying event, e.g., losing your job, and a qualifying disability can extend that coverage up to another 11 months.

Head to the Department of Labor’s COBRA FAQ page for employees for more information on its continuation of health insurance benefits.

August 17, 2009

Cell phones, safety and your auto insurance rates

Information from WeCompareInsurance.com:

Cell Phones, Safe Driving and Auto Insurance 

Automobile insurance is vital if you drive a vehicle, in fact a certain level of liability car insurance is likely required in the state the car is registered. Auto insurance is also a great place to save money because it comes in so many types and levels of coverage. One way to save car insurance money is to drive safely and avoid accidents. The subject of cell phone use and automotive safety gets a lot of attention, but the fact is driving and cell phone use just don’t go together.

How dangerous is mixing driving with cell phone use?

The quick answer is pretty dangerous. The National Safety Commission released the results of a number of studies showing distractions, particularly cell phone use while driving, cause many accidents.

Here are two excerpts from the NSC alert:

“A study conducted by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute concluded that almost 80 percent of motor vehicle crashes and 65% of near crashes involve driver inattention within three seconds before the event. While the study looked at all different types of driver distractions, it listed use of wireless communication devices (cell phones and PDAs) as the most common form of driver distraction”

And,

“An earlier University of Utah study showed that a 20 year old driver on a cell phone had the same reaction time as a 70 year old. Regardless of age, drivers on cell phones were 18% slower in stepping on the brakes, and 17% slower in regaining their speed after braking. They also kept a greater following distance and slower speed than drivers who were not using cell phones, which contributes to congestion on the roadways.”

Based on these statistics a number of states have banned cell phone use that isn’t hands-free when driving, many more cities and towns have passed similar bans and new cell phone related ordinances are being enacted on a regular basis. The studies into the safety of cell phone use find there is little difference in the distractions created by hands-free or hand-held conversations when driving. It goes without requiring emphasis that texting while driving is very distracting and dangerous.

To keep a safe driving record, avoid accidents and continue saving money with your auto insurance it’s best to pull over for any cell phone conversations when you are in your car.

Did You Know? Using a cell phone gives a 20-year-old the reactions of a 70-year-old.

Takeaways:

  1. Cell phone use while driving – hand-held talking, hand-free conversation and texting – is dangerous and distracting.
  2. Using a cell phone when driving affects many driving skills, including reaction time.
  3. Cell phone use is the most common form of driver distraction.

An independent online resource is the fastest and easiest way to have auto insurance providers competes for your business. Click here if you are ready to start comparing auto insurance quotes from multiple providers.

May 22, 2009

Making a case for renters insurance

Filed under: Business, et.al. — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 3:23 pm

I’d hazard a guess most renters don’t carry renters insurance. I know all the years I rented apartments and houses not once did I have insurance, and it was a bad idea. Suffered one break-in through the sub-par back door of a rental house, and got lucky to never have any damage or loss due to fires or flooding in all the places I lived before buying a house.

Here’s an article from WeCompareInsurance.com that outlines why renters insurance is a good idea. And not to mention it is very cost effective for the security renters insurance provides.

From the first link:

Carrying renters insurance may rarely be a provision in a rental agreement, but protecting your possessions and yourself against liability through renters insurance is a very good idea for a number of reasons. Your landlord will likely have a commercial property or homeowners insurance policy on the structure you are renting, but that policy does not cover your possessions such as furniture, clothing, electronic equipment and other belongings. Beyond protecting your property, the liability provision in renters insurance protects you against legal action for personal injury or property damage caused by you, members of your family and even your pets. Even though renters insurance is relatively inexpensive it does pay to compare renters insurance policies to find the best deal.

One of the best reasons to carry renters insurance is there are many factors affecting your household that are largely, if not completely, out of your control as a renter. These include the upkeep and overall condition of your rented house, condo, apartment or other structure, and who might be living around you. Renters insurance helps protect you from loss from any problem arising because of one of these elements.

April 13, 2009

The Stimulus Plan of 2009 and COBRA

Good news for the recently unemployed. I have heard actually collecting on this isn’t so easy so far.

From the link:

The world’s economy is in a global recession and many Americans are finding themselves out of work. For those who are out of work and were part of an employer-based health insurance plan, this means either losing health insurance coverage – not a good option in any circumstance – or participating in the government’s Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, also known as COBRA.

A problem with COBRA is although you can keep your health insurance for a limited time while out of work, you do end up paying the entire premium. A health insurance premium that your employer most likely contributed to as part of your compensation. Under these conditions COBRA is a less than ideal solution because not only are you out of work, but your health insurance premiums under COBRA most likely just went way up in cost each month.

The recent stimulus package passed by Congress, known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) created a premium reduction and additional election opportunities under COBRA for the recently unemployed.

About this provision of ARRA, Alan D. Lebowitz, deputy assistant secretary of labor for the department’s Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) says, “Our action today gives workers and their families useful information on their right to receive the COBRA subsidy and makes it easier for employers and plans to meet their notice obligations. Given the current economic situation facing dislocated workers and their families, it is very important that individuals do not lose their group health coverage.”

You can find out more about ARRA and COBRA at the Department of Labor’s website.

The following information is taken from the DOL’s news release on ARRA, COBRA and health insurance for the recently unemployed:

The department has developed four notice packages tailored to fit different types of plans and individuals:

  1. A general notice to be given to qualified beneficiaries covered by plans subject to the federal COBRA at the initial COBRA election opportunity.
  2. An abbreviated general notice, which may be furnished to individuals who elected and are still covered by COBRA.
  3. An alternative notice to be sent by issuers of group health insurance coverage subject to state continuation coverage laws.
  4. A notice of extended election periods for eligible individuals who declined or discontinued COBRA coverage.

Each package contains a summary of the premium reduction provisions, questions and answers, and forms to use in requesting the premium reduction (and COBRA coverage, if not already enrolled).

Under COBRA, most group health plans must give employees and their families the opportunity to temporarily continue their group health coverage when coverage would otherwise be lost for reasons such as termination of employment, divorce or death.

The four model notice packages are available for download from EBSA’s dedicated Web page at http://www.dol.gov/ebsa/cobra.html. The Web page also contains additional frequently asked questions to help dislocated workers, their families and their employers understand the requirements.

April 1, 2009

Money saving auto insurance tips

Filed under: et.al. — Tags: , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 3:18 pm

Looking to buy auto insurance? Here’s two sets of tips to help save money. Hit these links for part one and part two.

You can get free comparisons from multiple auto insurance providers at WeCompareInsurance.com.

From the link to part one of auto insurance money-saving tips:

  1.  
    1. Compare auto insurance quotes – this advice might sound simple, but it is the best way to find the best possible auto insurance rate. Get at least auto insurance quotes to compare and make certain you are comparing similar policies.

March 13, 2009

Saving money with health insurance

Filed under: Business, Politics — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 3:50 pm

Times are tough and pretty much everyone is looking to save money. One place to find savings can be health insurance.

It’s tempting to drop health insurance, particularly if you’re unemployed and no longer have insurance through your employer, but the long-term consequences are not worth going without basic medical care. And the immediate consequences of a medical emergency if you are uninsured are just frightening.

Here’s some tips on saving health insurance money for people who are in employer-based plans and for people who must find health insuarnce on their own.

From WeCompareInsurance.com:

Saving Money with Health Insurance

 

Everyone likes to save money and your health insurance is a place where you can find savings. The easiest way to save money with health insurance is to only insure yourself for large, catastrophic medical problems or to increase your deductible in order to decrease your monthly premium. Both of these choices might not be the best health insurance option for everyone because each will increase your out-of-pocket medical expenses for everyday medical care and preventative examinations.

There are a number of tips to keep in mind beyond increasing your out-of-pocket expenses to minimize your health insurance costs while receiving the health insurance coverage you and your family needs.

Here are six things to consider for saving money through your health insurance:

  1. If you are part of a health insurance plan such as a POS (point-of-service) or PPO (preferred provider organization), make sure you only use doctors and medical services that are in-network for your plan.
  2. Take every tax deduction offered on health insurance. For the self-employed this means deducting all your health insurance premiums, and for participants in employer-based plans deducting the portion you pay of your health insurance premiums. And medical and dental expenses you incur that your insurance doesn’t cover that exceed 7.5 percent of your adjusted gross income (AGI) can be deducted as well.
  3. When you are comparing health insurance quotes take a look at the long-term implications of your plan. Lower health insurance premiums and up-front costs will mean more out-of-pocket expenses and possibly much higher medical costs over the long run. Consider how you expect to use your health insurance and factor all the costs when comparing health insurance quotes.
  4. Don’t make visits to the emergency room unless you are experiencing an actual medical emergency. The co-pay will likely be very much higher than for a regular office visit.
  5. If possible participate in employer- or other organization-based group health insurance. The rates and qualification requirements are typically lower. If you are part of a employer-based group health insurance plan have your employer pay the premium on a pre-tax basis to lower your overall taxable gross pay. Another way to reduce your taxable income is to participate in your employer’s flexible spending plan to save money for out-of-pocket health insurance expenses such as co-pays, some medications and certain medical devices.
  6. Save money on health insurance prescription medication by using online pharmacies. Traditional pharmacies will typically dispense only a 30-day supply of medicine while online pharmacies will allow for 90-day supplies for the same co-pay.

February 22, 2009

Health insurance benefits laws from EBSA

Here’s a quick listing of employer-based health insurance benefits law from the Department of Labor’s Employee Benefits Security Administration. This article was written for insurance quote aggregator, WeCompareInsurance.com.

From the link:

Health Insurance Benefit Laws

 

Once you’re done comparing health insurance quotes and plans and you’ve settled on employer-based health insurance, it’s good to keep in mind the Department of Labor’s Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) administers a number of laws that cover these health insurance plans.

Here is a list of some of the laws affecting health insurance:

  1. The Employee Retirement Income Security Act – This law protects people in retirement, health and other benefit plans through private employers by providing rights to information and a grievance and appeals process for private employer health insurance participants.
  2. The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act – This law only applies to special instances, but if you qualify as a former employee, retiree, spouse or dependent child you can purchase a temporary continuation of health insurance at group rates.
  3. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act – This law applies to working Americans and families with preexisting medical conditions. Through this act there is a guarantee of individual health insurance policies for eligible people and it prohibits discrimination in health care coverage.
  4. The Newborns’ and Mothers’ Health Protection Act – Just as it sounds, this law offers rules on minimum health insurance coverage on how long the mother and child can stay in the hospital after childbirth.
  5. Mental Health Parity Act – This law ensures mental health is given as much emphasis as physical health by requiring annual, or lifetime, limits on mental health benefits to be no lower than limits for medical and surgical benefits provided by a group health insurance plan.
  6. Women’s Health and Cancer Rights Act – Breast cancer is a frightening diagnosis and treatment runs a wide range of intensity and invasiveness. This law protects breast cancer patients who want to have a breast reconstruction after a mastectomy.

When you are part of an employer-based health insurance plan the Department of Labor’s Employee Benefits Security Administration is a great source of information on subjects such as your rights to information on how your plan works, how to quality benefits available in your plan and how to make claims on your health insurance plan.

Remember EBSA administers these laws that help protect your health insurance when you lose coverage, change jobs or if you suffer from certain special medical conditions. Also remember when choosing employer-based plans to carefully compare your health insurance options to make sure your plan works best for you and your family’s medical needs.

Find out more about EBSA on the web at www.dol.gov/ebsa

February 3, 2009

WeCompareInsurance.com

There’s a great new player in the online insurance aggregater field — WeCompareInsurance.com. I’m doing some content and new media consulting for this start-up and some pretty exciting features will be rolling out over the next few weeks and months.

Right now you can hit the site for basic insurance information and to get quotes from multiple insurance companies for auto insurance, life insurance, home insurance,  health insurance and renters insurance. The easiest way to compare different rates from different companies.

Here’s a link to some info on life insurance and the basics for auto insurance.

From the auto insurance link :

The two types of auto insurance all states require car owners to carry are bodily injury and property damage. These requirements help ensure all drivers can pay for damages or injury caused by the vehicle they are driving. Each state does have it’s own specific requirements for minimum auto insurance, so do be certain you understand the requirements in your state.

Beyond required car insurance, collision is a popular option to look at when getting a car insurance quote to compare different plans. Collision pays for damages to your car in case of an accident – either with another vehicle, an object or just loss of control that leads to damages. Collision insurance comes with a deductible that must be paid before insurance kicks in, and a typical deductible will range from $250 to $1000. The higher the premium paid on the auto insurance, the lower the deductible. If you are not at fault in the accident, you might even get your deductible covered by the driver who was found at fault.

Comprehensive coverage adds anther layer of protection beyond required liability and collision. Comprehensive auto insurance covers damages or loss caused by something beyond an accident with another car or an object. This type of loss can come from a number of sources such as fire, falling objects, hail, flood, vandalism, missiles, explosion, riot, striking an animal, earthquake or windstorm. Comprehensive also covers glass breakage such as a cracked windshield. Comprehensive auto insurance is typically sold with a deductible, similar to collision.

According to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, 72 percent of insured drivers opt for collision coverage and of those drivers 77 percent add comprehensive coverage to their collision and liability coverage.