Monthly Archives: February 2017

How to drive from the Internet

It used to be that taking driver’s ed meant packing into a classroom full of restless teenagers and watching hours upon hours of safety films.

But these days, more driver’s education students are turning to their computers and smartphones and opting to complete their coursework from home.

An increasing number of driver’s education programs are making at least part of their coursework available online. Some are even offering courses through a mobile app.

This driver’s ed evolution has raised questions as to whether online classes are as effective as the classroom for preparing teens to get behind the wheel.

Safety experts and driver’s education providers say there are pros and cons to taking these classes online.

“It’s a double-edged sword,” says Patrick May, vice president of sales and marketing for iDriveSmart, a driver’s education program based in Rockville, Md., taught entirely by active and retired police officers. “It helps with scheduling more than anything else, and it’s an efficient way of delivering information. The potential negative is it’s not the same experience as sitting in a classroom with a live, engaged instructor having an interactive conversation.”

Austin-based startup Aceable is offering a full driver’s ed course on a mobile app. Blake Garrett, founder and CEO of Aceable, believes in the value of online classes, but with some caveats.

“Online can be equally, if not more effective than in person,” he says.

But in surveying some of the other online courses on the market, Garrett says he’s seen many programs that haven’t been revamped in awhile.

“It’s basically like a PowerPoint that has been moved online. It’s not interactive and doesn’t play into cognitive learning. So I think there are a lot of ways to improve to make it a more engaging experience,” he says.

Convenience factor

Online classes offer a lot of conveniences to students and their families. For one, online driver’s ed providers have the ability to offer lower price points than classroom courses. That can be important for families who are about to take on college tuition bills. “That lets companies like us put money into improving the programs overall,” May says.

Finding a way to fit in driver’s ed classes can be difficult for busy families. May points out that states require 15 to 30 hours of instruction to complete a driver’s education program. “That’s a large time commitment to try to set aside when kids are in school and playing sports,” he says.

May believes that either type of driver’s education instruction is most effective when it’s integrated with behind-the-wheel training. The vehicle itself can become a lab to demonstrate some of these principles.

“The in-car training is invaluable. It’s a whole lot more than knowing what an accelerator does,” May says. Classroom instruction continues to be an important piece of iDriveSmart’s driver’s ed program, which invests significantly in professional instructors and pays them 2.5 times higher than competing programs do. May says that professionalism carries into the classroom and the car, and students take the instructors more seriously and as authority figures.

“Our goal isn’t to get the kid licensed. Our goal is to create safe drivers for life,” May says.

Online classes are available from iDriveSmart, and May says he’s noticed a trend to move classes online in places like Virginia and California. iDriveSmart operates in California, Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C.

Mexican Auto Insurance

You must be a modern daredevil today to drive in Mexico. Perhaps the tight streets of the northeastern United States are not enough. You, my friend, enjoy the element of danger. Don’t be a fool. The idea of getting Mexican insurance must be a priority. The potential for a problem is high.

I’ve had firsthand experience watching a drunken man sideswipe cars in an older Lincoln Continental. It was like he was in a NASCAR race trying to nudge everyone else out for the win. Given the scenario, I expected to see a matadore with his muleta outstretched and waving the man onward.

Mexico is not all that barbaric, but some of it can be. So, it is best to do a quick search-and-grab for insurance coverage. After all, insurance from a Mexican company is required by Mexican law in an accident even if you are not at fault. Like your coverage at home, a Mexican insurance policy can provide coverage for damage to your vehicle or its total loss.

Driving into the southern and eastern areas of Mexico can be a real treat. It is a tremendous expanse of land with some of the most amazing views and roadside interests. But don’t be surprised if you find a few rocks in the road. In fact, it’s kind of just a common problem. The torrential rains not only bring rock and debris, but a group of stacked rocks usually is a warning for problems ahead. Having Mexican insurance is simply the smart move. A Mexican Insurance policy greatly reduces the financial burden you might come by when a road itself is hazardous.

And remember, Mexican laws are designed to infuriate the people. In Mexico, you are dealing with a system that used to view a traffic accident as a criminal offense. Fortunately that is no longer the case. Yet, when breaking a Mexican law there is always the threat of jail. Having Mexican Insurance can actually reduce jail time resulting from a traffic accident.

As with any insurance sale, a great swindle could mean a great deal of hassle in the claims department. A little prudent research into the company you are signing with should reveal the names and locations of the insurance underwriter. I recommend Mexican insurance that has been underwritten by something you have heard of and can trust. Enjoy your trip. Vaya con dios!

Dangerous place behind the wheel

A 29-year-old driver in Maine made headlines in August after crashing his car into a tree while attempting to take a selfie with his friends, injuring several of them.

The car was full of passengers, all in their 20s and 30s. Two of the seven passengers’ injuries were serious, and police issued a distracted driving summons to the driver.

The accident is the latest story to draw attention to a disturbing trend on the roadways: Not only are people texting while driving, but they’re also taking their eyes off the road long enough to pose for and snap selfies.

Statistics support the growth of this trend. As of late September, there were 22,067 Instagram posts under #drivingselfie. That’s nearly six times as many as there was when CNN reported on the hashtag two years earlier.

In an AT&T survey from May, close to 1 in 5 respondents (17%) admitted to taking selfies or other photos while driving. And 7 in 10 people confessed to engaging in smartphone activities behind the wheel.

“It’s a sad fact that drivers want to be doing anything but driving,” says Kara Macek, spokeswoman for the Governors Highway Safety Administration, a nonprofit that represents the state highway offices that implement programs to address behavioral highway safety issues. “There’s no way you can operate a vehicle and take a selfie at the same time. It’s impossible to do.”

When it comes to accident liability, drivers can get in hot water if they are caught taking selfies – or using their phones for any other reason, for that matter – at the time of a crash, says Peter Crosa, president-elect of the National Association of Independent Insurance Adjusters.

Even though drivers involved in accidents aren’t always forthcoming about their cell phone use, they can find themselves in serious jeopardy in terms of liability if it’s later determined that they were in fact using their phones, Crosa says.

“When we interview people who were in accidents, nobody admits they were using a cell phone or taking a selfie,” Crosa says. “But when a case is serious and involves injury or fatality, we do subpoena records of the driver involved. And frequently, we do find that they were on the phone.”

Taking pictures behind the wheel is a big problem, but it’s not the only problem. “This would be part of the broader issue of ‘distracted driving,’ which is gaining wider attention in the insurance industry,” says Dr. Robert Hoyt, Dudley L. Moore Jr. Chair of Insurance at the University of Georgia’s Terry College of Business.

Ride and car sharing on Caverage

Mobile apps have made it possible to turn your personal vehicle into a source of revenue. More drivers are relying on ride sharing apps such as UberX and car-sharing programs such as RelayRides to make a little extra cash on the side, either by chauffeuring passengers or renting by out their cars.

But when it comes to insuring a car that you’re using for moonlighting purposes, things can get tricky.

Car sharing and ride sharing have created havoc in the private auto insurance market, with some insurers and state regulators scratching their heads over who foots the bill if someone gets into an accident.

“There’s a big public policy debate on how to insure this,” Michael Barry, vice president of media relations for the nonprofit Insurance Information Institute in New York.

While both relatively new concepts in the auto insurance world, car sharing and ride sharing are two different things, and insurance experts say it’s important for consumers to understand the difference between the two.

Car sharing is the sharing of private passenger vehicles, similar to a car rental service. FlightCar, GetAround and RelayRides are a few examples.

Ride sharing connects riders with drivers who use their own cars to transport them and is analogous to a taxi service. A few of these programs are Lyft, Sidecar and UberX.

Generally, neither ride sharing nor car sharing is considered by traditional personal auto insurance rating plans. Most personal auto ratings reflect driver characteristics such as driving record and vehicle type – not whether those drivers are selling rides or renting out their cars.

Ride sharing: When does coverage kick in?

Between the two sharing services, ride sharing has sparked the most debate as far as personal auto insurance goes.

“The concern was and still is that a private passenger policy was never intended to cover someone who is engaging in a commercial enterprise,” Barry says.

The question at the center of the debate: At what point does the coverage kick in? It could be anywhere between the time when the ride-share app is first turned on – and a driver sends the signal to Uber or Lyft that he or she is available to offer rides – and when the app is turned off and the person reverts to driving passengers privately.

“The private passenger market says you’re now engaging in a commercial enterprise. You might not have someone in the car, but you’re engaging in a commercial enterprise and driving around with a passenger policy that says you can’t do that,” Barry says.

One of the more high-profile instances of the ride-share insurance gap involved a fatal accident in 2014, when 6-year-old girl who was killed by an Uber driver in San Francisco. The family’s attorney said Uber denied insurance protection that would have covered the family and the driver, and the family ultimately filed suit against both Uber and the driver.

Uber maintained that the driver was not providing services on the company’s UberX system because he did not have a passenger with him.