Distracted Driving On The Rise

Courtesy of iii.org

  • Activities that take drivers? attention off the road, including talking or texting on mobile devices, eating, conversing with passengers and other distractions, are a major safety threat.
  • In 2014, 3,179 people died in distraction-affected crashes, based on National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) criteria.
  • The number of state legislatures passing measures that address the problem of driver distractions continues to rise. Fourteen states and the District of Columbia ban the use of hand-held cellphones while driving; 46 states and the District of Columbia have banned the practice of texting while driving.
  • A 2012 Consumer Reports survey found that 71 percent of respondents cut back on texting, talking on a handheld phone or using a smartphone while driving in the previous year. Over 50 percent of them said they were influenced to change their behavior because of state laws, up from 44 percent in a survey conducted in 2011.

THE TOPIC

Increased reliance on electronic devices has led to a rise in their use by drivers, jeopardizing the safety of vehicle occupants and pedestrians. There are two dangers associated with driving and the use of electronic devices. First, drivers must take their eyes off the road and hands off the wheel to manipulate the devices when dialing, texting and surfing the Web. Second, people can become so absorbed in their conversations and other uses that their ability to concentrate on the act of driving is severely impaired. Since the first law was passed in New York in 2001 banning hand-held cellphone use while driving, there has been debate as to the exact nature and degree of hazard. The latest research shows that using a cellphone when driving is just one of many types of distracted driving that may lead to crashes and near crashes.

RECENT DEVELOPMENTS

  • Statistics: 2014: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says that distracted driving was reported in crashes that killed 3,179 people in 2014. These fatalities accounted for 10 percent of all traffic crash fatalities in 2014.
  • NHTSA reports that there were an estimated 2,955 distraction-affected fatal crashes in 2014. An estimated 431,000 people were injured in distraction-affected crashes in 2014, up 1.7 percent from 2013.
  • In 2014, there were 2,955 distraction-affected fatal crashes, accounting for 10 percent of all fatal crashes in the nation, 18 percent of injury crashes and 16 percent of all police-reported motor vehicle crashes.
  • There were 385 crashes in 2014 that were reported to have involved the use of cell phones as a distraction. Cell phones were reported as a distraction for 13 percent of all distracted drivers in fatal crashes.
  • In 2014, 404 people died in fatal crashes that involved the use of cellphones or other cellphone-related activities as distractions.
  • Research: The following is a summary of some recent research on the issue of distracted driving.
  • A Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) analysis released in October 2014 found that although state bans on hand-held phone use by drivers have lowered phone use behind the wheel, they have not produced a similar drop in crashes. The study involved looking at the findings of National Highway Traffic Safety Administration programs conducted from April 2010 to April 2011 in Hartford, Connecticut, and Syracuse, New York, aimed at reducing talking or texting on hand-held phones. Both states ban hand-held phone use and texting. At the end of the program, researchers found that the number of drivers observed using a hand-held cellphone fell 57 percent in Hartford and 32 percent in Syracuse. HLDI analysts then compared collision claims in the counties where the cities are located–Syracuse (Onondaga County) and Hartford (Hartford County)–with the comparison counties of Albany County, New York, and Fairfield County, Connecticut, and the rest of New York and Connecticut for the period of January 1, 2009 through October 31, 2011. The analysis found no corresponding reduction in crashes reported to insurers from the program counties relative to the comparison counties. HLDI provides possible reasons for the bans’ lack of effect on accidents, including the possibility that drivers may have been distracted by something else or that drivers may have switched to hands-free calling and still may have been distracted by their conversations.
  • The analysis confirms some of the results of an earlier HLDI study, released in September 2010, that found that texting bans may not reduce crash rates. The study looked at collision claims patterns in four states?California, Louisiana, Minnesota and Washington?before and after text bans went into effect. Collisions went up slightly in all the states, except Washington, where the change was statistically insignificant. Adrian Lund, president of HLDI and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, said that the findings “call into question the way policymakers are trying to address the problem of distracted driving crashes. They’re focusing on a single manifestation of distracted driving and banning it. This ignores the endless sources of distraction and relies on banning one source or another to solve the whole problem.”
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention latest Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Survey, released in June 2014, shows that about 41.4 percent of high school students reported that they texted or emailed from behind the wheel at least once during the previous 30 days. The highest rate of texting or emailing while driving, 61.3 percent, was among teens in South Dakota. The lowest rate, 32.3 percent, was among teens in Massachusetts. The survey is conducted every two years, but this year was the first time the 13,000 participants were asked about texting and emailing while driving.
  • In May 2014 the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released a study, “The Economic and Society Impact of Motor Vehicle Crashes, 2010,” which focuses on behavioral factors that contributed to 32,999 highway fatalities and 3.9 million injuries in the U.S. in 2010. The study found that those crashes cost $277 billion in economic losses and $594 billion in societal harm, for a total of $871 billion that year. A breakdown of the figures for economic losses show crashes involving distracted driving accounted for 17 percent ($46 billion).
  • Drowsiness is a type of distracted driving that causes more than 100,000 motor vehicle crashes a year, resulting in 40,000 injuries and 1,550 deaths, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. A 2010 AAA Traffic Safety Foundation survey found that one in four drivers have struggled to stay awake while driving. An estimated 17 percent of fatal crashes, 13 percent of crashes resulting in hospitalization and 7 percent of all crashes requiring a tow, involve a drowsy driver, according to the AAA. Driver fatigue is of particular concern regarding operators of large trucks. In 2010 fatigue was a factor in 34 percent of fatal collisions involving drivers of large trucks, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.
  • A survey conducted by the Consumer Reports National Research Center published in the June 2013 issue of Consumer Report found that state laws that ban the use of a handheld cellphones or texting while driving in many states are effective. The December 2012 survey of 1,003 people found that 71 percent of respondents had stopped or cut back on texting, talking on a handheld phone or using a smartphone while driving in the previous year. Over 50 percent of them said they were influenced to change their behavior because of state laws, up from 44 percent in a survey conducted in 2011. The survey also found that about 25 percent of drivers were unsure of their own state’s laws.
  • In March 2013 a survey was published in the latest Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report that confirms that confirmed that the problem of distracted driving is not improving. The survey looked at both U.S. drivers and drivers in seven European countries. The study found that almost seven in 10 American drivers ages 18 to 64 said they had talked on their phones while behind the wheel in the past 30 days, and about three in 10 said they had sent text messages. The practice of driving and using cellphones appears to be far less common in the European nations surveyed. In the U.K., for example, which has strict laws regarding cellphone use while driving, only 21 percent of drivers admitted to having used a cellphone.
  • State and Federal Initiatives: In 2011 the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recommended that all states prohibit drivers from using cellphones, the first federal agency to call for a complete ban on telephone conversations from behind the wheel. Although the NTSB has no enforcement authority as the federal government’s leading advocate for safety, its recommendations are influential in Congress and the White House.
  • The number of state legislatures debating measures that address the problem of cellphone use while driving and other driver distractions continues to rise. As of December 2015, most states have passed laws to address the problem of using a cellphone while driving. Fourteen states?California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Vermont, Washington state, West Virginia?and the District of Columbia had laws on the books banning the use of hand-held cellphones while driving, according to the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety. Almost all of the laws have “primary enforcement” provisions, meaning a motorist may be ticketed for using a hand-held cellphone while driving without any other traffic offense taking place, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
  • Also as of December 2015, 46 states and the District of Columbia banned the practice of texting with a cellphone while driving. Most of these laws have primary enforcement provisions. The Utah law, passed in May 2009, is the toughest in the nation. Offenders convicted of causing an accident that injures or kills someone while texting behind the wheel face up to 15 years in prison. The law does not consider a crash caused by a multitasking driver as an accident but rather as an inherently reckless act, like drunk driving.
  • New Technology: A number of cellphone companies are considering developing technology that will prevent people from receiving calls and texting while driving. The technology is intended to limit dangerous distractions by temporarily interrupting service so that people do not answer their phones when they are behind the wheel. One carrier has already introduced a service that automatically disables rings and alerts and sends calls to voice mail when phones are in a moving car. Some safety advocates said that it is unclear whether consumers would avail themselves of the technologies or whether the technologies would be effective.
  • Insurance Coverage: Most mobile cellular service providers offer insurance for loss, theft, accidental damage and out of warranty malfunctions for a monthly fee. A report by iGR Research in May 2012 found that about 27 percent of respondents in a survey of over 1,000 U.S. consumers said they currently carry insurance on their devices.
  • Court Decisions: In May 2012 a Nueces County, Texas, jury, awarded over $22 million to a woman who suffered a spinal injury when her car was hit by a Coca-Cola employee who was talking on her cellphone. The award included more than $11.5 million for lost wages, medical expenses and pain and suffering as well as $10 million in punitive damages against Coca-Cola. The defendant was on a business call, using a hands-free cellphone. Plaintiffs’ lawyers argued that Coca-Cola was aware of studies that show that the danger of cellphone use is not limited to handheld devices, but continued to back a hands-free cellphone use policy for its employees. The case at issue is Chatman-Wilson v. Cabral.

Are You Covered in the Case of a Natural Disaster?

Courtesy of iii.org. Homeowners and businesses in California’s Butte, Sutter and Yuba counties who have flood insurance will be covered if the Lake Oroville Dam’s auxiliary spillway fails, according to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.). Revised forecasts call for about 10 inches of rain heading to the area according to the LA Times.

Roughly 50,047 single- and multi-family residential homes could be damaged with an estimated reconstruction cost value of $13.3 billion if the Oroville Dam in California were to fail completely, according to new data analysis from CoreLogic that included the six primary counties in that area.

“The potential for flooding poses a significant threat to life and property in these northern California counties and forced the evacuation of almost 200,000 of residents,” said Janet Ruiz, the I.I.I.’s California Representative. “Standard homeowners, renters and business insurance policies do not cover flood-caused damage. A separate flood insurance policy is needed.” Lake Oroville Dam is in Butte County.

Flood insurance is available from FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and a few private insurance companies. NFIP policies have a 30-day waiting period before the coverage is activated. Excess flood insurance policies are also available from some private insurers if additional coverage is needed above and beyond the basic FEMA NFIP policy. To learn more about flood insurance, visit the FloodSmart.gov.

If your home or business is near a river, lake, stream, creek, dam or other body of water, the I.I.I. recommends taking these three steps in order to assess your property’s flood risks.

  • Contact your insurance professional. Take the time to ask questions and be sure you understand all of your insurance options. It will help you make informed decisions about your insurance coverage.
  • Prepare an emergency plan. The I.I.I.’s free mobile app, Know Your Plan, makes it easy to be ready when disaster strikes. Preparedness information is also available from FEMA’s Ready.gov and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Weather Ready Nation.
  • Conduct a home inventory. Documenting your belongings will help you buy the right amount, and type, of insurance. A home inventory also makes claim filing easier and can be used to document financial losses when filing tax returns or applying for post-disaster financial assistance. Using the I.I.I.’s Know Your Stuff app will ensure you have an updated home inventory, accessible anywhere, any time.

Insurance & Wildfires Part 2

PART2

Courtesy of iii.org.

Condo Insurance

Q. There is damage to my kitchen cabinets and my clothes as well as the roof and elevator of the building. Just who is responsible?

A. Usually, your own condominium insurance policy provides coverage for your personal possessions, structural improvements to your apartment and additional living expenses.

There is also a “master policy” provided by the condo/co-op board which covers the common areas you share with others in your building like the roof, basement, elevator, boiler and walkways.

Sometimes the association is responsible for insuring the individual condo or co-op units, as they were originally built, including standard fixtures. The individual owner, in this case, is only responsible for alterations to the original structure of the apartment, like remodeling the kitchen or putting in a new bathtub. Sometimes this may include not only improvements you make, but also those made by previous owners.

In other situations, the condo association is responsible only for insuring the bare walls, floor and ceiling. The owner must insure kitchen cabinets, built-in appliances, plumbing, wiring, bathroom fixtures etc. Your association’s bylaws and/or property lease will determine who is responsible for what.

If you have unit assessment coverage, if will reimburse you for your share of an assessment charged to all unit owners as a result of windstorm damage. For instance, if there is windstorm damage in the lobby, all the unit owners are charged the cost of repairing the loss.

Business Insurance

Q. Will my business be covered for property damage?

A. The typical business owner’s policy covers damage due to wind, wind-driven rain and fire. So if your business has been damaged or destroyed by one of these perils, your insurance company will pay to have your business repaired or rebuilt. Flood damage is usually excluded or very limited unless you have purchased flood coverage from the NFIP or a private insurer.

Q. My business is shut down. Will my insurance cover lost revenue? If so, for how long?

A. Business income, or business interruption, insurance (BI) covers the profits a business would have earned, based on its own financial records, had the disaster not occurred. The policy covers additional operating expenses incurred as a result of the disaster such as the extra expense of operating out of a temporary location, even though business activities have come to a temporary halt.

Reimbursement under business interruption insurance is usually triggered by some kind of damage to the property where the business is conducted and only when the damage is the result of a covered peril such as fire. Evacuation orders do NOT trigger BI coverage. Acts of “civil authority” which preclude a business from reopening can trigger business interruption coverage if the declaration was the result of a covered peril. Generally, there is a deductible either in a flat dollar amount or a waiting time. If it is a waiting time, it is typically 24 to 72 hours, meaning that payments do not begin until the business has been disrupted for one to three days.

Most business interruption forms do not include coverage for perils such as emergency evacuation by civil authority or a major utility disruption, unless they were added by endorsement. Typically, when business interruption insurance is purchased, the timeframe for coverage is a year. The overall cost of BI is determined by the amount of coverage required during the period specified.

Q. How am I going to be able to rebuild my business and afford the cost of keeping the business going at another location?

A. If you have business income coverage, it will reimburse you for lost profits and continue fixed expenses during the time that the business must stay closed while the premises are being restored. If you have ordinance or law coverage it will help pay for the extra costs of tearing down the structure and rebuilding it.

Q. I’ve had so many extra expenses beyond my normal operating expenses. What am I going to do?

A. If you have extra expense insurance, it will reimburse your company for what it spends, over and above normal operating expenses, to relocate to avoid having to shut down during the restoration period. As with business income insurance, the price of extra expense insurance varies with the industry and the likelihood of disaster-related damage.

Life Insurance

Q. My wife was killed in the fires. There are so many expenses. Who is going to take care of my children when I go to work? A. Life insurance benefits can be used for any purpose, including paying funeral expenses and child care costs.

Q. I’ve been paying for years for life insurance that has a cash value. Can I borrow that cash value or surrender the contract to get at that money? Who can help me with this? A. Borrowing and policy surrender are available. Borrowing would be the preferred choice because the death benefit stays in effect (minus the amount borrowed), but this is a loan that must eventually be repaid. If repayment is unlikely, they’re probably better off surrendering the policy for the cash. Ideally, they should discuss this with the agent who sold them the policy, or with someone in the life insurer’s customer service division, to place this option in context with other cash-raising options.

Other Questions

Q. I don’t have a copy of my policy, a home inventory or any documentation. What should I do?

A. Contact your insurance professional as soon as you are able. Your insurance company may send you a claim form known as a “proof of loss form” to complete. Or an adjuster may visit your home first. (An adjuster is a person professionally trained to assess the damage.) In either case, the more information you have about your damaged possessions—a description of the item, approximate date of purchase and what it would cost to replace or repair—the faster your claim generally can be settled.

Q. Will I need to obtain estimates for the repairs or will the adjuster do this for me?

A. Ask your insurance agent professional about requirements.

Q. Is there a time limit for filing a claim?

A. Insurance policies general place a time limit on filing claims which vary from state to state and company to company. Check with your insurer to see what the time limits are.

Q. What can I do if I am having trouble settling my claim?

A. If you are dissatisfied with how your insurance company is handling your claim, you have several options: talk to the agent or company representative who sold you the policy and let the agent know you are dissatisfied; contact the company claims manager and provide a written explanation of your problem with copies of supporting documentation; contact your state insurance department; consider mediation if you cannot reach an agreement with the company directly.

FAQ Wildfires Part 1

Courtesy of iii.org. After a wildfire, people may have questions about their insurance coverage. The Insurance Information Institute offers answers to some of these basic questions.

Homeowners Coverage

Q. If my house burns down, will my insurance company pay to have it rebuilt?

A. The typical homeowners policy covers damage due to wind, fire and lightning. So if your home has been completely destroyed by a fire or if the roof has been burned, your insurance company will pay to have your home rebuilt or the roof replaced. It will also pay if flames and smoke have damaged any other part of your home.

Q. I know my homeowners policy covers my house. Does it cover the contents of my home and my garage?

A. Yes. In addition to paying for damage to the dwelling, homeowners policies cover other structures on the premises, such as a garage or tool shed, as well as damage to your furniture, clothes, appliances and other personal possessions up to the limits of your policy.

Q. My home has been so severely damaged that it is no longer fit to live in. We can live with friends for a week or two, but after that, I don’t know where we’ll live. How am I going to pay for all these extra expenses?

A. Your homeowners insurance policy will pay the extra expense of living elsewhere — reasonable costs to maintain your household — until your home has been repaired or rebuilt. That would include the cost staying in a hotel for a while, and even clothing. Be sure to keep your receipts.

Q. Most of my personal possessions are ruined. Is there a limit on how much my insurance company will pay for my clothes, furniture and appliances?

A. The contents of your home–your personal possessions–are covered up to the limit set out in the policy, often 50 percent or 75 percent of the amount of coverage you have on your home, depending on the type of policy.

Q. Why do I need a home inventory, won’t my insurance company trust that I know what I have in my home?

A. A home inventory is valuable because it can be very difficult to remember everything that was in the home. A good inventory, if supplemented with photos, video, receipts, model numbers and appraisals, can help the homeowner get a more accurate settlement in less time, in most cases. A copy of the inventory should be kept in a safe, or in a location away from the home. To make creating your inventory as easy as possible, the I.I.I. has a free home inventory tool, Know Your Stuff®, which includes secure online storage so you can access your inventory anywhere, anytime.

Q. Much of my furniture and possessions were badly damaged, can I get rid of them if I have a home inventory?

A. A homeowner should not throw things away until an insurance company representative has had a chance to assess the damage and make a claim report.

Q. My home was vandalized after the fire and my new television was stolen, am I covered?

A. Homeowners insurance policies cover theft and vandalism, so any losses due to looting in the wake of the fire would be paid.

Q. Are there many different kinds of personal coverage policies?

A. There are two basic kinds of coverage for contents–replacement cost and actual cash value. Replacement cost coverage pays for the damaged item to be replaced with a new item of similar quality. Actual cash value coverage, which is less expensive to buy, pays an amount equal to the replacement cost, less depreciation. So if a 20-year-old washing machine is damaged and you have replacement coverage, the insurance company would pay for a new washing machine. If you have an actual cash value policy, the insurance company would pay only a small portion of the cost of buying a new machine, because that machine has already been used for 20 years and would only be worth a fraction of its original cost. Replacement cost policies usually have higher limits for personal possessions than actual cash value policies because the cost of replacing all the damaged items is higher.

Q. What about the house itself? Is the structure insured on a replacement cost basis or will I have to pay for a portion of the cost of replacing my seven-year old roof myself?

A. The typical homeowners policy pays for repairs to the dwelling on a replacement cost basis so that regardless of the age of your roof, the insurance company would pay the entire bill, minus your deductible.

Q. If your home is old, has not been modernized, and is only worth a fraction of the cost of replacing it, would the insurance company pay to rebuild it?

A. People who own such homes usually have a special older home insurance policy. This policy will pay for basic repairs. If the dwelling is not rebuilt, the insurance company will pay the lesser of two amounts: the cost of repairs or the market value of the house, minus the land.

Q. Does my insurance pay for the loss of any trees, shrubs or other plants I lost from the fire?

A. The typical homeowners policy covers trees, shrubs, plants or lawns on the residence for loss caused by fire. Usually insurers will pay up to 5 percent of the limit of liability that applies to the dwelling for all trees, shrubs, plants or lawns. No more than $500 will be paid for any one tree, shrub or plant. Insurance, however, does not cover property grown for business purposes.

Q. Does my insurance company pay for the portion of my home that I rent?

A. A homeowners insurance policy covers the fair rental value of premises less any expenses that do not continue while it is not fit to live in.

Auto Coverage

Q. If my car is destroyed or damaged from the fire, is it covered?

A. If you have comprehensive insurance, your vehicle will be covered for damage or destruction.

Q. My vehicle was vandalized after the fire?my windshield was smashed?and my golf clubs were stolen from the trunk. Am I covered?

A. If you have comprehensive insurance, your vehicle will be covered for theft or vandalism. So any damage or destruction of the vehicle due to looting in the wake of the fire would be paid. If you have homeowners or renters insurance, your golf clubs would be covered under the personal possessions portion of that policy.

Renters Insurance

Q. Will my landlord’s insurance pay for the damage to my personal possessions?

A. No. Your landlord is only responsible for the damage done to the structure of the building. Damage to your personal possessions is covered only if you have a renters insurance policy.

Q. Who knows how long it will take for the apartment building to be rebuilt. What do I do in the meantime? How can I afford to stay in a hotel?

A. Renters insurance will pay for any additional living expenses you may incur before you are able to return to your apartment. Most policies will reimburse you the difference between your additional living expenses and your normal living expenses but still may set limits on the total amount they will pay.

Renters Insurance

Q. Will my landlord’s insurance pay for the damage to my personal possessions?

A. No. Your landlord is only responsible for the damage done to the structure of the building. Damage to your personal possessions is covered only if you have a renters insurance policy.

Q. Who knows how long it will take for the apartment building to be rebuilt. What do I do in the meantime? How can I afford to stay in a hotel?

A. Renters insurance will pay for any additional living expenses you may incur before you are able to return to your apartment. Most policies will reimburse you the difference between your additional living expenses and your normal living expenses but still may set limits on the total amount they will pay. To be continued…

Tornado Fact Review

Courtesy of iii.org

A tornado is a violently rotating column of air that extends from a thunderstorm and comes into contact with the ground, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). In an average year about 1,000 tornadoes are reported nationwide, according to NOAA. Tornado intensity is measured by the enhanced Fujita (EF) scale. The scale rates tornadoes on a scale of 0 through 5, based on the amount and type of wind damage. It incorporates 28 different damage indicators, based on damage to a wide variety of structures ranging from trees to shopping malls.

The U.S. experiences more tornadoes than any other country in the world, according to a 2013 report by Lloyd?s of London. (See Executive Summary, page 4 of Tornadoes a Rising Risk? for additional findings and statistics.)

The Fujita Scale For Tornadoes

Original F scale (1) Enhanced F scale (2)
Category Damage Wind speed (mph) 3-second
gust (mph)
F-0 Light 40-72 65-85
F-1 Moderate 73-112 86-110
F-2 Considerable 113-157 111-135
F-3 Severe 158-207 136-165
F-4 Devastating 208-260 166-200
F-5 Incredible 261-318 Over 200

(1) Original scale: wind speeds represent fastest estimated speeds over one quarter of a mile.
(2) Enhanced scale: wind speeds represent maximum 3-second gusts.

Source: U.S. Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

INSURED LOSSES

The United States experiences more tornadoes than any other country. Tornadoes accounted for 40.2 percent of insured catastrophe losses from 1996 to 2015, according to Verisk?s Property Claim Services (PCS). In 2015 insured losses from U.S. tornadoes/thunderstorms totaled $9.6 billion, down from $12.3 billion in 2014. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration notes that tornadoes can happen any time of year. The costliest U.S. catastrophe involving tornadoes, based on insured losses, occurred in April 2011. It hit Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and other areas, and cost $7.8 billion in insured damages (in 2015 dollars). That event was the 10th costliest U.S. catastrophe, based on insured losses, according to PCS. The second costliest catastrophe involving tornadoes, based on insured losses, struck Joplin, Missouri, and other locations in May 2011. The catastrophe cost $7.3 billion in insured losses in 2015 dollars. (See chart below.) The National Weather Service posts updated information on tornadoes.

THE 2014-2016 TORNADO SEASONS

Preliminary NOAA data show that there were 1,059 tornadoes in 2016, compared with 1,177 in 2015. On January 17, tornadoes developed in Florida with two fatalities. On February 23 and 24 tornadoes formed in Louisiana, Mississippi and Virginia resulting in two fatalities in Louisiana, one in Mississippi and four in Virginia. February 23 was the most active tornado day in 2016, when 52 storms formed. On April 27, one fatality resulted from a tornado in Texas and on May 9 tornadoes in Oklahoma killed two people.

The number of tornadoes rose to 1,177 in 2015 from 886 in 2014, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). There were 36 direct fatalities from tornadoes in 2015, down from 47 in 2014, according to NOAA. May was the top month for tornadoes in 2015, with 381 tornadoes. There were 17 tornado-related fatalities in Texas in 2015, followed by 11 in Mississippi and two each in Arkansas, Illinois, Oklahoma and Tennessee.

NOAA data show that there were 886 tornadoes in 2014, compared with 906 in 2013. On April 27, 30 tornadoes formed in seven states (Arkansas, Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Mississippi and Louisiana). Nineteen fatalities were reported. Many homes and buildings were damaged or destroyed in Arkansas, Oklahoma and Kansas, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. On April 28, tornadoes in five states (Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi and Tennessee) resulted in 15 fatalities. There were 47 direct fatalities from tornadoes in 2014, down from 55 in 2013, according to NOAA. June was the top month for tornadoes in 2014, with 287 tornadoes.

Florida’s Worst Cities for Pedestrian Safety

Courtesy of iii.org

Walking is definitely good for your health. But it may be dangerous to your life in busy cities, particularly in Florida. A study by Smart Growth America ranked eight Florida metros in the top 10 after analyzing pedestrian deaths over a 10-year period.

The group created a Pedestrian Danger Index to compare pedestrian safety in cities of different size, density, and rates of walking. So, it’s not only a factor of big cities with more cars and more walking. The study contends it is also due to “poor pedestrian infrastructure,” meaning roads are designed to move cars along with little thought to people traveling on foot. There is an interactive map on the group’s website that pinpoints dangerous roads near you.

Statistics on auto crashes show that about 20 percent of pedestrian fatalities are caused by hit-and-run drivers. Did you know that uninsured motorist coverage on your auto insurance policy can provide protection if you are hit as a pedestrian? Well, now you know.

Here is the ranking of the 10 most dangerous cities for walkers:

  1. Cape Coral-Ft. Myers
  2. Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville
  3. Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford
  4. Jacksonville
  5. Deltona-Daytona Beach-Ormond Beach
  6. Lakeland-Winter Haven
  7. Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater
  8. Jackson, Miss.
  9. Memphis, Tenn.
  10. North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton

It Does Get Cold in Florida

Courtesy of iii.org

It doesn?t dip below freezing very often in Florida (which is just the way we like it!). When it does, a refresher is in order on what precautions to take so cold temperatures don?t put a freeze on your budget due to costly repairs that could have been avoided. Check out our cold weather survival tips.

Most homeowners insurance policies cover damage from freezing conditions. It?s always best to prevent the damage in the first place, of course. Parts of the Florida Panhandle dipped below freezing over the weekend, and that could occur again in the coming weeks. Cold-weather warnings prompted me to buy all my outdoor faucets a hoodie (see photo above). For about $3 a faucet, it?s a good investment in preparedness, especially since you have to disconnect the hose to slip it on. Freezing temps can cause water locked inside garden hoses to expand and burst ? and the cost of those hoses is not covered by insurance.

Frost on the ground in the morning, and in the mid-50s by mid afternoon. Gotta love it!

Nice Gifts-Be Sure to Protect Them Today!

Courtesy of iii.org

The holidays are a time of giving and receiving gifts, but would you be able to replace those gifts if they were destroyed in a fire or other disaster? A home inventory is the best way to protect your personal possessions, yet only 50 percent of homeowners said they had an inventory in a 2016 Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) survey. That’s where Know Your Stuff®, the free, award-winning home inventory app can help.

The I.I.I.’s Know Your Stuff® home inventory app allows you to enter information on mobile or desktop and syncs across all your devices so you can access it anywhere, at any time. It can help you:

  • Purchase enough insurance to replace the items you own, if they are stolen or damaged.
  • Get insurance claims settled faster.
  • Substantiate losses or charitable donations for tax purposes.
  • Keep track of items that require maintenance or repair.
  • Declutter and organize your home.

“With the average property damage and liability claim costing more than $9,000 and about one in 15 insured homes having a claim each year, it’s important for homeowners to protect their assets,” said Loretta Worters, a vice president with the I.I.I. “Renters should also consider taking a home inventory.”

To simplify the task of creating an inventory, the Know Your Stuff® app allows you to take photographs of your possessions and organize them according to the room in which the items are located.

With the Know Your Stuff® Home Inventory app, you get:

  • Secure free cloud storage of your inventory data. You can also store and manage all your insurance policy information, including contact information for your insurance professional and your policy numbers.
  • Downloadable reports for easy recordkeeping and claims filing.
  • A tool that is backed by the expertise of the I.I.I., a leading independent insurance research and communications organization.

Know Your Stuff® also allows you to keep track of multiple properties and insurance policies. An opt-in service provides integrated weather alerts for your area as well as updates and tips on how to prepare your home against severe weather.

Did Your Hurricane Insurance Claim Get Paid?

Courtesy of iii.org

The 2016 hurricane season is a wrap, and you are probably seeing a few news stories detailing the number of insurance claims from Hurricane Matthew, as well as the insurance claims from Hurricane Hermine. More than 87 percent of claims from Hermine are closed; almost 78 percent of claims from Matthew are closed. But the news headlines do not focus on that positive note. Instead, they point out that about a third of claims from the storm are unpaid. You have to read down six paragraphs in the newspaper story to find out why. I’ll tell you in the second paragraph below.

There are two primary reasons claims are closed without being paid:

Storm damage was minor and under the amount of the hurricane deductible, or
The damage was not covered by the policy.

Everyone knows headlines don’t tell the whole story. They are designed to attract attention and are not written by the reporter, but by someone looking to grab the reader. To be truly informed, we have to look beyond the headline, true?

Insurers have encouraged policyholders to report storm damage even if it is minor because Florida has a calendar year hurricane deductible. That means storm damage from more than one storm in a season counts toward the deductible amount.

Damage not covered from the storms would include falling trees that do not damage an insured property, such as your house or fence.

Now you know rest of the story.

Happy New Year and a Great 2017 to You!