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Road rules to keep your teen driver safe.
Give your newly licensed teen driver a few safety rules to follow whenever he hits the road, so you can feel secure turning over the keys.

Keep the invite list short. 
Driving alone—or with an adult—is your teen’s safest option, since it helps him stay focused on the road. If he rides with another teen driver, ask him to wear a seat belt, respect and avoid distracting the driver, and help navigate if needed.

Drive during the day. 
Have your teen limit her trips to daytime hours (no earlier than 5 a.m. and no later than 10 p.m.), when it's easier to see and judge distance and speed, and when there are fewer impaired and unsafe drivers on the road.

Buckle up. 
Seat belts saved nearly 13,000 lives in 2009, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). However, teens and young adults (16 to 24 years old) are the least likely of any age group to buckle up. Make sure your teen wears his at all times, and set a good example by always wearing yours.

Don’t drink. 
Drinking and driving is not only illegal, it’s unsafe. Consider helping your teen come up with a response she’s comfortable giving when she turns down alcohol.


One thing you MUST do before you have a home, condo, or renters’ insurance claim…

It’s important to keep a home inventory — especially these days, with the popularity of flat-screen televisions, iPhones, video games and other expensive electronics.   But the process can be time-consuming and difficult. The Insurance Information Institute’s Know Your Stuff tool can make doing a home inventory a breeze.

Know Your Stuff helps you enter items by room and upload photos or scanned receipts. Once the information is in the system, items can be sorted by price, date of purchase or type (silverware, major appliances, etc.).   Once completed or updated, the Know Your Stuff report also can be printed, saved on a computer, e-mailed or burned on a CD.

Go to www.knowyourstuff.org and see how it easy it is to do.

Seven Shopping Strategies For New Car Buyers

New car shopping can be a lot of fun, especially if you’re a car enthusiast. But others can find the experience stressful and tedious. Either way, there’s a lot to think about. According to a survey of car shoppers, overall purchase price is the most important factor when shopping for a new car (46 percent), followed by make and model (31 percent).

Safety and performance come in a distant third, tied at seven percent. But whether you’re turned on or turned off by the dizzying array of car choices, trim options, “expert” reviews, incentives and other deals, it definitely pays to approach car buying strategically.

So if you’re in the market for a new vehicle and you find yourself having trouble keeping a clear head, just keep these strategies in mind:

1. Decide how much money you can spend and what type of vehicle best suits your needs. Just looking for the basic transport capability of a small or medium sedan? Or do you need the hauling capacity of a van or SUV? Something practical? Something sporty? Something in between?

2. Research crash tests and accident data available from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.   Go to http://www.iihs.org/ratings/default.aspx.

3. Shop around for financing. If you can, apply for and get approval for a loan from a bank, credit union or other financier before you even visit the dealership. Being a “cash buyer” gives you an advantage when you do finally meet with the dealership’s financing person.

4. Test drive the car. Try to drive in conditions that will be similar to those under which you’ll drive every day.

5. Check pricing for your desired make and model at two or three dealerships and use that information to help you negotiate the best deal.

6. Get a firm quote, in writing. This should include not only the cost of the car, but any fees and the sales tax.

7. Inspect your new car carefully before driving off the lot. Make sure all the options you’ve ordered are included and that the body and paint are free of scratches or dents.

Finally, it’s important to consider the cost of auto insurance, although it seems that few people realize that what they pay for insurance can add significantly to the vehicle’s total cost.

Wise car buyers know to shop around for insurance and find out how costs compare. They also know to visit an independent insurance agency – like Bergen Insurance. We can check with several companies to find the best combination of coverage and price.  Call us anytime you have questions!


Auto Insurance Made Easy 


 (NAPS)—Understanding insurance can often be like trying to learn a foreign language. Many find it confusing and intimidating.   Fortunately, there’s help. Here is a quick reference designed to help you understand some of the most common kinds of coverages. The reference was put together by The Progressive Group of Insurance Companies.

Liability covers bodily injury and property damage (BI/PD). This covers your legal liability, up to the dollar limits you select, for damages caused to others in a covered vehicle accident. In most states today, liability insurance is mandatory.

Under BI/PD, your insurance company pays for damages to an injured person and for property damage that you are legally obligated to pay as a result of an accident. If your policy covers you in the event you’re sued after an accident, your insurance company will pay for a lawyer to defend you.

Liability limits generally appear as three numbers, for example, 25/50/25 or 100/300/100. The first number refers to the maximum amount, in thousands, that your insurance company is obligated to pay for bodily injury per person. The second number is the maxi-mum that would be paid out for bodily injury per claim and the third number represents the maxi-mum amount your insurance company is obligated to pay for property damage you cause.

Collision. When you buy collision coverage, your insurance company pays for damages if your vehicle collides with another vehicle or object. Collision coverage involves a deductible amount you select when you purchase your policy. This amount is what you are required to pay before your insurance company starts picking up the tab. Remember, the deductible amount is the amount you need to pay in the event of a claim.

Comprehensive covers damage caused by events other than a car collision—such as fire, theft, vandalism, hail or flood. It also covers damage caused by your vehicle colliding with an animal. And if your car is stolen, it will cover the cost of a rental, subject to a daily limit. Like collision coverage, a deductible usually applies.

Medical Coverage.  Depending on the state in which you live, you may have available to you Medical Payments coverage or Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage. While these both work differently, they provide coverage for medical care provided to you as a result of a car accident.


We can help you determine the price, coverage and service that best meets your needs. 

Did You Know?

Liability insurance is for bodily injury and property damage. This covers your legal liability, up to the dollar limits you select, for damages caused to others in a covered vehicle accident. In most states today, liability insurance is mandatory.

As the temperatures cool, your car needs attention.

Check out this blog for a couple of things to put on your to-do list:  http://blog.jdbyrider.com/2010/10/07/season-change-means-check-tire-air-pressure…and-more/


Do you have a young driver that is going to college? 

What if…

• .. they do not have a car at school?  If the student will continue to drive while at home on school breaks, they should continue to be listed on your auto policy. If they are attending school more than 100 miles from home, and are not taking a vehicle with them, your policy may qualify for a distant-student discount.

• .. they might occasionally drive a friend’s car at school?  Students generally would be covered while driving a friend’s car if they are listed on their parents’ policy and do not have regular use of the vehicle. The coverage would likely be secondary in this case, as the carrier for the friend’s vehicle likely would be the primary coverage.

• .. they are getting good grades – do they qualify for any other discounts?   In addition to the possible distant-student discount mentioned above, students may qualify for a good-student discount. To qualify, a student must be enrolled in at least four courses per term as a full-time student at an accredited college or university and meet certain academic qualifications.   Generally they must prove at least a “B” or 3.0 grade point average each semester to continue receiving the discount.

Also, if they are not living at home, don’t forget renters’ insurance to make sure their personal possessions are covered.  And each roommate would need his or her own policy to cover their own things. 

How Does Credit Affect Insurance Rates?


Credit-Based Insurance Scores Explained

Most insurance companies use many factors to price your insurance, including your driving record, your claims history, the type of home or vehicle you own, and your credit-based insurance score (“CBIS”).


What is a CBIS and why does it matter?

Your CBIS is not the same as your personal credit score, nor is it a measure of your credit worthiness. The CBIS is a number that measures your likelihood of having an insurance claim. Studies have shown that consumers with higher CBIS have fewer and less severe losses. For this reason the CBIS is useful as a rating factor, but it is only one of many that are used.

Because your personal credit history affects your CBIS, it is important to regularly review it and make sure that it is accurate. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) allows you to order one report for free from each of the major credit reporting agencies each year. You may also purchase a "3-in-1 report" to review your scores from all three major credit bureaus—EquifaxExperian, and TransUnion.


Credit rules vary by state 

Most states have rules that state how credit can be used in insurance. Contact your state’s Department of Insurance for the latest information on your state’s rules. 


Credit Report Errors

If your credit record is incomplete or has an error, ask the credit reporting bureau to make the corrections. If they do they will notify you in writing. Then you can let us know if you want your policy updated by providing a copy of the notice with your name and policy number.  You can mail or fax it to us, or scan and email it.  Go to www.bergeninsurance.com for contact information.



Lowering The Cost Of Auto Insurance

There are a number of factors that go into determining the cost of your car insurance premiums, and we have some helpful suggestions to help you lower your costs.

How To Lower Your Cost

Models make a difference

Shopping for a new car? Or are you shopping for a collector, classic or antique car? The type you choose can affect your costs. High-end luxury cars and performance vehicles cost more to repair, maintain and insure than family sedans. The same applies to classic cars: the more expensive to buy, the more expensive to repair, maintain and insure. The age of the car also makes a difference. Newer cars might cost more than older ones.

Safety saves      
Not only is it smart, but a clean, safe driving record can also lower your rates. The safety equipment you choose for a vehicle may mean discounts. Ask your agent about other ways to be rewarded for safe driving and vehicle protection (such as anti-theft devices). In addition, taking a driver-training or accident-prevention course may qualify you for additional discounts.

One company + combined policies = lower cost
The more insurance policies you have with a company, the more substantial the savings. So, try having one company cover all of your insurance needs.

Determine your deductible
A deductible is the out-of-pocket amount you are willing to cover in the event of a loss. The higher your deductible, the lower your premium. Increasing your deductible saves you money. Decide if you’re comfortable paying more out-of-pocket after a loss later in order to save money now.

Update your agent on any changes in your life 
Are you still insuring drivers who no longer live with you? Do you drive less for your job than you used to? Has your Insurance Bureau Score changed? Just graduated from college? Moved to a new neighborhood? Your teen driver getting good grades (they may qualify for a “good student” discount)? All of these things affect how much you pay and could result in discounts. Call us to discuss any changes.

Other Auto Insurance Factors

What you pay for auto insurance could be determined by many factors. In addition to the information above, here are some other things that may affect how much you pay:

How much you drive
Drivers who use their car for business and long-distance commuting usually pay more than your average driver.

Your age, gender, and marital status
Statistics show that these factors relate to accident rates so they’re a consideration.

Where you live
Rates vary depending on city, state, sometimes even different neighborhoods and ZIP codes within a city. Insurance companies research the accident/claim rate in an area, and your premium will reflect that. Live in a high accident area? Expect to pay more.

Your driving record
Drivers with a history of accidents or motor vehicle violations (such as speeding tickets) generally pay more than those who are accident-free for several years.

Your credit history
Studies have shown that credit history relates to accident rates and may make you seem like a higher risk.

Next time we’ll talk more about auto insurance, and about credit score and how it can affect your rates.


3 things you MUST NOT MISS to save money if you have young drivers on your policy

School is right around the corner, take a minute to make sure your young drivers are properly covered.  Notify us about any new drivers, and any drivers away at college may qualify for a lower premium if they did not take a vehicle with them and they are over 100 miles away. 

Here are three ways to make sure you are paying as little as possible for your family’s auto insurance.

First, if you are just getting a vehicle for your new driver, keep in mind that insurance cost is much higher for physical damage as opposed to carrying liability and medical coverage only, so older vehicles may cost less and keep your insurance cost down.

Second, Good Student discounts can make a huge difference, most companies give this discount for B average or above.  If you are emailing to request this discount, include a copy of the report card, or you can fax to us if you are unable to scan and attach.

And last, maybe most important, make sure that you take advantage of every discount you can qualify for.   When you have younger drivers, your total auto insurance rates are obviously a lot higher.  The multi-policy discount that may have seemed small to you before will now be much larger so call for a quote to switch your home insurance to us.  Even if that policy does not renew for a few months, you can usually take advantage of those savings right away.  If you add other policies – motorcycle insurance, RV insurance, etc. – you will be eligible for even MORE discounts, in addition to the ease of doing business when you have more policies in one place.


 Find The Lowest Gas Prices

If you are traveling this weekend, go to http://www.gasbuddy.com/ to find the lowest prices no matter where you are.  They also have mobile apps for Android, Blackberry, etc.

Teen Drivers Pose Added Risk At Night 

If you have a teen driver on your auto insurance policy who’s still living at home, you might want to limit his or her access to the family car after dark.

According to a study released late last week by the Texas Transportation Institute, nighttime driving is becoming more and more hazardous for young people—and the most likely culprits are their cell phones.

Between 1999 and 2008, the number of fatal crashes that occurred dropped nearly 11 percent, including those that occurred after dark. In contrast, the proportion of fatal crashes at night involving teens between the ages of 16 and 19 increased 10 percent during that same time—a full 20 percent difference.

So what’s causing these nighttime problems with teenage drivers?

There are actually several factors at play here, say experts. The first, of course is inexperience. New drivers tend to make poor driving decisions most other drivers don’t because the risk involved isn’t readily apparent to them.

In other words, they haven’t been driving long enough to recognize what’s wise and what isn’t.

We’ve all seen kids hop behind the wheel of a car with their friends, peel out of parking lots, swerve in and out of traffic, and nearly run over everyone in their path. That type of behavior is doubly risky at night, when roads aren’t well lit, people are tired and responses are slower. 

But distraction is a teen’s biggest enemy while driving; and with the risk of having an accident already higher at night, cell phones can become a deadly weapon in the hands of a teenager.

Most teens think they’re invincible, and using their cell phones to call and text their friends is an intrinsic part of their lives. They think they can easily multitask while driving when, in reality, doing so puts their lives and the lives of others at risk.

According to the report, 34 percent of teens say they text and 52 percent say they talk on the phone while driving. Add darkness to the mix, and you’ve got an accident waiting to happen!

If you have a young driver at home, please consider having a heart-to-heart chat with him or her about the dangers of using cell phones while driving, especially at night, and limit access to the family vehicle during that time.

You might not be the most popular parent on the block; but you’ll increase your child’s chances of living into adulthood—and protect yourself and other drivers in the process.

(Posted in Auto Insurance News)


Clean up the Clutter… or Risk Losing Your Home Insurance

Is clutter taking over your home? Is your “stuff” blocking your entrance and exit, creating a falling, tripping or fire hazard for anyone who lives there or comes to visit?

Most of us lead busy lives, so taking the time to clean up and clear out clutter is difficult. But eventually, we all have to face that mounting pile of newspaper, mail or bills—and make everything orderly again before it drives us and our families crazy.

For some people who have a hard time getting rid of things, clutter is a much bigger problem than for others. Known as “hoarders,” individuals like this collect everything from paper, to boxes, to office supplies, to appliances—and everything in between.

Problem is, mounting piles of “stuff” can cause all kinds of hazard in your home, putting you and your family at greater risk—and causing your homeowners insurance company to drop your coverage.

When you first insure your home, your insurance company usually inspects at least the outside perimeter of the house. But it really has no reason to take a look at the inside, unless it suspects something there that could result in problems later on.

Due to the popularity of shows like Hoarders, insurer awareness of issues like these and the insurance risk that goes along with them has peaked too. As a result, many are beginning to require an inspection of the home’s interior if and when they suspect a problem.

Most problems are simply discovered when someone files a home insurance claim and an inspector enters to assess the damage.  At that point, if the insurance company representative sees a noticeable problem that increases insurer risk, the company that holds the policy may choose one of several strategies: work with the person to reduce risk, send out a warning notice to clean up the mess or lose coverage, or cancel the policy right there and then.

Whether you hoard things or you’ve just let things pile up, if you’ve collected too much “stuff” and the inside of your home presents safety issues for you and your family, it’s time to clean it up.

Not only will you start living cleaner and clutter-free; you’ll likely avoid facing cancellation of your insurance policy, too!

(Posted in Insurance Blog)



Found the Ultimate To-Do List in our local newspaper a few years ago, here are some things that it says to do in February and March, projects and general maintenance, so depending on the weather where you are, some of this can be done now, some you might just start planning and add to that never-ending list

-          Organize garage or shed; clean, sharpen, lubricate yard tools.

-          Properly dispose of old paint (waste paint hardener, or cat litter works too.)

-          Clean lint from dryer exhaust ducts and vents

-          Early spring is a good time for interior painting, start planning now

-          Repair and replace window screens – before bug season arrive

-          Repair deck and fence boards

-          Get ready to clean and seal wood deck

-          Check operation of garage door opener – do you need to add a keypad?

-          Move unused firewood away from the side of the house, to keep rodents and bugs away

-          Check foundation for cracks


Class is in session[Group Discussion] - Auto Insurance Basics
Presenting "Car Insurance 101," your (quiz-free) refresher course on what it all means and how it all works. 

First up -- the two main coverages that protect your car:

Collision: With Collision coverage, we pay to repair damage to your car when you hit, or are hit by, another vehicle or object, regardless of who is at fault. When you buy Collision, you choose a deductible, typically $250 or $500. This is the portion you pay if you have an accident. We then pay for the remaining costs to bring your vehicle back to pre-accident condition. 

Comprehensive: With Comprehensive coverage, we pay to repair damage to your car that's caused by something other than a collision, such as fire, theft, vandalism, hail, or flood. We also pay for damage caused by hitting an animal, and we pay for a rental vehicle if your car is stolen. Like Collision, when you buy Comprehensive, you choose a deductible. 

(From Progressive's Winter 2011 newsletter.)


Texting while driving a large problem


Almost one in five drivers in the U.S. (18 percent) reported texting while driving in the last 30 days, according to a new survey from the Insurance Research Council (IRC). Younger drivers were more likely than older drivers to say that they were texting while driving. Forty-one percent of drivers age 25 to 39, compared with only 5 percent of drivers 55 and older, reported texting while driving. Thirty-one percent of drivers age 16 to 24 said they had texted while driving in the last 30 days.

Driver distraction was involved in 5,474 fatal crashes in 2009, according to the U.S. Dept. of Transportation, and in approximately 18 percent of fatal crashes, cell phone use was a factor. Using a cell phone or smart phone to send or read text messages is especially dangerous behavior. One recent study suggests that the risk of a crash or near-crash event was 23 times as great for those texting while driving than for non-distracted drivers.

One response to texting while driving is the use of new products and services designed to block individual cell phones or smart phones from sending or receiving text messages while in a moving vehicle. In this survey, IRC found substantial public support for these products and services. Sixty-two percent of drivers thought that blocking services and products is a good or excellent idea, and 53 percent said they would be somewhat or very likely to use such a product or service if it involved no additional cost. Interest dropped sharply, however, if a blocking product or service involved a $10 monthly cost.

Take action to avoid driving distractions

Mobile Phone

It may seem harmless to answer a quick call, grab a bite to eat or let your dog ride in your lap when you’re behind the wheel. But in 2008, accidents caused by distracted drivers injured about 515,000 people.

It takes two hands, a sharp eye, and your full attention to safely drive your car. Anything that keeps you from doing so means you’re driving while distracted, or "DWD."

There are some simple ways to kick DWD habits. Follow these four tips to steer clear of distraction:

  • Hit the "off" button. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, for every 4.6 seconds spent texting behind the wheel, drivers travel the length of a football field — without looking up. And talking on your cell phone delays your reaction time, even if you use a hands-free model. Your e-mail, voicemail and return calls can wait until after the trip. So, turn off your phone.
  • Eat up before you start up. An Exxon survey of 1,000 drivers showed that more than 70 percent liked to use their steering wheels as tray tables and 83 percent used their center consoles as beverage carts. To drive with your hands firmly on the wheel and avoid staining your new shirt, save the burgers, tacos and cups of coffee for your home or office.
  • Pull over. Maps and GPS systems are handy tools to get you from point A to point B. When you need to check your grid or change your destination, take the next exit or stop at the nearest rest area. Pulling over on the side of the road is a dangerous and unsafe alternative.
  • Keep ‘em caged. Keep all of your passengers safe by securing your pets in a harness or a crate. They remain in one place, freeing you to focus on what’s in front of you rather than the rearview mirror.

To learn more on how to avoid DWD, visit www.distraction.gov. 


Which one part of your car do auto experts suggest you check at least once a month?

(1)     Headlights

(2)     Mirrors

(3)     Doors

(4)     Tires

(5)     Taillights

(6)     Windows

Click here to find the answer...


Two Things You Can Do To Get Around Mandatory Insurance Laws

Move to Wisconsin or New Hampshire (driving without insurance is illegal in every state except those two.)  OK, there is a third, sell your vehicle and ride the bus or walk.  Other than that, no getting around it.  And if you don't carry insurance you risk fines, suspensions, revocations, impounded vehicles, and god forbid you have an accident without coverage and have to pay for a damaged vehicle or medical bills.

Many drivers that do not have insurance and call around for quotes find that quite a few agents will not talk to them.  Worse yet, other agents know this, and will intentionally offer a higher price than they have to, and hope they have found a new sucker ("since you don't have coverage now, you just won't find a better rate than this...")   If you don't have insurance and need it - or if you know someone who is in this situation - call Bergen Insurance.  We'll offer our best price now, and since we will review rates at every renewal, and the longer you have coverage you will be eligible for more and more discounts, we will keep finding lower prices for you.  When people have troubles, most agents close the door and hide - our clients know that's when we work even harder!  Have a great week -