Distracted Driving: the 2009 Word of the Year

It’s true. Webster’s New World College Dictionary has selected “distracted driving” as the 2009 Word of the Year. This is both good and bad news. Good because it draws attention to what amounts to a driving epidemic — texting and talking behind the wheel. Bad because it follows the curious trend of naming two-word phrases like “carbon neutral” the Word of the Year. Regardless, Webster’s aptly explains its selection:

A sign of the times surely, distracted driving is another reflection — and consequence — of our ongoing romance with all things digital and mobile and the enhanced capabilities they provide.

With the advent of sophisticated smart phones like the iPhone, Blackberry, Android, and the Nexus One, drivers have more distracting technology than ever before. In an effort to discourage distracted driving, many states are enacting and enforcing laws against the use of cell phones behind the wheel.

As of today, 6 states ban handheld phones for all drivers: California, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, and Washington. Apart from Washington, these bans are classified as “primary enforcement,” meaning officers will ticket a driver caught chatting.

Nineteen states ban text messaging for all drivers, too. Get the full list here.

Let’s face it. It’s tempting to pick up that buzzing phone as you drive. Next time you’re behind the wheel, consider the new golden rule of the road — Drive next to others as you’d have others drive next to you.

Distracted driving resources

The official resource, Distraction.gov
Oprah on distracted driving
Distracted driving — the game!

5 Tips for Getting the Best Rate on Life Insurance

You may find this hard to believe but a lot of people still think that life insurance is a complex, confusing ordeal. In fact, 53% of U.S. households don’t have individual plans. Most think it’s too expensive or that they simply don’t need it. In truth, life insurance is more affordable than a latte-a-day coffee habit, and everyone should have it. Here are 5 tips for getting the best rate on life insurance.

Buy term coverage

A term-life policy provides protection for a specific number of years, and is usually the best option for most anyone between the ages of 20 and 50. Plus, the younger you are when you buy, the more affordable it is.

Get healthy

Consider this: For $250,000 of coverage for 20 years, a fit 30-year-old man will pay approximately $161 to $192 a year, while a 30-year-old man who’s overweight and smokes could pay $440 to $573. You get the idea.

Be a good driver

Odd as it sounds, it’s true. Life insurance companies will look at your DMV record to learn more about you. The better your record, the better your rates are likely to be.

Get individual coverage

Most often group life insurance policies that you buy through an employer aren’t portable, meaning you can’t take it with you when you go. Get an individual policy to guarantee a good rate and constant coverage.

Update. Update. Update

Life changes, and so should your life insurance policy. If you find a better job, buy a bigger house, or have more kids, re-evaluate your policy to make sure you still have the right amount of coverage.

There’s a lot more to know, but these 5 tips will give you a head start on getting the best possible rate on your life insurance. As always, be sure to do your research before you decide. (But we don’t need to tell you that.)

Winter Driving Tips

With winter storms raging from coast to coast, we gathered these winter driving tips on how to drive safely ’til springtime.

Ice

Apart from not driving at all, the best way to handle icy roads is to drive slowly and cautiously. Leave plenty of room between your car and the car in front of it, and gently brake for stop signs and red lights ahead of time. Try to avoid slamming on the brakes, too, because it could lead to skidding. And beware of ice on bridges, overpasses, and seldom-used roads.

Snow

Slow down by pumping your brakes and leave plenty of room in front of your car. You can prep your car for snowy conditions by replacing older windshield wipers and checking your tires. A tire needs a tread that’s at least 6/32-inch deep (a new tire is typically 10/32). It’s also a good idea to have a bag of sand and a shovel in your car just in case.

Hail

Hail is snow’s angry brother, and it can seriously damage your car. If you’re already on the road, try to get your car underneath something like an overpass. If you’re not on the road, get to a window and try to gauge whether it’s hail the size of golf balls or softballs (just for fun). Hail causes over $1 billion in damages every year, and the best way to protect your car is to keep it covered until the storm passes.

Rain

It’s safer than ice or hail, but don’t let it fool you. It’s easy to hydroplane (when the water prevents your tires from hitting the road) in the rain at speeds over 50 mph. And avoid using cruise control, too. Cruise control may be the coolest thing since autopilot, but it’s also incapable of recognizing different weather conditions. Driving with it on can lull you into a false sense of safety and cut down on your response time.

Black ice

That sunshine sure is nice, but it may be trying to trick you. If it rained or snowed recently and the thermometer’s around freezing, be wary of black ice left over from yesterday’s weather. Black ice is notoriously difficult to spot, so keep it in mind as you start your drive. If you find yourself skidding and it’s too late, the first thing to do is release the gas pedal. Then turn into the direction of the skid without slamming the brakes.

We hope these tips will make your winter driving a little easier.  And stay safe on the roads — better weather’s on its way.

Related links

The Science of Skidding (and How to Avoid It)

How to Drive in the Rain

11 Must-Haves for Your Winter Car Kit

Flood Driving Tips