Minnesota Road Construction

Road Work & Potholes

Road Work Ahead SignWhat causes more headaches than rush hour traffic? Well, how about rush hour traffic with road construction on every corner. Welcome back to Minnesota’s construction season. Roads all across the State are put through the test each year with every cold winter they endure. This is the reason for the construction season. Some of the repairs are due to normal wear, some due to work in progress from prior projects, with the majority due to pothole damage and resurface work.

During the winter season snow falls, it melts, and the moisture gets trapped under the pavement. The pavement freezes and then thaws, causing it to expand. The drastic change in the road temperatures combined with the warming rays of sun and the expanding pavement causes the surface to crack. With all of the traffic on the roads, the cracked pavement starts to break up and deteriorate rapidly causing potholes. When the roads are being cleaned up after a heavy snowfall, the salt trucks follow up with a layer of salt that is put down to help melt the ice that can accumulate with the subzero temperatures. Salt can get down into the concrete and corrode the steel rebar which will eventually cause greater damage below the surface of the road. Other construction projects are works in progress such as lane additions, drainage/sewer, bridge repairs, or constructing new roadways. Some projects take months to complete, others take years. Since Minnesota has a very long cold winter, it takes a long time for the ground to thaw so that construction can resume which adds to the length of time for each project.

We all must travel at some point and because there is no cure for harsh weather and ageing concrete, there will be no end to construction on our roadways. The cost for the materials used and the time it takes to get the roads repaired weigh heavily on a budget. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a permanent fix for our roads so we continue to face more traffic and longer commutes due to construction. By following three important rules when driving through these construction areas, you can avoid many hazardous situations. Be cautious, be courteous, and be patient.

Remember that citations in construction zones are costly. Use Caution, near and around construction zones to be sure no trucks or workers are in front of you, drive at slower speeds, other drivers, rough roads. Pay attention to your surroundings and be prepared for the road ahead, read signs… Be Courteous, allow other drivers to merge into traffic when possible. Be Patient, map out alternate routes for your commute, or allow more time to reach your destination.

Tips to Prevent Damage To Your Vehicle In Construction Areas:

• Stay a safe distance behind other cars.
• Travel at a safe speed for the road conditions.
• Pay special attention to your tire pressures. This will keep your wheels and your tires from being damaged from the impact of the pothole.
• Do not swerve to avoid potholes, more damage could occur to your wheel if you hit the side of your tire, rather than strait on.

To get an idea of where the roads are under construction, visit Minnesota Department of Transportation (MNDOT) Current Roadwork.

April is Distracted Driver Awareness Month

Getting behind the wheel for the first time is one of the most thrilling benefits of growing up. However, there is quite a bit more to obtaining a license than just getting behind the wheel. The reason for driver’s education, behind the wheel training, and the final driver’s exam, is to prepare you for a safe future on the road. Traffic laws are set in place to help avoid mishaps. Some situations cannot be prevented due to weather conditions or an unavoidable collision, but knowing the laws and becoming a safe driver will aid in your safety on the road. When you get your license and are behind the wheel remember that driving is a privilege not a right.

Vehicles have become a very important part of our lives. With so many drivers on the road today, it is very important to stay alert and pay attention to what you have learned in your training or through your experience. Avoid reckless driving by consistently maintaining a reasonable speed, and always be courteous to your fellow drivers. Younger drivers are at a greater risk for accidents due to distractions because they have not yet experienced the many hazardous situations that occur on the roads without warning. Distracted Driving is not limited to younger drivers. There are many drivers who travel to work daily and have routines which are considerably unsafe (reading road maps, eating or drinking, attending to children, use of cell phones, putting on makeup, etc.). This activity increases the potential for accidents. If you take your eyes off the road even for a split second, you could put yourself or others in danger.

Driving in severe weather or during rush hour traffic is already the worst environment for potential accidents. You add to the danger when your mind wanders, you take your eyes off the road reaching for something, or you distract other drivers with reckless driving. For this reason, in Minnesota it is illegal to text or send emails while you are driving, stuck in traffic, or at a stop light. Do your part to make the road a safe and friendly place.

Tips for Drivers:

  • Avoid use of cell phones.
  • Do not search for CDs or radio stations while the vehicle is moving,
  • Map out your route prior to putting your vehicle in drive, and pull over to study a map.
  • If you have food or drink make sure the drink is covered and the food is not something messy.
  • Children need attention, but it is very unsafe to tend to them while driving.
  • Keep your eyes on the road at all times

  Driving Etiquette:

  • Always be prepared to stop at crosswalks or intersections
  • Pass only in passing lane, avoid passing too closely or without signal
  • Yield to drivers who have the right of way
  • Make room for other drivers merging
  • Adhere to speed limits
  • Avoid cell phone use
  • Never tailgate, always allow a reasonable stopping distance

Keep in mind that each year in Minnesota distracted driving is accountable for at least one in four crashes which have resulted in at least 50 deaths and more than 300 serious injuries. Laws have been implemented to help reduce these statistics, but according to a survey from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, over 90 percent of drivers recognized the danger from cell phone distractions and found it “unacceptable” that drivers text or send e-mail while driving. Nevertheless, 35% of these same people admitted to having read or sent a text message or e-mail while driving in the previous month. Similarly, two-thirds of the survey respondents admitted to talking on a cell phone, even though 88 percent found it a threat to safety.

Defensive Driving courses are taught to help drivers maintain valuable skills. Some of these types of classes in Minnesota are free, and could also lower your insurance rates. These classes are designed to help you brush up on your driving skills and become familiar with current laws.

Help Curtail Aggression Behind the Wheel

Join Insurance Advisors, Inc and Safeco Insurance in taking a pledge to be a more courteous driver in Drive It Forward Fridays (#DIFF)

SafeCo drive it forward Fridays logoSummer travel season has started, and you have a chance to help make driving in and around Minnesota more pleasant and safer for everyone.

We at Insurance Advisors, Inc are joining Safeco Insurance in asking drivers to participate in Drive It Forward Fridays (DIFF). To take part, drivers can visit www.safeco.com/diff or use the hashtag #DIFF on Twitter to pledge to be a more courteous driver and to share their positive driving actions.

“Helping to promote better driving makes the roads safer for everyone in our community,” said Patty Czock, Vice President, Insurance Advisors, Inc.

A new Safeco Insurance survey found that more than four out of five drivers have experienced others’ aggressive driving behavior, and it impacts them negatively.

Only 36 percent of those surveyed admitted to driving aggressively. Yet, 85 percent describe other drivers as aggressive, and 82 percent said it’s others’ behavior on the road that makes driving a negative experience.

Not all the news is bad. Of those surveyed, 72 percent said that they’d be willing to make at least one change to their own behavior to make driving more pleasant for everyone. So as the summer travel season kicked off, Safeco Insurance launched the Drive It Forward Fridays campaign to encourage drivers to take positive steps to counter negative driving behavior that can be dangerous.

Insurance Advisors, Inc. is proud to support Drive it Forward Fridays and we’ve made our pledge!

School Bus Safety & Awareness

School Bus Safety Tips & Facts

School bus safety awareness.It’s that time of year where the dog days of summer goes from swimsuit clad kids to kids loaded with school supplies and heading to the bus stop!

While Waiting for the Bus

  • Arrive with plenty of time to spare; rushing to catch the bus can lead to injuries.
  • Walk on the sidewalk or if no sidewalk is available walk on the left side of the road facing traffic.
  • Always walk to the bus stop
  • Stay six feet from the curb so the bus driver can see you. That’s 3 big steps for most kids.
  • Never speak to strangers and NEVER get into a car with a stranger (Parents inform your kids about the lost puppy/kitten ploy strangers may use to get them in the car)

On the Bus

  • Find a seat right away and sit down
  • Don’t hang out the window or throw things out the window
  • Use your indoor voice on the bus
  • In an emergency, listen to the driver and follow directions

Exiting the Bus

  • When leaving the bus walk six feet away from the door (three big steps)
  • Stay clear of the bus wheels and watch for moving cars
  • Never try to return to the bus for anything you may have left behind, the driver may not see you returning

Drivers Be Alert for Students and Buses

  • If you drive in a school zone during your commute be aware of the schools start and end times. Consider an alternate route to help reduce traffic congestion in the area of the school
  • Follow posted speed limits in school zones.
  • Do not pass a stopped bus if the red lights are flashing and the stop sign is extended
  • Wait for the flashing lights to stop and the bus to begin moving before proceeding

School Bus Facts*

  • School buses are designed to be safer than passenger vehicles in avoiding crashes and prevent injury
  • School buses are the safest mode of transportation for getting children to and from school
  • School buses keep an estimated 17.3 million cars off roads surrounding schools each morning

*These facts were provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

If your children ride the bus or walk to school from a childcare provider’s home, you should check with that provider to make sure that they have the proper liability coverage to protect your child in the event something should happen off the child care provider’s property.   Homeowner’s liability coverage is premise only coverage.

By: Chistine Gaffron, Insurance Advisors Inc.

Share The Road: Motorcycle and Automobile Safety Tips

Guy riding a motorcycle with bluejeans, leather jacket, helmet, and sunglasses.It’s that time of year when the sun is shining, the streets are dry and the temps beckon the motorcyclists to start riding again. This also means that motorcyclists and automobiles have to start sharing the roads with each other.  Here are some tips for both drivers and motorcyclists to help keep everyone safe on the roads this motorcycle season.

Ways for Motorcyclist to be seen in Traffic

  • Wear a brightly colored or white helmet
  • Wear a fluorescent, reflective safety vest or brightly colored riding jacket
  • Use strategic lane positioning
  • Flash your brakes at stops
  • Incorporate reflective materials on your motorcycle
  • Install additional driving lights
  • Install position and marker lights
  • Avoid riding at night, dawn and dusk
  • Install a louder horn
  • Avoid riding during low sun angle times
  • Avoid riding in poor weather conditions

Use reflective clothing for night time driving. Place reflective tape on your helmet and the backs of your boots to increase your visibility.

Women in driver seat of car with hand on the wheel looking over her shoulder.Make sure you are not in a blind spot or behind a large truck. Use your lane and make sure you are seen.  Always drive with your headlights on. Newer models of motorcycles have headlights that are hardwired to automatically come on when the engine is turned on.  Older models don’t have this feature so make sure you turn your headlights on!

 8 Things a Motorist Should Know About Motorcycles

  1. Over half of motorcycle crashes involve another vehicle.  Most often it is the fault of the car or truck driver, not the motorcyclist.
  2. Because of a motorcyclist’s narrow profile it can be easily hidden in a car’s blind spot (door or roof frames). Take a second look before changing lanes or turning at intersections.
  3. The smaller size of a motorcycle makes it appear farther away than it actually is.  A motorcycle’s speed can also be difficult to judge. Before turning at an intersection or into or out of a driveway, expect a motorcycle to be closer than it really is.
  4. Follow a motorcycle with the 3 to 4 second rule of distance between you and the motorcycle. Motorcyclists often slow down by down shifting or letting up on the throttle so you won’t see a brake light come on. When at an intersection a motorcyclist may slow down without any visual warning.
  5. If you see a motorcyclist in your rear-view mirror shifting in the lane behind you they have a reason for it. It is to minimize the effects from road debris, passing vehicles and the wind. It is not to show off, be reckless or to share the lane with you. They are also doing it to insure you know they are there!
  6. A motorcycle’s turn signals don’t turn off automatically after a turn or a lane change and sometimes a rider forgets to turn them off. So make sure a motorcyclist’s turn is for real.
  7. Motorcycles have great maneuverability at low speeds and good road conditions; however, under slippery conditions they have the same issues that automobiles have. In slippery road conditions you need to allow more space between you and the motorcyclist as they won’t be able to stop “on a dime.”
  8. When you see a motorcyclist keep in mind that it might be a friend, neighbor or relative under that helmet.

Things to Know When Buying Motorcycle Insurance

Insuring your motorcycle is not the same as insuring an automobile. In Minnesota you have personal injury protection of $20,000 in medical coverage on you automobile policy. However, this coverage is optional with motorcycle insurance and most companies will go to $10,000. Uninsured and under-insured motorist liability coverage is optional on a motorcycle policy as well. Bodily injury coverage for passengers is not offered on all motorcycle insurance policies. Make sure your policy includes this coverage. Tell your agent if you have added any special equipment such as saddle bags, special handle bars or anything else not factory installed. Most companies will allow some coverage for this type of equipment. Check with your agent to make sure the amount covers your additional equipment. If you are planning on pulling a trailer, make sure you have both trailer and towing coverage.

By: Christine Gaffron, Insurance Advisors, Inc.

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Distracted Driving: Causes, Laws, and Prevention

Whether you want to admit it or not, you probably have driven distracted.  Many people believe that it is not an issue, but the statistics are starting to prove otherwise.  In 2012 3,328 people were killed in distracted driving related crashes.

No Texting While Driving sign with a crossed out phone in hand.Actions that create distractions:

  • Texting
  • Using a cellphone or smart phone
  • Eating and drinking
  • Talking to passengers
  • Grooming
  • Reading, including maps
  • Using a navigation system
  • Watching a video
  • Adjusting a radio, CD or MP3 player

There are three main types of distractions when driving:

  1. Manual – taking hands off the wheel
  2. Cognitive -taking your mind off the task of driving
  3. Visual – taking your eyes off the road

Cell phone use, specifically texting, uses all three types of distractions listed above at the same time. It is the reason why 41 states have placed limits or complete bans on such activity while driving a motor vehicle.

Minnesota’s Distracted Law

  1. Bus drivers are banned from all cellphone use (handheld and hands-free)
  2. Novice drivers are also banned from all cellphone use.
  3. All drivers are banned from texting

Facts about Cellphone Use:

  • In 2011, 23% of auto collisions involved cell phones
  • In controlled studies, those who text and drive spent 10% of their driving time outside their driving lane
  • Another controlled study showed that most drivers took their eyes off the road for 3 to 5 seconds while texting, (Traveling at 55 mph) The equivalent to the length of a football field.

 Among Teens Surveyed:

  • 77% of young adults are confident or somewhat confident that they can safely text and drive
  • 55% say it is easy to text and drive and 34% admit to texting while driving
  • 52% admit to talking on the phone while driving

Double Standard

  • 48% of young drivers have seen their parents on the phone while driving
  • 15% have seen their parents’ text and drive
  • 27% of adults admit they have sent or read text messages while driving
  • While you are driving approximately 1 in 5 drivers around you are reading or writing a text message!

Increased Risk Taking

Young drivers who text and drive are 2 times more likely to ride with a driver who has been drinking and 5 times more likely to drink and drive themselves. Teens attitudes towards texting and driving is alarming.

Among those surveyed:

  • 97% of teens said texting while driving is dangerous but yet 43% admit to doing it
  • 75% of teens said their friends’ text and drive
  • 77% said they saw their parents’ text and drive

Texting and driving is difficult to prevent among young drivers when they see other adults and their own parents doing it.

Set the Example

Both young drivers as well as adult drivers have excuses for texting and driving.  Some feel the need to “stay in touch” or feel the pressure to “keep working” even while driving.

Show your family that you care about them by setting the example of not texting or doing other things that take your eyes off the road while driving. Young adults may not show it but they are watching your every move. They emulate what they learn from you and if what you do is good enough for you, it will be good enough for them!  Set the standards high!

Take a pledge that no one in your family will text or partake in other types of distracted driving.

Pledge that all family members will practice these steps to safe driving:

  1. You will not send or read texts while driving
  2. Before you begin driving you will inform family, friends or others when you plan to arrive at your destination.
  3. You will stop in a safe location to check voicemail or read text.
  4. You will have your passenger take your calls or read your texts.
  5. When driving alone you will turn off your phone or put it on vibrate before you begin driving.
  6. Wait to text or call someone until they are no longer driving.
  7. Stop talking to or texting someone if you learn that they are driving.
  8. Pull off the road to a safe location or wait until you’ve reached your destination before eating or applying makeup.
  9. Pull off the road to a safe location or wait until you’ve reached your destination to check emails, text, change CD’s, adjust the radio, surf the web on your cellular device, I-Phone, or I-Pods.
  10. As a passenger you will ask a distracted driver to drive safer.
  11. As a passenger you will help the driver by staying alert for dangers and not distract the driver from keep their eyes on the road.

Apps to control Phone Usage

Many parents are looking for ways to keep tabs on their young driver’s cellphone use while behind the wheel. It would be a good idea to place these apps on all family cellular devices. Especially if all of you have pledged to not use your phone while driving but are having a hard time sticking to the pledge!

You can find many Apps for your cellular phone that help you control the use of it while driving. What the apps are capable of doing vary from what type of controls you want on the phone. Some apps will read your text and emails to you as you are driving and automatically respond to the messages without you having to even pick up the phone.  One app tracks your texting, tweeting or Internet use while you drive. Other apps will completely block you from using your cellular device while the vehicle is in motion.  One app will even place your calls, texts and emails on hold while you are driving but still allow you the ability to place a “911” call in an emergency.

Your insurance agent can also be a good resource on ways to control or monitor cell phone use. They may even have a young driver’s program that will help reduce your insurance rates.

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Insurance Advisors, Inc.

Sources: Distraction.gov
EndDD.org
Drive-safely.net

 

Minnesota Auto Insurance: What to Do After a Car Accident

No one plans to have an auto accident but it does happen. If it happens to you, here are some steps to take to determine if you need to file a claim and when to involve the police.

When to file a claim

Two cars in a crashDetermine how much damage your vehicle has sustained. Was it just a fender bender? Filing a claim may increase your auto insurance premium. If the damage was minor and will cost less than your deductible to repair it, it is usually best to go ahead and pay for the repairs yourself.

Is a police report needed?

If injuries are involved, call 911 immediately. If it is determined that everyone is okay, call the non-emergency police number. You must have a police report in order to file a claim.

Your next step is to call your insurance agent.  If it is determined that you are not at fault your insurance company can act as your advocate and will take on the responsibility of dealing with the other driver’s insurance company.

Get the Details

  • If possible, move the involved vehicles off the roadway to avoid another accident &/or injuries from happening.
  • If available, use your phones camera to take pictures at the scene, including the damage to both vehicles. Include a picture of the other vehicles license plate.
  • Exchange names, phone numbers and insurance information. You can copy the information from the other person’s insurance card or take a picture of it as well.
  • If the police are involved request a copy of the police report. If you don’t receive a copy of the report at the time of the accident, you can request a copy from the courthouse.  Accident reports are public record and are available to anyone for a small fee.
  • The other insurance company will call you to verify your information and ask you questions regarding the accident. Write down the date, time and the name of the person calling you from the other insurance company. Let your insurance company know that the conversation took place.
  • Complete all paperwork sent to you regarding the accident and return it promptly.  The sooner the claim is filed the quicker you can get any necessary repairs made to your vehicle and get you back on the road again!

Download our free claims process tip sheet!
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Insurance Advisors, Inc.
Sources: Autoinsurance.org
Money.msn.com/insurance

Potholes and Vehicle Damage

Dogging potholes: The Midwest’s Spring Pastime

It is that time of year in the Midwest for the dreaded pothole!!!  As we finally thaw out from a bitter winter, we now have to switch gears from keeping our vehicles from sliding into ditches and other vehicles, to avoiding that potential vehicle damaging pothole.

Avoiding potholes is obviously the best practice but not always possible.  Here are some tips to help prevent damage from potholes:

  • Maintain proper tire pressure, this will keep the tire from pushing in towards the rim and damaging it if you do hit a pothole.
  • Keep a good distance between you and the vehicle ahead of you so you can identify potholes ahead of time and avoid them.
  • In inclement weather reduce your speeds so you have ample time to drive around the potholes.
  • Avoid that water! Accumulated water puddles in the street may be covering a pothole underneath it.  The size and depth unknown until you hit it.

Full car in a deep pothole.What parts of our vehicle can be damaged by hitting a pothole?

  • Tires, potential puncture, damage or wear
  • Wheel rim damage
  • Shocks & Struts
  • Suspension
  • Steering alignment
  • Exhaust system
  • Engine damage

Have your vehicle inspected if you think you have damage from hitting a pothole.

The collision coverage on your auto insurance policy will usually cover damage to your vehicle due to a pothole.  Call your agent to get exact coverage information.

By: Christine Gaffron, Insurance Advisors

Sources: Insurance Information Institute
Firestone Complete Auto Care

New Traffic Intersections

woman driverNew Intersections in Minnesota

Many states have begun to build two new types of intersections to help with traffic congestion and safety; Roundabouts and Diverging Diamond Interchanges. When you drive across the United States you can experience these new intersections in states like Missouri, Utah, New York, Tennessee and Wyoming to name a few.

Minnesota’s Department of Transportation opened Minnesota’s first diverging diamond intersection in October of 2013 in Pine Island, MN and opened a second one on October 16, 2013 in the Baxter/St. Could area.

Diverging Diamond Interchanges (DDI’s)

A Diverging Diamond Interchange (DDI), also known as a Double Crossover Diamond Interchange (DCD), is becoming more common where intersections meet highways.  DDI’s/DCD’s are built above the freeway or highway, and require less land to be built on.  It also reduces the amount of time needed for traffic to get through the intersection by reducing the number of perpendicular intersections at each interchange. Pedestrians also benefit by having less corners to navigate.  The pedestrian has access on each side of the intersection and a main crosswalk access is in the middle of the intersection. Concrete barriers provide protection to the pedestrians from potential harm.  The cost of building a DDI is far less than a conventional loop and ramp intersections.

Roundabouts

Roundabouts are a circular intersection with a central island.  Traffic travels in a counter clockwise motion.  Approaching traffic must yield to vehicles already in the roundabout. Roundabouts eliminate intersection conflicts because there is no perpendicular or opposing direction turns to have to deal with like at a normal four-way stop intersection.

European cities have used various types of roundabouts since about the 1900’s.  Cities and townships in Minnesota are beginning to use more roundabouts to control intersections. Roundabouts reduce crashes at busy intersections where accidents occur at a higher rate or where more than two intersections come together. Accidents at roundabout intersections have been known to be decreased by 39 percent for all crashes and decreased by as much as 89 percent for fatal crashes. Roundabouts provide smoother traffic flow. Also, when traffic is not idling at an intersection, vehicle emissions and fuel consumption is reduced by as much as 30%

When approaching a roundabout:

  • Slow down as you approach the roundabout.
  • For multi-lane roundabouts, as with any intersection, get into the appropriate lane as you approach the roundabout.
  • Yield to pedestrians and bicyclists crossing the roadway.
  • Watch for signs or pavement markings that require or prohibit certain movements.
  • When entering a roundabout, yield to vehicles already in the roundabout. Do not cross into the roundabout until all traffic from the left has cleared.
  • After entering the roundabout, drive in a counter-clockwise direction until you reach your exit.
  • Do not stop, pass or change lanes within a roundabout.
  • If an emergency vehicle approaches, exit the roundabout immediately and then pull over.

Since diverging interchanges have reduced traffic delays by 60 percent, improved safety to pedestrian and bicyclists’ access and lowered construction costs, MN Dot will continue to build DDI’s throughout the state where this type of interchange fits the areas traffic needs best.

Source: Minnesota Drivers Manual