Louisiana Department of Insurance
MONTHLY REPORT
Volume 12, Issue 5
May 2012


Members

Commissioner Jim Donelon
Theodore "Ted" Haik, Jr., Chair
Jeff Albright, Vice Chair

Raymond J. Aleman, Sr.
Lee Ann Alexander
Paul Buffone
Sheriff Greg Champagne
Representative Greg Cromer

Manuel DePascual
Nick Gautreaux
Michael Guy
Lance "Wes" Hataway
LTC John A. LeBlanc
Senator Eric LaFleur
Ann Metrailer
Robert Moorman
Senator Dan "Blade" Morrish
Chris Roy, Jr.
Stephen Schrempp
Representative Kirk Talbot
Earl Taylor
Rina Thomas


Staff


Terrell B. Moss, Director

David Evans,
Supervisor/Research Analyst

Katie Walsh, Administrative Assist./Research Analyst

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Hot Topic: Distracted Driving

Published studies, statistics and pending legislation serve as a reminder that distracted driving remains a danger on our roadways. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that 3,000 people were killed in distracted driving crashes last year.  A visual distraction is anything that takes a driver’s eyes off of the road, while cognitive distractions take a driver’s mind off the road, and manual distractions cause drivers to take their hands off of the steering wheel.

Cell phones are a common and dangerous distraction widely debated by highway safety organizations, law enforcement and legislators; however other distractions include eating, drinking, tuning the radio, talking to passengers or even reaching for objects while driving.  In 2009, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood launched a national anti-distracted driving campaign to combat the growing trend of dangerous distracted driving behavior across the country.

Bobby Breland, an analyst with the Louisiana Highway Traffic Safety Commission reported 163 people in Louisiana were killed as a direct result of distracted driving between 2005 and 2009. Alabama recently became the 38th state to outlaw texting while driving.

House Bill 695 would have banned use of hand held cell phones while driving, making it a primary offense. The proposed bill, submitted by Rep. Austin Badon, was recently rejected by a Senate committee. Currently only 10 states have passed similar bans, prohibiting the use of all hand held cell phones while driving.

The bill failed in Senate Committee as a result of a 1-2 vote.  Critics of the bill argue that data on cell phone usage and traffic accidents is inconclusive and also questioned the size of the fines in the bill and other details.  Many felt the new law would be difficult to enforce.

Current law can levy a fine against a driver up to $175 for texting and driving, and drivers under the age of 18 (or of any age during their first year of licensure) cannot use cell phones while driving.

Another piece of legislation concerning cell phones and driving is House Bill 787.  The bill would make use of handheld cell phones while driving only a secondary offense.  House Bill 787 has passed the House Transportation Committee and is subject to final passage.

Navigation Systems

Could built-in navigation systems be the cause of some car crashes?  The topic has been heavily debated recently.  Plugging a location into a navigation system would be a visual, cognitive and manual distraction.  Earlier in the year, NHTSA urged car manufacturers to block drivers from plugging locations into navigation systems while driving.  However, car companies feel that if drivers can’t use built-in devices, they will find other ways to use technologies, potentially replacing it with more dangerous hand-held systems. 

NHTSA has proposed guidelines to eliminate the distracted behavior and also has future plans to propose guidelines for mobile devices and for voice-recognition systems.  The Louisiana Property and Casualty Insurance Commission will monitor this topic and report further developments.

Tracking Hurricane Season and Storm Preparedness

2012 Hurricane Predictions

Three major weather forecasters are predicting a near-normal/ slightly below average hurricane season for 2012.  Cooler temperatures in the North Atlantic Ocean, in conjunction with a trend toward El Nino create atmospheric conditions which indicate a reduction in activity.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and Colorado State University (CSU) both predict four hurricanes for the entire six month season while The Weather Channel predicts six.  Below are more detailed predictions for the season.

 

 Named Storms

Hurricanes

 Major Hurricanes
(Category 3 or higher)

NOAA

9-15

4-8

1-3

The Weather Channel

11

6

2

CSU

10

4

2

 

Storm Preparedness

Tropical Storm Alberto, the first tropical storm of the 2012 hurricane season, formed earlier this month in the Atlantic, just off the coast of South Carolina.  Just this week, Tropical Storm Beryl made landfall.  Although neither storm was a threat to Louisiana, it should serve as a reminder that the beginning of hurricane season is just around the corner.  Although forecasters predict a less active than normal hurricane season this year, it is important that people take proper precautions and do not become complacent.

Recently, officials with the National Hurricane Center publicly urged residents living in hurricane-prone areas to skip taping up their windows as a precautionary measure when a hurricane is imminent.  If wind or debris were to shatter a taped window, the shards of glass could be larger and more dangerous because they are being held together by the tape.

Mr. Bill Read, director of the National Hurricane Center said, referring to taping, “It does not protect your windows.  At best, it’s an inconvenience.  At worst, some people have the illusion that they’re safe… and people can get severely hurt.”

Instead of using tape as a measure of protection, residents are encouraged to adhere to the Uniform Construction Codes, and use proven methods, such as hurricane shutters or impact-resistant windows.

Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon begins his annual “Storm Tour” next month. Although the 2012 Hurricane Season may not be as active as previous seasons, he stresses the importance of preparedness and taking the necessary steps to protect residents from Louisiana’s most frequent costly disasters – hurricanes and floods.  Commissioner Donelon continues to urge property owners to review and update their homeowners and auto insurance policies and to also become educated about flood insurance.  Luckily, Louisiana has been spared from major storms for the past few seasons; however, the Commissioner hopes that residents do not become complacent.

Hurricane season officially begins June 1st and ends November 30th.

Summer Fun: Trampolines can be Dangerous

Now that school is out for the summer, children are looking for ways to have some outdoor fun. While jumping on trampolines may be a summer pastime and can provide hours of entertainment, they can actually be extremely dangerous. People are often injured on them, sometimes seriously.

The Insurance Information Institute reports that over 105,000 trampoline claims are reported each year, totaling over $300 million. Insurance companies consider trampolines to be an extreme risk. Unsupervised children and uninvited trampoline users (such as neighbors or trespassers) only add to that risk.

Because of the extreme risk, most homeowner’s companies exclude liability coverage for trampolines. Check with your insurance agent for more information.