Does it seem like driving has become more expensive in Minnesota in recent years? It likely has. Since 2014, the U.S. has seen more new cars on the road, and those cars are driving more miles than in years past. The severity of traffic-related accidents has grown worse, and insurance claims for bodily injury have become more expensive. Together, these factors are increasing the cost of driving for just about every car owner.
More new cars: New car sales hit a new record in 2015, just under 17.5 million vehicles sold, up 5.7 percent from 2014, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers. That’s good for the economy. And, the safety, technology and convenience features that get better every year are good for drivers. Still, new cars can be more expensive to repair or replace, and all that technology doesn’t come cheap. So, the cost of accident repairs is also increasing.
More miles driven: Encouraged by greater employment and lower gas prices, those new cars, along with the older ones, are driving more miles. Whether commuters driving in to Minneapolis or St. Paul each day, or families making the trip up north, U.S. drivers drove 3.1 trillion miles in 2015, according to the Federal Highway Administration. That’s another record, and it’s also highest number of miles driven since Americans logged 3 trillion miles in 2007, just before the recession. Of course, the more miles driven, the greater the potential for accidents and the need for repairs.
Traffic deaths increase: Any traffic fatality is one too many, but the U.S. registered a 7.2 percent increase in annual traffic-related deaths from 2014 to 2015. It was the largest increase since 1966. Half of those who died were not wearing seat belts, a third of the deaths were due to drunk drivers or speeding and at least one in 10 involved distraction. It’s also worth noting that fatalities for pedestrians, bicyclists and motorcyclists increased more in 2015 than those for auto drivers and passengers. It’s a heartbreaking trend that’s both dangerous and costly.
Medical costs rising: From 2005 to 2013, the average cost for a bodily injury liability claim rose 32.1 percent, according to the Insurance Research Council. These increasing costs have been attributed to a number of factors, including the rising severity of accidents, and the rising cost of medical care. And, they come at a time when the frequency of such claims has been declining.
Distracted driving: Although using a mobile phone while driving is restricted, if not prohibited, in many states, cell phones and texting continue to be a serious cause of accidents. We don’t know just how serious this problem is, because accident reports often don’t mention if mobile phone use was a contributing factor.
But, cell phones have brought greater awareness to the larger category termed “distracted driving,” activities that take the driver’s attention away from the road. Distracted driving means using a cell phone or texting while operating a car, but can also refer to eating while driving, operating your car’s navigation system and conversing with passengers.
The AAA Foundation points to federal estimates that distracted driving contributes to 16 percent of the nation’s fatal crashes, about 5,000 deaths annually.
All of these rising costs and dangers impact another area of driving, too – auto insurance costs. You might see it reflected in your own premium bill, and be tempted to reduce your costs by reducing your insurance coverage. But, at a time when the risk of costly accidents is rising, it may not be wise to save money by undercutting your protection against financial loss.
As an independent insurance agency, Sentinel Assurance Group is dedicated to helping you reduce your insurance costs without sacrificing the protection that gives you a feeling of security. We know where to find discounts that can benefit you. That could mean a better rate for cars with safety equipment such as anti-lock brakes (ABS) or anti-theft devices, or discounts for families who put less mileage on their vehicles or insure more than one car on the same policy. We can help you save money without sacrificing your security. Call us today.
The forecast in the Twin Cities: Hot and getting hotter. And, that can make for troublesome travel.
When the temperature increases, decrease your risk on – and off – the road with these safety tips:
Check those tires. You’re already checking your tire pressure every month, right? Even if you are (most of us don’t), keep a closer eye on them during the warm months. Heat can increase tire pressure rapidly.
Keep cool under the hood and inside your car. If you don’t remember the last time you had your engine coolant checked and flushed (mechanics recommend flushing and refilling every two years), now is probably a good time – before you hit the road. Give your air conditioning a test run, too. If it’s not cooling you down, get it serviced.
Act quickly if your car starts to overheat. When your car’s temperature moves above the halfway mark on the dashboard, try turning off your air conditioning and turning on your heat to give your engine a break. Pull over if it’s safe to do so, and give your engine even more of a break. Call for roadside assistance if there’s steam or smoke, and get away from the car if it’s smoke. More of a do-it-yourselfer? Be careful opening the hood of an overheated car, and don’t add coolant or water until the car cools down.
See to the comfort – and safety – of your passengers. Within just 10 minutes of parking your car on a 90-degree day, the interior temperature can hit 110 degrees. Don’t leave kids or pets in a parked car, even for just a few minutes, and bring plenty of water for the trip. The back seats and cargo areas of many cars don’t get as much air as the fronts seats, so make sure your kids, both human and furry, stay hydrated.
Proceed with caution in an electric car. High temperatures (and cold ones, too) can reduce the charge of your battery, sometimes by as much as 40 percent. You’ll want to take that into account when planning a trip.
Different seasons bring different car maintenance needs in Minnesota. Follow these tips to help make sure you and your car both stay cool in the heat.
It’s summertime – prime RV season in Minnesota. But, even if you know where you want to go, do you know how to get there?
After all, driving an RV is a little different than simply hopping in your car, so we here at Sentinel Assurance Group put together some tips to help you plan your route and enjoy your trip.
Use an online trip planner: Two that we know of are FreeTrip.com and the Good Sam Club (this one requires a membership). You can set guidelines, such as avoiding highways or low clearances, and get a route customized to you.
Don’t forget guidebooks and atlases: There’s nothing wrong with going low-tech, too. In fact, it’s good to have a backup for when you need to change plans without Internet or GPS assistance. Atlases for commercial truck drivers, in particular, can be useful, because they highlight some of the same things you need to consider, such as overpass height, etc.
Know your vehicle: It’s tempting to just take the height specifications from your manual, but it’s better to know for sure. Measure your RV from the ground to the highest item on the roof. Stick it on a label inside your windshield so it’s always visible.
Utilize other tools: Some GPS models have RV/truck modes that will adjust routes based on the larger size of your vehicle. Use them if they’re available.
Have multiple sources of information: Online trip planners and GPS systems make things easy, but they’re not always up to date. So, in addition to your trip plan and guidebooks, also take care to pay attention to signs and your surroundings when you’re on the go.
It’s easier than ever to plan for a great road trip, so get out there and explore! We’ll be waiting to hear all about your trip and to help you with all of your RV insurance needs.
So, you’ve decided to reward your graduate with a car (or help him/her purchase one, at least). That’s great! Adding a car to the family can make life easier for everyone — as long as it’s the right car.
Now, how do you figure out which car is the right car? Whether you’re shopping for a new or used car, here are a few things we here at Sentinel Assurance Group would like you to consider.
It’s easy to find out which cars did well in crash tests (and which didn’t). Visit these sites for current and past ratings, and other useful tools:
The National Insurance Crime Bureau allows you to enter a car’s vehicle identification number (VIN) to find out if it’s been reported stolen or flagged as a salvaged vehicle.
Reliability and Usage
Sources such as Consumer Reports can give you a good idea of the experience other owners have had with the models you’re considering. Warranty coverage is included with new vehicles, of course, but also some used cars that have undergone a certification program. Depending on how your grad is going to use the car, you’ll want to look at mileage estimates and features such as all-wheel drive.
The Importance of an Inspection
Buying used? It’s crucial that you get an inspection from a trusted repair shop. Get as much history on the car as you can, from owner records to a report from Carfax or a similar service. And, if you feel the sellers aren’t being forthcoming, walk away. Don’t let their problems become your problems.
Cost of Ownership
Certain cars cost more to repair and maintain than others, and insurance costs can vary widely as well. We would be happy to help you determine the impact different models can have on the price of coverage. When you get further along in your search and have a few choices in mind, give us a call to get a few quotes!
When you find the right car, not only will your graduate be thrilled, you’ll look on with confidence – and pride – as your grad drives off toward the future.
High school is full of defining moments for our Rosemount teens and two of the highlights for most are prom and graduation. Both Danielle & Amy have sons graduating this year, so this topic hits close to home!
However, this time of year often sees other, more tragic defining moments – serious car accidents involving teens who are distracted or even under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
At Sentinel Assurance Group, we want to help make this season one to celebrate for you and your teen. So, with the help of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, here are some tips that can keep your teen safe.
First, encourage your teen to follow these general safe-driving rules:
Absolutely no alcohol
Always use seat belts
No cell phone use (including texting) while driving
Of course, special events such as prom and graduation often present special circumstances. There may be dinner with dates before the dance, and parties before or after either event. It’s a good idea to discuss your expectations well before each event, putting some guidelines into place before your teen heads out for the night. Here are some ideas:
Make sure you know the itinerary of the evening, as well as who else will be with your teen. You should have contact information for everyone.
Have a way to contact your teen at all times. You may want to require them to check in with you once or twice over the course of the evening.
Set a curfew, whether they are coming back to your home or staying with a friend. If they are staying elsewhere, make sure the curfew will be enforced by a responsible adult.
Discuss with your teen how to handle difficult situations, such as facing pressure to drink, or accepting a ride with someone who shouldn’t be driving. It’s a good idea to provide your child with money for a taxi just in case.
Offer a “no-questions-asked” ride home, should they need one during the evening.
If you’re worried about your teen driving, consider alternate transportation. A car service or limousine will provide a responsible, experienced adult driver. You also will be able to limit changes to the itinerary and contact the driver.
Prom and graduation are special times in a teen’s life. And just a little common sense will go a long way toward making sure your young adult is around to enjoy the other milestones that are sure to come.
Spring is here in Minnesota (well, sort of!), and summer is right around the corner. It’s time to think about getting your boat out on the water.
Actually, first things first: It’s time to think about getting your boat ready to get out on the water. From the engine and propeller down to your trailer, a little preparation as you get your boat out of winter storage can help you start off the season right — and get the most out of your time on board.
Check your safety gear. Do you have enough life jackets? Are they in good shape? What about onboard fire extinguishers? Are your navigation lights working?
Consider adding safety items. Should disaster strike, an emergency position indicating radio beacon can help rescuers find you and your boat. And, if you have an enclosed space on the boat, you should have a carbon-monoxide detector.
Examine your fuel system. Any leaks or damage should be addressed immediately.
Look at all belts, hoses and cables. Those that appear brittle or cracked most likely need to be replaced.
Check fluid levels, such as engine oil. Change or add as needed.Have your battery and electrical system checked. Look for corrosion on your electrical connections.
Make sure your propeller isn’t banged up. Dings and distortion can cause vibration, as well as damage your drive train.
Look at the hull for blisters and cracks. Repair or patch damage, and make sure to use an environmentally safe solution when washing the exterior and interior.
Don’t forget the trailer. Treat your trailer with as much care as you show your boat. Inspect the hubs occasionally, and check your lights before every trip. If you go boating in salt water, give the trailer a very good rinse afterward.
Don’t forget insurance, either! It’s a good idea to check your coverage as you head into boating season, too. Just give us a call here at Sentinel Assurance Group, and we can help you with a quick insurance review.
There’s nothing quite like a sunny – and safe – day on our local lakes and rivers in Minnesota. We’ll see you out there!