Monthly Archives: August 2011

Don’t be a Crash Test Dummy: Outsmarting Car Insurance Scams

An unfortunate side effect of the down economy is the influx people running insurance scams in an attempt to make a quick buck. As car insurance scams become increasingly common, it is likely that scam artists will be experienced and professional criminals that practice how to best dupe drivers into a fake accident. Unsuspecting drivers are most often targeted for this type of fraud, so your best defense is to become familiar with the most common accident driving traps used today and know the best ways to avoid them and how to respond if you do get into an accident that you believe to be fraudulent.

According to the Accident Reconstruction Network  the most common types of auto accident fraud are the following:

Staged accidents in which the drivers intentionally collide: Although you may not be the specific target of this scam, it is very possible that you will be a witness or an inadvertent part of the accident if it is not performed as planned.

Accidents in which the criminal involves you in a wreck that is made to look like your fault: This is a common scam where drivers target unsuspecting drivers and engage them in a situation where they are forced to rear-end the scammer’s car, an accident which is most commonly the rear ender’s fault. This is often accomplished by disconnecting their brake lights and braking unexpectedly or waving you to pass them and pulling into your way. The scammer will deny their fault and you will look like the guilty party in the accident making your insurance responsible for the reparation payments.

Auto repair shop fraud: This type of fraud is when the scammer aggressively requests that you use certain auto repair shop for your repairs. They will overcharge you for work that may be unperformed or replacement parts that merely needed to be fixed, and the scammers will be pocketing the difference in cash.

Faked accident reports: This most often occurs when a scam artist reports a hit and run or damage to their car that was not actually caused by another party.

Not only are these scams costly to your pocketbook and damaging to your insurance premiums, but they are also potentially dangerous to you and other involved parties. In addition to knowing how to recognize these scams, there are some other best practice actions that a defensive driver should take to help prevent falling victim to these costly scams.

  • Never drive while distracted. It is imperative that you pay attention to the road because scammers will capitalize on your inattention by swerving in front of you and breaking in the hopes that you will not be able to stop in time.
    Avoid putting an insurance company decal or sticker on your car as this can signal to scammers that you have liability insurance making you a target for fraud.
  • Maintain a safe distance between your vehicle and the others around you. Adhere to the three second rule so you and your fellow motorists have room to safely brake.
  • Compare the body shop’s bill with the insurance adjuster’s repair estimate to ensure you were not charged for services not needed or performed or gouged on the repair prices.
  • Be aware of your surroundings and keep an eye out for vehicles that are acting suspiciously. These behaviors can include circling a roundabout multiple times, erratic driving and fluctuating speeds and drivers or passengers that are closely watching you and your vehicle.

If you do get into an accident (whether you believe it is staged or real) you should approach the situation in a systematic and organized manner and cover all of your bases. Geico  recommends always having a disposable or digital camera in your car so you can take photos of the accident scene and everyone involved. You should also talk to eye witnesses and help gather up any information that you can give to the police and your insurance company to help support your case if you do fall victim to a scam.

~ R. Quick

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Beat the Statistics: Dangerous Times to Avoid Driving

No matter how safe and defensive a driver you are, you take a serious risk every time you get behind the wheel of your car. Auto accidents claim the lives of over 40,000 Americans every year, which equals out to an alarming 110 driving related fatalities per day. As a defensive driver, it is your responsibility to take a serious look at how and when most fatal accidents occur and even though it is not always in our control, make a concerted effort to avoid (when possible) and pay extra attention during the peak times for danger on the open road.

Dangerous Times of the Day:

Not surprisingly, the time of day plays a huge role in the levels of safety on American roadways. According to Forbes.com, 49% of crashes occur at night when dangerous factors such as drunk driving, speeding and driving without safety belts are more common. Peak traffic times such as morning and evening rush hour also pose an elevated threat as there is an increase of the number of drivers on the road.

Dangerous Days of the Week:

Most Americans might consider Wednesday to be the hump day in the middle of their workweek, but it is also one of the safest days to be on the open road. The middle of the week proves a safer time to drive as there is less traffic. Alternatively, starting on Friday and continuing through the weekend, there are a larger number of automobile accidents and crash-related fatalities with the inevitable increase of traffic. Holidays and holiday weekends also pose a dangerous situation for drivers as the national averages for traffic congestion are much elevated during these high-volume travel times.

Dangerous Months of the Year:

Winter is an obvious choice for dangerous driving months, especially in locations with snow and ice, but surprisingly, the most dangerous month for drivers is upon us right now, the month of August. According to a report by Fox News , studies have shown that 4 days in August have historically had the highest average number of car-related deaths, which is more than any other month. Alternatively, the 10 days of the year which averaged the fewest vehicle crash deaths were in the months of January and February.

In addition to your vigilance on when and where you drive, here are a few other tips to help enhance your safety on the road and help you avoid becoming another car accident statistic.

• Wear your seatbelt at all times (and mandate this as a rule with any vehicle passengers)
• Refrain from driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol
• Follow the speed limit and any suggested safety signs
• Do not text or perform any other distracting activities while operating a motor vehicle

~R. Quick

Pedestrian Etiquette 101

There’s a lot to be said for observing common courtesies every day – especially when it comes to driving. Not only should you be polite to other drivers, but you also should keep pedestrians in mind. Too often we see stories in the news about pedestrians being killed by motor vehicles. In an effort to protect those traveling on foot (or bike, or skateboard, etc.), the Defensive Driving team has compiled a list of do’s and don’ts when it comes to encounters with pedestrians:

• DO yield to pedestrians at crosswalks. By law, pedestrians have the right of way in crosswalks, so pay attention when approaching such intersections.

• DO NOT ignore pedestrians if they are jaywalking. Although as a driver you might not be liable if you hit a person who is not obeying pedestrian laws, it’s a good rule of thumb to always yield to pedestrians.

• DO stay alert and focused. Pedestrians can be anywhere at any time, regardless of posted signs or warnings. While you should always be alert and focused while driving, it is especially important that you keep an eye out for anyone traveling in the street or on the sidewalk.

• DO NOT forget to watch for pedestrians at night. Use your brights when necessary if you’re having trouble seeing.

Similarly, pedestrians should honor the rules of the road, too:

• DO look both ways before crossing the street. It’s a concept everyone learns at an early age, but it’s for your own good. Look left, right, then left again before crossing.

• DO make eye contact with drivers before you cross the street to confirm that they know you’re preparing to walk.

• DO stay on sidewalks and the right-hand side of crosswalks. If the road you’re on doesn’t have a sidewalk, walk on the left side of the road facing traffic.

• DO watch for oncoming traffic when exiting a bus or when stepping out from behind parked cars.

• DO, as a passenger, get in and out of a car on the curb side of the street.

No matter how you’re getting from point A to point B, mind your manners and be considerate of others – it’s the law!

~ B. Waldman

Fresh and Clean: Basic Car Washing Tips

If you find yourself looking for a cool activity to beat the heat (and let’s face it, who isn’t these days) and a great way to save some money on expensive drive through car washes, take to your driveway with some soap and water and give your car a good scrub. The appearance of your car can suffer by allowing debris such as dirt, bugs, bird droppings and chemicals from the environment build up on the surface and deteriorate the paint job, so enlist the help of your kids on their summer break or anyone looking for a reprieve from the heat wave. Consider investing in a few quality supplies that will make the whole easier and more effective while giving you the quality results that you get from a professional wash job.

What you need:
• Car/vehicle specific soap – Although it may be tempting to grab a bottle of dish or hand soap from your kitchen, these products are not formulated to be used on cars, and their components can cause a breakdown of your vehicle’s paint job.

• Lamb’s wool mitt or natural sponge – Using a soft applicator for scrubbing will help prevent any scratching and erosion of the car’s paint, especially if there is debris such as sand or dirt on the surface of the vehicle.

• Water bucket and hose – Fill up a suds bucket with soap and water to create a good lather on your car and use a hose–with a spray attachment if possible–to wash away all of the soap. AOL Autos recommends using a second bucket of clean water to rinse dirt out of your sponge during the washing process to prevent cross-contamination in your suds bucket.

• Terry cloth towel or chamois – Use a soft terry cloth towel (save old towels from your bathroom for this purpose) or a chamois (synthetic cloth specifically designed for absorption) to dry your vehicle thoroughly after washing. Do not allow your car to air dry as this can cause water spots.

What to Do:

Step 1
Park your vehicle in a shady spot where there is sufficient drainage and you have access to a water source. Consumer Reports advises against washing a hot car as this can accelerate the drying process and increase your chances of spotting and scratches, so allow the car to cool down after driving before you start your wash.

Step 2
Rinse the entire vehicle thoroughly with clean water to loosen and remove any debris. Pay special attention to the tires and wheel wells, as mud and dirt can easily accumulate in these areas.

Step 3
Wash the car with your soapy sponge starting at the top of the vehicle and working your way down. Avoid scrubbing the surface with excessive force or using repetitive patterns such as circles as this can wear down the paint job and increase the chance of scratches if there are any loose pieces of debris. Rinse your sponge frequently and get fresh suds to keep the vehicle lubricated.

Step 4
Rinse the car thoroughly using your hose and starting at the top of the car and moving down. Be sure to rinse under the car and in little nooks where soap could have pooled during the washing process.

Step 5
Dry your car immediately using a soft towel or chamois before the hot air has a chance to dry it naturally. This is the most important step to a great looking wash job as all of your hard work will be for naught if you allow your car to get splotchy with water marks caused by air drying.

Read about cleaning your car interior in “Keeping it Clean – Car Interiors”.

~R. Quick

No Child Left Behind…In Your Car

With the sweltering summer months fully upon us, there seems to be little escaping the rising temperatures and this especially true inside of parked vehicles with no cool air circulation. Being a responsible driver and protecting your passengers in the summer heat goes beyond the actions that you take while you are behind the wheel, and even the smallest lapse in judgment can prove dangerous. In spite of warnings about the dangers of leaving unattended children in hot vehicles, this disturbing trend continues and “forgotten child” deaths are on the rise. It is important that you educate yourself and others about all the facts so more children to not fall victim to this dangerous situation.

According to Safe Kids USA, over 495 children have died from heat stroke as a result of sitting unattended in a warm vehicle since 1998. Children’s bodies can heat up close to 3 to 5 times faster than an average adult, so even a short period of time can elevate the child’s internal temperature to the dangerous range of 104 degrees and up and cause sickness, injury and death.

The following are some guidelines to follow this summer if you are responsible for transporting children:

• Never leave a child unattended in a car for any period of time, even if the windows are open. According to Baystate Health, the interior of a car can heat up to 19 degrees hotter than the exterior in a mere ten minutes, so the temperature can easily reach dangerous levels, even on days that are not excessively hot.
• Lock your car doors and trunk upon exiting your vehicle (especially when parked at home) to prevent children from entering the vehicle when it is unattended. Vehicle heat related deaths in children are not always caused by neglect, and are often the result of children finding their way into unlocked vehicles and becoming trapped or falling asleep.
• Teach your children never to play inside or around vehicles and to always wait for an adult to enter a car.
• Keep your cell phone, bag or other item in your backseat with the child so there is no chance of accidentally forgetting them and continuing on to your destination. This is often the situation, especially with young babies that cannot talk or sleeping children.
• Set reminders on your computer and cell phone reminding you to drop your child off at school or daycare. This is especially helpful on days where your schedule is different or you are feeling extra tired or distracted.
• Implement a system where you receive a call from your child’s school or daycare in the event that the child does not show up when expected.

In addition to taking responsibility for your own passengers, you should act proactively and contact 911 if you see a young unattended child in a vehicle during the spring or summer months.

For additional information and ways to help fight this alarming trend in your community, visit the Safe Kids USA website and learn about their “Never Leave Your Child Alone” Campaign.

~ R. Quick