Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Jaywalking: Is It Worth the Risk?

Jaywalking is both illegal and dangerous -- a pedestrian is killed every 3-1/2 minutes in the U.S. -- yet many people admit to doing it frequently, a recent PEMCO Insurance poll has discovered.

What exactly is jaywalking? It occurs when a pedestrian crosses a street or highway outside of a marked crosswalk, or uses a crosswalk before the walk signal indicates it's safe to proceed. It is illegal in Washington state, and can result in a fine of between $50 and $100, depending on the circumstances.

With more than 622 pedestrians killed in traffic-related accidents in Washington in the past decade, you would think people would be more wary, but the recent PEMCO poll found that nearly one-third (31%) of Washington drivers admitted to jaywalking, despite national data that shows 20 percent of pedestrian deaths are due to illegal crossing attempts.

Even though many of the respondents admitted to jaywalking, 70 percent of drivers surveyed agree that jaywalkers should be ticketed for failure to obey the law when crossing streets or intersections.

The PEMCO poll also revealed that while 33 percent of respondents think the law favors pedestrians over drivers, a vast majority (81%) favored consequences for drivers who fail to yield for pedestrians legally crossing the street.

According to the Revised Code of Washington (RCW), vehicles must stop for pedestrians crossing roadways within both marked and unmarked crosswalks.  When turning through a crosswalk, vehicles must also yield to pedestrians until they are a safe distance away. Drivers who fail to yield under those circumstances can be cited with a traffic ticket and fine, according to the law.

Offenders Typically Younger

Drivers under 35 wanted more lenient laws against jaywalking, according to the PEMCO poll. It revealed that 43 percent of these younger drivers admitted to jaywalking at least some of the time. Predictably, about one-third of these same drivers thought jaywalkers should go unpunished if caught.

Men were more likely than women to cross illegally, 37 percent to 26 percent. The poll also found a possible correlation between jaywalking and aggressive driving. Those who often or sometimes jaywalk are more likely to speed, tailgate or fail to yield than others.

Source: PEMCO Insurance Northwest Poll, 2011

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Be Aware: You May Not Be Covered When Using Your Personal Car for Business Purposes

There are lots of drivers out there who are driving around with personal auto insurance, but making money doing it, either by delivering something or someone, or providing a service that they get paid to do. They may not know it, but if they have an accident while doing this, their insurance company probably won't cover their claim!

Why? Because they don't have a commercial auto policy, which is required for any driving that is done for "business purposes".

If your employer lets you use a company car, then they are responsible for paying to insure it. You have nothing to worry about, since you are covered in the event of an accident while on the job. However, some companies expect employees to use their own vehicles when they’re on company business. This gray area between business and personal use raises a number of questions, and you don’t want to be without the proper coverage if you are involved in a car accident. It can get expensive!

If you don’t actually deliver a product, what constitutes “business purposes”? Some insurance companies define it as transporting goods for money. That could include activities such as:
  • Daycare/church bus or van services
  • Door-to-door consulting services
  • Catering
  • Landscaping or snowplowing services
Some companies even consider real estate agents as using their cars for commercial purposes. You need to ask your insurance agent now, so you don’t get denied if you file a claim down the road.

A good rule of thumb is if you’re using your car more than 50 percent of the time for business (to make money), then you probably need a commercial auto policy.

If you drive around all day making sales calls, you may only need to increase the liability limits on your personal auto policy. However, if you get direct compensation from the use of your car, such as making deliveries or using it as a taxi service, then you need a commercial auto policy. It may mean higher rates, but if you fail to divulge this to your insurance company and then you’re involved in an accident, the company may deny your claim if it discovers you withheld that information.

Using a Personal Car on Company Business

Big companies typically have commercial auto policies that cover employees while they’re traveling on company business. If you have an accident in this situation, you may have to file a claim with your own insurance company, but it’s also possible your employer’s insurance will pay. Check with your employer AND your personal insurance agent in advance so that you know where to turn in the event of an accident. You don’t want to be caught in the middle while the two companies point fingers at each other!

If you have an accident while on a business trip in your own car, make sure the insurance adjuster is aware that was a business-related trip. Your personal auto insurance provider shouldn’t deny your claim just because you were on a business, although it may try to recover the money from your employer’s insurance company.

How do you know if you need commercial vehicle insurance? 

Here are some important questions:

• What are your limits on liability? A commercial auto policy offers higher liability limits because a company has more assets to protect than most individuals, so the limits need to be higher. In addition, most commercial vehicles are larger than passenger vehicles, so they can cause more damage. If you have a large commercial-type vehicle that you use for work purposes, then you probably need a commercial automobile policy.

• Will your insurance policy cover damage your vehicle causes while you’re on the job? While a personal policy won’t, a commercial policy will.

• Do you have employees who drive your vehicle? If other people drive your vehicle for any work purposes, you need commercial insurance.

You also need a commercial automobile policy if the vehicle hauls tools or equipment weighing more than 500 pounds, makes deliveries or requires filings for interstate for-hire trucking businesses.

Don’t be caught driving a personal car for business-related activities while only carrying a personal auto insurance policy. The cost may be less, but if you are in an accident and it is determined to be work-related, your claim will be denied. That will end up costing you many times more than the commercial rate you would’ve been paying!

If you would like to find out if you need commercial auto insurance, one of our SAV-ON Insurance agents would be happy to help. Call 1-888-867-2866.