Insurance Agents Offer Safe Driving Tips

With the start of the new year and Winter winds blowing, the snow birds have arrived in Arizona. While these visitors are welcome, the increase in traffic can cause an increase in accidents and insurance claims. Insurance agents would like to offer some safe driving tips for natives and for those who are visiting the state.

Vehicle Safety

Before you get behind the wheel make sure that all of your tires are inflated properly. A low tire could indicate a problem that will make it more difficult to drive, or even cause an accident. Always use your safety belt. This will help reduce injuries for you and your passengers if you do get involved in an accident. If you are driving a rental car, make sure you know where everything is before you start driving. This includes lights, wipers, radio, air conditioning, and mirror controls. Adjust all of the mirrors to ensure you can see clearly.

Double check the dashboard for any warning lights. Proper maintenance on a vehicle will not only improve performance, but improper maintenance can impact insurance claims. Once you are comfortable and everyone is buckled up, you are ready to go.

Of course be sure to follow all traffic signs and obey all traffic laws. These laws are for everyone and help keep us all safe.

Dust Storms and Monsoons

Arizona is in a desert that is subject to frequent dust storms. The high winds sweeping across the dry desert can blow dust onto highways and reduce visibility. Visitors from the north may be familiar with blizzard conditions where blowing snow reduces visibility. Dust storms are much the same, though they don’t make the road slippery. If you are caught in a dust storm turn on your lights and reduce speed accordingly or pull over to the side if the storm is severe. If you decide to pull off the road, be sure to get as far over to the right as possible.

Deserts are not the first environment where people expect floods, but they do happen in Arizona. These flash floods can cover roads with a torrent of water that is dangerous to cross. Areas where floods are common will have signs that say, “do not cross when flooded”. These signs are there for your safety, so find another way to get where you are going.

Don’t cross washes that have swollen with recent rain. There is no way to predict if another rain will send a sudden flash flood down the wash. These flash floods are strong enough to wash away even a large vehicle.

Night Time Driving

Statistically speaking, night time is the most hazardous time to drive in Arizona, according to the Arizona Department of Public Safety. It is important to be particularly cautious when driving after dark. Here are some quick tips to help:

  • Slow down so you are driving within your vehicle’s headlights.
  • Dim your headlights if you are following another driver.
  • Keep your headlights clean.
  • Go slow on curves.
  • Avoid using light inside your car while driving.
  • Do not drive if you are tired.
  • Obey the speed limit (55 mph on federal highways, 65 mph on rural interstates).

Driving safely and following all applicable laws will help avoid costly and dangerous accidents for you and your family.

How Roadside Distractions Lead to Car Accidents

In a recent internet news article (okay, if you’re a fan of this blog, you know we read a lot of articles) the police chief of a California beach town was being interviewed. During the interview he revealed that the number of rear-ending accidents increased significantly in the summer months, and he blamed it on the bikinis.

According to this police chief, drivers are more distracted in the summer. As they look out over the beaches, take a minute to watch the beautiful sunset, or watch scantily-clad girls walking down the sidewalks, they lose focus on the road and wham! Car accident.

Now, here in Arizona, we don’t have beaches. And you’re not likely to see random girls running around in bikinis. But that doesn’t mean we don’t have our fair share of distractions. Distractions that could end up affecting your insurance.

Here are just a few we’ve noticed:

Sunsplash in Mesa AZ – this waterpark is located right next to the freeway and heads often turn to watch people zipping down the waterslides.

Castles N Coasters in Phoenix – again, attractions right beside a major freeway. Eyes are watching the roller coasters zip around instead of staying focused on the road.

Winter Visitors – we’ve all complained a time or two about older drivers slowly making their way down the road. But as drivers pass by glaring at these older drivers, they may miss something in the road ahead of them.

The Sidewalk Statues in Mesa – Mesa has dozens of beautiful bronze statues scattered down a mile stretch of Main street. They’re fun to see, for sure, but only if you’re not the one trying to drive through busy intersections.

The Giant Baby Poster Off of I-10 – have you seen this thing? The image of a giant baby possibly more than 20 feet tall sits on the side of I-10 just past Litchfield. It’s startling to see it there, but be sure to keep your eyes on the road.

University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale – as we write this, we’re beginning to notice a trend in “next to the freeway” distractions. But this building is so unique, it’s difficult to stay focused.

Car Washes – we may not have a beach, but Arizona has more than their fair share of clubs and groups hosting car wash fundraisers. And who do they put on the street corners to draw in customers? You guessed it – the girls in bikinis.

And then, of course, we all tend to look when passing a car accident. We just can’t help ourselves.

Distractions are everywhere. You can’t escape from seeing things that naturally catch your eye. Remember, your first priority is to get you and your passengers to a location safely. You owe it to those around you to be alert and attentive.

Sure, text messaging and cell phone use seem to be the major culprits in creating distractions right now, but almost anything can take your eyes off the road just long enough to create a collision.

Drive carefully. Even with car insurance it’s not worth the price you may pay to be a distracted driver.

By the way, we only mentioned distractions around the Phoenix Valley. If you have seen some major roadside distractions in our state, we want to know about them. What should we be prepared to ignore as we safely make our way down the road? Please leave your comments below.

The Consequences of Texting and Driving

You are the only one who knows that you’re reading this blog. So you can admit it, did you watch Extreme Home Makeover last night? Even if you’ve never watched it, you know the whole idea behind it, right?

Well, last night’s show kind of struck a chord with us. The deserving family was a mom and dad that had lost a daughter because she was texting and driving. The family has since spent their spare time talking at schools and other events. Their goal: keep people from texting and driving.

Although the family received a brand-new custom home (a slight upgrade from the trailer they lived in), the one thing they seemed to appreciate most was a table carved with their daughter’s handwriting. In other words, nothing could replace what they wanted most. Texting and driving had taken it away.

Our question is as insurance agents…is there anything, or any law that can be passed that will keep people from texting and driving? Since we don’t have any perfect suggestions for how to solve the problem, here are some of the challenges we have to overcome:

People don’t think about the dangers – especially teenagers. None of us jump in a car expecting to get in an accident. When things seem to be going well on the road there is no reason to believe that danger surrounds us. But that feeling of well-being is incredibly deceptive. It only takes a moment and one person not paying attention to get in an accident.

We’re busy people – If you own a business, have a close-knit family, and/or need to schedule events for your kids, you can certainly use the time you spend in the car. But if talking on the phone wasn’t bad enough, texting made everything more dangerous. So how do you overcome the need to get things done without putting yourself and your passengers at risk?

Driving can get boring – Without a radio, driving in the car might very well drive us nuts. When you’re in the car more than five minutes at a time, your mind is bound to wander. If you were to receive a message from a friend, you’re going to be tempted to read it and respond. After all, it gives you something to do.

We rationalize our actions – Even if you are against texting and driving, how often do you justify your actions by texting at stoplights? Seems like a good solution. But unless you have the fastest thumbs in the world, you’re bound to still be texting when the light turns green again. Then what?

We’re not going to make any claims about being perfect. Some of us have texted while driving. We know it’s not safe. We know we shouldn’t do it and yet we have the same weaknesses as everybody else.

It’s easy to see the consequences of texting and driving. It was sad to watch the show last night and think of all the families that have lost loved ones. Knowing those stories is unlikely to stop someone from doing what they know they shouldn’t.

This is the question we want to pose to you: what can be done to stop all of us from texting and driving?

5 Challenges of Driving in Arizona

Admit it… you get frustrated. As insurance agents we do it! Driving in Arizona could make even the most patient person go crazy. But, if you’ve grown up here, you may not realize just how lucky you are. Other states actually have worse driving reputations than ours.

According to the “2010 GMAC Insurance Driver’s Test Results”, Arizonans ranked 35th in the country’s worst drivers. That means 34 states have worse drivers than we do. Pretty good overall. Nevertheless, there are a few things that make driving here a challenge:

1. Winter Residents – every Fall we adapt our driving habits to accommodate more, and often slower drivers. Parking lots fill up faster. Freeways become more crowded. And you may find yourself driving at ¾ of your usual pace.

2. A Little Bit of Rain – for those of us who have spent much time in other states, rain slows everything down. Even when it’s only a couple of drops. Though slowing down in inclement weather is always a good idea, can you really consider a sprinkling of rain “inclement” weather?

3. A Lack of Courtesy – this is not unique to Arizona. In fact, Arizonans are more willing to let in fellow drivers than some of our surrounding states. But that doesn’t mean we are without our share of arrogant and rude drivers.

4. Dust Storms – you’ve seen these show up out of the middle of nowhere. And when caught in one, you can barely see two feet in front of you.

5. Cell Phones and Texting – get stuck behind a slow or idiotic driver and chances are good that they are texting or talking on the phone. As of now, there is not a state law prohibiting texting and driving, although some cities have adopted this policy.

You drive these streets all the time. You have your own frustrations. And we’d like to hear about them. What do you find most challenging about driving? We want to know your thoughts, so be sure to comment below!

And as you’re thinking about driving, maybe it’s time to think about your current car insurance. So talk to your insurance agent today!