Bambi vs. the Buick: What's love got to do with it?

deer collisions in November It's that season again, and I don't mean the holidays. November is the month when deer collide regularly with motorists on interstates and back roads across the country. So insurer State Farm is warning you to watch out for our antlered friends. The number of deer-related collisions nationwide has increased by nearly 8 percent in recent years, says our largest car insurance company, with more than 1.2 million collisions this past year alone. Two hundred people died and, if you've seen the side of most roads, a much larger number of deer. Almost heaven In the most accident-prone state for deer, West Virginia, your chances of hitting a doe or buck this year are one in 40. There are a lot of dented pickup trucks in the Mountain State. So why are deer and cars attracted to each other, but in a negative way? And why do so many of these accidents take place in November? The answer is a "tail" of love and death. Deerly departed One reason for the increase in collisions: More deer, as well as drivers, are on the roads. "I even had a deer run into me while I was running," complained one jogger I… (continue reading......)

New Jersey drivers: Nothing to smile about

New Jersey drivers are no longer allowed to smile. New Jersey gets more than its fair share of publicity, but it's usually unwanted or unflattering. The Garden State has been home to The Sopranos, the award winning series about the mob, and Jersey Shore, whose mostly out-of-state resident cast makes us look like we live in a perpetual drunken stupor. Our latest claim to fame is equally dubious. New Jersey Motor Vehicle offices are getting national attention for prohibiting residents from posing with broad toothy grins when they have their drivers' license photos taken. We weren't the first to do this, but we can take credit for blaming it on auto insurance. It's no secret that facial recognition technology, despite what you see on crime shows, is not an exact science. It measures fixed points on a face, such as distance between the eyes. Then a computer program breaks it down into algorithms that match people with like features. Facial distortion, such as the muscle tension of a smile, can change a profile and confuse the computer. A frown could probably do this too. But most people want to put on their best face for the camera, so they usually make an effort to smile. And that's not easy,… (continue reading......)

Will car insurance rates rise if other states tailgate Texas?

Texas speed limits Years ago my wife was driving a sports car across a boring stretch of Texas when I fell asleep riding shotgun. I woke to find that she had put pedal to the metal and was going 115 miles per hour. "Slow down!" I screamed as telephone poles, cows and visions of my life flashed before my eyes. As it turns out, my wife was a woman ahead of her time. Texas now holds the record for the top speed limit allowed by law. Its transportation commission approved an 85 mph speed limit for a 41-mile stretch of highway between the state capital of Austin and the home of the Alamo, San Antonio. And since most of us drive at least 10 miles over the speed limit -- until the radar cop spills the coffee out the window and engages in hot pursuit -- the needle on the speedometer of a lot of cars in that part of Texas will now point to the century mark. 'Fast and furious' There are those who said that 55 mph was fast enough. During the gas crisis of the 1970s, the "national speed limit" dropped to a double nickel -- and death and serious… (continue reading......)

Insuring those who are born to be wild

Motorcycle insurance Insurers view motorcyclists with a dark fascination. Something akin to sitting in a dark theater watching a slasher flick when -- without warning -- Freddie jumps out at you. On the one hand insurance companies are happy to sell us motorcycle coverage. Everybody's seen that grayish-blue image of a biker in the repetitious Geico ads. On the other, insurers recognize that riding a "hog" is inherently dangerous, particularly if you don't wear a helmet. And many of us bikers do not. In a lobbying move to rival the National Rifle Association, bikers have run down the pro-helmet movement, stopping it -- so to speak -- dead in its tracks. In the 1970s, 47 states required motorcyclists to wear helmets, or not ride. Today only 19 states have motorcycle helmet laws for all riders, with Michigan recently revoking its requirement. No 'Easy Rider' This sparked a counter-insurgency. A study by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) shows that more lives are saved in states with full helmet laws than in states with partial laws, which generally only require younger cyclists to wear helmets. Viewing the website FairWarning.org, funded by Barbara Streisand and others, I found a study that says that motorcycle… (continue reading......)

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