Are All These New In Car Technologies Really That Safe?

in car technology20 years ago, Americans would have laughed at the idea of speaking to their car as if it were a scene out of “Back to the Future” or “The Jetsons.” Today, that idea is very real, and already in numerous vehicles on the road right now. Using voice commands to change the radio station, turn up the heat, and even text your friends or colleagues is a technology that is changing the way we drive cars—and making it a whole lot more dangerous, contrary to popular beliefs about what the technology should be bringing to the table.

Recently, the American Automobile Association Foundation for Traffic Safety and the University of Utah put out a study that severely scrutinizes the efficacy of in-car systems that are marketed to supposedly make driving safer. We are always told to never text and drive and to always use hands-free devices if we have to speak over the phone. So why would voice command technology in cars be a dangerous thing?

It turns out that the technology isn’t perfect. In fact, the errors suffered by voice operations in cars are leading to distracted drivers because of how frequently they occur, and because the driver often gives up and opts to do things the “old fashioned way.” The frustrations caused by a miscommunication between driver and car often cause the vehicle operator to miss a stop sign or increase their speed, thus canceling out the entire purpose for voice command technology.

It was also found that the act of verbalizing texts or emails to a car’s voice recognition system could easily sidetrack motorists. Obviously, if a driver is making his or her way down a busy highway while talking to his or her car, they are not completely focused on the road, and their mind is partly elsewhere. The American Automobile Association Foundation for Traffic Safety has stated that cognitive distraction is a very real and very dangerous side effect of these technologies.

The foundation’s study used over 160 students, providing for them to use technology both in a laboratory and in a moving vehicle. For some students, they were more distracted using the hands-free voice command technology than they were making a phone call through traditional means.

Voice recognition technology in cars has advanced tremendously within the past few years, allowing users to map their drive, find nearby restaurants or gas stations, and play music using their smartphones or mp3 players—all without a single touch of a button.

Most voice recognition software in automobiles is limited to around 60 commands. However, this number is growing each year, adding more and more promise to the already billion-dollar industry. With the growing complexities of voice command technology come even more possibilities for distractions for drivers, leading to a more dangerous road for everybody. While voice recognition may be useful, convenient, and even just plain cool, it is important to remember that there is one task at hand when driving that is critical—keeping your attention on the road.

How To Deal With Hail Damage To Your Car

hail damaged car
Hail is not only irritating, but it can also inflict massive damage to your car, costing you thousands of dollars in damage if you aren’t properly insured. Last month, residents Denver, Colorado were faced with a violent hailstorm—several cars were battered in the aftermath. Not only were vehicles damaged, but buildings, skylights, and windows were also torn apart by this ultra-firm form of precipitation.

So what do you do if your car has been damaged by merciless hail—or better stated, what can you do before hail hits home?

Make sure your insurance covers weather damage

If you don’t have comprehensive insurance coverage, then you’re out of luck if you’re hoping your insurance will cover the damages. Comprehensive coverage includes everything not covered by collision insurance, such as theft and vandalism. Because you will have to pay your deductible, it is usually not worth filing a claim through your insurance for minor hail damage, as your deductible will typically be more than the cost of repair. Major hail damage, however, caused by golf ball and baseball sized hunks of hail is another story.

Decide whether your vehicle really needs the repair or not

If your car has only suffered from some minor dings and scratches and they don’t bother you, then why shell out the money to repair it? However, if you do not own your vehicle, you will likely not have a choice in the matter. Bottom line? If it does bother you a little and you want to do something about it, it’s certainly something you can save up for and/or wait on unless you’re trying to sell the car in the interim.

A hail claim will typically not increase your premiums

“Acts of nature” are out of your control and are unpredictable, so it would not make sense for insurance companies to hold you accountable. However, whether or not your premiums will increase depends on the laws of your state and your policy. Usually, though, they will not. However, the number of claims you make can affect your rates, so watch out—especially if you’ve filed another claim recently.

Whether or not hail damage reflects on the title of your car depends on a few factors

Damage you report will affect your car’s title if your insurer has stated it is a total loss and if your state permits hail damage as the only reason for a salvage title. Some states differentiate between whether a car has been damaged by hail or simply been totaled or flooded. If your vehicle is not declared as salvage, then you have nothing to worry about.

If your car is totaled by hail and you want to keep it:

Ask your insurance company to purchase the car for its salvage price if you’d like to continue driving it. Your insurer will send you what your car is worth minus its salvage value and your deductible. You may also need to get your car inspected before you can start driving it again.

GAP (Guaranteed Auto Protection) insurance does not cover value loss

Because GAP insurance pays only when a car is completely totaled, you won’t be able to get covered for the lowered value of your car—be aware of this not just for hail, but for other acts of nature. If you’re unsure of what your Guaranteed Auto Protection covers, get in touch with your insurer to be 100 percent sure.

Luxury Car Insurance Fraud Racket Busted

nj luxury car insurance ring bustedAccording to the Department of Justice, a New Jersey man who allegedly ran a luxury car insurance fraud operation has pled guilty earlier this week. Steven Shore, 58, was involved in shipping luxury vehicles to China and claiming theft in order to receive compensation through his insurance. Shore’s fraud was discovered through his second attempt at making money by abusing his insurance.

Shore had initially purchased a 2013 Porsche Cayenne and taken out a policy through Liberty Mutual the following day. A month later, he reported to the authorities that his automobile had been stolen and filed a claim with Liberty Mutual. By the end of the year, Shore had received $70,000 for his fraudulent claim.

Shore was ultimately caught when trying to repeat his crime a second time. The man claimed to sell a Porsche to a woman named Michelle Yorgan, who reported the vehicle stolen not long after. However, Yorgan’s insurance company, Travelers Insurance, noticed the scenario seemed a bit off and denied her claim. Travelers Insurance took things a step further and also got into contact with the Office of the Insurance Fraud Prosecutor. Shortly thereafter, the office of the Attorney General began to investigate Shore and his dealings.

Shore now faces seven years in prison and $70,000 in compensation for the criminal sham he tried to pull not once, but twice. The office of the Attorney General believes the man shipped the luxury vehicles to China, where they were resold for nearly three times as much as he could receive in the United States—this only added more insult to the original injury—an aspect of the case that certainly did not help Shore look any less guilty. Shore has admitted that his insurance racket has cost insurance companies over $100,000. Shore will be sentenced on December 5, 2014.

Auto insurance fraud in the United States is not limited to scams like the one Shore pulled. Staged collisions, for example, cost auto insurers tens of millions of dollars each year. Most of these costs come from treating made up injuries. In 2007, bodily injury claim fraud cost the industry between $5 and $7 billion. Staged accident rings have also popped up around the country, costing the insurance industry huge sums of money in payouts for fraud.

Car Safety For Infants

infant car safetyWhile purchasing and using a car seat for your child is a no-brainer, many parents don’t know how to safely travel with their infant as they grow. Here is a helpful list of 10 common blunders parents make while ensuring their child’s safety—and how to dodge them.

1. Neglecting to investigate a used car seat before purchase:

If you’re thinking about getting a used car seat for your infant, be sure to also obtain the necessary instruction manual and the label displaying its manufacture date and model. Also be sure that the car seat hasn’t been recalled, isn’t expired or older than 6 years, is without noticeable damage or missing parts, and has never been in an accident.

2. Incorrect placement of the car seat:

Never place a child in a car seat in the front seat: if an air bag inflates, it could cause serious or deadly injury to your infant. Instead, always place your infant and his or her car seat in the back seat, particularly in the center if possible. If you do not have a back row of seats, be sure to deactivate your vehicle’s front airbags or inhibit your car’s ability to deploy its air bags during a crash.

3. Utilizing the car seat as a crib:

Your infant’s car seat is not a crib—don’t treat it as such. Sitting in a car seat for long periods of time can cause serious health issues for infants.

4. Installing the car seat or applying your child’s seat belt incorrectly:

Always make sure your child is safely secured and facing the right direction while in his or her car seat. When buckling up your infant, make sure the harness or chest clip are even with your child’s armpits and that the strap and harness are flap against his or her chest. Always refer to the car seat’s instructions.

5. Lying your child at the wrong angle:

To achieve the right position for your child, be sure to recline the car seat as instructed by the manufacturer. Placing a tightly rolled towel beneath the seat’s front edge is also helpful. To combat slouching, add rolled baby blankets on either side of baby.

6. Upgrading your child to a forward-facing car seat prematurely:

Children are advised to remain in rear-facing car seats until the age of two or the highest weight and height allowed by the manufacturer. Once your child is ready to face forward, be sure to install the car seat as advised by the manufacturer, use a tether strap for stability, and adjust the harness straps tightly.

7. Oversized outerwear for your child:

If outerwear is too bulky for your child, a car seat’s harness straps may not fit over him. Fit baby in lightweight clothes and provide a blanket instead.

8. Upgrading your child to a booster seat prematurely:

Many parents move their child to a booster seat too soon, allowing them to use adult seat belts. Remember to only move up to booster seats once your child has reached 40 to 80 pounds or the maximum height your car’s seat allows.

9. Not using a booster seat correctly:

Both lap and shoulder belts are necessary when using a booster seat. Be sure that the lap belt is installed tight and low on the upper thighs of your child. Also be sure that the shoulder belt is fixed across the middle of your child’s chest and shoulder. This is also the same for backless booster seats. You may want to invest in a high-back booster seat if your automobile is without a headrest for your child.

10. Utilizing your car’s seatbelt prematurely:

Once your child is between the ages of 8 and 12, they’re likely ready to use an adult seatbelt. You’ll know if they’re ready if they’re taller than 4’9”, able to sit comfortably against the back of the seat with legs bent snugly at the edge, and if your car’s lap belt rests flat and tight against their upper thighs with shoulder belt across the middle of their shoulder and chest.

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Debunking The Red Car Myth

Red Car MythA long-held and widely-perpetuated “fact” is that red cars cost more money to insure. Fortunately for red-loving auto enthusiasts, this “fact” is simply untrue.

A number of reasons have been proposed to explain why red vehicles allegedly have such a deep impact on insurance rates. While some people contend that red automobiles are more likely to be pulled over because of their standout color, others claim that red vehicles are usually sports cars and are therefore more likely to be involved in accidents.

Many experts in the field of color science would agree that color can affect one’s mood or behavior. Some experts also claim that cars in certain colors can prove safer in low-light environments depending on how noticeable the color is. However, there have been no definite studies conducted in the United States to link the effects of car color on car safety.

Australia’s Monash University conducted a study in 2007 regarding possible associations between car color and car safety. Research concluded that white cars were the least likely to be involved in automobile accidents while cars of less-noticeable colors (like black, blue, red, and gray) were more likely. Despite this research, it is not conclusive enough to prove a direct causation relationship between car color and crash risk. Rather, lighting conditions and vehicle type are bigger risk factors than a car’s paint.

While car color does not factor into your car insurance premium, a number of other elements do. Driving history, claims history, the make, model, and year of one’s car, and even one’s credit history are all variables in one’s insurance rates. Additionally, a person’s gender can affect the price they pay—statistically, women pay less than men on average. Age is also a dynamic as young people between the ages of 16 and 25 are considered more “high risk” than older drivers.

Red aficionados can rest easy: that new scarlet-colored sports car will not end up emptying your wallet. However, it is important to remember all the factors that go into determining one’s premium. Drive safe, own a good vehicle, and be on the lookout for discounts to achieve the cheapest rates you possibly can.

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