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Thursday, 8 October 2015

Auto Insurance for Teen Drivers

Auto Insurance for Teen Drivers

Because they present more of a risk, auto insurance rates are generally higher for teenage drivers. However, there are some ways you can both protect yourself financially and lower the cost of insuring your teen by doing the following:

Understand the Risk

It is important to talk to your teen about the relationship between auto accidents and insurance costs. Teens often forget that the cost of owning a car includes auto insurance. Explain that a driving infraction or being in an accident can drive up their insurance costs.

Shop Around

Insurance companies differ in how they price policies for young drivers, so spend some time researching prices to find the best fit for you and your teen.

Insure Your Teen on Your Own Policy

It is generally less expensive for parents to add teenager to their insurance policy than for teens to purchase their own. By insuring your teenager’s car with your insurance company, you can also qualify for a multi-vehicle discount.

Assign Your Teen to the Right Car

Find out how your insurer assigns drivers to cars—some insurers will assign the driver who is the most expensive to insure (generally the teenager) to the car that is the most expensive to insure. If possible, assign your teen to the least valuable car. Some insurers will allow policyholders to do this if the number of automobiles equals or exceeds the number of insured drivers on a policy. With this kind of arrangement there can be no exceptions; your teen must use only the car to which he or she is assigned, even in an emergency. If your teen is involved in an accident with an unassigned car, penalties could be imposed and your premiums might increase.

Increase Your Liability Insurance

Should your teen get into an accident, state minimums for liability insurance will not be enough to fully protect you from lawsuits. Many vehicles today are worth more than $15,000 and medical bills for injuries can easily exceed $20,000 for one person. If your teen is found negligent in an accident and the damages exceed your insurance limits, you will be held financially responsible and could be sued in court for those amounts not covered by your insurance.

Consider an Umbrella Liability Policy

In our litigious society, you may want to have an extra layer of liability protection. That is what a personal umbrella liability policy provides. An umbrella policy kicks in when you reach the limit on the underlying liability coverage in a homeowners, renters, condo or auto policy. It will also cover you for things such as libel and slander. For about $150 to $300 per year you can buy a $1 million personal umbrella liability policy. The next million will cost about $75, and $50 for every million after that. Most insurers will want you to have about $250,000 of liability insurance on your auto policy and $300,000 of liability insurance on your homeowners policy before selling you an umbrella liability policy for $1 million of additional coverage.

Raise Your Deductible

Going from a $250 to $500 or $1,000 deductible can save you 10 percent to 20 percent on your premium. You may want to use those savings to increase your liability insurance.

Is Your Teen Going Away To School?

When your teen heads off to college, you may be eligible for lower premiums, providing he or she leaves the car behind. Many insurers will reduce rates for students attending a school at least 100 miles away from home who do not have a car on campus.

Good Grades + Driver Training = Discount

Most insurance companies will give discount on auto insurance to students who are maintaining at least a “B” average in school. Another way to earn a discount is by having your teen take a recognized driver training course.

Contact Your Insurance Professional

When your teen is ready to get his or her learners permit, make sure to have a conversation with your insurance professional so he or she can clearly explain the costs involved in insuring a teenage driver. The good news is, as your teenager gets older, insurance rates will drop—providing he or she has a good driving record.

Senior Drivers

Senior Drivers

Most insurance companies offer discounts to drivers over 55, and for good reason: Seniors are generally courteous drivers who obey speed limits and follow the rules of the road. They tend to be cautious, for example, taking safer back roads to avoid congestion on major thoroughfares, and steering clear of rush-hour traffic. An older person is also more likely to avoid driving altogether when weather conditions are less than ideal, such as during a rainstorm or at night when visibility will be hampered.
Many states offer approved accident prevention courses for senior drivers to help them earn an insurance discount. Such classes can help refresh driving skills and alert people to the physical changes that may affect reflexes, hearing and cognitive ability. Groups such as the AAA offer a “driving health checkup” to provide seniors with a skills tune up. And the AAA’s CarFit program provides a 12-point check to make sure a vehicle’s interior features are perfectly matched to maximize comfort and safety for a senior driver. For example, mirrors can be adjusted for better visibility. Or the position of the steering wheel can be tweaked to improve the line of sight.
Although statistics show that, seniors do have a higher rate of fatal crashes, based on miles driven, the higher death rate is primarily due to the fact that it is harder for senior drivers to survive a serious car crash. And, because it can be difficult for seniors to give up the freedom that comes with being self-sufficient, family members often have to intervene when an aging relative’s continued driving may put them and others at risk.
In many cases, senior drivers decide to stop driving when they recognize that their confidence has waned. However, there are those who may not realize that declining health has affected their driving skills. Impaired hearing, deteriorating eyesight and slower reflexes are among the obvious concerns. Prescription drugs might also contribute to a slower reaction time. Talking with a senior driver about giving up the independence of driving can work with a supportive, positive conversation focused on safety, as well as other transportation options.
The Hartford and the MIT AgeLab have produced a comprehensive handbook titled, “We Need to Talk,” which provides guidance for a productive conversation with older drivers, designed to address both the facts and emotion that often arise when it’s time to put the keys away. The handbook offers tips and worksheets for a frank discussion about the risks and the signals that may indicate that it is time to give up driving. It also offers suggestions on viable alternative transportation options, from public transportation to app-based ride-sharing services.

Age and Driving:

Safety Tips and Warning Signs for Older Drivers

As we age, it's normal for our driving abilities to change. By reducing risk factors and incorporating safe driving practices, many of us can continue driving safely long into our senior years. But we do have to pay attention to any warning signs that age is interfering with our driving safety and make appropriate adjustments. Even if you find that you need to reduce your driving or give up the keys, it doesn't mean the end of your independence. Seeking alternative methods of transportation can offer health and social benefits, as well as a welcome change of pace to life.

Older drivers tip #1: Understand how aging affects driving

Everyone ages differently, so there is no arbitrary cutoff as to when someone should stop driving. However, older adults are more likely to receive traffic citations and get into accidents than younger drivers. In fact, fatal crash rates rise sharply after a driver has reached the age of 70. What causes this increase? As we age, factors such as decreased vision, impaired hearing, or slowed motor reflexes may become a problem. You may have a chronic condition that gradually worsens with time, or you may have to adjust to a sudden change, such as a stroke.
Aging tends to result in a reduction of strength, coordination, and flexibility, which can have a major impact on your ability to safely control a car. For example:
  • Pain or stiffness in your neck can make it harder to look over your shoulder to change lanes or look left and right at intersections to check for other traffic or pedestrians.
  • Leg pain can make it difficult to move your foot from the gas to the brake pedal.
  • Diminished arm strength can make it hard to turn the steering wheel quickly and effectively.
  • As reaction times also slow down with age, you may be slower to spot vehicles emerging from side streets and driveways, or to realize that the vehicle ahead of you has slowed or stopped.
  • Keeping track of so many road signs, signals, and markings, as well as all the other traffic and pedestrians, can also become more difficult as you lose the ability to effectively divide your attention between multiple activities.
You may have driven your entire life and take great pride in your safety record, but as you age, it is critical that you realize your driving ability can change. To continue driving safely, you need to recognize that changes can happen, get help when they do, and be willing to listen if others voice concerns.

Older drivers tip #2: Tips for safe senior driving

Aging does not automatically equal total loss of driving ability. There are many things you can do to continue driving safely, including modifying your car, the way you drive, and understanding and rectifying physical issues that may interfere with driving.

Take charge of your health

Regular check-ups are critical to keep you in the best possible driving shape. Other steps you can take include:
  • Getting your eyes checked every year. Make sure that corrective lenses are current. Keep the windshield, mirrors, and headlights clean, and turn brightness up on the instrument panel on your dashboard.
  • Having your hearing checked annually. If hearing aids are prescribed, make sure they are worn while driving. Be careful when opening car windows, though, as drafts can sometimes impair a hearing aid's effectiveness.
  • Talking with a doctor about the effects that ailments or medications may have on your driving ability. For example, if you have glaucoma, you may find tinted eyeglass lenses useful in reducing glare.
  • Sleeping well. Getting enough sleep is essential to driving well. If there are problems, try to improve nighttime sleep conditions and talk with your doctor about the effect of any sleep medications on driving.

Find the right car and any aids you need for safe driving

Choose a vehicle with automatic transmission, power steering, and power brakes. Keep your car in good working condition by visiting your mechanic for scheduled maintenance. Be sure that windows and headlights are always clean. An occupational therapist or a certified driving rehabilitation specialist, for example, can prescribe equipment to make it easier to steer the car and to operate the foot pedals.

Drive defensively

In these days of cell phones, GPS devices, and digital music players, drivers are even more distracted than they used to be. This means you’ll want to take extra steps to drive safely, like leaving adequate space for the car in front of you, paying extra attention at intersections, and making sure you are driving appropriate to the flow of traffic. Avoid distractions such as talking on the phone while driving or trying to puzzle out a map, even if it’s a GPS on the car; pull over instead.
Make sure you allow sufficient braking distance. Remember, if you double your speed—say from 30mph to 60mph—your braking distance does not become twice as long, it becomes four times as far, even more if the road is wet or icy.

Know your limitations

If a driving situation makes you uncomfortable, don’t do it. Many older drivers voluntarily begin to make changes in their driving practices. For instance, you may decide to drive only during daylight hours if you have trouble seeing well in reduced light. If fast-moving traffic bothers you, consider staying off freeways, highways, and find street routes instead. You may also decide to avoid driving in bad weather (rain, thunderstorms, snow, hail, ice). If you are going to a place that is unfamiliar to you, it is a good idea to plan your route before you leave so that you feel more confident and avoid getting lost.

Listen to the concerns of others

If relatives, friends, or others begin to talk to you about your driving, it may be time to take a hard, honest look at your driving ability:
  • A number of self-evaluation tools are available to help. See listings in the Resources section below.
  • You might choose to brush up on your driving through a refresher course. Safety courses are offered in many communities and online.
  • Talk to your doctor. Your doctor should also be able to provide an opinion about your ability to drive safely, or refer you to a specialist for more intensive evaluation.

Getting a professional evaluation

An occupational therapist or certified driver rehabilitation specialist can provide a comprehensive evaluation of the skills needed to drive and recommend car modifications or tools to keep someone driving as long as possible. It can also help diffuse accusations from family by providing a neutral third party perspective. You can ask your medical treatment team for a referral, or visit the websites listed in the Resources section below.

Older drivers tip #3: Know the warning signs of unsafe driving

Sometimes unsafe signs can come up gradually, or a recent change in health may make problems worse. Even if the individual warning signs seem minor, together they can add up to a substantial risk. If you are concerned about your own driving or worried about a friend or loved one, keep an eye out for these warning signs:

Issues with health

Health problems don’t always mean that driving needs to be stopped, but they do require extra vigilance, awareness, and willingness to correct them. Some health problems include:
  • Conflicting medications. Certain medications or combinations of medications can affect senses and reflexes. Always check the label on medications and double check with your healthcare team if you are taking several medications or notice a difference after starting a new medication.
  • Eyesight problems. Some eye conditions or medications can interfere with your ability to focus your peripheral vision, or cause you to experience extra sensitivity to light, trouble seeing in the dark, or blurred vision. Can you easily see traffic lights and street signs? Or do you find yourself driving closer and closer to them, slowing by just to see the lights or signs? Can you react appropriately to drivers coming from behind or the side?
  • Hearing problems. If your hearing is decreasing, you may not realize you’re missing out on important cues to drive safely. Can you hear emergency sirens, or if someone is accelerating next to you, or the honking of a horn?
  • Problems with reflexes and range of motion. Can you react quickly enough if you need to brake suddenly or quickly look back? Have you confused the gas and brake pedals? Do you find yourself getting more flustered while driving, or quick to anger? Is it comfortable to look back over your shoulder, or does it take extra effort?
  • Problems with memory. Do you find yourself missing exits that used to be second nature, or find yourself getting lost frequently? While everyone has an occasional lapse, if there’s an increasing pattern, it’s time to get evaluated by a doctor.

Issues on the road

  • Trouble with the nuts and bolts of driving. Do you see yourself making sudden lane changes, drifting into other lanes, braking, or accelerating suddenly without reason? How about failing to use the turn signal, or keeping the signal on without changing lanes?
  • Close calls and increased citations. Red flags include frequent "close calls" (i.e., almost crashing), dents and scrapes on the car or on fences, mailboxes, garage doors, and curbs. Increased traffic tickets or "warnings" by traffic or law enforcement officers are also red flags.

Older drivers tip #4: Benefits of not driving

Adjusting to life without a car may be challenging at first; most likely, you’ve been driving your whole life and it feels like quite a shock. It’s normal to be frustrated, angry, or irritable. You might even feel ashamed or worry that you are losing your independence. However, it takes a lot of courage to stop driving and put the safety of yourself and others first. You may also find there are many benefits to living without a car that you may not have considered. For example, you may:
  • Save money on the cost of car ownership, including car insurance, maintenance, registration, and gasoline. These savings can pay for alternative transportation if necessary. In fact, many seniors who only used their car for short trips often find that using a taxi or shuttle service for those same trips works out costing far less.
  • Improve your health. Giving up the car keys often means walking or cycling more, which can have a hugely beneficial effect on your health. Regular exercise from walking and cycling can help seniors boost their energy, sleep better, and improve confidence. It can also help you manage the symptoms of illness and pain, maintain your independence, and even reverse some of the signs of aging. And not only is exercise good for your body—it’s good for your mind, mood, and memory.
  • Expand your social circle. While many seniors have difficulty accepting ride offers from others, this can be a good time to reach out and connect to new people. Find a way of accepting rides that makes you comfortable. For example, you can offer a friend money for gas, or trade off on other chores, such as cooking a meal in return for your friend driving.
  • Appreciate the change of pace. For many, stopping driving means slowing down. While that may not sound appealing to everyone, many older adults find that they actually enjoy life far more when they live it at a slower pace. It can also have a beneficial effect on mental health by placing less stress on your nervous system.

Know your transportation alternatives

The more alternatives you have to driving, the easier the adjustment will be. You want to make sure that you can get out not only for essentials like doctor’s appointments, but also social visits and enrichment. Feeling housebound can quickly lead to depression.
This may also be a time to evaluate your living arrangements. If you are isolated and there are little transportation options in your area, you may want to consider moving to an area with more options, or investigate senior living options.
  • Public transportation. If you live in an area that is well connected with public transportation, it can be a very handy way to get around. Check your local public transportation options and ask about reduced prices for older adults.
  • Ride sharing. Family members, friends, and neighbors may be a resource for ride sharing. Offer to share the costs or to return the favor in a different way, such as cooking a meal or helping with yard work.
  • Community shuttles/senior transit. Your local community may have shuttle service available, especially for medical appointments. Some medical facilities, such as those for veterans, also have transportation options for medical appointments. Your local place of worship may also offer transit options.
  • Taxis or private drivers. Taxis may be a good option for quick trips without a lot of prior scheduling. You can also look into hiring a chauffeur or private driver. You can go through a formalized driving service, or sometimes a family member, friend, or neighbor can help. You do want to make sure whoever is driving has a good driving record and is responsible.
  • Walking/cycling. If health permits, walking or cycling when you can is a great way to not only get around but also get some exercise. Regular physical activity lowers your risk for a variety of conditions, including Alzheimer’s and dementia, heart disease, diabetes, colon cancer, high blood pressure, and obesity.
  • Motorized wheelchairs. Motorized wheelchairs can be a good way to get around if you live in an area with easily accessible stores and well-paved streets.
For ways to find transportation alternatives in your area, see the Resources section below.

How to talk to a loved one about driving concerns

Driver safety can often be a sensitive issue for older drivers. A driver’s license signifies more than the ability to drive a car; it is a symbol of freedom and self-sufficiency. Understandably, driving is not a privilege that anyone wants to relinquish willingly. Still, safety must come first.
Some older drivers may be aware of their faltering ability but still be reluctant to give up driving completely. Another person’s concerns may force the senior driver to act. They may even feel relieved to have someone else help make the decision to stop driving. Some seniors may forget that they aren’t supposed to drive. If that is the case, it is even more important to remove the car or the keys to make it impossible to drive. If you find yourself in the position of talking to an older friend or family member about their driving, remember the following:
  • Be respectful. For many seniors, driving is an integral part of independence. Many older adults have fond memories of getting a driver’s license. At the same time, don’t be intimidated or back down if you have a true concern.
  • Give specific examples. It’s easier to tune out generalizations like “You just can’t drive safely anymore.” Outline concerns that you have noticed, such as “You have a harder time turning your head than you used to,” or “You braked suddenly at stop signs three times the last time we drove.”
  • Find strength in numbers. If more than one family member or close friend has noticed, it’s less likely to be taken as nagging. A loved one may also listen to a more impartial party, such as a doctor or driving specialist.
  • Help find alternatives. The person may be so used to driving that they have never considered alternatives. You can offer concrete help, such as researching transportation options or offering rides when possible. If your family member is reluctant to ask for help, it can lead to isolation and depression.
  • Understand the difficulty of the transition. Your loved one may experience a profound sense of loss having given up driving. Don’t dismiss their feelings but try to help with the transition as much as possible. If it is safe, try slowly transitioning the senior out of driving to give them time to adjust. For example, your loved one may begin the transition by no longer driving at night or on the freeways, or by using a shuttle service to specific appointments, such as the doctor’s.

When an older driver refuses to give up the keys

Sometimes an older driver has to be stopped from driving over their objections. It might feel very difficult for you to make this call, especially if the senior is a parent or other close figure used to having their independence. However, their safety and the safety of others must come first. An unsafe driver can seriously injure or kill themselves or others.
If appropriate evaluations and recommendations have been made, and no amount of rational discussion has convinced the driver to hand over the car keys, then you may make an anonymous report to your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (in the U.S. or Canada) or talk to the person’s physician about your concerns. In some cases, there is a need to take further actions such as taking away the car keys, selling or disabling the car, and enlisting the local police to explain the importance of safe driving and the legal implications of unsafe driving.
In the UK, report an unsafe driver to the DVLA. In Australia, contact your state/territory’s licensing authority 

Road Rage

Road Rage

Increasingly crowded highways and traffic backups cause many drivers to lose control and become extremely aggressive. Aggressive driving is a real problem that can lead to serious accidents on the road.
Road rage can also cause problems for your claim process if you should happen to be involved in an auto accident. Road rage is a listed as an exemption in many auto insurance policies since any damage stemming from aggressive isn’t truly an accident but rather caused by risky behavior . 
If you encounter aggressive drivers, do not challenge them, and stay as far away as possible. You may want to take down the license plate number and report their behavior to police so they won’t hurt themselves or someone else. If you happen to suffer from anger management problems while driving yourself, here are some tips to help you cool off.
  • Try not to run late.
    When you're in a hurry, your patience is short and you are much more likely to become aggravated. Try to give yourself a few extra minutes to get where you need to go. 
  • Other drivers are not evil.
    Sometimes, people make mistakes, or they might be driving more slowly for a reason. Do not assume that they are driving slowly just to annoy you. 
  • Try not to look.
    The most tempting thing when you're passing someone who is annoying you is to shoot them a dirty look. Do not do it! Doing so could trigger the other driver into more aggressive action. 
  • No gestures, either.
    Other than a wave to someone who lets you into your lane, do not use your hands (or any specific combinations of fingers) to communicate with other drivers.
  • Tailgating is bad.
    Just because someone is driving slow does not mean you should hang out on their back bumper. If they had to stop short and you rear-ended them, the accident would be your fault. 
  • Someone tailgating you is worse.
    If someone is tailgating you, do not aggravate yourself and the other driver by playing cat and mouse with your speed. Move out of the way and let them pass you. 
  • Do not honk your horn insistently.
    It might make you feel better, but it is really kind of silly. And when everyone does it in a traffic jam, it's really annoying and increases everyone’s stress level. 
  • Do not be a hero.
    If the other driver is being rude and starts to follow you, do not engage with him or her. Do not try to stop and confront the other driver, just keep you doors locked, give yourself room at intersections to drive away, and head to the nearest police station.
Sources of information:

Preventing Carjacking / Theft

Preventing Carjacking / Theft

Thousands of unsuspecting motorists are carjacked every year.

To minimize the danger of being carjacked:

  1. Think of saving your life first. Only then, think of your car and what's in it.
  2. If another car bumps your car, stay inside with the windows shut and the door locked and drive to the nearest police or fire station.
  3. Don’t stop at isolated pay phones, cash machines or newspaper machines where you could become a carjacking victim.
  4. Stay alert to people lurking near or moving toward your parked car.
  5. Always keep the windows of your car shut and doors locked, whether you’re in or out of your car.
  6. Park only in well-lighted areas.

To prevent your car from being stolen:

  1. Keep your registration card in your wallet instead of your glove compartment.
  2. Use paint or an indelible marker to put the vehicle identification number (VIN) under the engine hood and trunk lid and on the battery. This number is usually found on the dashboard on the driver’s side of the car.
  3. If you have to leave personal property in your car, leave it in the trunk.
  4. Keep your car in a garage and lock the garage door.
  5. Use a security device like a steering wheel lock or a gear shift column lock.

If your car is stolen, have the following information ready to give to the police:

  1. The year, make, model and color of the car.
  2. The approximate time the car was stolen.
  3. A description of anyone you may have seen loitering around your car before it was stolen.
  4. The names of any witnesses.

Winter Driving

Winter Driving

Safe Driving and Vehicle Maintenance Are Key

4 Ways Your Driving Habits Could Wreck Your Credit Score

Winter is a time when safe driving and well-maintained vehicles take on even greater importance.  “Failure to keep in proper lane or running off the road” and “driving too fast for conditions” are the two of the most frequent driver behaviors, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). 
In order to avoid potentially dangerous situations, the I.I.I. offers the following winter driving tips:
  • Give yourself enough time to arrive at your destination. Trips can take longer during winter than other times of the year, especially if you encounter storm conditions or icy roads.
  • Bring a cellphone so that those awaiting your arrival can get in touch with you, or you can notify them, if you are running late. But avoid the temptation of using the phone while driving, as it can be a dangerous distraction—pull over first.
  • Drive slowly because accelerating, stopping and turning all take longer on snow-covered roads.
  • Leave more distance than usual between your vehicle and the one just ahead of you, giving yourself at least 10 seconds to come to a complete stop. Cars and motorcycles usually need at least 3 seconds to halt completely even when traveling on dry pavement.
  • Be careful when driving over bridges, as well as roadways rarely exposed to sunlight—they are often icy when other areas are not.
  • Avoid sudden stops and quick direction changes.
  • Be sure to keep your gas tank full. Stormy weather or traffic delays may force you to change routes or turn back. A fuller gas tank also averts the potential freezing of your car's gas-line.
  • Keep windshield and windows clear. Drivers in cold-weather states should have a snow brush or scraper in their vehicle at all times. Your car's defroster can be supplemented by wiping the windows with a clean cloth to improve visibility.
  • Do not activate your cruise control when driving on a slippery surface.
  • Do not warm up a vehicle in an enclosed area, such as a garage.
  • Keep your tires properly inflated and remember that good tread on your tires is essential to safe winter driving.
  • Check your exhaust pipe to make sure it is clear. A blocked pipe could cause a leakage of carbon monoxide gas into your car when the engine is running.
  • Monitor the weather conditions at your destination before beginning your trip. If conditions look as though they are going to be too hazardous, just stay home.
My daughter recently turned 15, and one of the first things she did on her birthday was to take an online test required to get her learner's permit. She passed, and now she's driving. I don't have to lecture her on safe driving habits; she's been doing that to me for years. And she's more up to speed on the rules of the road than I am.

But what I do have to explain is how driving may affect her credit in the future. They don't teach that in Driver's Ed, and it's something most of us don't think about until it affects us.

Here are four ways that driving can have significant, long-term impact on your credit.

1. Tickets and Fines

If you get a ticket for a traffic or parking violation, it shouldn't show up on your credit reports. But if you don't pay the fines that result, the balance may be turned over to acollection agency, and that collection account may very well show up on your credit reports. Collection accounts, regardless of the reason or the amount, can be score killers.

Generally, collection accounts remain on credit reports for up to seven and a half years, even if they have been paid. But there may be special provisions in place that will allow for these accounts to be removed when the debt is paid. For example, in Washington, D.C., the Department of Motor Vehicles reports that the collections agency it hires "has agreed to automatically send an account delete record to the credit bureaus that it utilizes. This means that the record of your delinquent debt should disappear from credit bureau records within two to four weeks after payment in full is made."

If you have unpaid tickets, check your free credit reports to see if they appear on your reports as collection accounts. Then check with your state's department of motor vehicles to find out if they will be removed from your credit reports if you pay what's owed. Even if that is not the case, you'll want to resolve those accounts so the amount due doesn't continue to grow. In some jurisdictions, failing to pay these debts can even cause your license to be suspended.

2. Car Payments

An auto loan can help or hurt your credit, depending on how you manage it. One of the factors that most credit scoring models look at is your "mix of credit." In many scoring models, it makes up about 10 percent of your score. You'll score better for this factor if you have a variety of types of credit accounts; for example, if your report lists both revolving accounts (such as credit cards) and installment accounts (such as vehicle or student loans). If you want to see how your account mix is affecting your credit, check yourfree Credit Report Card, which will grade you on each of the five major credit reporting factors.

In addition, if you co-sign a car loan for your child (or anyone else for that matter), their loan will likely appear on your credit reports and will be treated as your own. Even if payments are made on time, the debt can affect your credit scores.

Miss a payment, however, and your credit scores may plummet. Recent late payments can lower your credit scores significantly and are especially problematic if you want to finance another vehicle or refinance your current loan since payment history on current and previous auto loans is an important factor in the scoring models used to evaluate auto loan applications.

In the worst-case scenario, where you fall behind on payments and your vehicle is repossessed, that repo will stay on your credit reports for seven years. Plus, the lender may try to collect a deficiency (the difference between what you owed and what they sold the vehicle for), and even file a lawsuit for that amount. If they win, you'll have a judgment on your credit reports as well.

3. DUIs

If you are charged with driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, the DUI will not appear on standard credit reports. But the costs of a DUI -- even for first-time offenders -- are staggering, and often cost $5,000 or more. Trying to come up with the money for attorney's fees, court costs, bail, towing, higher insurance premiums, etc., can put a strain on your budget and cause you to fall behind on other bills.

Or you may find yourself having to max out your credit cardsor get a loan to pay those costs, resulting in higher balances on your credit reports. Those higher credit card balances can hurt your credit scores.

4. Accidents

There were some 10.8 million motor vehicle accidents in 2009, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. These accidents don't just wreck vehicles; they sometimes destroy people's credit as well. Accidents may involve property damage that may not be covered by insurance, or large medical bills that aren't covered in full.

Even with adequate insurance, it can take time for insurance companies to sort out who pays for what, and to pay policyholders or providers. In the meantime, it's not unusual for medical bills to go unpaid. If medical providers aren't paid quickly enough, they may turn those bills over to collections; again, damaging credit reports.

Has driving impacted your credit? Share your experience in the comments below. 
That Will Help Others.

Driving in Bad Weather

Driving in Bad Weather

Driving in bad weather is a major cause of accidents. When you are driving, particularly on a long trip, make sure to stay tuned to radio reports about weather conditions. If you hear that an ice storm, hurricane, tornado, flood, hail or other severe weather is expected on the route you are taking or at your intended destination, change your travel plans. Whatever reason you have for going where you are going cannot be as important as saving your life.
If you are already in an area that is being hit by bad weather, don’t try to drive your way out of it. Seek shelter for both you and your car and wait for the storm to pass.

Filing a Car Insurance Claim? Better Scour Your Social Networks First

Do You Know?
Claims adjusters are checking your Facebook and Twitter, looking for reasons to deny your claim.

What you Tweet can and will be used against you in a court of law.

That's what insurance attorneys are saying when it comes to social networking and car accidents: By no means should you be Facebooking, Instagramming, Pinteresting, LinkedIn-ing or otherwise socially broadcasting details at the scene of the accident.

"Checking social media accounts has become one of the first things an insurance company or adjuster will do when you file a claim," Frank Darras, an insurance attorney in Ontario, Calif., told the automotive information and pricing providerEdmunds.com in an interview published last week.

Darras and other lawyers who represent people fightinginsurance companies who deny claims say that in recent years it has become an industry standard for claims adjustors to sift through publicly available content of their customers, seeking out any information that might build a case for them to deny claims or lower payouts.

In some cases the claims adjustors find outright fraud based on Facebook or Twitter posts that contradict details given on claims reports. For example, someone might file a hit-and-run with the insurer but then post contradictory details on Facebook admitting fault.

But insurers go even further. They scour claimants' social networks for clues to driving habits. Post a ton of drifting videos on your profile? It could hint that you're a fan of reckless driving. Post on Foursquare a photo of yourself in a bar parking lot, it could suggest a penchant for drinking and driving. Even bad reviews on eBay could provide hints about the type of person you are.

While a lot of this content doesn't necessarily provide definitive proof of insurance fraud, the material can be used in court in the event of a legal battle, especially in cases involving personal injury.

Jaclyn S. Millner, an attorney at Fitch, Johnson, Larson & Held, P.A., and Gregory M. Duhl, associate professor of law at the William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul, Minn., pointed out to the Association of Certified Fraud Examinersin a report last year that investigating social networking content that's not protected with privacy settings is not considered an ethical breach.

Furthermore, while ethical codes prevent attorneys and their investigators from clandestine "friending" of targets in order to access content protected by privacy settings , these ethical codes do not extend to investigators not hired by attorneys or by insurance companies themselves. As long as attorneys representing insurance companies do not instruct non-attorney investigators to try to access private content by successfully initiating contact with the target, then any content behind privacy settings may be used in any legal proceedings.

Because of employers' increased scrutiny of social networks, people have started managing their public profiles more carefully. Now that insurance claims adjustors are making it standard operating procedure to scour the Web for reasons to deny claims, people have more reason to be more discreet with the content they share.