SHARP HOME

Friday, 30 September 2011

What is no-fault insurance?

There are many misconceptions surround no-fault insurance. Some believe that no-fault insurance only covers you if you're not at fault, while others think that it covers you regardless of whether you're at fault or not. In actuality, no-fault insurance only means that you deal directly with your insurance company when making a claim, regardless of who is at-fault. This means that you get the financial help you need right away, instead of waiting for your insurer and the other drivers' insurer to determine fault and pay out benefits then.

How is fault determined? 
There seems to be a lot of mystery around how fault is determined. There are two groups who make decisions about fault: the police and the insurance companies. The police will make a judgement at the scene of the accident, and then later on insurance adjusters from the insurance companies involved will assign fault on a 0%-100% scale. In some accidents, blame is not entirely laid on one party. For instance, if you were rear-ended because you braked unnecessarily, but the driver behind you did not react quickly enough, it is possible that both parties will be found partly at-fault.

Will my insurance premiums go up? 
If you're found to be at-fault, your premiums will likely increase based on the percentage of fault you were responsible for. In many cases, your insurance will allow you to make one claim without penalty if you have been a clean driver for many years. After that, any claim you make will cause a serious increase in your premiums. Talk to your insurance broker about whether your car insurance policy has a "get-out-of-raised-premiums free" card.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

The Sharp Community Referral Program

At the Insurance Experts blog, we typically avoid talking about ourselves. Maybe we're just shy, or maybe we just like our blog to be an objective source on insurance topics. In any event, we rarely talk about our own programs and promotions. Today, however, we're going to look briefly at the Sharp Community Referral Program, one of the ways we're trying to give back to the community.

What is it?
The Sharp Community Referral Program is an effort to incorporate socially conscious practices with business. Since Sharp's inception, we've tried to distinguish ourselves from other insurance brokerages, making contributions to local charities and community groups a foundational part of our business.

How does it work? 
The Referral Program works on a word-of-mouth basis. Get an online quote from Sharp Insurance, and if you end up buying a policy with us we will make a donation to a charity of your choice. You can also refer someone to Sharp and if they get a policy, we will make a donation as well! It's as simple as that: buy a policy, or refer someone who buys a policy, and we'll make a donation.

Why insure with Sharp? 
By purchasing a policy with Sharp, you will be giving to community organizations making your province a better place. We give you the choice to donate to whomever you feel is benefitting your community the best, so you can choose a province-wide organization, or one that works in your municipality or neighbourhood. You'll also benefit from the best insurance policies in the industry, protecting you and your family for the best price possible.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

What To Do In A Hailstorm

It's often difficult to know what to do in a hailstorm. A hailstorm will often come out of nowhere and can cause considerable damage to cars and buildings. Hail forms when frozen water droplets or small clumps of ice are thrown around in thunderstorms and accumulate more layers of ice until they grow anywhere from the size of a pebble to the size of a baseball!

As you might imagine, flying balls of ice tend to do some damage when they hit vehicles and buildings. There are, however, a number of ways you can avoid damage to your property. Today, the Insurance Experts will take on hail!

Stay informed
As with many things in life, preparation can save you a great deal of time. Keep up-to-date on the weather by listening to the radio, watching the weather report on TV, checking the weather online, or following up-to-the-second Twitter updates on weather in your area. You can also learn how to recognize the weather conditions that tend to precede hailstorms.

Cover your vehicles
If a hailstorm is coming, or it starts to hail out of nowhere, move cars, boats, RVs, and outdoor furniture into a garage or covered structure of some kind. Hail can do serious damage to your car's body, potentially costing you thousands of dollars in repairs. If thunderstorms are predicted in your area, keep your vehicles inside the garage rather than out on the street or in the driveway.

Consider impact resistant roofing to reduce hail damage to your roof
Replacing shingles can be incredibly expensive. If you live in a region that has a high risk of hailstorms, consider investing in impact resistant shingles or metal roofing which can handle a high level of hail damage. You may even get a discount on your insurance premiums for making such an investment.

Get hail insurance
In the event that you can't protect your property, for one reason or another, consider investing in hail insurance for your home. Check any existing policies to see if you're covered and if you aren't, talk to your insurance broker about including it.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

As a student, do I need tenant insurance?

While it may seem out of reach for most cash-strapped students, you would be surprised at how affordable and useful tenant insurance can be. As a tenant, you are not insured for the contents of your place, and you may not be covered for liability. 

As a student, you may not think that your room's contents are worth a lot of money. But imagine if everything were destroyed at once, how much would it cost to replace everything? Would you be able to afford it? Computers, televisions, beds and clothes can be expensive to replace. You could be on the hook for a few thousand dollars if flooding, which is quite common is student homes, destroyed your things. 

More importantly, however, you may not be covered for liability under your landlord's insurance policy. This means that if you host a party and your guests cause damage to your home, you could be on the hook for repairs. Alternately, if someone hurt themselves and you were found liable, you could be forced to pay legal and medical expenses. These expenses can cost tens of thousands of dollars, if not more. 

If you're a student, take a few minutes to call an insurance broker or get an online quote. It may only take a few minutes to call a few insurance companies to get a quote. You would be surprised at how affordable and practical tenant insurance can be! 

Monday, 26 September 2011

Why Insurance is the Foundation of a Thriving Economy

At the foundation of any thriving economy is a robust insurance industry. Most people are not entirely aware of the role that insurance plays in modern economies and so in today's Insurance Experts post, we'll look at how insurance is the basis of healthy economies.

The main function of insurance is to spread risk. In its simplest form, insurance allows a group of individuals to put small sums of money into a pot, and use the money only if one member faces a loss. Rather than risk facing one disastrous loss, members take small losses every month and are ensured protection from serious losses. 

This system of spreading risk has two main benefits in modern economies: it encourages entrepreneurship and forms the basis of the credit system. 

It encourages entrepreneurship because it frees businesses of the financial burden of having to prepare for future losses. Imagine owning a coffee shop without insurance. On top of paying rent for your location, salaries for your employees, and supply costs, you would have to put funds aside in case you encountered a total loss. In this way, it allows entrepreneurs to invest their money into their business without those added costs. 

It also allows individuals to access credit by assuring lenders their investments are guaranteed. To use the coffee shop example, imagine you want to open up a new location. You request a bank loan to help pay for a new property. Your bank can only do this if their investment (in your property) can be guaranteed. If your building was destroyed in a fire, your bank would lose the investment. With insurance, they can be sure that their investments are protected. Credit allows business ideas to get off the ground and keeps economies dynamic. 

As a foundational aspect of modern economies, insurance plays a vital role in contributing to the well-being and happiness of all members of society. Spreading risk allows individuals to invest in business ventures without the fear of losing everything, and gives investors the assurance they need to put money in the hands of capable entrepreneurs. 

Friday, 23 September 2011

How To Be An Informed Insurance Customer

Being a savvy insurance customer can save you hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars. Knowing your insurance needs and the amount of coverage you require is essential. Today, we will look at how you can be a more informed insurance customer.

Insure with a broker
Independent insurance brokers differ from insurance providers in that they work directly for you to select the best insurance policy from the various policies out there. Because insurance policies vary drastically between companies, it's in your financial interest to have a broker find you the best rates possible. If you insure through one company directly, you are limited to their policies and will not be able to find the best possible rate. 

Request quotes based on different deductibles
For most policies, your premiums change based on the deductible you choose. The higher your deductible, the less you pay on premiums. This gives you the flexibility to adjust the amount of money you pay for insurance. If you feel that you are at a great risk for a certain peril, you can lower your deductible and pay a little more for premiums. If you are fairly certain you won't need to make a claim, increase your deductible and decrease your monthly insurance expenses. 

Shop around
Shopping around is the single best way of saving money on insurance. This is why 80% of property and casualty insurance is purchased through insurance brokers; they are able to shop around for you and keep you from overpaying for insurance! As a customer, be sure to discuss other policies with your broker and regularly check with them to see if there are better options for you. 

Remember that the lowest price does not mean the best insurance
You must always balance the price you're paying for the coverage you receive. Read through your policy to know your coverage limits and the perils you're insured for. Almost every policy out there has exceptions and exclusion clauses, which outline which perils you are NOT covered for. Be sure you know these and adjust your policy to include them if need be.  

Thursday, 22 September 2011

How to Secure Your Home While on Vacation: A Checklist

As the days of summer come to a close and we return from the various vacations and excursions that define our favourite season. It's easy to forget that even short business or school-related trips require securing our homes to the same extent as longer vacations. Most insurance companies recommend that you take extra measures to secure your home if you leave your home for a few days.

Here at Sharp, we have compiled a list of the most important steps to take when leaving your home.

  • Get a timer. It will cost a few dollars, but a timer for lights will make your house look like it's being lived in. There's nothing more attractive to a would-be robber than an empty house. Making your home look occupied is one of the best measures you can take to protect your home from a robbery. 
  • Remove and hidden keys. If you're the kind of person who leaves keys under mats or in flowerpots, remember to put them inside the house before you leave. You should also consider not doing this in the future, as a home insurance claim may be rejected if it's shown that the robber used a hidden key to gain access to your home. 
  • Lock up. It may sound simple, but some people forget to close all windows and doors before they leave on vacation. Go through each room of your house and make sure that your windows and doors are closed and locked. Not only does this protect your home from being broken into, but closing windows also protects your interior from water damage in the event that it rains. 
  • Temporarily stop newspaper delivery. To a burglar, a small pile of newspapers on someone's porch may mean nobody is home. As mentioned earlier, an empty home is a greater target than an occupied one. Make sure to call your newspaper ahead of time and ask for the paper to be cancelled for the days that you are away. 
  • Have a neighbour check on the home. Talk to a trusted neighbour before you leave and ask them to check on your house periodically. They can pick up any fliers that have been attached to your door and ensure that your light timer is still working. 
  • Put your valuables into a safe deposit box. Precious jewelry or other important objects should be placed inside a safe deposit box. Hide this box in a place where robbers will be unlikely to look, like among storage boxes in the garage or basement. 

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

How much business insurance do I need?

The amount of business insurance your company needs is dependent upon a whole host of factors. You need to take into consideration the value of your property, your liability exposure, and the threat of crime, among other things. Your best bet is to sit down with an insurance broker and discuss your business and the insurance policies that will best suit your needs.

Value of your property
If there is a fire or explosion, your property could be decimated. To borrow a term from car insurance, it could be "totalled" and unfixable; in short, you would need to replace everything. Knowing the value of your property and equipment is therefore of the greatest importance, since different insurance policies come with different limits. For instance, one policy may only cover up to $1 million in losses. If your property is valued at several million, you would be forced to pay the balance.

When calculating the value of your property, be sure not to include the value of your land! Land, for the most part, is pretty indestructible and you will not find yourself needing to replace it! Many business and home owners include it in their calculations and end up paying too much for insurance.

Crime
While crime is often random and sporadic, certain neighbourhoods are more frequently targeted by criminals than others. Talk to business owners in the area and your insurance provider, and determine the level of theft coverage you will need. An independent insurance broker is able to look through policies from various companies and select the best one for your needs.

Potential liability exposure
If your business sees a good deal of customers coming through the premises, you should consider a greater amount of liability coverage. If your business does not interact directly with consumers, you may not need the same level of coverage. Liability, generally speaking, covers you in the event that a customer is injured on your premises. A bar, for instance, will require considerably more liability coverage than an accounting firm.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Top 4 Driving Habits That Will Cost You in the Long Run

Developing and maintaining good driving habits will make you less likely to get into a life-threatening car accident, and will save you a great deal of money. Speeding tickets and other traffic violations can cost you hundreds of dollars, and that's only where it begins. The more tickets and violations you accumulate, the more your insurance premiums will increase.

Many traffic violations come about because of bad driving habits. To help you avoid incurring expensive speeding tickets and heavy insurance premiums, we've outlined 4 of the most expensive driving habits.

1. Speeding
Many people will tell you to "follow the flow of traffic". While this is certainly important when traffic is moving slowly, going above the speed limit is rarely a good idea. Speed limits are designated based on the quality and type of road, and are meant to ensure safety. Going beyond the speed limit makes stopping times longer and increases your chances of causing a collision.

2. Tailgating
One of the worst driving habits when driving is following too closely to the driver ahead of you. Drivers will often do this in an effort to get the person ahead to change lanes. While it can often be aggravating to have someone driving slowly in the left-hand lane, for instance, tailgating can lead you to rear-end another driver. To determine whether you're following too closely, count the time between the moment the car ahead of you passes a fixed object and the moment you pass that same object. If it's less than 2 seconds, you're following too closely. In inclement weather, increase the time to 4 seconds.

3. Distracted driving
As Alberta's new legislation clearly demonstrates, distracted driving is a serious problem in our province. In the US, where statistics on distracted driving have been collected for longer, over 5,000 people a year are killed in accidents because of people trying to multitask while driving. You simply cannot text, make a phone call, or program your GPS while driving. If a police officer sees you fumbling with a device when you should be driving, he could fine you $172 and your insurance company may increase your premiums.

4. Not signalling
Of all the safe driving habits, signalling requires the least amount of effort. You literally only have to lift a pinkie to signal where you're going. It tells other drivers your intentions and can prevent collisions. Not only that, you can be charged and fined for failing to signal.

Monday, 19 September 2011

Your Home Insurance Questions Answered

At the Insurance Experts blog, we love going through the insurance questions you send us! In addition to individually answering your questions, we like to post a handful of questions on the site to help other readers who may be confused about the same things!

Today, we tackle your home insurance questions! 

1. If I have an "all perils" or "all risks" insurance policy, does that mean I'm covered for everything? 
Unfortunately, a lot of the terms used in the insurance industry are not the most descriptive. Comprehensive insurance, which covers you against "all risk", has exceptions and exclusions. While it does cover you for almost everything, nearly every comprehensive contract will have exclusionary clauses that exclude perils like floods and earthquakes for instance.

When buying insurance, be sure to have your insurance broker go through all the exclusionary clauses so you understand exactly what you are covered for!

2. What should I do if a friend of mine breaks something valuable in my house? 
If someone you know breaks something expensive in your house, you're better off dealing directly with your friend as opposed to making a claim. If you make a claim, you will be indemnified by your provider, who will then extract damages from your friend. To make things simpler, avoid putting a claim on your record and request compensation directly from your friend.

3. If I decide I don't want to replace an item that was stolen, can I still get cash for it? 
It depends on your policy, but typically you will receive cash indemnification in lieu of replacement if you so choose. Ask your insurance broker to further explain how your policy works with respect to replacement and cash indemnification.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Common Types of Insurance Explained

With all the kinds of car insurance available out there, it's tough to know what they all are! In this post of the Insurance Experts, we will be looking at common types of insurance and how each of them can benefit you.

Accident Benefits Insurance
This is the most common type of insurance, simply because it is mandatory by law in all provinces except Newfoundland! Anyone who owns a vehicle in these provinces must have Accident Benefits Insurance if they want to drive their vehicle. Accident Benefits Insurance provides medical and rehabilitation coverage for you, your passengers, and bystanders who are harmed in a motor vehicle accident.

Collision Insurance
Collision Insurance protects you against loss or damage to your vehicle in the event of an accident. It does not cover medical or rehabilitation costs, and is entirely focused on damage to the vehicle itself.

Comprehensive Insurance
Comprehensive Insurance is not, as the name makes it out to be, entirely comprehensive. It does cover a wide array of perils, but it does not include collision or medical expenses. In general, it covers anything that is not covered by the first two kinds of insurance. It covers theft, vandalism, falling tree branches, and a host of other perils. Read our article on comprehensive insurance for more information!

Limited Waiver of Depreciation
When you buy a new car, you will typically lose 25-50% of its value in the first two years of owning it! If your vehicle is totalled in those first two years, your insurance company will indemnify your loss for a vehicle of equivalent value. That could mean that your replacement vehicle, which cost $50,000 new, will be worth only half that value! Limited Waiver of Depreciation coverage ensures that if your car is totalled in the first two years of owning it, you will be indemnified with a brand new model of the same car.

Third-party Liability
Third-party Liability insurance is mandatory across the entire country, and covers you if your vehicle injures someone or causes damage to another person's property. The amount of coverage differs from province to province, and it is important to know what you're covered for since you may be personally liable for any damage above and beyond your coverage limit.

If you have any questions regarding the different types of insurance, feel free to call us at 1.877.218.2008 or drop us a message in the comments section of this post.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

What NOT To Do After an Accident

In past posts of the Insurance Expert blog, we have gone through what you should do after getting into a car accident and how you can make the claim process as simple as possible. We have not, however, discussed the things you should avoid! In this post, we will go through what NOT to do after an accident.

1. Do not admit fault
Even if you think you caused the accident, do not admit fault at any point. It's possible the other driver made some mistakes which contributed to the accident, and it's best to leave deciding fault to the insurance adjuster and police officer. You must always be honest with the police officer about the facts, but do not expressly admit fault.

2. Do not have major repairs done without first talking to your insurance company
Before you authorize any major work on your car, be sure to call up your insurance company. They often have special arrangements with repair shops and it may be in your interest to go there rather than an unaffiliated repair shop.

3. Do not accept an offer of payment for damage
It is often common in minor collisions for another driver to offer compensation for the accident so that both parties can avoid making a claim. This can be risky, especially if the other driver is at fault; in such a case, a cash payment may not be in your best interest.

4. Do not leave your car in traffic
Leaving your car in the middle of the road could cause another accident. If nobody is injured, you should  move your car to the shoulder and call the police and your insurance company from there.

5. Do not start an argument
Car accidents tend to bring out the worst in people. Be the more mature adult and remain calm. Even if the accident is the other drivers', it serves no purpose to argue about it!

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Your Home Insurance Questions Answered

At the Insurance Experts blog, we get a lot of emails with questions surrounding home insurance. To help you understand your home insurance policy and how your insurance premiums are calculated, we've collected a few of the most frequently asked questions and answered them for you. Feel free to comment on any of our posts to ask questions! You can also follow us on Twitter at @SharpInsurance.

1. Why do I need home insurance? 
Your home is often the biggest investment you'll make in your life. It's also one of the most important possessions you will own; it's where you and your loved ones live. It's your foundation and base, where you go after a long day of work and where you relax. Home insurance protects your home and its contents from loss and damage. This loss or damage could be due to theft or natural causes like thunderstorms and earthquakes. Home insurance also has a liability component, covering you in the event that someone harms him or herself on your property.

2. What are the different kinds of home insurance policies? 
There are three main types of insurance. Comprehensive policies covers your home and its contents against all risks, except for excluded risks. This kind of policy tends to give you the most coverage, and as expected, costs the most. Basic / Named Perils insurance is a type of insurance that covers you against specific risks and is not all-encompassing like Comprehensive. A Broad insurance policy is a mix between the Basic and Comprehensive policies, offering one kind of insurance for your property and another for your contents. For instance, you may choose to have your property covered for all losses and damages, and only specific items in your home covered.

3. How does an insurance company calculate my premiums? 
There are many factors that contribute to your insurance premiums. Primarily, an insurance company will look at the cost of replacing your home and its contents. The more expensive your house, and the more costly items you own, the higher your premiums will be. The neighbourhood in which you live also comes into play, as different neighbourhoods have different levels of crime. Your home's age is also a factor, as older homes tend to have more problems and newer homes tend to have fewer.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

What will happen if I drive with an expired license?

Driving with an expired license is dangerous and should be avoided at all costs. If the police pull you over, you will be fined upwards of $325 and could lose some demerit points. You may also be asked to have someone pick you and your car up since you are technically unauthorized to drive. Often, however, you will be given the opportunity to go directly to a registry to update your license. 

If you find yourself charged with driving with an expired license, your best bet is to renew your license as soon as possible. Doing so will not only show your insurance company that you reacted in a timely fashion to the offense, but it will also help you if you decide to challenge the ticket in court. Challenging the ticket in court can be helpful since if the ticket sticks, you may see an increase in your insurance premiums. 

It is extremely important to avoid driving with an expired license since your insurance company may not be obliged to cover your costs in the event that you get into an accident. You could be stuck with legal and medical fees, and be on the hook for paying for damage to your vehicle. It is simply not worth the risk. Have a friend drive you to the registry and get it taken care of immediately. 

Monday, 12 September 2011

How to Make a Proper Photo Inventory of Your Possessions

When it comes to making an inventory of your possessions, the right technique for taking photos and video can speed up the process of making a claim. Moreover, properly cataloguing and organizing your files can make your life easier in the unlikely event that you need to be indemnified for a loss. Here are a few essential tips from the Insurance Experts at Sharp.

Overview
Start by taking out your videocamera and filming your house in one continuous shot. Take a wide-angle shot of the house and then move inside, walking through each room without stopping the recording. It will help to confirm the veracity of your tape if you include a family member in the shot.  

Room by room
After completing a video walkthrough of the house, go room-by-room with your still camera. In each room, begin by taking wide-angle photographs, and then proceed to take close-ups of individual items. Open closets and drawers to show all the contents. Take closeups of serial numbers for expensive equipment, so that your insurance company can make the connection between receipts you provide and the piece of equipment you have in your pictures. When it comes to close-ups, be sure to tie them to the rest of your house by having the room still visible in the background.

Organize effectively
To make your life easier, set up folders on your computer for each of the rooms in your house. That way your insurance company can quickly and easily look through your photos and make an estimate of the value of your possessions.

Along with a written inventory, a photo and video documentation of your home’s contents can speed up the claim process. A speedy claim process not only means less stress, but it means your family can go back to normal sooner. 

Friday, 9 September 2011

How To Add Years To Your Car’s Life

With fuel prices at record highs, it's difficult to see how you can save any money as a vehicle owner. Driving and maintaining a vehicle seems to more costly than ever! There are ways, however, to extend the life of your vehicle, improve its value, and optimize fuel efficiency without spending a lot of money. These small investments will save you considerable amounts of money in the long-run. 

1. Keep tire pressure up
Maintaining your tire pressure is an easy way to save fuel. Tires with low pressure produce more friction with the road, thus forcing the car to use more energy to move itself the same distance. Keeping your tires at their recommended PSI is a free way to save money at the pump! 

2. Change the oil and cooling fluid 
Improperly lubricating and cooling your engine will mean that your car's internal parts will wear out more quickly. Replacement parts can be extremely expensive, so getting regular oil changes and replacing cooling fluid on a regular basis could potentially save you thousands of dollars! 

3. Invest in a car cover
It costs very little to purchase a car cover. In fact, some go for less than $30 on Ebay! A car cover will protect the exterior of your vehicle from the sun, tree branches and bird droppings. Over time, these relatively insignificant damages can erode your car's paint, dropping its market value and possibly forcing you to invest in a new paint job.

4. Keep your interior clean  
In terms of selling your vehicle, keeping your interior clean may be the single best way to save money. A clean interior means a vehicle is more presentable to potential buyers, and shows that you take care of your vehicle. Moreover, if a buyer knows you take good care of the interior, they are more likely to believe that you take care of the rest of the vehicle. 

Thursday, 8 September 2011

What to Do After You’ve Been Robbed

Those who have been robbed know the feeling. You come home from work, your door is cracked open, and the place is a mess. That’s when it hits you: you’ve been robbed. Knowing how to properly react to a home invasion is important. Here at the Insurance Experts, we’ve compiled a step-by-step guide to dealing with a robbery.

1. Contact the police immediately
This is especially important since there is always the chance that the robber could still be there! After discovering your house has been robbed, you should get to a neighbour’s home immediately and call the police. You do not want to risk a chance encounter with a robber. The officer will secure the home, write a report and jot down your information.

2. Keep the report number
Be sure to hold on to the police report number. This is important as your insurance provider will ask for it. It is also useful in case you have to follow up with the police in the future.

3. Quickly secure your home
After the police leave, be sure to secure the home as much as possible. If there are windows open, close and lock them. If your door can close, be sure to do that. Do as much as you possibly can to ensure that your home isn’t robbed again before a contractor comes to fix the lock. If a contractor is not able to come to the house that evening, stay with family and friends instead of at the home.

4. Contact your insurance provider
Your next step after calling the police should be contacting your insurance provider. They can provide you with more specific information about the steps needed for filing your claim and can refer you to a preferred contractor who can replace your locks and ensure your home is made safe again.

5. Document missing items and damage done to the home
Go through your home room-by-room and make a detailed list of all the missing items. Find receipts for expensive items and appraisal records for jewelry and other precious objects. As discussed in a previous post of the Insurance Experts blog, having made a inventory ahead of time can save you a great deal of stress.

Take photographs of any damage done to your home by the robber. Smashed-in windows, broken lock mechanisms or other miscellaneous damage should be documented as best you can.

6. Talk to neighbours
Having witnesses to the event could possibly lead to the thief being identified and brought to justice. Talk to your neighbours and see if anyone witnessed the robbery.

7. Consider investing in a security system
While it may be a costly expenditure, investing in a security system will make a future burglary less likely. It will give you and your family peace of mind and may actually reduce your home insurance premiums. Check out our previous post on securing your home from burglary to get more details on the benefits of a home security system. 

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

What To Do In The Event of A Tornado

Tornados are incredibly destructive forces of nature. They can obliterate infrastructure and endanger the lives of communities, as was demonstrated in Goderich, Ontario last month. Knowing how to prepare for a tornado, and how to react to one, is of the utmost importance, especially if you live in a high-risk area.

Preparation
As the old adage goes, an "ounce of prevention equals a pound of cure." Having the right supplies ready in the event of a tornado could be the difference between life and death.
  • When a tornado warning is issued, be sure to gather food, water, essential medications, important documents, roadmaps, batteries, flashlights, a cell phone, utility knife, first-aid kit, whistle and gasoline. Blankets and warm clothing are also important to have prepared. 
  • Keep a battery or crank powered radio handy to listen to emergency broadcasts. 
  • Write down important emergency phone numbers. 
During
  • If you're indoors, take shelter in the basement or lowest floor possible. 
  • Do not light a match or lighter. Tornados can damage gas lines and even small flames could potentially cause a fire. 
  • Avoid windows, which can shatter and cause an obvious safety hazard. 
  • Try to hide behind or under heavy furniture. 
  • In public buildings, always take shelter in the lowest level. Avoid open spaces and find a small closet, bathroom, or hallway that has no windows. 
  • Do NOT try to outrun a tornado in a car or on foot. Get out of your vehicle and find a building; if there are no buildings nearby, find a low-lying ditch and lay prone. 
Aftermath
  • After the hurricane has passed, check on your family and tend to any injuries they may have sustained. 
  • If your home has sustained damage, be careful when exiting as structural damage could cause a wall or beam to fall. 
  • Call emergency services in the event of any serious injuries. 
  • Check on neighbours to see if anyone else needs assistance.  

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

When are you too old to drive?

As an elderly, independent individual, it is often difficult to know when you are too old to drive. Legally speaking, there is no specific age when you have to turn in your license and stop driving. In some respects, you have to be self-regulating in this regard. If you are noticing yourself having a harder and harder time operating your vehicle in a safe manner, you may want to consider hanging up the keys.

At the Insurance Experts blog, we've compiled a list of some of the major warning signs you should look out for as an elderly driver. You must always remember that there is nothing wrong with deciding not to drive; you can still be an independent, productive member of society without your vehicle!
  • Trouble turning. If you are having difficult moving your body around to check your blind spots, you should consider stretches or exercises that help you improve your range of motion. Otherwise, without being able to see your blind spot, you will be a danger to others around you. 
  • Land drifting. Many older drivers find themselves drifting into other lanes without even noticing. This is dangerous, especially if you drifted into oncoming traffic! If you're finding that this happens on a regular basis, you owe it to yourself and other drivers to stop driving. 
  • Getting lost. As you grow older, you may find it more difficult to remember how to get to a destination. If you're finding yourself getting lost frequently, you may find it's not worth the time to drive. Get the grandkids to give you a lift from time to time when you need it! 
  • Difficulty concentrating. If you're finding it difficult to stay focused on driving and are easily distracted or confused by your surroundings, it may be a sign that you're no longer capable of driving. Again, there is certainly nothing wrong with accepting this; you are no less intelligent or independent for not driving! 
Statistics show that drivers between the ages of 55 and 70 are the safest on the road. Older drivers are more defensive and responsible than their younger counterparts, and deserve to be respected for that. However, after the age of 75, rates of collisions for elderly drivers begin to align with young beginner drivers. 

As an elderly individual, you may feel that giving up your driving privileges is an admission of weakness. In fact, it's quite the contrary: to continue driving when you know you're no longer able would be weakness. To humbly accept that your driving could put others at risk takes remarkable strength of character. 

Friday, 2 September 2011

The Ins and Outs of Alberta's New Distracted Driving Legislation

In the last Insurance Experts post, we looked briefly at Alberta's new distracted driving legislation, and outlined a few tips for avoiding distracted driving. Today, we're going to look at the nuts and bolts of the legislation and exactly the kinds of behaviour that are covered under it.

What activities are not allowed? 
Under the new legislation, talking on a hand-held phone, texting, using a portable gaming device, programming an mp3 player, manually entering information on a GPS, reading a book, writing, drawing, grooming and brushing your teeth are explicitly prohibited. You are permitted to use hands-free mobile devices if you need to communicate while in the car, and eating small snacks and drinking beverages is allowed if it does not significantly divert your attention from the road. The legislation aims to curb drivers who willingly put others at risk by diverting their attention away from the road.

Who does the legislation apply to?
Bill 16 applies to all vehicles outlined in the Traffic Safety Act. Within the meaning of the Act, that means not only cars, vans, SUVs, commercial vehicles and motorbikes, but also bicycles! Bicycles, while smaller and more vulnerable than motor vehicles, can still cause major accidents and so it is important that cyclists be focused on the road at all times.

Where does it apply?
The new legislation applies to all "highways", as outlined in the Traffic Safety Act. Now, before you start to think the law only applies to major intercity freeways like the Trans-Canada and Highway 2, "highways" are defined in the legislation as any urban or rural route which the public typically access by vehicles. This means streets, roads, parking lots, alleys and even sidewalks.

If you have any more questions regarding the legislation, feel free to comment on this post. We will get to your questions immediately!

Alberta's New Distracted Driving Legislation

Photo by: Ed Brown
Yesterday marked the passing into law of Bill 16, which levels heavy fines against drivers caught texting, making phone calls, doing their makeup, or doing anything that substantially distracts them from driving. The fine, which does not include demerit points, is a hefty $172 and is intended to curb the number of distracted drivers on the road.

It is only recently that the dangers of distracted driving have come to the fore, with other problems such as impaired driving attracting more attention. According to the US Department of Transportation, 20% of all injury collisions in 2009 involved reports of distracted driving. That amounts to 5,474 people killed in one year because of people text, eating, grooming or talking on the phone while driving. What makes it all the worse is that it's so easily prevented!

If you're someone who seems unable to stop driving with distractions, there are a few quick measures to help you drive more responsibly. Since driving while texting and driving while talking on the phone are the most common forms of distracted driving, place your phone in the trunk of your vehicle so you never feel tempted to check your Facebook or text some friends while you're at a red light. If you're someone who rushes through their morning routine and spares no time for eating or grooming, plan out your mornings in advance or buy quick snacks for breakfast. It only takes a few moments to think about the time you'll need to get ready in the morning; budget your time effectively so that you leave enough time to eat. If you don't have much time at all, get quick snacks you can eat very quickly before you leave. From a health perspective, this is never as healthy as a full breakfast eaten in a relaxed manner, but at least it will stop you from downing food on the road.

Ultimately, there is no excuse for distracted driving. As a driver, you have a responsibility to safely share the road with other drivers. You would expect others to focus on the road and do their best to avoid collisions, so why should there be any exception?