Letters to the Editor

10-03-17

National Teen Driver Safety Week is October 15-21.

In 2015, nearly 2,000 teen drivers were involved in fatal traffic crashes nationwide. Almost 100,000 teen passengers or drivers were injured in motor vehicle collisions, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Excessive speed, impaired driving, and distracted driving were common factors in these crashes.

Illinois has done its part to reduce these numbers by banning hand-held mobile devices behind the wheel, and instituting a Graduated Driver Licensing system that gives teenagers more supervised driving time before full licensure. But motor vehicle crashes remain the leading cause of teen deaths, and tougher laws alone cannot prevent the tragic loss of young lives from motor vehicle accidents.

The Illinois Insurance Association (IIA) ad its members support safe driving initiatives such as the NHTSA's "5 to Drive" campaign. 5 to Drive offers tips for talking with teens about driving habits, and highlights five safe driving practices: 1) No drinking and driving; 2) No distracted driving; 3) No extra passengers; 4) No speeding; 5) Consistent seatbelt use.

Parents can also foster roadway safety by learning about Illinois' Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) law and reinforcing its system of restrictions and consequences, including increasing freedom for teens who follow the rules and drive without violations.

It's going to take a collaborative effort to save the lives of teen drivers and their passengers. IIA will continue to support safe teen driving initiatives not only in the month of October, but all year long.

Kevin J. Martin

Executive Director, Illinois Insurance Association

09-14-17

September is the deadliest month for pedestrians under the age of 18. Forty percent of crashes involving youngsters occur between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. when children make their way home from school and after-school activities.

The Illinois Insurance Association is reminding drivers to practice safe driving habits around schools, school buses and students on foot.

IIA suggests drivers observe the following back-to-school traffic safety rules:

  • Never pass a stopped school bus unless you are on the other side of a divided highway.
  • Leave at least 10 feet between your car and a school bus stopped ahead of you. Watch for children in the roadway before continuing your trip.
  • Follow school zone speed limits.
  • Be alert for crossing guards and children who may be distracted or crossing where there is no crosswalk.
  • Never block a crosswalk while stopped at a red light or waiting to turn.
  • Respect school rules when dropping off or picking up students. Don't double-park. Drop off children on the same side of the street as the school building.
  • Watch for children riding bicycles to and from school. Beware when approaching an intersection, preparing to back up and opening your car door.
  • Stay off the phone and avoid other distractions behind the wheel, especially in a school zone.
  • Teach your school-age children or grandchildren to cross only at crosswalks, obey crossing guards and remain alert - with headphones off and electronic devices put away - while walking or bicycling in high-traffic areas.

Kevin J. Martin

Executive Director, Illinois Insurance Association

07-14-17

It takes just a few inches of water to cause costly structural damage and ruin belongings. People often buy insurance to shift the cost of repairing and replacing unexpected property damage with an insurer. Those unfamiliar with their policy’s coverages may not realize that homeowners insurance does not cover flood-related property damage. Homeowners insurance policies exclude certain types of losses, and flood is among them.

Victims that have flood insurance should turn in a claim for damages as soon possible.

Vehicles may be damaged by flood waters as well. This type of loss is covered by auto insurance if the affected vehicle has comprehensive (also called other than collision) coverage.

Situations like this highlight the importance of verifying property insurance needs and coverages before damage occurs. Review the protection provided by your policy with your local agent. Be familiar with restrictions, limitations, deductibles, and coverage gaps. Buy additional coverage, such as flood insurance before a loss occurs.

Kevin J. Martin

Executive Director, Illinois Insurance Association

06-26-17

As the Fourth of July nears, the Illinois Insurance Association encourages everyone to prevent injuries, property damage and even death.

About 10,500 people were injured by fireworks, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s most recent Annual Fireworks Report. Those injuries include 3,800 burns, 1,300 eye injuries, 800 trunk injuries and 11 deaths. Children comprise about ten percent of the total injuries in emergency rooms, and nearly 30% of overall fireworks-related injuries result from sparkler use.

The National Fire Protection Association estimates 15,600 reported fires to homes, vehicles and undeveloped land. In the CPSC’s 2014 Annual Fireworks Report, four of those 11 reported deaths occurred to people who were not doing fireworks themselves, but died in house fires caused by fireworks.

With all of this in mind, is lighting off your own fireworks worth the risk of dismemberment, permanent impairment or death to you, your family and loved ones, and your neighbors?

We want you to enjoy our national celebration of independence this Fourth of July, and we recognize that seeing fireworks is part of the traditional celebration. But we hope you’ll let the professionals – who are trained, tested and licensed – set off the fireworks.

If you still choose to do your own display, please buy legal fireworks and keep these safety tips in mind:

1) Never allow children to use fireworks, including sparklers;

2) Follow federal and state fireworks laws;

3) Use fireworks in clear, open areas;

4) Light fireworks on flat surfaces;

5) Have fire extinguishers and hoses ready;

6) Store and dispose of fireworks safely;

7) Know how to handle firework duds;

8) Light fireworks carefully;

9) Once lit, keep your distance;

10) Do not experiment with fireworks.

The Illinois Insurance Association also reminds residents they can access the Illinois Insurance Hotline if they have general questions about insurance. The Hotline can be reached at 1-800-444-3338 Monday through Friday or by email at insurancehotline@illinoisinsurance.org.

Kevin J. Martin

Executive Director, Illinois Insurance Association

05-16-17

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) have spent decades studying the effects of increased highway speeds, and the results are clear: Increased speed means increased fatalities.

Yet, Senate Bill 2036 is sponsored by more than 20 state legislators, Republican and Democrat alike.SB2036 proposes raising the speed limit on suburban and rural interstates from 70 miles per hour to 75 mph.Speed limits on urban interstates would go from 55mph to 60mph.

A dangerous culture of speeding already exists. More than half of drivers surveyed admit to driving 15 mph over the speed limit at least once in the past month. When you think about that behavior, it’s no surprise that 37% of Illinois crash fatalities are a result of speeding.According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Illinois is well ahead of the national rate of 28%.Raising Illinois’ speed limits will only encourage this dangerous behavior.

We live in a world with physical realities and limits.Driver response time decreases as speed increases, and yet distractions continue; crash protections built into cars lose effectiveness at higher speeds; and as speed limits increase, the likelihood that drivers exceed the limit also increases.

Some people say that raising the speed limit to match the speed people are driving is safer. That story defies physical reality, and it defies what is known by transportation officials, police, and the insurance industry.

Given what is known about driving behavior and Illinois’ aging infrastructure, raising the posted speed limit to 75mph seems unethical – and a death sentence for more than 350 Illinoisans every year.For more information, see the National Safety Council’s blog: Speed kills: always has, always will.

Encourage your state legislator to vote “no” on SB2036.

Kevin J. Martin

Executive Director, Illinois Insurance Association

04-21-17

Face it – every time you get behind the wheel, you’re about to encounter potential dangers over which you have no control.

Traffic. Weather. Other drivers. They can all affect whether you get there safely – and all you can do is react to them as best you can.

But there are other risks that you, the driver, can take control of and eliminate. You have choices, and one of the most important is the choice you make to focus on the road and ignore the distractions competing for your attention.

The Illinois Insurance Association is partnering with law enforcement and community leaders in April to observe Distracted Driving Month. We’ve joined this effort because we know the devastating consequences of driving while distracted; 3,744 lives lost and 391,000 injuries in 2015 alone were attributed to crashes caused by distracted driving.

You may have heard that when you read or type an average text on the highway, you’re driving the length of a football field without looking at the road or the cars around you.

But texting isn’t the only dangerous distraction. Eating, adjusting the radio, setting your GPS or talking to passengers can just as easily impair your focus. A Texas A&M study found that voice-to-text is not significantly safer than manual texting, and AAA’s foundation for Traffic Safety discovered that reaction times slow and brain function is compromised even when drivers use hands-free technologies to accomplish tasks such as responding to emails. The bottom line is that when you’re driving, you have only one job that matters – getting to your destination safely. Everything else can wait.

IIA believes decreasing the death toll will require greater public awareness and consistent law enforcement. We also know the best line of defense is the good choices drivers like you can make every day.

Kevin J. Martin

Executive Director, Illinois Insurance Association

March 3, 2017

Dear Editor,

The strong storm that passed through southern Illinois and nearby communities earlier this week is a grim reminder of nature’s destructive power.

Illinois’ Consumer Protection Against Storm Chasers Act protects citizens from those who would prey on them following a natural disaster.The law applies to storm-related repairs linked to insurance settlements.Contractors are prohibited from rebating or waiving the policy deductible, and cannot represent or negotiate on behalf of the homeowner in the claim process.In addition, contractors must make homeowners aware of their right to cancel the repair contract and provide the appropriate form.

The Storm Chasers Act allows homeowners to cancel the repair contract within five business days of receiving a denial letter from the insurance company.It also obligates the contractor to return the homeowner’s advance payment, less emergency repair costs.

Roofing contractors must also include their name and license number on bids, contract, building permits, commercial vehicles, and advertisements.In addition, Illinois roofers cannot lease their license numbers to out of state roofing contractors.

Storm victims can protect themselves from scrupulous contractors by consulting with their insurance agents and adjusters.It is best to work with a familiar builder or one recommended by the insurer.Residents that believe they have been approached by someone engaging in a deceptive practice should contact the local State’s Attorney’s Office.

Kevin J. Martin

Executive Director, Illinois Insurance Association

October 17, 2016

Dear Editor:

Distracted and impaired driving are the leading causes of teen-driving fatalities, but they are 100 percent preventable.

In 2014, 2,679 teen drivers were involved in fatal traffic crashes, resulting in 3,004 deaths nationally. An estimated 123,000 teen passenger vehicle drivers were injured in motor vehicle traffic crashes, according to the National Traffic Safety Administration (NTSA).

While Illinois has done its part to help reduce these numbers by legislating a ban on the use of mobile devices while driving, laws are not going to be enough to stop these tragic events.

Teen driving safety education needs to become a top priority for parents and schools across the nation. The Illinois Insurance Association (IIA) and its members are committed to helping promote teen-safe driving initiatives such as the NTSA’s “5 to Drive” campaign, which helps parents teach their teen drivers about the rules of the road.

Parents play an important role in helping ensure their teens take smart steps to stay safe on the road by explaining all driving restrictions outlined in Illinois’ graduated driver licensing (GDL) law and the deadly consequences of unsafe driving practices.

The NHTSA “5 to Drive” campaign gives parents tips on how to talk about safe driving behaviors with their teens and address the five most dangerous and deadly driving behaviors for teen drivers: alcohol, lack of seat belt use, distracted driving, speeding, and extra passengers.

It is going to take a collaborative effort by government agencies, parents, schools and the insurance industry to help end these tragedies in Illinois and across the country. It is important that we continue to promote and support teen-safe driving initiatives not only in the month of October, but all year.

Kevin J. Martin

Executive Director, Illinois Insurance Association

June 29, 2016

Dear Editor,

Last year, the Office of the Illinois State Fire Marshal released a report that firework accidents led to 149 injuries and thousands of dollars in property damage. As the Fourth of July nears, the Illinois Insurance Association encourages residents to take precautions to prevent firework-related injuries and property damage.

Home fireworks can be dangerous. Keep the following safety tips in mind: 1) Only adults should use fireworks; 2) Follow federal and state firework laws; 3) Use fireworks in clear, open areas; 4) Light fireworks on flat surfaces; 5) Have fire extinguishers ready; 6) Store and dispose of fireworks safely; 7) Know how to handle firework duds; 8) Light fireworks carefully; 9) Once lit, keep you distance; 10) Do not experiment with fireworks.

The Illinois Insurance Association also reminds residents they can access the Illinois Insurance Hotline if they have general questions about insurance. The Hotline can be reached at 1-800-444-3338 Monday through Friday or by email at insurancehotline@illinoisinsurance.org.

Kevin J. Martin

Executive Director, Illinois Insurance Association