Make sure loaned school items are covered

As the school year begins, take note of the items your child brings home. For example, many school districts are assigning laptop computers to students for their personal use.

Or, your band or orchestra student may be assigned a school-owned instrument, especially if it’s a larger or more costly one.

It’s a good idea to make sure those items loaned to your child throughout the school year are covered by insurance in the event of a loss.

First call the school so that you understand your responsibility for any loss to the loaned electronic device or instrument. Then be sure to call your insurance agent to verify what coverages are already in place on your homeowner policy for loss to loaned items.

Many homeowner policies provide limited coverage for certain items, and they are almost always subject to the homeowner deductible. If you worry that a larger homeowner deductible may create a financial hardship for your family, you may want to explore the possibility of “scheduling” a laptop or instrument on your personal articles policy (sometimes referred to as a floater or inland marine coverage.)

By “scheduling” or specifically insuring certain items of personal property for a specific amount of coverage, those items are not subject to your homeowner deductible, pending coverage availability.

Keep in mind that you can specifically insure an array of household items on a personal articles policy for more coverage than may be included under your homeowner/condo/tenant policy, for example:

  • Jewelry, watches, furs and mounted precious stones
  • Silverware, goldware, pewterware and coin collections
  • Golf equipment, bicycles
  • Firearms
  • Antiques, stamp collections
  • Personal computers
  • Musical instruments

Other special valuables may also qualify. And remember that your personal articles policy may also be eligible for a package credit if your homeowner, auto or umbrella policies are with the same company.

Coverages described here are in the most general terms and are subject to actual policy conditions and exclusions. For actual coverage wording, conditions and exclusions, refer to the policy or contact us.


Protect your college student’s possessions

Do you have a young adult heading off to college? College can be a fun time for the student but a stressful one for the parent. Reduce some of the stress by planning ahead to make sure your college student has appropriate insurance protection while away at school.

Insurance companies cover full-time students under age 25 in various ways. You’ll want to consult your agent with questions about your specific policy and situation.

There are three basic ways a student may have coverage:

  1. As a percentage of the personal property limit on the parents’ homeowner policy. Many insurance companies consider campus housing a secondary residence for the student and may cover your student’s possessions as a percentage of the personal property limit on your homeowner policy – personal property means items you can remove from your home or premises. For example, if you have $75,000 in personal property coverage, your student may have 10 percent of that, or up to $7,500, in coverage for belongings taken to school. Liability coverage – which insures legal liability for bodily injury or property damage to others – may not be included.
  2. As part of the personal property limit included in the parents’ homeowner policy. Some insurance companies offer broader coverage through their homeowner policies. These companies allow the parents’ personal property limit to include the student’s belongings and liability without defining a percentage. For example, if you have $75,000 in personal property coverage on your homeowner policy, this includes items you have in your home as well as those that your student takes to school, and liability coverage is automatically included.
  3. Under a separate renter’s insurance policy in the student’s name. Some insurance companies contend that being away at school for nine months of the year is long enough to require a separate renter’s policy to cover belongings and liability. Liability insurance is usually included in a renter’s policy. Keep in mind that a renter’s policy in the student’s name may be the more expensive option. In most situations, each roommate needs a separate insurance policy.

As you prepare to send your child to school this fall, remember to ask your independent insurance agent to review your policy so that you and your student can make the transition to college as stress-free as possible.


Coverages described here are in the most general terms and are subject to actual policy conditions and exclusions. For actual coverage wording, conditions and exclusions, refer to the policy or contact us.


Coexisting with Bicyclists

Cycling has grown significantly in popularity over the past decade. Towns across the country are adding bike lanes to their roads to become more bike friendly, and more and more people are ditching their car and using a bike as their primary form of transportation. According to USA Today, larger cities like Portland, Ore., and Minneapolis have more than doubled their rate of bike commuters since 2014 – and as a cyclist, I can’t help but get excited.

Now, with bike riding growing in popularity across the U.S. – it may be a good idea to brush up on some traffic guidelines to avoid any accidents.

When you purchase a bike, you’re likely not required to take a safety class before you ride it. And, for drivers, the instructors touched on bike safety as part of Drivers Ed, but who remembers details from a course they took in their teens?

My point is, adults aren’t given much guidance when it comes to cyclists and cars coexisting on the roads. And as a bicyclist and a driver, I did some research because honestly, I needed a refresher myself.

Safety tips for DRIVERS:

  • Try to be 3 feet or more away from a bike.
  • Try to pass on the left when possible.
  • Blind spots are always lurking, make sure to watch for bikes.
  • Only pass a bicyclist when your passing lane is free and clear.
  • Look in your mirror for cyclists when you’re parking.
  • Always think of cyclists as equals – remember, they have rights on the road too!

Safety tips for BICYCLISTS:

  • Make sure to ride with the flow of traffic.
  • Traffic signs and signals aren’t just for cars. Stop on red to be safe.
  • Use marked bike paths or lanes if they’re available.
  • Use your arm to make turn signals and take advantage of turn lanes so cars are aware of what you’re doing.
  • Consider using a mirror to monitor the cars behind you.
  • If you’re riding at night or in a storm, make sure to use some sort of flashers.
  • Watch for parked cars.
  • And most importantly – stay alert at all times.

If you’re unsure about your city’s or state’s traffic laws, it doesn’t hurt to look them up beforehand. No matter what you drive, be sure to enjoy the roads out there safely!


What can my car do? Passive and active safety

Imagine driving in a vehicle with an unpadded steel dashboard and just lap belts in the front seat – belts that were typically buried in the seat because nobody used them! Imagine a world without car seats, headrests and shoulder belts. Imagine no airbags, no ABS brake systems, and no passenger side mirror. Imagine a car without cup holders! For those of us over 60, these were realities as we grew up to become drivers ourselves.

The automotive industry has certainly adopted safety technology and improvements since then. Much of this equipment is known as “passive safety” enhancements: things that improve the safety of occupants through fixed components of the vehicle such as airbags, seatbelts and the overall physical structure of the vehicle, designed to better protect occupants during a crash.

Now we’re seeing an explosion of new technology enhancements defined as “active safety” or “crash avoidance” technology that assists operators in the prevention or avoidance of a crash.

Examples include:

  • Adaptive cruise control
  • Adaptive headlights
  • Blind spot detection
  • Front crash prevention
  • Lane departure warning and prevention
  • Park assist and backover protection

These features are all designed either to enhance the driver’s ability to recognize a potentially dangerous situation or to trigger automatic avoidance measures. For example, blind spot detection alerts the driver to a vehicle traveling in the blind spot. Adaptive headlights enhance headlight function on rural roads. Front crash prevention systems recognize an imminent crash situation and either alert the driver or trigger automatic avoidance measures, such as braking or reducing speed. How these systems work can be a little more difficult to understand.

To that end, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has developed a website to assist drivers in better understanding the benefits of these enhancements. The site also allows you to search by vehicle make, model and year to determine what technology is available on specific vehicle models. Consider this technology when shopping for a new vehicle.

Oh by the way…

  • Cup holders were standard fare by the early to mid-1980s, driven mainly by the success of the minivan in the U.S.
  • Lap belts were required in front seats after January 1, 1965.
  • The first U.S. law requiring seat belt use in passenger cars was passed in New York State in 1984.
  • The first federal safety standards for cars became effective January 1, 1968. These standards helped protect drivers against unreasonable risk of crashes occurring as a result of the design, construction or performance of motor vehicles. These required shoulder belts for left and right front-seat vehicle occupants, side marker lights, collapsible steering columns, and other safety features.
  • 1969 saw the addition of head restraints for front passengers, addressing the problem of whiplash in rear-end collisions.
  • Effective in 1968, U.S.-market passenger cars were required to be equipped with padded instrument panels, front and rear lap belts, as well as many other enhancements.
  • Airbags were first installed in production vehicles in the 1980s as standard equipment instead of an option. Frontal air bags have been standard equipment in all passenger cars since model year 1998.
  • The first child passenger safety law was enacted in 1978 in Tennessee to require parents to place their young children in an approved child restraint system.


Dad’s advice for college students never out of style

As a father of two young adults, I find myself preaching safety tips. I often receive the standard response of “Daaaad, we know that!” accompanied by the obligatory rolling of the eyes. With college fall semester upon us – much to their chagrin – they will endure my message yet again.

An array of valuable campus safety advice is available online, but from parent to parent, I thought I would share with you a few of my favorite go-to tips.

  • Never walk alone at night. Always abide by the buddy system, so you’re not on your own.
  • Don’t let cell phones, headphones or other technology interfere with awareness of your surroundings. If you’re plugged in, you’re unaware.
  • Park in well-lighted areas. When returning to the parking area, approach your car, look around and look into the car. After you’re in the car, that’s not the time to make a call, text or go through your purse. Get in the car, lock the doors and leave.
  • Stairwells are an ideal crime spot. Take the elevator.
  • If you feel like you are in trouble, do not hold back. Run, scream, kick, bite – whatever it takes – to get to safety and draw the attention of anyone nearby.
  • Campus life can give a false sense of security. Don’t get too relaxed in your dorm or apartment environment. Lock your doors and windows, especially when alone or sleeping.
  • Carry the pepper spray that I bought you for your key chain!
  • Let your friends know where you are going, who you are going with and when you should return.
  • Most importantly, the uncomfortable reality is that most campus violence against women is not perpetrated by unknown attackers. Instead, it’s by people they have met and it primarily occurs in the supposed safety of indoors. Some key pointers:
    • When out, keep together with friends and do not get separated. Do not leave with someone you have just met or do not know well.
    • Only accept drinks from someone you trust. Never leave your drink unattended.
    • Trust your instincts. If you’re somewhere or with someone that makes you feel uneasy, leave. Now.

It’s not just daughters who receive my cautionary tales. My son will be a college first-year student this fall, and he will soon be receiving much of the same message.

I’m sure my kids are expecting another lecture from their conscientious father, and it’s quite possible I’ll receive their standard response again. That’s OK, though. I’m Dad. It’s my job. And I love it.