Work Zone Safety Is Everyone’s Job

Drivers need to understand why they should slow down and pay attention in road construction and repair areas.

In 2012, throughout all 50 states and the District of Columbia, there were 609 fatalities occurring within work zones, including 130 workers killed while on the job. The latest statistics show that speeding was a factor in more than 35% of all fatal work zone crashes and drivers need to understand why they need to slow down and pay attention during this season of road construction and repair.

Defensive Driving
As a professional chauffeur, be very mindful that when you are driving a larger vehicle, the tight conditions of work zones require that you pay close attention to your speed and the space around your vehicle. The most common crash in a work zone is a rear-ender, so leave 6 or more seconds of space between you and the vehicle ahead and even more space when road conditions deteriorate with bad weather or rough surfaces. Give yourself space to move in case anything goes wrong, especially in stop and go traffic with fewer lanes to maneuver. Stay in your lane, obey the posted speed limit and remember, fines are often doubled in work zones.

Nighttime Safety Issues
Night work zones are increasingly common because authorities prefer to avoid lane closures and congestion during peak daytime traffic. However, with less overall traffic at night, drivers tend to drive faster. Speed and darkness are the main reasons why 55% of work zone fatalities occur at night and crash rates increase by 65%. Darkness makes visibility poorer even with construction lights and reflective worker clothing. And night drivers are more likely to be fatigued or driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, so stay alert and stay away.

Watch Out And Plan Ahead!
As you approach the warnings of a work zone ahead, merge as soon as possible to avoid forcing your vehicle into the traffic flow. Once you’re in the zone, if traffic merges into fewer lanes, use caution and courtesy to reduce the chance of a sideswipe. The worst of all merges is when a vehicle at a full stop in one lane attempts to move directly into a lane in which the traffic is moving. The front wheels of a stopped vehicle turning toward the lane that is moving could signal that the vehicle will try to merge. Reduce your speed and keep your distance. Continuously scan the work zone and watch traffic, the workers, traffic flaggers and any moving equipment. Relax and take your time getting through the congestion. Before you leave on a trip, check various state DOT websites to check if there are work zones along your route. If you think you might be delayed, plan a different route or leave earlier to reach your destination.

Staying alert and aware of what’s happening around you will help you safely navigate these congested areas.

And remember, SLOW DOWN!

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Police No-Shows At Non-Injury Traffic Accidents – Start Of A Trend?

Police estimate that every week, they spend 55% of their time – 250 hours – on these “fender-benders” and they have many more pressing matters to deal with.

Las Vegas has become the latest city to determine that unless there are injuries or fatalities involved, its police department will not respond to the scene of a vehicular accident. So, there won’t be any police investigations or written reports on property-damage-only accidents. As of March 3, 2014, it became the responsibility of those involved in the collision to make sure that identification and insurance information is exchanged and that the incident is reported to authorities. The decision follows other cities that have enacted similar Police No-Show policies, including San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego, and it could start trending across the country.

The over-riding reason for this change of policy is that the police claim they just don’t have the time to deal with these incidents any longer, estimating that every week, they spend 55% of their time – 250 hours – on these “fender-benders” while they have many more pressing matters to deal with. One issue which needs addressing is when one of the parties involved refuses to exchange information or leaves the scene of the accident. In the first instance, the police can be called to respond and, in the second, leaving the scene constitutes a “hit-and-run” accident, which the police will continue to respond. They will also continue to respond to instances involving drunk driving. Those opposed to the new rule are concerned that it makes it more difficult for motorists to determine and agree on who’s at fault, what needs to be reported to what agencies and how to properly determine insurance issues. The Nevada Insurance Council already called the move a “poorly executed plan” that could lead to safety problems and higher insurance costs.

The new policy can also open the door to fraud, because it’s one person’s word against the other. This is why it is of the utmost importance to document the scene carefully. Take photos, including close-ups of all damaged areas of every vehicle, get witness information from anyone who may have been at the scene, take pictures of the general scene from all angles and document the number of occupants who might have been in any of the involved vehicles. It makes sense to do this whether you’re in a place where police respond or not. Las Vegas has published a list of Frequently Asked Questions for Property Damage Only Traffic Accidents, so you can educate yourself on how to accurately document a scene. And, even if you are nowhere near Las Vegas, there are areas of the country that have implemented this same process, and many more are likely to follow as budgets continue to tighten.

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Pedestrian Traffic Fatalities Down In 2013

Keep your eyes moving & slow down in congested areas to help pedestrians, who might not paying proper attention, stay safe.

The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) has released a new report showing that for the first time since 2009, the number of pedestrians killed on America’s roadways is declining. The preliminary 2013 report indicates that compared with the first 6 months of 2012 (2,175 deaths), pedestrian deaths fell by 8.7% during the first half of 2013 (1,985 deaths). More states had decreases than increases in the fatality rate, with Florida and California showing the highest rates of decline.

GHSA analyzed pedestrian deaths in the U.S.between 2009 and 2012, and discovered a 15% increase in the fatality rate during that time. Compared to a 3% decrease in all other motor vehicle fatalities in the same time period, the results were concerning enough to prompt the organization to conduct the new study. The data came from all 50 states’ highway safety offices and from the District of Columbia. States with the most fatalities are primarily large-population states with large urban centers. California, Texas and Florida accounted for one-third of all pedestrian deaths reported. The lowest percentages of pedestrian fatalities are in predominantly rural states such as South Dakota (2%), North Dakota (4%) and Wyoming (5%).

While there are no definitive conclusions as to why pedestrian fatalities increased so significantly before 2013, speculation centers on the economic recession since 2009, which may have put more people on the streets, walking to lower their transportation costs. Walking for health and environmental benefits may have also been a factor, as well as the surge in distracted walking incidents. A study by the Pew Research Center indicates that more than half (53%) of all adult cell phone owners have been
involved in some form of a distracted walking encounter. Whether cell phone owners live in urban, suburban or rural areas, and without a significant age differential, all are equally likely to have run into something or been run into by something, due to distracted walking.

The reasons for the decline in pedestrian deaths in 2013 are also difficult to explain. But the study speculates that all 50 states have been utilizing a number of engineering, educational and enforcement programs to help combat the problem. These include designing and operating roadways that make access safer for all users; adding mid-block crossings; making crossing signals better timed for pedestrian use; and even using plainclothes police officers who are placed in marked crosswalks to identify and warn or cite motorists who do not yield the right of way to pedestrians.

As a professional limousine driver, chances are you are surrounded by pedestrians several times a day and night. Please remember that keeping your eyes moving and slowing down in congested areas will go a long way in keeping the roadways safer for you, your passengers and for the pedestrians who might not pay proper attention to their own surroundings.

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Digital Billboards – An Accident Waiting To Happen?

 

The FHWA’s 2011 study suggests that digital billboards result in minimal distraction for drivers.

Digital billboards are fast becoming more and more familiar on highways and city streets throughout the United States. And with the proliferation of these moving and changing Commercial Electronic Variable Message Signs (CEVMS), comes increased controversy over the dangers of distracting drivers by taking their eyes off the road.

The Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) conducted a 2011 study suggesting that digital billboards are basically safe and result in minimal distraction for drivers. The FHWA study, titled
“Driver Visual Behavior In The Presence Of Commercial Electronic Variable Message Signs,” used eye-tracking technology to compare driver attention in the presence of digital billboards compared to standard billboards. The 62-page study revealed that drivers were slightly more likely to look at digital billboards than standard billboards, but for the most part, they didn’t look at either type of billboard for more than two seconds — the minimum threshold for distracted driving. The studies were conducted using field investigations with unobtrusive observation, naturalistic driving studies, on-road investigations as well as test-track experiments, driver interviews, surveys and questionnaires.  

Drivers were studied both in the day and at night. As a part of the eye tracking system installed in the test-driving cars, a three-camera panoramic scene monitoring system captured the forward driving scene that the driver would observe. A specialized GPS device recorded the vehicle’s position, speed and acceleration. Two cities, Richmond, Virginia and Reading, Pennsylvania, were chosen for the majority of the area of study. The drivers’ average dwell time for digital billboards observed in the two study areas was about the same, at approximately one second, and there was only one instance of a dwell time exceeding two seconds (2.27 seconds). Thus “the results did not provide evidence indicating that CEVMS were associated with long glances away from the road that may reflect an increase in risk.”

The study is encouraging for digital billboard supporters, but the controversy is continuing, especially because the CEVMS are still relatively new and drivers can be distracted by them because of their novelty. There is also the argument that the test subjects were much more aware of the testing, and their behavior behind the wheel may have been affected by the knowledge that distracted driving is dangerous, and the subjects may have wanted to be considered safe drivers. Despite concluding that the CEVMS are no more distracting than static billboards, FHWA concedes that glances away from the road ahead decreases the time drivers should devote to keeping their eyes on the road.

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Google Glass Distracted Driving Case Dismissed

 

Google Glass Lawsuit

A California woman appears to be the first person in the nation charged with distracted driving using Google Glasses as the source of her distraction.

A California woman cited for distracted driving for wearing Google Glass while on the road has had her case dismissed. She appears to be the first person in the nation charged with distracted driving using the computer-in-eyeglasses device as the source of her distraction. The woman, a software developer who was selected to try out Google Glass before the devices will be in the hands of the public later this year, was cited under a code banning operation of a video or TV screen at the front of a vehicle that is moving. The Traffic Court Commissioner who ruled on the case said that the code is broad enough to apply to Google Glass, but there was no proof beyond a reasonable doubt that the device was in the “active” mode when the woman was driving. However, he refused to rule that it is legal to wear the device and drive while it is turned on. The woman said that despite the glasses being “on,” she was not using them in the “active” mode at the time.

Her defense attorney argued that anything could be a distraction, even something as common as changing radio stations. He contended that if lawmakers did not rule definitively that Google Glass can be used safely while someone is driving, the code used to cite his client would be left up to the interpretation of individual judges, causing some confusion. Google glasses, which can be voice-activated or turned on with a wink, have a hidden camera and thumbnail sized, transparent display above the right eye. The device can be used to do things such as check email, do research on items the wearer is looking at, take a picture, record a scene and even get driving directions.

Legal experts are now arguing that this ruling could be the start of many court battles in the courts, as state lawmakers try to come to terms with existing laws and the rapid arrival and ever-changing new technologies coming to market. Vivewk Wadhwa, a fellow from Stanford Law School, agrees that the battles have just begun, because the lower court ruling does not set a legal precedent, but rather marks what he expects will be numerous, similar challenges. Included in those challenges will be other wearable devices and certainly, driverless cars, all coming to the marketplace in the near future. Wadhwa offered a scenario in which a driverless car is being operated on the road and then hits someone. Who is the responsible party? The “driver” (now being referred to as the “passenger”), the car manufacturer, the roadway network or the software developer? The possibilities for finding fault could be a long list. After the California ruling, Delaware, New Jersey and West Virginia have introduced bills that would ban driving with Google Glass. More states are expected to follow.

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DOT & Auto Industry Seek To Reduce Alcohol Impaired Driving

 

AAA survey finds 1/5th of licensed drivers who drink at least occasionally say they have driven when they thought their alcohol level may have been close to, or over, the legal limit.

A survey conducted by the American Automobile Association (AAA) Foundation for Traffic Safety, finds one-fifth of licensed drivers who drink at least occasionally say that they have driven when they thought their alcohol level may have been close to, or even over, the legal limit in the past year. And 15% of those respondents said they did this more than once in the past year. Although the complete 2013 Traffic Safety Culture Index won’t be officially released until later this month, the Foundation published some of the results early in an effort to mitigate dangerous driving behaviors during the holiday season – especially since the results show virtually no improvement in this type of impaired driving over the last two years.

Of the 3,103 licensed drivers who took part in the survey, 96% consider impaired driving to be somewhat or completely unacceptable, and 52% were of the opinion that drunk drivers are a bigger problem today compared with three years ago. The survey found 68% favored new cars having built-in interlock devices to test drivers’ sobriety before they start the car, and 63% approve of lowering the legal blood-alcohol limit to 0.05%, from the current 0.08%.

Just one week after the AAA survey release, the Department of Transportation (DOT) National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) granted a five-year extension of its cooperative agreement with the Automotive Coalition for Traffic Safety (ACTS), a research group comprised of 15 automakers, to continue studying and developing advanced alcohol detection technology that could prevent vehicles from being driven by a drunk driver. The study of a Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety (DADSS) has been ongoing since 2008, developing two different technological approaches to measuring driver alcohol levels – a touch-based system and an exhaled breath-based system that would both detect blood-alcohol levels before the vehicle can be started. A functional vehicle with the DADSS installed is expected to be ready for testing in early 2015. During the research extension period, stringent performance requirements for the system will be further refined to ensure high levels of accuracy and precision of operation. Another goal is to make the installed technology as unobtrusive as possible within the vehicle and not pose potential inconvenience to non-intoxicated drivers. 

The death and destruction caused by drinking and driving is a growing problem. According to the latest statistics available, 10,322 people were killed in alcohol-related crashes in 2012. That’s a 4.6% jump from the 9,865 fatalities recorded in 2011. As the professional on the road, staying vigilant to the erratic behavior of others, slowing down in heavy traffic and maintaining space around your vehicle as you drive, can help avoid a tragic situation.

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Extreme Winter Weather Arrives Early

Farmer’s Almanac 2014 predicts harsh winter conditions with below normal temperatures and above-normal snowfall across much of the country this season.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), bad weather is the cause of approximately 819,000 motor vehicle accidents and an estimated 7,000 deaths every year. As a professional limousine driver, you are well aware of the driving challenges of being on the road during rough winter weather, the time of year when most accidents happen. The Old Farmer’s Almanac 2014 is predicting harsh winter conditions with below normal temperatures and above-normal snowfall across much of the country this season. So make sure you and your vehicle are prepared to best handle whatever comes your way. The problems of traveling in winter weather will only be compounded if you’re not ready to deal with the conditions and if your equipment fails to operate properly. NHTSA has posted a detailed, 5-page outline on what drivers need to do to be best prepared for heading out in the often unpredictable winter weather. The Checklist and Tips for Safe Winter Driving is posted online and can be downloaded in both English and Spanish versions. It covers suggestions to prepare and drive hybrid-electric vehicles as well as standard gasoline engines and the tips range from “Know Your Car” to “Learn What To Do In A Winter Emergency.”  Some of the other topics include:

  • Plan Your Travel and Route Keeping yourself, your passengers and others safe by planning ahead.
  • Stock Your Vehicle – What items to carry in your vehicle to handle common winter driving tasks, including supplies you might need in an emergency.
  • Keeping Your Vehicle In Shape – Keeping your car serviced and performing a thorough pre-trip inspection. Make sure all fluids are full and functioning.
  • Inspect Your Tires – No matter what the weather, inspect tires at least once a month and always before setting out on a long trip.
  • Staying Vigilant While Driving – If conditions deteriorate while on the road, be prepared to wait until road and weather conditions improve.
  • Driving In Winter Conditions – Words of caution about slick conditions, braking, skidding and keeping control of your vehicle.
  • What To Do In An Emergency – Safety rules to follow if you are stopped or stalled during wintry weather.

Remember, one of the surest ways to avoid being involved in a winter weather accident is to increase the space and time that you have to maneuver your vehicle. Try to drive in the open, staying away from packs of vehicles to gain extra space. Slow Down and increase your following distance to a minimum of 8 seconds and, in more severe conditions, to at least 12 seconds. Nothing can restore control of your vehicle and your ability to deal with an adverse weather situation better than the simple act of slowing down.

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Tens Of Thousands Of U.S. Bridges In Serious Need Of Repair

The deficient/critical bridges carry more than 29 million vehicles per day and are over 60 years old, which exceeds their original projected life expectancy.

A recent analysis of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) National Bridge Inventory conducted by the Associated Press (AP) Investigative Team, has revealed that more than 85,000 of the nation’s bridges are in dire need of repair and replacement. The review is extensive, finding that out of the 607,380 bridges listed, 65,605 are classified as “structurally deficient” and 20,808 are listed as “fracture critical.” Of these bridges, 7,795 fall into both categories, indicating a dangerous level of disrepair and a risk of collapse.

Among the bridges that are deemed both structurally deficient and fracture critical are the Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge into Washington, D.C., the Brooklyn Bridge
in New York, the Route 495 Lincoln Tunnel Helix in New Jersey and the Main Avenue Bridge in Cleveland. The deficient/critical bridges carry more than 29 million vehicles per day. Most of those bridges are over 60 years old and have exceeded their original
projected life expectancy. The northeastern states face many more challenges than the rest of the country because of an older infrastructure and more severe weather conditions.

Many of America’s aging bridges carry more vehicles than they were originally expected to handle and many are heavier than the earlier models, causing more frequent damages.  Bridges are very expensive to fix and in some cases, almost prohibitively costly to replace. Some estimates range in the billions of dollars for replacing a single bridge and finding the money to finance repair or replacement is a critical issue. State and national officials inspect bridges often and the engineers say that the structures are safe and even bridges that are deficient/critical should not collapse if monitored and maintained properly. But it’s still an issue that causes a great deal of concern, especially for professional drivers who use these structures on a daily basis. But regulators say that if a bridge is open to traffic, it is safe. Weight restrictions are being placed on some bridges that have been identified with safety issues, and those bridges are often more frequently inspected than others.

If you have specific concerns about the bridges you frequently use, there is an excellent interactive map on the Transportation for America website. You can search for bridges in all 50 states and the site provides a report on every structure, including condition rating, number of cars crossing per day, age and frequency of inspections.    

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Will NHTSA Finalize Back-Up Camera Rule?

In a April, 2013 statement, NHTSA said that the Agency “remains committed to improving rearview visibility for the nation’s automobiles.”

In 2007, Congress approved
legislation, backed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), mandating that all passenger cars, trucks, minivans and buses
manufactured in the U.S. with a gross vehicle weight rating of 10,000 pounds or less be equipped with back-up cameras. The legislation required the government to finalize rear-visibility rules by 2011, but the ruling has been repeatedly delayed. NHTSA missed proposed deadlines requiring 10% compliance for automakers’ fleets by 2012, 40% by 2013 and 100% of new vehicles to be equipped by 2014, the latest deadline on track to pass.

The intent of the legislation is to try and reduce the annual number of back-over fatalities and injuries. According to NHTSA, 292 people die every year from back-over accidents, and another 18,000 are injured. But one of the problems that keeps causing delays is that official guidelines for rear-view camera technology jut haven’t come together. Rules governing the placement of such cameras and the in-vehicle displays, the minimum field of vision for the devices and what type of warning systems need to be installed, have caused so much debate that the ruling is still in limbo. There is also the question regarding the possibility that this new technology can create a driving population that is reliant on gadgets to do the driving for them rather than using safe driving training and behavior to operate a vehicle.

NHTSA Administrator David Strickland says that the agency now has no firm deadline to finalize vehicle back-up camera compliance rules because “We want to make sure we get it right.” According to a recent article in USATODAY, the argument to delay implementation, however, could stem from the fact that the rule has a very high cost for the expected number of lives saved. In 2009, NHTSA estimated that it could cost currently between $1.5 billion and $3 billion to have rear-view cameras installed in all new cars. Despite the fact that new car manufacturers install back-up cameras in more than half of their new vehicles, it could still cost the consumers upwards of $10 million per life saved. The financial slant on the ruling is because all major rules must go through a cost-benefit analysis that is reviewed by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to determine if the costs are high relative to benefits. But, because children are often the victims of backing accidents, the OMB might be inclined to offer some special consideration. Representative Peter King (R-NY) who co-sponsored the legislation requiring NHTSA to issue a rear visibility ruling, posted the question: “Is it dollars or is it children’s lives?”

In a statement issued in April 2013, NHTSA said that the Agency “remains committed to improving rear-view visibility for the nation’s automobiles. The rule remains under
review.”

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License Plate Cameras Track Millions In U.S.

License plate camera readers are building a database on the movements of millions of Americans that can be traced and stored over months and even years.

Highway surveillance has become more sophisticated on America’s roadways. According to an article in the Washington Post, license plate camera readers, devices typically mounted along major roadways and on police cruisers and government vehicles, are building a database on the movements of millions of Americans that can be traced and stored over months and even years. With these readers, any vehicle, on the road or parked, can be identified almost instantly and compared against “hot lists” of vehicles that have been stolen or involved in crimes. But because most Americans aren’t car thieves or criminals, the readers, and especially the gathering of the database of information, is a concern to those who argue the issue of privacy.

Time and location information are gathered in these databases that can be searched by law enforcement or anyone who has access to the relatively inexpensive camera readers. And while some departments purge information after a few weeks or a few months, some seemingly never get rid of any of it. Privacy advocacy groups like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) are calling on lawmakers to limit the devices and their capabilities, arguing that the accumulation of the data could be seriously misused and abused and put free speech and association in danger. ACLU also did a partial-year analysis of the license-plate data collected in Maryland and found that about one in 500 license plates registered a hit on the “hot list” and a majority of the associated offenses were minor, such as lapsed
registrations or lack of emission-control compliance. It concluded that the data collection is unnecessarily broad and is not appropriate.

Those who defend the readers have a much different take on the situation. In Washington, D.C. for example, over 250 license-plate reader cameras, separate from those used for surveillance and detection of red-light running and speeding, capture 1,800 images a minute and can download the information into a rapidly expanding archive that can locate people’s movements all over town. These readers have been credited with pinpointing the location of and capture of stolen cars and fleeing criminals in a very short period of time. Law enforcement says the readers can give them a critical jump on devastating crimes like child abduction, assault and murder by having information about when a vehicle left or entered a crime scene. And the ability to quickly identify a suspected terrorist’s vehicle as it speeds along a highway perhaps intent on getting to a target, is rapidly becoming a necessity. Officials also say that the data collected is destroyed after two years unless needed for ongoing litigation.

Law enforcement sees potential in the technology, citing the 2002 sniper shootings in the D.C. area as an example of how the camera-readers could have been used to great effect. The police could have checked whether any particular car was showing up at each of the shooting sites and might have stopped the attacks sooner.

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Report Cites Jump In Stolen Vehicles

NICB recommends drivers use common sense, have warning devices, immobilizing device & have a tracking device.

After dropping for 8 years in a row, the rate of stolen vehicles in the United States increased by 1.3% in 2012, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) annual Hot Spots vehicle report.  The western portion of the U.S. led the way with a 10.6% rise in car thefts. Of the 10 “hot spots” for vehicle theft, 8 of them were located in California, with Modesto having the dubious distinction of coming in first place, followed by Fresno.

Reportedly, California’s auto theft problem stems from a number of setbacks plaguing the state. Additionally, police staffing has been reduced at both state and local levels because of severe budget shortfalls, and California is located close to major ports and the Mexican border, making it easier to dispose of stolen vehicles quickly.

Washington State claimed the 5th (Yakima) and 9th (Spokane) spots in the top 10 areas for vehicle theft. But, despite the overall rise for stolen vehicles across the nation, the Midwest, Northeast and Southern regions all reported reductions of 3.1%, 7.9% and 2.9% respectively. The states that had the lowest number of reported thefts are Michigan and Hawaii.

NICB recommends that drivers follow four “layers of protection” to help guard against vehicle theft:

Use Common Sense

  • Remove your keys from the ignition
  • Lock your doors and close your windows when the car is not in use
  • Park in a well-lit area

Have Warning Devices

  • Audible alarms
  • Steering column collars
  • Steering wheel/brake pedal/wheel locks
  • Theft deterrent decals and identification markers in or on vehicle
  • VIN etching

Install Immobilizing Devices

  • Smart keys
  • Fuse cut-offs and kill switches
  • Starter, ignition, fuel pump disablers
  • Wireless ignition authentication

Have a Tracking Device

One that emits a signal to police or monitoring station when a vehicle is stolen. If the vehicle is moved, the system will alert the owner and the vehicle can be tracked via computer.

An interactive map is located on the NICB website giving specific information about
every state, including a breakdown by rank of towns with reported vehicle thefts and the number of stolen vehicles.

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School’s Back; Unique Hazards Presented

Children are most in danger of being hit 10 feet around a school bus.

After the hustle and bustle of the last days of summer and school openings, sharing the road with children will be a common occurrence. While professional drivers are among the most careful drivers on the road, the National Safety Council (NSC) offers an extensive recap of things to remember when driving near kids and school buses, including:

  • All 50 states have a law making it illegal to pass a school bus that is stopped to load or unload children.
  • Yellow flashing lights indicate the bus is preparing to stop to load or unload children.
  • Red flashing lights and an extended stop sign arm signal that children are getting on or off the bus.
  • All 50 states require that traffic in both directions stop on undivided roadways when students are entering or exiting a school bus. State laws on divided highways vary, but all states require that traffic traveling in the same direction as
    the bus must stop.
  • Children are most in danger of being hit 10 feet around a school bus; give them space to safely enter and exit.
  • A problem everywhere these days and increasingly in school zones, is distracted walking – especially pedestrians speaking or texting on a cell phone and not paying attention to the traffic around them.
  • Never pass a school bus on the right; it is illegal and could have tragic consequences.
  • Students that drive to school are very often novice drivers who might drive inappropriately when entering and exiting school lots. They frequently have friends in the car with them and are very easily distracted.

Always Stop For Pedestrians

  • Do not block a crosswalk when stopped at a red light or waiting to make a turn; if they have to walk around your vehicle it puts puts pedestrians in a dangerous situation.
  • In school zones with blinking warning flashers, you must stop and yield to pedestrians whether there is a marked crosswalk or not.
  • Stop when directed to do so by a patrol officer or crossing guard.
  • Children can be difficult to see. When children are present, there are probably more of them in the area.
  • Avoid honking the horn or revving your engine when pedestrians are in front of your vehicle in a crosswalk.

Beware of Children On Bicycles

  • When passing a bicyclist proceeding in the same direction, do so slowly and leave at least a distance of three feet between you and the bicyclist. If you don’t have sufficient room, don’t pass until you do. Maintain your clearance until you have safely passed the bicycle.
  • The most common causes of collisions with bicycles are when drivers are turning left in front of an oncoming bicycle, or turning right across the path of the bicycle. In all situations, always use your turn signals.
  • If a cyclist enters an intersection when you are turning left, wait for him or her to pass before making the turn.
  • If you are turning right and a cyclist approaches your vehicle on the right, let the cyclist go through the intersection first.
  • Always slow down in school zones and neighborhood areas where children and teenagers might be riding.
  • Watch out for bikes coming out of driveways or from behind parked cars or other obstructions.

Sharing The Road Safely With Bicyclists

Drivers can be faced with an urban rider who is an unskilled bike rider and is wandering all over the road.

In the latest statistics available from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), bicyclists accounted for 2% of all traffic fatalities during the 2011 calendar year. In this era of high gas prices and seemingly endless traffic congestion, bicyclists are everywhere, from the congested urban areas to the lower-traffic country roads. Many cities and towns have added “bike lanes” to their road systems. These bike lanes create turning situations in which a motor vehicle driver is
often required to cross over the bike lane to complete a turn.  While this may not be a new experience for professional limousine drivers, it may be a new experience for bicyclists who may believe their bike lanes “protect” them from traffic. Drivers can be faced with an urban rider who is an unskilled bike rider and is wandering all over the road. There’s the fitness cyclist who is in athletic clothing and is moving quickly along back-roads or even highways. Sometimes cyclists are not where they are legally allowed to be. In other instances, they are in a newly created bike lane that a vehicle driver might not recognize. And there can be situations in which cyclists are wearing clothing that makes them difficult to see, especially at night.

Fatalities involving motor vehicles and bicyclists rose sharply in 2011, and the upward
trend seems to have continued into 2012.  According to the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), the increase in bicycle deaths probably reflects more people riding bicycles to work and for pleasure, and the increasing awareness of being fit and wanting to protect the environment. In Washington, D.C., for example, an area that already has an increased pedestrian accident risk, there has been a 175% increase in bicyclists during morning and evening rush hours since 2004. The city also tripled its bike lane network during the same period.

So what does this mean for professional limousine drivers? First, familiarize yourself with safety issues relating to how to drive around bicyclists. Check sites like NHTSA and GHSA and link to studies and suggestions on sharing the road with bicyclists. You might often be faced with situations in which you are unsure about the space between
your vehicle and a bicycle you are passing. You should not pass unless you’re sure there is adequate space, including space for your mirrors to clear the bicyclist. Secondly, recognize that bicycles can move quickly and can be anywhere. The mere fact that you haven’t seen a bicyclist on a familiar road doesn’t mean there won’t be one the next time you’re driving on it. Recognize also that bicycles will be out there in good and bad weather, will often be operated by cyclists that are leaning over the handle bars, making their profile more difficult to see, and that they may not have adequate reflectors or lights, which is especially an issue during dawn and dusk.

The April 2013 release of NHTSA Traffic Safety Facts focuses on bicycle rider statistics and offers some suggestions on driving safely around bicycles.

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JD Power Study Measures Quality Of New Vehicles

The study concluded that consumers view design difficulties as just as important as defects and malfunctions if not more so.

JD Power, a global marketing information services firm, has published its 2013 Initial Quality Study, an examination, in great detail, of what consumers can expect in new and also used vehicle quality. The emphasis in this 27th year of analysis has been on the problems experienced related to new technologies and features now being offered to new-vehicle owners. The overall conclusion is that nearly two-thirds of the problems owners experience in the first 90 days of driving a new car are interior design-related features, few of which can be fixed because they are inherent in the car’s design.

More than 83,000 owners responded to the JD Power survey, representing 34 car brands and 209 models. More than 64% of complaints were those related to technology enhancements where the components didn’t actually fail, but were poorly designed. For example, responses indicated that the devices were difficult to operate, they were poorly located within the vehicle, or the customer had a hard time understanding its function and operation. Since consumers are demanding all the latest buzzes and whistles within their vehicles, especially the high-end models that professional limousine drivers normally operate, the manufacturers are happy to oblige. However, those customers are becoming frustrated and confused by some of the often complicated technology and are reported back to the dealers that there is a problem with the vehicle.

The study concluded that consumers view design difficulties as just as important as defects and malfunctions if not more so. When asked to evaluate the severity of the problems they are reporting to the study, most drivers gave design problems a higher severity rating than defects and malfunctions. This further frustrates the consumers since these design problems cannot be “fixed” by returning to the dealer.

The manufacturers are also frustrated by the results of the study. They are investing billions of dollars into designing and building their vehicles. Yet they seem to be struggling with satisfying the consumer for the latest gadgets, and can’t seem to provide them in such a way that they are easy for all groups of drivers to operate. Features that are difficult for drivers to use or hard to understand will likely remain a problem for drivers and for the life of the vehicle. The vehicles themselves get high ratings for safety, comfort and design, but the issue of easy to use technology is still a few years into the future.

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Highway Fatalities Rise In 2012, First Time Since 2005

The NHTSA’s Traffic Safety Facts study estimates that 34,080 people died in motor vehicle crashes across the country in 2012.

After a first quarter review last year, projections that traffic fatalities would rise in 2012 have become a reality. This reversal of declining fatality rates since 2005 represents the second largest year-to-year increase since National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)  began recording fatalities in 1975. The largest recorded year-to-year rise in highway fatalities was in 1979.

Published in the NHTSA pamphlet Traffic Safety Facts, the study estimates that 34,080 people died in motor vehicle crashes across the country in 2012. It is an increase of 5.3% over the 32,367 traffic deaths in 2011. Each quarter of 2012 also showed an increase in fatalities per quarter from 2011. The data did show a significant increase in the first quarter of 2012 with declining numbers of fatalities for each of the three subsequent quarters. Preliminary data from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) shows that vehicle miles traveled (VMT) in 2012 increased by 0.3%, or about 9.1 billion miles more than in 2011, perhaps a reason for the rise in fatality rates as well.

Information used to compile the data for the report is gathered from police accident
reports, the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) and other sources. The data was also broken down by national regions. Eight of the ten regions experienced rises in
traffic fatalities, with the New England Region, Vermont, Maine, New Hampshire,
Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island, showing a greater than 15% increase in fatalities from 2011. The two regions that showed declines in traffic deaths in 2012 were the five states of the Northwest, Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana, and the three states in the New York Metropolitan area, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, each down by 1%. Actual fatality counts for 2012 will be reported through FARS in the fall of 2013.

NHTSA has also published a notice reminding all motorists to safely share the road with motorcyclists. May is Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month and despite declines in automobile fatalities since 2005, motorcycle deaths have increased every year for the past 14 years except in 2009 when there was a 16% decline. On a per vehicle mile basis, motorcyclists are more than 30 times more likely to die in a crash than occupants of cars, and five times more likely to be injured. About 5,000 motorcyclists died in 2012, which would be 14.7% of overall traffic fatalities – the highest percentage ever – and a 9% increase over the previous year. NHTSA also reminds professional drivers that trucks, buses and large limousines need to pay attention to their large blind spot areas and go slowly and carefully, especially in this season of increased motorcycle traffic.

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Behind The Scenes Of Auto Crash Tests

The series on the IIHS’ YouTube channel is called “Inside IIHS”.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) is releasing a series of videos on their YouTube channel providing a behind the scenes glimpse of their Vehicle Research Center’s test programs which crash test the latest automobiles. The series is called “Inside IIHS” and three of the videos were released in May.

The first video, “Crash Test Dummies At Work,” is a three-minute look at the types of test dummies IIHS uses for their testing. They are amazing pieces of technological engineering, making every effort to re-create and calibrate the way a human body would react in a crash. A fully calibrated crash dummy can cost as much as $200,000.

“Frontal Offset Testing” is the second video in the series. It examines two frontal crashes tested with specific differences explained between the moderate overlap and the small overlap. Conclusions about a vehicle’s frontal crash rating are judged by how well the front end structure of the vehicle holds up, the measure of injuries the dummy suffers and how well the restraint systems perform.

The third video, “Measuring Roof Strength,” examines how people are being killed or injured during roll-over crashes and addresses the dangers coming from roof collapse and the risk of being ejected as the vehicle goes out of control. Also discussed is electronic stability control to reduce the chances of a driver losing control of a vehicle which can lead to a roll-over crash.

IIHS videos are taped at the Institute’s VehicleResearch Center in Ruckersville, Virginia. They are very well done and informative and running time is in the three-minute range.  Five more videos in the series will be uploaded to the channel every Tuesday through the first week in July.

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Putting Off Maintenance Can Put You Out of Business

Your vehicle is your business; taking care of it should be a top priority

As a professional limousine driver, you are well aware of the importance of keeping your vehicle well-maintained, inside and out. But according to a study by the Car Care Council, 77% of vehicles on the road require some kind of service. The Council attributes this neglect to: drivers just putting simple maintenance off until something serious happens; the extreme weather the country has been experiencing; and busy work schedules leaving little time to get the work done.

The statistics are a bit surprising, considering how simple some of these simple maintenance needs are.

Of the vehicles surveyed:

  • 22% had low or dirty motor oil;
  • 20% had low, dirty, or leaking engine coolant;
  • 19% needed a new air filter;
  • 18% needed brake work or brake fluid;
  • 14% needed at least one belt replaced;
  • 14% needed new windshield wipers;
  • 14% needed new power steering or transmission fluid;
  • 13% needed at least one lamp replaced;
  • 11% needed maintenance on battery clamps, cables or terminals;
  • 10% had worn tires in need of replacement;
  • 9% were riding on improperly inflated tires; and
  • 8% had their “check engine” lights on.

While all of these items would fall into the pre-trip inspection check list for professional drivers, it could be tempting to leave some of these issues until later. That’s never a good idea, especially when you have paying passengers who are relying on you to get them to their destinations comfortably and on time. And with summer’s heat upon us, it’s a good time to rotate your tires and check that your air conditioning system is in proper working order.

Your vehicle is your business; taking care of it should be a top priority.

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Winter Wreaks Havoc On Road Conditions

Winter weather caused road conditions to deteriorate even further from the often sorry state they were in before the harsh weather began.

The storms of this winter season have been particularly brutal across the country. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), since late October 2012, tornadoes have occurred in 42 states, temperatures went from well below freezing to record warmth, torrential rain caused much damage and unprecedented hurricane activity and blizzards put much of the country at a standstill for extended periods. The damage that sustained bad weather causes to the nation’s roadways can also create dangerous driving conditions for everyone on the road because the poor road conditions remain long after the winter turns to spring and
summer.

The Roads To Ruin
Winter weather causes road conditions to deteriorate even further from the often sorry state they were in before the harsh weather began. With all the additional damage, it will take some time for each budget-challenged state and federal agency to correct all of the problems. According to a study by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) which represents transportation departments in all 50 states, the most trouble with poor road conditions is coming from “killer” potholes. Not only can a deep pothole cause suspension, alignment, tire and even body damage, it can also cause a driver to lose control of his/her vehicle. And, according to a study by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the problems of driving on America’s highways are compounded by the fact that less than half of the nation’s major roads are in good condition, and more than 30% are in poor or mediocre condition.

Unavoidable Consequences
Age, weather, traffic, moisture, heavy vehicles and delayed maintenance are causing road conditions to decline at an alarming rate. Newly formed cracks, ruts, potholes and foundation deterioration are common in late winter/early spring. These conditions often cause gravel, stones and other debris to accumulate, increasing the chances of cracked windshields and body damage from flying rubble. FHWA data shows rough roads affect all 50 states, and the available funding from federal and state initiatives never seems adequate to address the unending problems. Besides the maintenance costs, vehicle operating costs are higher from accelerated vehicle depreciation, added repair costs, increased fuel consumption and tire wear.

What Can You Do?
You can help minimize the dangers of driving on rough roads. One of the most effective things you can do is to slow down. Higher speeds kick up more debris, making it harder to avoid problems that appear on damaged roads and making it more difficult to stop when faced with unexpected, often hidden dangers. Keeping your vehicle well-maintained and frequently checking your tires for proper pressure, splits, tears and wear, especially as required during your pre- and post-trip inspections, will help you avoid additional damages and costly delays.

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EOBRs and EDRs: Is Big Brother Riding With You?

 

This legislation would impose civil penalties against individuals who remove or dismantle the EOBR equipment.

While some of us may think of the “Big Brother” viewpoint as just an Orwellian theory, believing we can’t possibly be headed for a life in which every move we make is being watched, news reports have announced that even within the privacy of your limousine, actually within your place of business, everything you and likely your passengers do, can be scrutinized. Now, this isn’t limited to professional limousine drivers, but also personal vehicles. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has backed legislation to make Electronic On-Board Recorders (EOBRs), also known as Event Data Recorders (EDRs) and “Black Boxes,” standard equipment on all new vehicles beginning with the 2015 model year.

Already passed in the Senate and expected to be approved by the House, this portion of the “Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act” (Map-21) legislation would impose civil penalties against individuals who remove or dismantle the EOBR  equipment. The devices are meant to record certain information from a vehicle immediately before and/or during most serious crashes, but NHTSA wants them to also be capable of recording longer and more detailed vehicle, driver and even passenger information.

What may be surprising is that, according to an article from USA Today,  the black boxes are already recording driving behavior in 96% of newer cars and in 150 million older vehicles. And unless you thoroughly read your owner’s manual, you may not be aware that the device is even in your car, with the added possible complication that you do not necessarily own the device or the data it is recording. This is causing much controversy with regard to legal and privacy issues and, as the public becomes more informed and aware that the devices are installed in their vehicles, the conflict will only intensify.

For example, there is a question as to whether the EDR and the data can be confiscated without a warrant. In New York, two courts ruled that warrants are not needed and the prosecutors argued that drivers have no expectation of privacy on public roads. One judge said that the EDRs are akin to having an on-scene witness testimony. A California appeals court tossed out a drunken-driving manslaughter conviction because the police failed to get a warrant for the box. Approximately a dozen states require that at every car sale, the existence of the black boxes be disclosed
to the buyer. Privacy advocates are, however, increasingly nervous about how, no matter where we go or what we do, can be located through GPS tracking in cell phones and from our vehicles. This is exacerbated by everyone sharing their locations on Facebook, Twitter and other social networks, and the traditional ideas of privacy are changing rapidly.

NHTSA contends that the EDRs do not collect any personal identifying information, record conversations or run continuously. But as a professional limousine driver, you know that one of the devices you most likely have in your vehicle is windshield mounted and does contain one or more of these features. It seems likely that in the near future, technology will be mandated to improve safety and help with determining the factors that contributed to a crash.

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Map Checking Ruled Prohibited Driving Behavior

The court ruled against the driver and made map-checking a GPS app on your smart phone while driving illegal behavior in California.

In March, 2013, a California court denied an appeal by a driver who had been ticketed for using his cell phone while driving in January, 2012. The driver went to court contending that he was not texting or talking on the phone, which, when not hands-free, is illegal in California. Rather, he said, he was using a GPS navigation application to find his way in unfamiliar territory, and since the laws are specifically about taking on a phone, texting and/or surfing the net while driving, the map-checking should be allowed. The court disagreed. In its decision to rule against the driver, the appeals court effectively made map-checking a GPS app on your smart phone while you’re behind the wheel, illegal behavior in California, because it is no different than texting or dialing a phone number.

The court ruled: “Our review of the statute’s plain language leads us to conclude that the primary evil sought to be avoided is the distraction the driver faces when using his or her hands to operate the phone. That distraction would be present whether the wireless telephone was being used as a telephone, a GPS navigator, a clock or a device for sending and receiving text messages and emails.”

The ruling makes California the first state to ban map checking while driving and more states are expected to follow. The general consensus seems to be that if a driver is looking away from the road, then the driver is looking away from the road! In that spirit, a ban on using phones while driving is meant to prevent distractions of all kinds. It would probably be next to impossible for a law enforcement officer to determine what kind of activity a person is conducting on their phone – talking, texting or map-checking – and it makes enforcement of a state’s law somewhat more difficult.

No one denies the dangers of distracted driving. The United States Department of Transportation (DOT) has its own website dedicated to raising awareness to the horrors resulting from something as “innocent” as a brief text behind the wheel. Distraction.gov presents ways the general public can get the facts, get involved and take action. DOT has also puts out a booklet, “Blueprint For Ending Distracted Driving,” that you can Download and learn about the country’s comprehensive strategy for ending texting and using handheld cell phones when you’re behind the wheel. It’s definitely worth sharing with every driver you know, especially the youngest among us.

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New Gadgets Like Google Glass Portend More Distracted Driving

WVA State Representative Howell has introduced legislation to ban the use of all head-mounted displays while driving.

It’s tough keeping up with technology. Even the tech giants who develop the latest gadgets are so intent on having the most amazing innovation on the market, their own incredible gizmos seem to get outdated in a matter of months. A new product, Google Glass, scheduled to be released at the end of this year, has been causing a huge amount of pre-release excitement – and also some concern about safety.

Google Glass is, in its most basic form, an eyeglass mount with a small, voice-activated “computer” and a display attached to the right side of the frame. It’s quite an incredible product with capabilities like your smart phone, only hands-free and with advanced interactive capabilities. You can control music, get directions, take pictures, give voice commands and conduct video chats. The glasses don’t cover the whole eye, and the wearer has to look up slightly when looking at the display. And that has one state legislator very worried about the effect such a device could have on drivers.

West Virginia State Representative Gary G. Howell has introduced legislation that would ban the use of all head-mounted displays when a driver is behind the wheel of a moving vehicle. It’s unusual to ban a product that isn’t even on the market yet, but Howell sees Google Glass as an extension of the cell phone, which already has distracted driving laws on the books prohibiting using phones and texting while driving. Proposing legislation as Representative Howell has done now pre-empts the time it would take to pass the laws when the device becomes available to the public. The fines he proposed are relatively modest. The first offense would carry a fine of $100, with subsequent fines increasing by $100 each time, up to $300.

Arguments against banning Google Glass while driving are that the devices can actually
enhance driving safety by, for example, offering a GPS view that puts navigation information at eye level or accessing and listening to music without taking your eyes of the road or your hands off the wheel to look at a dashboard GPS or fiddle with a CD player or radio. But the potential for distraction is huge.

Apple has announced that it will release an iWatch, also later this year, which will perform some of the same functions that an iPhone or iPad currently provides. The display is large enough to be seen at a glance, and is said to make accessing data more convenient.

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“We’re All In This Together”

Starting off the season is the 14th Annual National Work Zone Awareness Week (April 15 – 19) with the theme of Work Zone Safety: We’re All In This Together.

In the Summer of 2012, the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21) program was signed into law, funding surface transportation projects over fiscal years
2013 and 2014 with an investment of over $105 billion. Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the goal of MAP-21 is to further develop and streamline the many highway, transit, bike and pedestrian programs established since 1991.

As we move into the warmer weather season, transportation work zones will be even more extensive and plentiful with the influx of funds to the states from MAP-21. Starting off the season is the 14th Annual National Work Zone Awareness Week (April 15 – 19) with the theme of Work Zone Safety: We’re All In This Together. The week is dedicated to bringing national attention to motorist and worker safety and mobility issues in work zones, and highlighting the complexities of working in and driving through work zones.

Defensive Driving
Your best driving defenses in work zones are to slow down and focus on your driving. The most common crash in work zones is a rear-end collision, so leave at least 6-seconds of space between you and the vehicle ahead of you, and more space when conditions deteriorate due to bad weather or rough road surfaces. Proper following distance gives you time to react appropriately, particularly in stop-and-go traffic. Stay in your lane, keep space around your vehicle and obey the posted speed limit.

Nighttime Safety Issues
Night work zones are common because authorities prefer to avoid lane closures and congestion during peak daytime traffic. However, with less overall night traffic, drivers tend to drive faster. Speed and darkness are the main reasons why 55% of work zone fatalities occur at night. FHWA studies show that crash rates increase by 65% during night roadwork. Visibility is poor even with lighting towers, warning lights and signs brightening the area. Be sure to slow down and increase the space around your vehicle.

Plan Ahead And Stay Alert
As you approach the road signs alerting you to a work zone ahead, merge as soon as you can safely do so. Don’t drive up to the lane closure and then force yourself into the traffic flow. Once in the zone, if traffic merges into fewer lanes, use caution and courtesy to reduce the chance of a sideswipe. The worst of all merges is when a vehicle
at a full stop in one lane attempts to move directly into a lane where the traffic is moving. So watch ahead for the front wheels of a stopped vehicle turned toward the lane that is moving because that vehicle will try to merge. Continuously scan the area, keep headlights on, wear your seat belt and always be prepared to stop. Don’t let the inconsiderate mistakes of others make you angry; relax and take your time getting through the congestion.

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Tips for Renting a Limousine for Your Child’s Prom

Please move cursor over image above to reveal everyone’s responsibilities.

Parents

  • Perform due diligence; thoroughly research limousine company
  • Check references and speak with clients who had same assigned chauffeur
  • Develop and approve final itinerary
  • Sign a Code of Conduct agreement for minors
  • Request & receive chauffeur’s cell phone number
  • Establish and agree upon final drop-off time and location

Prom Attendee

Sign Code of Conduct Agreement in advance, stipulating:

  • Pick-up and Drop-off times & locations
  • A detailed itinerary which clearly prohibits any side trips or unscheduled stops
  • No alcohol, illegal drugs or tobacco use in the limousine
  • Chauffeur’s permission to inspect all backpacks & packages
  • Chauffeur can terminate trip at any point for violations of the signed Code of Conduct

Chauffeur

  • Is properly licensed
  • Is well-rested
  • Limousine is properly insured and he/she has documentation confirming same
  • Arrives in same vehicle as stipulated in contract
  • Arrives with clean, disinfected vehicle
  • Will not move vehicle until ALL passengers, including him/her, are wearing 3-point seatbelts
  • Maintains agreed upon itinerary & schedule
  • Must not deviate from schedule or itinerary to enhance amount of gratuity

More Taxing Pain For Motorists?

After decades of underinvestment in the country’s infrastructure resulting in enormous maintenance bills and, in an effort to avoid public backlash for raising the already high price of gas, states will now have to reconsider raising taxes for the needed revenue.

Because lawmakers are always looking for ways to raise revenue, it’s surprising that state and federal governments don’t often use the fuel tax option. In fact, the last time a state gas tax increase was signed into law was in 2009, when lawmakers in North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and the District of Columbia all agreed that their gas tax rates needed to go up.

What this lack of funding caused was decades of under-investment in the country’s infrastructure, resulting in many states now being faced with enormous maintenance and repair bills…and no money to do the job. According to the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), the U.S. will face an $846 billion shortfall in funding for road and surface upkeep by 2020. In their efforts to avoid a public backlash from an irate public blaming lawmakers for the high price of gasoline if they raised gas taxes, the states now have no choice but to seriously debate the issue and, most likely, raise fuel taxes to raise revenue.

In February, Governor Matt Mead of Wyoming signed into law a 10¢ per gallon gasoline tax increase in his state, and, following that action, the floodgates seemed to open across the country. Lawmakers in 8 more states are in the process of raising gasoline taxes in 2013: Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Vermont and Washington. The legislation in 4 of the states are allowing the tax to rise over time, automatically adjusting the tax rates as the cost of asphalt, concrete, machinery and everything else tied to inflation goes up. Other states that are now debating the gasoline tax issue and also expected to raise the rates this year are Minnesota, Texas, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

Critics of the taxing legislation say that with gasoline prices already high and the economy not exactly booming, this is the wrong time to hit working Americans at the pump. Especially hard-hit will be professional drivers who face uncertainty when trying to forecast budget expenses. Proponents of the hikes say that these taxes are needed to keep a vehicle-dependent economy rolling along smoothly.

The debate will continue. The days of kicking the gas can down the road as our roads and bridges crumble appear to be coming to an end.

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U.S. Traffic Congestion Is Confounding & Costly

In 2011, Americans travelled 5.5 billion additional hours and purchased 2.9 billion additional gallons of fuel than in previous years because of congested roadways.

A recent study released by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI), in partnership with INRIX, a leading provider of traffic information, directions and driver services, reports that traffic congestion in the United States is costing the country billons of dollars a year in wasted time and fuel.

The 2012 Urban Mobility Report (UMR) released in December, uses data collected from 2011 statistics. The overriding conclusions are:

  • The congestion problem is huge. In 2011, Americans travelled 5.5 billion additional hours and purchased 2.9 billion additional gallons of fuel than in previous years because of congested roadways. The cost to consumers amounted to $121 billion.
  • In order to arrive on time for important trips, travelers had to allow for 60 minutes to drive a trip that would normally take 20 minutes in light traffic, something that is of particular concern to professional limousine chauffeurs.
  • The peak of congestion over the last several years was in 2005. The 2011 levels are below this peak, but, as the economy is expected to improve, traffic congestion will increase proportionately.

The list of the most congested cities varies from year to year, but the larger cities routinely in the top 10 are:

  • Washington,D.C.
  • Los Angeles
  • San Francisco –Oakland
  • New York,NY –Newark,NJ
  • Boston
  • Houston
  • Atlanta
  • Chicago
  • Philadelphia
  • Seattle

The report also provides a detailed illustration of traffic problems in a total of 498 U.S. urban areas.

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A Rush to Judgment Day? Speed Limits & Road Fatalities Rise

There is also the question of whether larger vehicles like trucks, buses and limo buses should be mandated to drive at lower speed limits than smaller vehicles.

Speeding consistently plays a major role in highway crashes, causing fully one-third of accidents each year. Yet, ever since Congress repealed the National Maximum Speed Limit in 1995 and left setting limits to state governments, 34 states have raised speed limits to 70 mph or higher!

In October 2012, Texas raised the speed limit on a 41-mile stretch of roadway just south of Austin to 85 mph, the highest speed limit in the country. The arguments in favor of doing so were: the road was newly built and can handle the speed; it would relieve the heavy I-35 congestion between San Antonio and Austin; the higher speed limit is actually safe; and the revenue generated to the state from leasing the toll road to the company that built and manages it is substantial.

Critics say that as speed limits rise, so do fatalities. They are also concerned that drivers have a tendency to drive 5 to 10 miles over any posted speed limit anyway, and fear that we will be driving among vehicles going close to 100 mph. And the costs to drivers in gasoline would be significant. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that for each 5 mph over a 50 mph speed, drivers would pay about a quarter extra per gallon in lost fuel efficiency – $3.00 per tank at 85 mph.

There is also the question of whether larger vehicles like trucks, buses and limo buses should be mandated to drive at lower speed limits than smaller vehicles. The fear is that if larger vehicles must drive at slower speeds, the total traffic flow will always be in conflict, causing erratic driving behavior and compromising safety.

Since late last year, 9 more state legislatures have been debating whether to raise their
speed limits. They are: Connecticut (increase multi-lane, limited access highway speeds from 65 to 75 mph); Indiana (raising speed limit of larger vehicles to conform to current 65 and 70 mph limits); Iowa (increase highway limits from 55 to 60 mph); Maryland (raising speeds on highways to 70 mph); Mississippi (raise limit from 70 to 75 mph); New Hampshire (increase interstate speeds by as much as 10 mph); Oklahoma (raise limits from 75 to 80 mph on turnpikes); Utah (raise limits on portions of interstates to 80 mph); and Wyoming (increase speed limit from 65 to 70 mph.

The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) has published a list of each state’s current speed limit laws, broken down by cars and larger vehicles and by rural interstates, urban interstates and other limited access roads.

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Are Gas Pains Cramping Your Budget?

The average U.S. price for a gallon of regular unleaded gas has increased more than 13%.

When a report comes across the TV news that a Maryland car dealer has begun requiring customers to pay a gasoline charge for a test drive, it can’t be good news, especially for people like professional limousine drivers whose very business foundation is based on gasoline.

Just since mid-January, the average U.S. price for a gallon of regular unleaded gas has increased more than 13% to $3.75 per gallon. Prices in most areas of California have gone over $5.00 a gallon for regular gas. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA),  despite projections of increased production of U.S. crude oil output over the next 2 years, prices for gasoline this year will continue to rise until July when they will level off, and then stay relatively flat until July 2014.

Driving the historically high gas prices are several factors:

  • Rising crude oil prices overseas. Two-thirds o the cost of a gallon of gas comes from the price of crude oil and the price grew by 10% in the last two months;
  • Cuts in production. Speculation is that the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) has cut production by approximately 1 million barrels a day over the last several months because of rising oil production elsewhere in the world;
  • Several refinery closings. Normal maintenance has already shut down refineries and more closures are expected as companies prepare the process of switching to so-called summer gasoline, which has a different formulation for the warm weather;
  • Increased demand. The summer travel season normally has higher prices because of the expense of stepped-up production.

How can you conserve gas and save money when driving?

Some common sense suggestions:

  • Slow Down. A 20 mile drive takes 15 minutes at 80 mph and 20 minutes at 60 mph. But the higher speed burns much more gas.
  • Don’t Accelerate Sharply or Brake Hard.Avoid increasing or reducing your rate of speed drastically and you’ll cut down on fuel consumption.
  • Lighten Your Load. The heavier your vehicle, the more fuel it takes to move it around. Remove unnecessary baggage.
  • Perform Regular Maintenance. Don’t skip oil changes or maintenance needs. They keep your vehicle at peak performance and extend the life of your ride.

An interactive map showing the current average price of a gallon of gasoline for each state is available from the CNN.Money website.

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general liability insurance while providing superior coverage & claims service.

NHTSA Proposes Hybrid And Electric Vehicles Make Noise

The estimated costs to manufacturers to add the equipment would be about $35 per light vehicle.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released a proposal in January that would require equipping hybrid and electric vehicles with a device that raises their noise levels so pedestrians are more aware of the approaching vehicles. The sounds would need to be detectable when vehicles are traveling slower than 18 miles per hour. NHTSA has estimated that this “quiet-car rule” would save 35 lives over each model year and also prevent 2,800 injuries. The proposal would be particularly beneficial to blind and visually impaired pedestrians. The National Federation of the Blind has been one of the proposals biggest supporters.

Since electric and hybrid vehicles do not rely solely on gas or diesel-powered engines at low speeds, they are much quieter and much more difficult to detect. The amplified sounds would have to be audible over a variety of street noises and other background sounds, but not so loud as to create unnecessary noise pollution. Each auto maker would have a wide range of choices about the sounds it chooses for its vehicles, with each vehicle of the same make and model required to have the same sound or set of sounds. According to NHTSA, the quiet cars are twice as likely as vehicles with internal combustion engines to be involved in pedestrian accidents when backing up, slowing or stopping, starting in traffic or entering or leaving a parking space or driveway.

The estimated costs to manufacturers to add the equipment would be about $25 million per year, or about $35 per light vehicle. About $1.48 million of these annual costs would be used to equip larger vehicles, trucks, buses and motorcycles with sound. The costs assume hybrid vehicles are 4.1% of U.S. light-vehicle sales. In 2012, hybrids were 3% of light vehicles sold in the U.S., up from 2.1% in 2011. Plug-in electric vehicles were 0.37% percent of sales last year, up from 0.14% in 2011.

With gas prices approaching historically high prices, the number of auto manufacturers that are producing hybrids is growing. In 2004 just three hybrid vehicle options were available to the U.S. market. Today, there are over 30 vehicle options available. The market for hybrid limousines is also growing. Luxury models, both stretch and sedans, are becoming more plentiful from manufacturers such as BMW, Lexus, Mercedes, Cadillac and Lincoln, with some companies boasting entire hybrid fleets as they “go green.”

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Unsafe Drivers Engage In Multiple Risky Behaviors

Safety issues continue to claim more than 30,000 lives each year.

The American Automobile Association (AAA) has released its 2012, fifth consecutive Traffic Safety Culture Index, a national survey of drivers regarding their safety attitudes and behaviors. The results from the latest issue show that Americans continue to value safe travel and generally support laws that would improve traffic safety, such as restrictions on speeding, substance use and distractions. It also revealed that many of the 3,896 surveyed drivers admitted to violating the safe driving behaviors they support.

Some of the findings show this contradiction in behavior and attitude:

  • Motorists who use cell phones while driving are more likely to engage in additional dangerous behaviors, especially speeding, driving when fatigued and not using seat belts.
  • About 69% of licensed drivers reported talking on a cell phone while driving within the past month, despite the fact that 89% of respondents believe other drivers using cell phones are a threat to safety.
  • Motorists who often or regularly use their cell phones also reported that they engaged in other risky behaviors:
    • 65% reported speeding.
    • 44% reported driving while drowsy.
    • 53% reported sending a text or email.
    • 29% drove without a seatbelt.
  • Drivers that reported they never use cell phones were much less likely to report additional risky behaviors:
    • 31% reported speeding.
    • 14% reported driving drowsy.
    • 3% reported sending a text or email.
    • 16% drove without a seatbelt.

In December 2012, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released its Traffic Analysis statistics for 2011, showing that traffic fatalities in the U.S. declined by nearly 2% from 2010, marking the lowest level since 1949. The Agency credits the high level of publicity and strong efforts to educate the public about the dangers of unsafe driving behaviors, as well as advances in vehicle technology, as the main factors in helping to reduce traffic-related deaths. But as NHTSA Administrator David Strickland said upon release of the new data, “Even as we celebrate the progress we’ve made in recent years, we must remain focused on addressing the safety issues that are continuing to claim more than 30,000 lives each year.”

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The Taxing Burden Of Mileage Fees

The pay-per-mile proposal could raise current taxes from 18.4¢ to as high as 46¢ per gallon according to a new study from the (GAO).

A little-known discussion is going on in Washington, D.C. regarding a new consumer tax. In the case of a pay-per-mile proposal that would replace current federal fuel taxes collected at the pump, the potential exists for a whopping gas tax boost of up to 250% for high-use vehicles. That raises current taxes from 18.4¢ to as high as 46¢ per gallon according to a new study from the Government Accountability Office (GAO). If implemented, Mileage Fees would significantly impact professional limousine drivers.

The GAO conducted the study because the nation’s Highway Trust Fund (HTF) revenues are way down and the fund is in danger of being bankrupt by 2014. The study asserts that federal funding for the Highway Trust Fund, which is used to build and maintain infrastructure, has dwindled in recent years due to improved vehicle fuel efficiency. The average driver currently pays about $96 a year in federal gas taxes. To raise the HTF yearly balance from the current $34 billion to the $78 billion needed to fix and maintain roads, those taxes could rise to $248 per year – a cost of 2.2¢ per mile compared to the 0.9¢ drivers now pay. Drivers of large commercial vehicles would pay even more.

One of the concerns about imposing the mileage-fee alternative to fuel taxes is the issue of privacy. In order to evaluate the road use of vehicles so that proper use-taxes can be assessed, the current process would be to have vehicles tracked through Global Positioning System (GPS) information. It does not sit very well with those who see this as a “Big Brother” solution in which the government knows where you are – and basically what you are doing – at any given moment. Plus, while no exact figures were given by the GAO, the costs to implement the program and collect fees from 230 million U.S. passenger vehicles is likely to greatly exceed the costs of collecting fuel taxes. These costs would most likely be passed on to consumers, adding more dollars to the increase in new pay-per-mile taxes.

The GAO study was based on a survey of 51 state departments of transportation, five domestic pilot programs already in use in the U.S., and existing programs in Germany, New Zealand and the Netherlands. Mileage-based user fees were found to be a more equitable and efficient use of roadways because each vehicle would be charged for its actual road use. And as our roadways crumble, Americans can expect to be paying a lot more money to use them in the years to come.

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Lancer Insurance Lauded for Anti-Fraud Success

Lancer Insurance Company Special Investigations Unit (SIU) members received special recognition by the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB).

Lancer Insurance Company has announced that two members of its Special Investigations Unit (SIU) have received special recognition by the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB).

Lancer’s Jim Dunn has been named NICB’s “Investigator of the Year” for the bureau’s Area 7 which includes New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and sections of Massachusetts.  Mr. Dunn’s SIU colleague at Lancer, Irene Desimone Ford, was awarded NICB’s Certificate of Recognition.

Both Mr. Dunn and Ms. Desimone Ford, who are in the frontlines of the Long Island based commercial auto insurer’s efforts to combat insurance fraud, received their awards at NICB’s Training Seminar and Award Luncheon held in Smithtown, NY in December.

“We are extremely proud of Jim and Irene’s well-deserved recognition by the NICB for their and our entire SIU team’s tireless efforts to identify and root out fraudulent claims,” commented Lancer’s SIU division manager Greg Frey.  “The Northeast is a hotbed for many different types of insurance fraud, and we strive every day to ensure that it is recognized and aggressively dealt with.  Jim and Irene, along with their Lancer SIU colleagues, are committed to meeting that challenge and providing our policyholders with the industry’s premier fraud avoidance capability.”

Rated “Excellent” by the A.M. Best Company and awarded the prestigious Ward’s Top 50 Award for property/casualty insurance companies in both 2011 and 2012, Lancer Insurance Company is one of the nation’s premier commercial automobile specialty companies.

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Red-Light Running: A Rush To Disaster

According to the IIHS, half of the people killed in red-light running crashes are NOT the signal violators; they are drivers, passengers and pedestrians hit by red-light runners.

Given the severity and frequency of crashes caused by red-light running, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) released a study revealing that over 50% of drivers admit to deliberately running red lights because they are in a hurry. The survey participants were of all ages, all income and educational backgrounds and male and female. According to 2008 statistics, there were more than 2.3 million reported intersection-related crashes resulting in over 7,770 fatalities and approximately 733,000 injuries. Red-light running crashes cause 762 deaths and an estimated 165,000 people injured annually. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), half of the people killed in red-light running crashes are not the signal violators; they are drivers, passengers and pedestrians hit by red-light runners. The cost to society resulting from red-light running crashes is estimated to be $7 million per year.

FHWA created a list of 10 statistics that everyone should be aware of when it comes to the tragedy of red-light running:

  1. You or your loved ones are more likely to be injured due to a red-light running related crash than any other type of crash;
  2. Running red lights or other traffic controls is the most common cause of all urban crashes;
  3. Someone runs a red light an average of every 20 minutes at urban intersections;
  4. In the last decade, red-light running killed nearly 9,000 people;
  5. An estimated 165,000 motorists cyclists and pedestrians are injured annually by red-light runners;
  6. Half of the people killed by red-light runners are not the signal violators;
  7. 93% of drivers believe running a red light is unacceptable, yet 1 in 3 drivers reported doing so in the past 30 days;
  8. There are an average of 7 fatal crashes and over 1,000 injury crashes every day at signalized intersections across theU.S.;
  9. The cost to society of all crashes exceeds $230 billion annually; and
  10. The tragedies and costs resulting from red-light running are preventable.

As a professional chauffeur, when approaching an intersection, keep your eyes moving, slow down and cover your brake, watch for “stale green” don’t-walk signals and, before proceeding once a red light has turned green, wait a couple of seconds before proceeding to allow red-light runners and pedestrians time to clear the intersection.

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Operation Safe Driver Posts 2012 Results

The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA), a North-American not-for-profit organization established to promote commercial motor vehicle safety and awareness, has been conducting a yearly campaign called “Operation Safe Driver”  throughout the United States, Canada and Mexico since 2006. Produced in partnership with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), the Safe Driver campaign is held over a 7-day period, usually in October, during which state, local and provincial law enforcement agencies encourage educational sessions on safe driving around large commercial vehicles and sharing the road.  These sessions are critical because the statistics show that the majority of fatal crashes that involve large commercial vehicles and passenger cars are caused by the car driver. During Operation Safe Driver, inspection stops across each country are set up to evaluate driver performance and vehicle safety for both passenger and commercial vehicles.

Nearly 35,000 commercial and passenger vehicle drivers were pulled over by 2,918 enforcement personnel at 1,245 locations during the October 2012 campaign. The newly released results show that speeding was again the most common warning and citation given to passenger and commercial drivers. However, in 2012, the incidents of speeding by passenger vehicle drivers (up 10%) were significantly higher than those of
commercial drivers (up 2.8%). Of the total number of violations cited, 70.1% were for speeding. Of all speeding citations issued, 19.6% were given to commercial drivers and 50.5% were for passenger car drivers. It is unsettling that speeding continues to be a common behavior for all drivers, and CVSA is doubling its efforts to raise awareness of the dangers of increased speed, especially around large commercial motor vehicles.

The failure to use a safety belt was the second most common offense. Of the total number of warnings issued, failure to buckle up amounted to 3.6% given to commercial drivers and 1.8% issued to passenger vehicle drivers. Of the total number of citations
issued, 9.9% went to commercial drivers and 8.3% went to passenger car drivers. These figures represent an increase in the lack of seat belt use over the 2011 results, and a reversal of a trend for increased use of safety belts over the last several years.

The third most common offense was for failure to obey traffic control devices; 3.6% citations were issued to commercial drivers and 1.9% to passenger vehicle drivers. These statistics were virtually unchanged over 2011.

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Are Self-Driving Vehicles Less Than 30 Years Away?

The main question is not if autonomous cars will happen, but when.

Several blogs ago, LimoDirect published information about a Department of Transportation study analyzing the development of crash-avoidance technology. If successful, the technology will allow cars, trucks and buses the ability to “talk” to each other and also talk to infrastructure objects while on the road.

The latest technology being looked at by both the public and private transportation sectors is “autonomous” vehicles, or vehicles that are self-driving. The vehicles would still need a driver, of course, but the driver would be able to relax or work or talk on a phone while in the driver’s seat, and the momentum for developing this high-tech cutting edge concept is building. An article in Forbes Magazine on the subject postulated that self-driving vehicles will become commonplace by 2040. But things are moving so fast, it could be as few as 3 years that we see at least partially autonomous cars when Cadillac expects to be producing such vehicles. And now, other automakers are entering the race:

  • Audi and BMW are showing their self-driving cars, with Audi driving a concept
    car up Pike’s Peak. BMW has introduced a technology called “ConnectedDrive” which it says will be available in just a few years.
  • Tech giant Google has a fleet of autonomous Toyota Prius cars that have logged 1 million miles. Google has also lobbied Nevada into becoming the first state in the nation to legalize self-driving cars, and California seems to be close to taking that step.
  • Volvo has been testing the technology in its cars and has also conducted a study on consumer attitudes. While older drivers tend to be apprehensive about the idea, 18 to 37-year-olds are accepting.

According to New York’s ABI Research, these “advanced driver assistance” technologies were a $10 billion market in 2012. ABI projects that the figure will reach $130 billion by 2016. The United States government is also getting involved. The Department of Energy and the Oak Ridge National Laboratory are studying the technology and surveying select respondents to gauge the willingness to buy and drive these self-driving cars.

According to Dr. Azim Eskandarian, Director of the Center for Intelligent Systems at George Washington University, the engineering and science technology is already here and available. The main question is not if autonomous cars will happen, but when. “I’m pretty sure all this will come,” he said. “It’s hard to say which country will introduce it
first.”

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general liability insurance while providing superior coverage & claims service.

Study Shows Possible Brain Damage For Smokers

 

The study indicated that brain damage is also a factor for those with high blood pressure and are overweight, two health factors that are common with professional drivers.

The health risks from smoking cigarettes have been widely acknowledged and publicized over the last several decades. Now, in a study released last month by the prestigious King’s College in London, a strong correlation has been made between smoking and the health of the mind. The 8,800 study subjects came from all walks of life, were pretty evenly split between men and women, and for the most part, were over 50 years of age. One of the most unsettling claims from the research was that smoking was the most damaging to a person’s mental and physical health of all lifestyle choices one can make.

Scientists involved in the study, published in the journal Age and Ageing, said that smoking “rots” the brain and heightens the risk of Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease. Heavy smokers in mid-life more than double their risk of Vascular Dementia because smoking constricts the blood vessels from properly supplying the brain with blood and oxygen. The relatively good news reported was that if smoking stopped by mid-life, the Dementia risk 20 years later was no different than that of people who had never smoked.

The study also indicated that brain damage, although to a lesser extent, is also a factor for those who have high blood pressure and are overweight, two health factors that are often common with professional drivers. Researchers conducted brain tests with individuals in which participants had to learn new words or name as many animals or other specific objects they could in a minute, as well as other brain games. The subjects were then tested on the same material after four and then again in eight years. The results showed that there was a consistent association between smoking and lower scores in the same tests over the years. They also showed that the overall risk of a heart attack or stroke was “significantly associated with cognitive decline” and those at highest risk – those with high blood pressure, overweight and still smoking – showing the greatest decline. Commenting on the study, the Alzheimer’s Society said that “One in three people over 65 will develop Dementia, but there are things people can do to reduce their risk…and not smoking can make a difference.”

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How To Avoid 4 Costly Maintenance Problems

Check tire pressure every two weeks and be familiar with the manufacturer’s recommendations for correct pressure.

Keeping your limousine looking great and operating in top working condition is essential for the professional chauffeur. Nothing is more embarrassing and frustrating then a breakdown when you have clients in your limousine. According to a November article which appeared in the Los Angeles Times, you can help avoid these business-busting situations if you pay close attention to some simple maintenance issues that, if not attended to, can become very costly oversights. As a professional chauffeur, you should not neglect performing the following four essential maintenance procedures regularly throughout the year.

Changing The Oil

With older vehicles, the rule of thumb used to be that a change of oil should be performed every 3,000 miles. However, improvements in engines and motor oil have made that schedule outdated. According to ConsumerReports.org, most vehicles are now designed to go 7,500 miles or more between oil changes. So be sure to check your owner’s manual for the recommended oil change schedule and oil viscosity. For modern, luxury limousines, it’s best to choose a premium, high-performance motor oil; one that gives your vehicle increased fuel efficiency. This can help you increase the number of miles you can travel between oil changes, saving you time, money and reducing the environmental impact by using and disposing of less oil.

Check Tire Inflation

Don’t wait until the air pressure level in your tires makes them look like the air is low. It’s a minimal investment of about $15 for a good digital tire gauge which can easily be stored in your glove compartment. Check your tire pressure every two weeks, and be familiar with the manufacturer’s recommendations for the correct pressure, usually found posted on the inside of the driver’s door. (Note that those numbers are based on readings taken when the tires are cold.) Proper tire inflation gives the vehicle a smoother ride and improves its handling and fuel efficiency.

Check Tire Tread

No one wants to experience a dangerous tire blowout. Check tire tread, especially if your tires have been on your vehicle for several thousand miles. Take a penny and place it in the tread with Lincoln’s head down. If you can see the top of Abe’s head, you probably need new tires. Laws in most states consider tires legally worn out when tread has worn down to 1/16 of an inch of remaining tread depth. Proper tire tread depth can also help reduce hydroplaning on wet road surfaces.

Check Your Coolant

Over time, dirt and contaminants can build up in the coolant fluid making it less effective in helping to keep your engine cool and keeping the engine block from freezing in extremely cold temperatures. It’s best to change your coolant every four years depending on your driving habits and miles travelled. In extremely hot temperatures, change the coolant more often.

Take the time to attend to these simple, but critical, maintenance items. It’s time well spent.

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general liability insurance while providing superior coverage & claims service.

Resources To Use For Limo Pre-Trip Planning

The FHWA website has an interactive map of the U.S. that shows real time traffic conditions.

As a professional limousine driver, performing a thorough pre-trip inspection of your vehicle is a must for safety and for avoiding annoying and preventable breakdowns along your route. Mapping out your destination is also an important step in helping to assure your trip goes off without the inconvenient delays caused by weather, construction, traffic jams or accidents.

The U.S. and state departments of Transportation are very good at using the amazing capabilities of the internet to give you access to the government’s vast resources that can help drivers have a smooth trip. When you are preparing to pick up passengers, take the time to visit a government site like the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) National Traffic and Road Closure Information page. This section offers traffic information for all 50 states, Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C. Once you’re on the site, there is an interactive map of the U.S. where you can click on any state you are researching and find out in real time whether the route you were planning to take might have traffic congestion delays caused by volume, construction or an accident. The information gives you the opportunity to plan an alternate route to avoid the problem. The sites will even help you plan that different route with “Beat the Traffic” Information for most heavily-traveled areas.

Some of the other advantages these sites offer are advance travel advisories for weekends or holidays, traffic cameras that show locations with images that refresh every 10 seconds and real-time weather information and updates. You can also access each individual state’s DOT to keep yourself current on the latest rules, regulations and state roadway plans that you, as a professional chauffeur, would need to know because they could affect your daily trips.

The roadway system of the entire U.S. is offered to you through these sites. You should factor in some time during your pre-trip duties to access this very valuable information. With just a few clicks, you can save yourself time and trouble along your route.

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general liability insurance while providing superior coverage & claims service.

Highway Fatality Drop Linked To Technology & Behavior Shifts

 

Some technologies that helped reduce traffic deaths seat belts, air bags and anti-lock brakes.

In a New York Times article published in September 2012, a definitive link was made between a fairly steady decline in the number of traffic fatalities in the U.S. over the last 60 years, and the appearance of safety technology and highway behavior breakthroughs. Even though vehicle-miles-driven has dramatically increased during this time frame – an estimated 3 trillion miles every year – changes in driving behavior have significantly reduced accidents and death rates since a peak in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Some of the more significant technologies that helped reduce traffic deaths at the point of their release and continue to be factors in safety today, are seat belts, which began state-by-state required use in 1988, and air bags and anti-lock brakes which became standard in new vehicles beginning in the early 1990s. David L. Strickland, Administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, said that “fatalities drop after a breakthrough in new technologies or behaviors, and then plateau until the next one. It takes time for new safety technologies to work their way into the whole fleet of cars on the road.”

The whole world is taking an interest in curbing the high number of traffic. The World Health Organization (WHO) launched a Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020 in 2011. The goal is to reduce the nearly 1.3 million people world-wide who die each year as a result of a road traffic collision – more than 3,000 deaths each day. Non-fatal injuries are sustained by 20 to 50 million more people. One year after the initiation of the safety program, the 2nd Global Status Report on Road Safety was released by WHO earlier this year. Many of the initial recommendations for improved road safety were repeated, and conclusions to the effectiveness of the Decade of Action program had some positive results. But, as reported in the New York Times article, there was a slight increase in the number of traffic fatalities in the United States during the first half of 2012, a trend that was estimated to continue.

According to an analysis by cars.com, high-tech solutions will most likely be the way for vehicle safety to progress. The development of both crash-avoidance technology and vehicle crash-protection improvements, and a continuing and intensive education on the dangers of impaired and distracted driving, will ultimately save millions of lives throughout the world.

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general liability insurance while providing superior coverage & claims service.

Dangerous Drive Times Are Common To Limousine Drivers

The times when drivers need to remain most cautious and vigilant are often the times that they are also driving tired, distracted or impaired.

There are times in the day, days of the week and even months in the year when limousine drivers are busiest. And these busy schedules often go hand-in-hand with the most dangerous drive times to be on the road. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has been accumulating data on traffic safety for more almost 30 years, and its research has centered on just about every aspect of driving in order to pinpoint specific areas to raise driver awareness and contribute to making our roadways safer.

Data provided by the Agency summarize the deadliest days for drivers, broken down by specific days, times during the days and times of the year. Following is a summary of some of the NHTSA’s findings.

Top 10 Deadliest Days of the Year (in order)
1. July 4
2. July 3
3. December 23
4. December 24
5. December 22
6. August 3
7. January 1
8. September 1
9. September 2
10. August 4

The NHTSA data indicate that these deadliest days to drive are not random; these are the days when high numbers of Americans are celebrating and then getting in cars either tired or intoxicated, and likely to take dangerous driving risks to lengthen their
celebrations. The August and September days indicated are dates when most
Americans leave for, or are returning from their vacations.

Deadliest Days of the Week
1.  Saturday
2.  Sunday
3.  Friday
4.  Thursday
5.  Monday
6.  Wednesday
7.  Tuesday

Deadliest Times of the Day
1.  3 p.m. – 6 p.m.
2.  6 p.m. – 9 p.m.
3.  9 p.m. – Midnight
4.  Noon – 3 p.m.
5.  Midnight – 3 a.m.

The data collected on days of the week and times of the day bear out the fact that weekend driving increases the risk of dangerous driving behavior, and commute times bear the brunt of many more drivers on the road. So, alarmingly, the times that drivers need to remain cautious and vigilant, these are often the times that they are driving tired, distracted or impaired.

Ultimately, drivers are responsible for the number of fatalities on our highways every year. As the professional limousine driver on the road, knowing the dates, days and times of day when dangerous driving is most likely to occur, you can be a significant
factor in helping to reduce yearly traffic deaths and injuries.

LimoDirect offers limo liability insurance, limo physical damage insurance and limo
general liability insurance while providing superior coverage & claims service.

Superstorm Sandy’s Wake Sparks Criminal Minds

NCIB has issued a warning of the potential resale of water damaged automobiles to unsuspecting consumers in the future in all parts of the U.S.

In the aftermath of the terrible destruction caused by Superstorm Sandy
along the East coast, the Northeast and parts of the Midwest areas of the U.S., the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) has issued a warning to everyone affected – and to everyone in the country – to beware of the potential for fraud. The warning includes vulnerable homeowners, businesses and, in particular, the resale of automobiles that are water damaged but could be sold to unsuspecting consumers throughout the country.

Vehicles that have been damaged by natural disasters, especially flooding, do not often have obvious signs of damage. So the extent of serious problems caused by salt or fresh water is far too often easier to conceal than body damage. After Hurricane Katrina seven years ago, hundreds of thousands of vehicles were damaged by flood waters. As a result, NICB established a free service called VINCheckSM to assist in determining if a particular vehicle has been reported stolen or reported as salvage due to damage, natural disaster or otherwise.

NICB will also be working with law enforcement to help ensure that Superstorm-damaged vehicles are entered into the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System (NMVTIS). The System is designed to protect consumers from fraud and unsafe vehicles and to keep stolen vehicles from being resold. The States report data to the system which currently has about 20 million salvage or total loss records on file, or about 88% of vehicles in the U.S.

It is estimated that hundreds of thousands of vehicles have been damaged by Superstorm Sandy. No matter where you are located throughout the country, if you are in the market for a pre-owned vehicle, especially a luxury model for your limousine business, make sure you follow some used-car buying tips, provided free of charge by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) on its website. Do your homework, be aware of the special circumstances concerning a market that may have an abundance of storm-damaged vehicles and take advantage of the mostly free services the government is offering to help protect you from fraud.

LimoDirect offers limo liability insurance, limo physical damage insurance and limo
general liability insurance while providing superior coverage & claims service.

Organization Is Key To Operating A Successful Limo Company

In our techno society, smartphone Apps, free or at low cost, can help keep you organized and help you run your business more efficiently.

Some of us are highly organized individuals – with a place for everything and everything in its place. Others of us watch the cable TV show Hoarders just to make ourselves feel better about our own messy situations. But for someone operating a limousine business, organization is a must – unless you want to book two trips at the same time on the same day, forget to fill your gas tank, lose important billing information or misfile important tax documents. The lack of organization in your life, especially your business life, will eventually catch up with you and could cause a major disruption to your productivity.

Hundreds of books have been written about the importance of organization, often broken down into the “Top” 7, 10, 20, 25 or more points you need to remember in order
to maintain an organized lifestyle. In our techno society, there are smartphone applications (Apps) available, free or at low cost, that can be downloaded to
help keep your schedule straight even while on the go. There are other Apps that help
you run your business more efficiently. If you want to stay competitive on a daily
basis, you have to keep up with the latest technology designed specifically to keep you well organized. Just remember not to use the Apps until you are stopped in a safe location.

We’ve complied a list of 10 things (in no particular order) that are on most lists of
characteristics or actions that highly organized people use to stay organized, and as an added bonus, make their lives a lot easier:

  1. Prioritize the things you need to do. Make to-do lists for each day putting what needs the most attention first to enhance the chances they will get done first. Take 15 minutes at the end of each day to create a to-do list for the following day.
  2. Clean up your clutter, Get rid of things that don’t help you and make a place for the things that you need and will help you. Remove clutter from desks, offices and work spaces. Seldom used items should be stored in cabinets. Order supplies in a
    timely manner so you’re not caught short.
  3. Create a file system to organize your business papers. Color-code the different categories with tabs or folders so you can find things at a glance. Keep your personal files separate.
  4. Send out billing invoices and process payments regularly. Keep careful records of all of your financial documents.
  5. Keep appointments noted in your computer software and in a date book that you can carry with you. It’s not going to help if all your notes are on your computer and you are miles away from your daily schedule.
  6. Organize your mail, including your emails. Keep your personal emails in a separate address and away from your business email address. Toss the mail you don’t need and file the things you need in date-priority order. This applies to emails as well. Organize computer files and folders, using a star or flag to highlight important messages that need more attention.
  7. Clean out each desk drawer to free up valuable storage space.
  8. Keep essential items on your desktop, and clean the surfaces as needed to keep dirt and dust away from your work environment.
  9. Return calls promptly.
  10. As a space-saving measure, consider digitizing documents, business cards and other hard-copy materials to help avoid unnecessary clutter.

Good Luck!

LimoDirect offers limo liability insurance, limo physical damage insurance and limo
general liability insurance while providing superior coverage & claims service.

Oh, Deer!

According to the NHTSA, October-December are the most dangerous months for vehicle crashes with animals…the majority of which involve deer.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), October, November and December are the most dangerous months for vehicle crashes with animals…the majority of which involve deer. This is mating season for deer, and the amorous animals seem oblivious to traffic as they cross roads and highways in search of a romantic liaison. In addition to the drive to reproduce, deer are also on the move to find food and shelter for the upcoming winter. The danger is at its highest during the early morning and early evening hours, the most active time for deer and, coincidentally, the peak time for commuters.

NHTSA estimates that nationwide, more than 1.5 million collisions occur between deer and motor vehicles every year, resulting in 200 human deaths, tens of thousands of injuries and plenty of road kill. Collisions occur on all types of roadways and highways, and in urban as well as rural areas. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety  estimates the cost for vehicle damage is more than $1 billion, with an average insurance claim of $3,000. Another important note NHTSA offers is that drivers are more likely to be involved in a crash resulting from making evasive maneuvers than an actual collision with the animal.

Slowing down and staying alert when driving are the best ways to help you avoid deer that seemingly appear out of nowhere, sometimes even during daylight hours. Pay attention to deer crossing signs. They are put there for a reason. And remember that if you see one deer, there are usually more very nearby because deer travel in small herds.

Other ways to help avoid a collision with deer:

  • Continually scan the road for deer, and if you see one near the edge of the road, slow down so you’ll be better able to react to its unpredictable behavior;
  • Use your high beams when it’s safe to do so, and watch for deer eyes reflecting in your headlights making them easier to spot;
  • Remember the exact spot where you saw a deer cross the road. They are creatures of habit and will use the same paths;
  • Honking your horn and flashing your headlights if you see a deer in the road can help scare the animal off;
  • If you do suddenly encounter a deer in the road, DO NOT SWERVE to try and avoid it. You could find yourself veering into oncoming traffic, landing in a ditch or
    hitting a fixed object like a tree or utility pole. These situations will likely cause more deaths and serious injuries than actually hitting the deer; and
  • Never try to move an injured animal. It might panic and seriously injure you. If you do strike a deer, call police or other authorities for assistance, move your vehicle off the roadway and stay in your vehicle until help arrives.

The deer population has grown throughout the country in the last 10 years. Because of the mild winter earlier this year, more deer probably survived, leading to more animals on the roads this fall…and more collisions.

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general liability insurance while providing superior coverage & claims service.

DOT Study Tests Crash Avoidance Technology

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that the V2V technology could help drivers avoid or reduce the severity of 4 out of 5 unimpaired vehicle crashes.

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) began a year-long project in early September testing “connected vehicle” technology which, if successful, will allow cars, trucks and buses the ability to “talk” to each other as well as to infrastructure objects while on the road.

The pilot project is being conducted by the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI) and involves nearly 3,000 vehicles. It is the first-of-its-kind road test of the crash avoidance technology using actual drivers and vehicles. The test cars, commercial trucks and buses, mostly supplied by volunteer participants, are fitted with vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) devices for gathering data. According to a DOT Fact Sheet, the V2V technology is similar to WI-FI, but not likely to be susceptible to interference.

UMTRI has equipped more than 73 lane miles of roadway with the new technology. Test vehicles have been retrofitted with a safety device connected to the vehicle’s data bus, providing highly accurate information from the in-vehicle sensors. A driver-interface
broadcasts and receives safety messages which can then process the content of received messages and provide warnings to the driver during specific hazardous traffic scenarios. These include an impending collision at a blind intersection, a vehicle changing lanes into a vehicle’s blind spot or a rear-end collision with a vehicle stopped ahead. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that the V2V technology could help drivers avoid or reduce the severity of 4 out of 5 unimpaired vehicle crashes.

An independent study of the technology by the Highway Loss Data Institute  (HLDI), an affiliate of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), seems to show that current crash avoidance technology is working. But the debate on the new systems is far from
over. Privacy concerns have been raised because storing of driving data is necessary for the systems to be effective. There are also concerns that, as the technology advances, it could cause the ultimate distractions as drivers become more and more dependent on “driverless” cars or other innovations in which the driver’s attention becomes secondary to the trip. Lane departure warnings, blind spot detection, parking assistance and backup cameras are all beginning to make their way into mainstream vehicles. But other technologies are on the table, like fatigue warning, curve speed warning and cross-traffic alerts in which drivers might rely more on their vehicles than on their instincts. IIHS spokesman Russ Rader put it this way, “There is a risk that drivers could let themselves become more distracted if they are confident that the car will bail them out. That’s something researchers are going to watch.”

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general liability insurance while providing superior coverage & claims service.

The 3 Most Costly Limo Claims

3-most-costly-limo-claimsLeft-Hand Turns (Only 2.5% of total claims; 21.7% of total claim dollars paid)  

While representing less than 3% of total claims reported to leading U.S.limo insurer Lancer Insurance Company in 2011, limousines involved in crashes when making left hand turns represented a staggering 21.7% of claims dollars paid.

Quite simply, accidents occurring when left-hand turns are made into oncoming traffic on 2-way roads are either head-on or “T-bone” type crashes, producing multiple serious injuries to the occupants of all involved vehicles.

To avoid these often horrific crashes, limousine drivers should realize that their vehicles are often larger and take more time to clear oncoming traffic than a normal sized private passenger automobile. Be patient and wait for all oncoming traffic to pass before making the turn.  It is also often difficult to gauge an oncoming vehicle’s speed, and it becomes even more difficult at night.  Do not begin your turn until you are sure you have enough time to complete it safely.

Intersection Crashes (Only 5.8% of total claims; 12.8% of total claims paid)

Not unlike left-hand turn crashes, intersection accidents are costly because they usually involve several moving vehicles and multiple passenger injuries.  While most intersections are controlled by signage or traffic signals, the disturbing increase of drivers “running” red lights and stop signs, not to mention illegal cell phone and texting distractions, make it imperative to drive defensively and expect the unexpected.

Beware of ‘stale green lights’ which are due to cycle to red as you approach and cover your brake anticipating same.  And never assume that the driver of an approaching vehicle is prepared to obey signage or traffic signals directing him or her to stop.

Pedestrian/Bicyclist Hits  (only .018% of total claims; 3.7% of total claims paid) 

There are few, if any, limo accidents worse than ones that involve pedestrians or bicyclists.  Sadly, they occur more frequently than you would expect and often have tragic results.  The majority of these incidents occur when the pedestrian moves suddenly and unpredictably into the path of the limo.  Pedestrians jay-walk, walk behind moving  vehicles, cross from between parked cars, exit parked cars without looking and sometimes are so distracted by their smart phone that they do dumb things…like walk in front of a moving limo.  Chauffeurs need to give driving their full attention and slow down, scan left and right and be prepared to stop.

LimoDirect offers limo liability insurance, limo physical damage insurance and limo
general liability insurance while providing superior coverage & claims service.

Homeland Security Is Everyone’s Responsibility

With the recent 11th anniversary of the September 11 terror attacks, DHS reminds us: “When you see something, say something!”

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has launched its newly re-designed website, offering a simplified approach to the content, with streamlined access to DHS services and information. With the recent passing of the 11th anniversary of the September 11 terror attacks, DHS is reminding the American people, and especially transportation professionals, how everyone can help year-round in the effort to not only help prevent another attack, but to know how to assist law enforcement in different types of emergencies.

While actual incidents of attacks have declined in the past two years, it is not for lack of trying. Security officials deal with threats on a daily basis, from holiday gatherings to
sporting events to attempted cyber attacks, the nation is very busy in its attempts to prevent damage and destruction. A DHS initiative called the First Observer Program is a national safety and security program that recruits volunteers from the transportation
industry to act as the nation’s “First Observer” in reporting emergency situations and suspicious activities to authorities of either a criminal or potentially terrorist nature. Highway professionals have a “vast array of visibility throughout their everyday processes, and also the ability to notice activities that appear out of the ordinary.”

Another DHS public awareness campaign is If You See Something, Say Something, and again, transportation professionals are in a unique position to recognize potential dangers. Limousine drivers often pass by the same location several times during the day. Are there any unattended packages that were not there before and seem out of place? Is there suspicious activity near or on a bridge or overpass? Do you see the same people taking pictures or videotaping a location, sometimes in the same spot over a period of a few days? Is there odd behavior outside a large venue like a sporting event where you are parked and waiting for your passengers?

On a spring Saturday night two years ago in Times Square, New York City, a street vendor and Vietnam veteran by the name of Lance Orton who had operated his vendor cart from the same spot for more than 22 years, noticed smoke coming from a carelessly parked SUV with the motor still running and its hazard lights on. Sensing that
something just wasn’t right, he hailed a mounted police officer, told him what he observed and almost instantly, police were on the scene evacuating the area. A crude bomb made from three propane canisters, two five-gallon cans of gasoline and two clocks with batteries was discovered in the process of detonating, but had malfunctioned. The culprit, who admitted the act was terrorism-related, was arrested two days later due to the diligence of Federal agents and NYPD. When asked what motivated him to report the incident to police, Mr. Orton said, “When you see something, say something!”

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general liability insurance while providing superior coverage & claims service.

Survey Shows Voters Deem Infrastructure Improvements Important

HNTB survey shows an uptick in the public’s interest in infrastructure investment and support for more tolls to help pay for it.

HNTB Corporation, infrastructure experts and the Number 1 consultant to Departments of Transportation around the world, has published its yearly America THINKS Survey for 2012. This latest survey shows an uptick in the public’s interest in infrastructure investment and support for more tolls to help pay for it. With the national elections right around the corner, transportation issues seem to be very much on the minds of voters with nearly 87% of survey respondents agreeing that transportation funding is a public investment worth making. HNTB says that, historically, the results of many local transportation-related election issues pass more than 73% of the time.

The findings are published as the America THINKS Highways Fact Sheet, and part of the focus is on how the nation’s highways and interstate system issues impact likely voters in this year’s elections. Of respondents who intend to vote, 22% say that infrastructure issues will be extremely influential on who they vote for; 45% say they will be somewhat influential; 27% say not very influential; and 7% say not at all influential.

When asked how they would most prefer the country acquire the funding to pay for interstate infrastructure projects, a clear majority (61%) chose using tolls to raise the money, even if it meant raising them. The option of a miles-driven user fee got 23% of the vote and the third option, increased federal gas taxes, received 16% of the votes.

Respondents overwhelmingly thought that it was extremely (42%) or somewhat (47%) important for the federal government to fund the maintenance and improvement of interstate highways. Somewhat unimportant came in at 8% and 3% of respondents thought that funding coming from the federal government is extremely unimportant.

The America THINKS survey polled a random nationwide sample of 1,024 participants
aged 18 and over, solicited through an email invitation and an online survey. The margin of error is +/- 3.1%.

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general liability insurance while providing superior coverage & claims service.

Are Your Tires Good To Go?

According to the NHTSA, underinflation is the leading cause of tire failure in tire-related crashes.

Consumer Reports Magazine recently published an article addressing the dangers resulting from tire failure. Because tires are the only components of your limousine to actually touch the ground, they are crucial to your vehicle’s proper handling and braking.

According to studies conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) on tire-related crashes, the leading cause of tire failure is underinflation. Underinflation has immediate effects on vehicle handling and increases fuel consumption. It also increases stress on the tire rubber itself through flexing and overheating, leading to structural failures such as tread separation.

The Consumer Reports article says that because the sidewall flexes more at lower tire pressures, underinflation compromises the driving control that a tire is designed to provide. Even a small pressure loss can affect a car’s handling characteristics, making it harder to control. A sidewall that flexes too much can cause an excessive heat build-up which can possibly lead to a blowout. The Crash Safety Research Center at Penn State University’s Pennsylvania Transportation Institute has developed a computer simulation that shows how a tire performs with lower air pressure. The Center found that when the tire pressure is lowered, the energy used by the tire is increased significantly. The result is a rapid rise in temperature, rolling resistance and tire fatigue.

So what should you be looking for when checking your tires before heading out on the road?

Consumer Reports recommends:

  • Don’t judge the pressure by just visually checking a tire. Modern radial tires bulge slightly, making them look a little underinflated even when they’re not.
  • Use a tire gauge to check the pressure in all four tires and your spare.
  • Set your tires to the automaker’s recommended tire pressure. This information can be found either on your doorjamb, the fuel door or on the inside of the glove
    compartment lid. Don’t inflate to the “maximum inflation pressure” imprinted on
    the tire.
  • Measure tire pressure when the tires are cold and before they’ve been driven a few miles. As the vehicle is driven, the tires heat up and the pressure rises, making it more difficult to set them to the correct cold-tire pressure.

Check your tires regularly, especially as part of your pre-trip inspection. Checking tires doesn’t take much time, and the effort is well worth your time and attention.

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general liability insurance while providing superior coverage & claims service.

“Distracted Walking” An Increasing Problem For Limo Drivers

One study reports that pedestrians using cell phones while walking on or near a street are 40% more likely to get hit by a vehicle.

No one can honestly dispute the fact that distracted driving can have some very serious and catastrophic consequences for anyone traveling on the nation’s roadways these days. Now, however, according to several recent studies, pedestrians are also putting themselves and drivers in danger when they are walking down the street using a hand-held electronic device.

Millions of people have seen surveillance videos published on the internet of people falling into mall fountains, falling onto subway tracks, falling down steps, walking into walls or people and increasingly, walking into traffic. A study conducted by Stony Brook University in New York in January of this year reports that cell phone use by pedestrians “leads to increased cognitive distraction, reduced situation awareness and an increase in unsafe behavior.” Participants in the study who used a cell phone to text while walking veered off course by about a 60% deviation and significantly slowed walking speed which caused their walking trip to take 16% longer.

Another study by the University of Alabama Academy of Pediatrics in 2009 found that young pedestrians who text or talk on cell phones while walking on or near a street are 40% more likely to get hit by a vehicle. They are much less attentive to traffic and the
younger the children are, the higher the risk of being hit. The trends with young adults walking and using cell phones and being involved in an accident appear to be similar to those of young children.

An article in the Christian Science Monitor underscores the increasing dangers of what many government and safety experts are calling the serious and growing problem of walking while distracted. Reports from hospital emergency rooms across the country indicate that injuries to people talking and texting have more than quadrupled in the past 7 years, and according to the Governors Highway Safety Association the figures are most likely underreported. Different states are making some attempts to curb the behavior, but officials are wondering “how far government should go in trying to protect people from themselves.”

So in these waning days of summer when tourists and pedestrians come out in droves to enjoy the last of the summer sun and fun, the professional limousine driver is faced with another factor impacting safety. You have to be aware of those who aren’t paying attention and drifting into the roadways, into your blind spots and into your vehicle as they don’t watch where they are going. Keep your eyes moving, look several times before making a right or left turn, especially when driving a larger vehicle where your vision may be restricted, and always, slow down whenever pedestrians are present.

LimoDirect offers limo liability insurance, limo physical damage insurance and limo
general liability insurance while providing superior coverage & claims service.

Severe Weather Extremes Plaguing U.S.

New research from the Transportation Research Board (TRB) has indicated that climate change is causing serious damage to U.S. roads and transportation systems.

Several problems are arising across the country because of unusually harsh weather conditions. New research from the Transportation Research Board (TRB) has indicated that climate change is causing serious damage to U.S. roads and transportation systems. In a report released earlier this month, TRB contends that greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, predominantly carbon dioxide (CO2), linger in the atmosphere for up to 500 years and these emissions are destructive to the nation’s infrastructure as well as to the environment. With the transportation sector contributing nearly 30% of all GHG emissions, TRB hopes the new research will help make transportation professionals more aware of the relationship between transportation, the environment and changing weather conditions.

Ominously, TRB also predicts that climate change will intensify, causing an increase in the risks and impacts for transportation systems, facilities and operations. Transportation infrastructure in the U.S. has been deteriorating because of extreme weather conditions. Record-level flooding washed out roadways in several states, hurricanes put gaping holes in several major thruways, heavy winds knocked down trees, limbs and electrical wiring and have lifted heavy projectiles into already weakened bridge and overhead structures causing further damage. Tom Scullion, a senior research engineer with the Texas Transportation Institute at Texas A&M
University said that heat and drought have caused the clay-rich soils under highways to “just shrink like crazy” leading to “horrendous cracking.” Data collected by the National Weather Service is predicting that there is a high likelihood of hotter than normal temperatures and drier than normal conditions lasting from August through October, continuing drought conditions in 56% of the lower 48 states. The considerable damage the agricultural sector is incurring because of these droughts will eventually negatively impact the nation’s entire economy.

On a positive note, TRB credits the transportation industry for its efforts in developing more efficient vehicles and fuels to curb the growth of environmental damage caused by GHG emissions. As a professional limousine driver, you can do your part by avoiding high speeds which burn fuel faster, reducing prolonged idling when waiting for passengers and keeping your vehicle properly tuned and maintained.

LimoDirect offers limo liability insurance, limo physical damage insurance and limo
general liability insurance while providing superior coverage & claims service.

Study Shows Increase In Traffic Fatalities In 1Q 2012

The NHTSA estimates that 7,630 people died in U.S. motor vehicle crashes from January to March, 2012 – an increase of 13.5% over last year.

If projections of traffic fatalities for the first 3 months of 2012 prove to be true, it will represent the second largest year-to-year quarterly increase since National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)  began recording fatalities in 1975. The largest recorded year-to-year quarterly rise in fatalities was a 15.3% increase during the 1Q1979.

Published in the NHTSA pamphlet, Traffic Safety Facts, the study estimates that 7,630 people died in motor vehicle crashes across the country between January and March, 2012… an increase of 13.5% over the 6,720 traffic deaths in the 1Q 2011.  The grim statistics also showed a spike of 1.1 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled compared to .98 fatalities in the 1Q 2011. The data run counter to the historic declines in deaths over the past 4 years. NHTSA said that total traffic deaths in 2011 were the lowest in 60 years, and the rate of deaths per miles driven was lower than at any time since 1921. Speculation on why the fatality rate increased so drastically during the first quarter of the current year cannot be definitively explained. However, NHTSA proposes that the unusually warm winter the country experienced brought more people on the roads, particularly motorcyclists, than would normally occur during typically colder winter weather.

While preliminary estimates can change once solid data has been recorded, NHTSA says that revisions usually don’t vary significantly from early estimates.

Information used to compile the data for the report is gathered from police accident reports, the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) and other sources.

NHTSA also indicates that August trends as one of the most crowded and deadliest months on the road for all motorists. So keep your focus on the road, and be aware that many drivers who are taking their final vacation days may not be familiar with the roads they are traveling. Distracted driving is dangerous for everyone, and get proper rest so you won’t be driving tired. Driving for extended periods under the hot summer sun can cause dangerous fatigue. Exercise regularly, eat healthy, light meals and take frequent breaks to help keep alert behind the wheel.

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general liability insurance while providing superior coverage & claims service.

When In Traffic, When In Doubt…Yield The Right-of-Way

Approximately 14% of all fatal motor vehicle crashes involve a driver’s failure to yield the right of way.

Any time you encounter another vehicle, motorcyclist, bicyclist or pedestrian on the road, one of you must yield the right of way in order to prevent an accident. Rather than depending on individuals to randomly determine who should have priority, state laws establish who has the right to proceed first. Yet, according to the National Safety Council, approximately 14% of all fatal motor vehicle crashes involve a driver’s failure to yield the right of way. Given this gruesome statistical evidence, it seems right-of-way laws are not clear to everyone.

Right-of-way laws vary from state to state and, as a professional limousine driver, you should familiarize yourself with the regulations in the states in which you operate. A few general tips to follow can help make everyone on the road a little safer:

  • When multiple drivers reach a four-way stop intersection, the first to stop should be the first to go;
  • At uncontrolled intersections or those at which two or more drivers stop at STOP signs simultaneously and they are at right angles to one another, the driver on the left should yield to the driver on the right;
  • If drivers approaching from opposite directions reach an intersection at about the same time, the driver turning left should yield to approaching traffic going straight or turning right;
  • Drivers making a right turn at an intersection should yield to oncoming vehicles as well as crossing pedestrians and bicyclists;
  • When entering a traffic circle or roundabout, drivers should yield to traffic already in the circle;
  • When entering the roadway from a driveway, alley, private road or parking lot, drivers should yield the right of way to traffic and pedestrians already on the roadway;
  • When entering a freeway, drivers should yield the right of way to vehicles already traveling the freeway;
  • Drivers should yield to police cars, fire engines and ambulances making audible and visual emergency signals.

Following a collision, establishing which driver had the right of way is not always clear. It is possible that you could be found liable or negligent for an accident, at least in part, even though you believe you had the right of way. Whenever you are faced with a driving situation in which right-of-way rules come into play, proceed carefully and cautiously. Even if the right-of-way belongs to you, use your professional judgment about whether it would be better to allow the other motorist to have the right-of-way, especially if they seem determined to take it.

LimoDirect offers limo liability insurance, limo physical damage insurance and limo
general liability insurance while providing superior coverage & claims service.

Traffic Congestion Declining Nationwide – Good News For Limo Drivers

The drop in traffic is due to rising fuel prices, less road construction, high unemployment and the debt crisis.

INRIX, a traffic services provider to private automobile and commercial motor vehicle companies, has produced a “Traffic Scorecard” based on 5 years of extensive global research showing by region the worst places, the worst times and the worst days of the week to drive. INRIX says its study is the most extensive research of its type ever produced. The collected data used includes analyses done through the first 5 months of 2012.

For the United States data, commuting experiences were tracked using GPS-equipped vehicles and researchers were able to analyze a database containing approximately 100 million vehicles including limousines, airport shuttles, taxis, delivery vans, long haul trucks and passenger cars. They found that urban areas are actually seeing traffic congestion decrease at a significant rate nationwide for the first time since 2008. In fact, 70 of the country’s top 100 most populated cities showed a drop in traffic congestion in 2011. And while less traffic can seem like a blessing for professional limousine drivers who deal with it every day, the study attributes the drop in the U.S. to rising fuel prices, less spending on road construction, high unemployment and the debt crisis.

Some interesting findings resulted from the study include:

  • A 13-mile stretch of the San Diego Freeway outside Los Angeles is the most traffic-congested freeway in the country;
  • Drivers in Honolulu spend the most time in traffic, averaging 58 hours a year;
  • Southern cities, like Tampa, FL, Houston and Austin, TX that have lower unemployment rates had the busiest roads;
  • 8 of the 10 stretches of road in cities with the worst travel times and delays were inNew York andLos Angeles;
  • On average, Americans spend around 40 hours per year behind the wheel in rush hour traffic jams;
  • Fridays between 6:00 and 7:00 a.m. are the best commute times. The worst commute times are also on Fridays, between 5:00 and 6:00 p.m.;
  • Tuesday is the worst morning commute day. Monday is the best overall day for travel, perhaps because if people take 3-day weekends, they usually take Monday as their third day.

LimoDirect offers limo liability insurance, limo physical damage insurance and limo
general liability insurance while providing superior coverage & claims service.

Does Someone Always Have To Be At Fault In A Limousine Accident?

Proper training, safe driving and preparation can help a chauffeur deal with a crash.

Strange as it may sound, it isn’t always the case that someone is at fault for an auto accident.

A limousine accident is not a pleasant experience, but being in the chauffeured passenger transportation business, it is an experience that you may have to endure. The following case study taken from Lancer’s LimoDirect extensive claims data illustrates how, in this incident involving two vehicles, the chauffeur did nothing wrong and the other driver was also negligence-free.

On a clear and dry early morning in January, a chauffeur was driving his limousine to pick up a regular client. He was traveling in a wooded residential area on a 35 m.p.h. two-lane street with the lanes separated by a double yellow line. The limo was moving north within the speed limit; the south-bound traffic was steady but not heavy. Suddenly, a south-bound vehicle struck a deer sending the animal across the road where it crashed through the limousine’s front windshield. The chauffeur was grazed by the deer as it flew over his right shoulder and landed in the rear seat. Thankfully, he was able to bring his limo to a controlled stop, and had the entire incident captured by his dashboard-mounted video camera.

With deer blood and entrails covering the limousine’s interior, the vehicle had to be declared a total loss because all the carpet and leather would have to be replaced, the steering column, dashboard, engine and all vents would have to be cleaned, and these costs, when added to the body repair estimates, came to over $25,000.  Additionally, the chauffeur needed plastic surgery to his face, and suffered other minor injuries that kept him out of work for a protracted period.

Both Lancer and the other driver’s insurance company agreed to go to binding arbitration rather than spend thousands of dollars on a trial. The arbitrator found that neither driver was liable and that the other vehicle’s insurer could not be held liable in a deer “dart out” case. In other words, neither driver did anything wrong.

Although rare, these situations do happen and, when they do, it’s a very frustrating
experience. Practicing defensive driving skills behind the wheel, being aware of the route, traffic conditions and weather, and continually scanning the road for what may lie ahead, can help prevent most accidents. But if a crash occurs, professional drivers should know the steps to take to manage the accident scene. Lancer’s LimoDirect has a free and exclusive chauffeur training video on this topic available to our policyholders: Taking Charge: How To Control An Accident Scene.

Please remember that proper training, safe driving habits and adequate preparation can
help a chauffeur deal with a crash situation.

LimoDirect offers limo liability insurance, limo physical damage insurance and limo
general liability insurance while providing superior coverage & claims service.

Automatic Emergency Alerts Coming To Electronic Devices

 

We will will soon be notified of emergencies by Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA).
Wireless customers and the issuing agencies will not be charged a fee by the carriers for these WEA alerts nor will they have to sign up for the service.

As of June 27th, the major wireless cell phone carriers and most local, state and federal government agencies are teaming up to automatically bring warnings of severe weather conditions and other urgent announcements to mobile electronic devices. Owners of new or relatively new cell phones and other devices across the country will soon be notified of emergencies by Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) transmitted via text messaging, an innovation that officials say will enhance public safety. The new system
extends the reach of the Commercial Mobile Alert System (CMAS) which currently issues alerts and warnings to television and radio, cable, satellite and other communication broadcasts. Weather-related emergencies will be issued through the National Weather Service (NWS), while other “Imminent Threat” alerts will be issued by state and local officials in agreement with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Wireless customers and the issuing agencies will not be charged a fee by the carriers for these alerts nor will they have to sign up for the service. Those who do not have a WEA-enabled phone are automatically enrolled in the program, regardless of where the device service originates from. When the program is fully implemented, if an emergency happens at that location anywhere in the country, a notification will be sent. The notifications are a broadcast (one-way) technology which does not allow the senders to collect receivers’ data.

Here’s how the program is designed to work. When NWS issues weather alerts, the warnings will automatically be transmitted to a specific FEMA message center. Because cell carriers will be constantly monitoring this messaging center, as soon as an alert is posted, the carriers will send them to their towers in the affected areas. Then, any wireless device in the area that’s WEA-enabled will receive the alert through a special sound and vibration from the device to get the owner’s attention. There will be a short, text-like message on the device with enough information to let the user know that something potentially dangerous is happening in their current location.

If you’re not sure your equipment is WEA-enabled to receive the alerts, especially if you
have an older model, contact your carrier. Even for some newer devices, it may not be until the fall that new software will be available to make sure you can receive the warnings. Local public safety agencies are beginning to inform their citizens about the fact that they could soon start receiving WEA messages.

For more information, visit the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association (CTIA)  website, http://blog.limoinsurancedirect.com/wp-admin/www.ctia.org.

One safety note: If you receive any text messages while driving, be sure you wait until you are safely off the road and at a complete stop before reading a hand-held device.

LimoDirect offers limo liability insurance, limo physical damage insurance and limo
general liability insurance while providing superior coverage & claims service.

Move Over Laws For Safety

Limo drivers need to be awars of their state's Move Over Laws.
Fines range from $50 to more than $500 for not changing lanes or slowing down.

Every state in the country except Hawaii (and the District of Columbia) has enacted Move Over Laws. Yet it’s surprising how many drivers aren’t aware of these laws – or the heavy penalties that can result when the laws are violated. Established in 2007, Move Over Laws require drivers to move to another lane or, if that’s not possible because of traffic or when driving on a two-lane roadway, reduce their speed by at least 20 miles below the posted speed limit when passing law enforcement, Department of Transportation (DOT) highway maintenance vehicles and first responder vehicles stopped on the side of a roadway with their lights flashing.

According to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, more than 200 law enforcement officers have been killed since 1999 after being struck by vehicles along America’s highways, and thousands more have been injured. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has strongly supported the passage of Move Over Laws to improve the safety of those who must put themselves in harm’s way while performing their roadway duties.

Penalties for violations of the laws vary from state to state, and state legislatures have been amending their laws in an attempt to strengthen and unify the requirements for
compliance. Fines range anywhere from $50 for failure to approach a stopped vehicle with caution to more than $500 for not changing lanes or slowing down, to suspension of a driver’s license, to 60 to 90 days jail time if an injury or fatality results. The Move Over America website has an interactive map of the U.S. which allows you to click on any state and see its Move Over Law mandates and penalties.

The July 4th holiday is rapidly approaching and the date is consistently ranked in the Top Five most dangerous holidays for drivers, primarily because of the significant increase in the number of vehicles on the road. With more traffic comes more breakdowns, more accidents and more responders stopped to deal with emergencies. Professional chauffeurs and limousine drivers can set the example by knowing your state’s Move Over Laws, slowing down and being a part of Move Over America.

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general liability insurance while providing superior coverage & claims service.

A Sleep-Deprived Nation Threatens Professional Limo Drivers

Even if professional drivers are sensible enough to get proper sleep, a good portion of everyone else on the road is fatigued at the wheel.

Study after study has shown that we are a sleep-deprived nation. And the fatigue problem is growing more dangerous as Americans sleep less in their daily push to do more. Recent research from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), a division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), indicates that more than 30% of workers in the U.S. aged 30 to 64 are not getting enough sleep. This does not bode well for those of us in the transportation industry where, even if professional drivers are sensible enough to get the proper sleep a body needs, a good portion of everyone else on the road is fatigued at the wheel.

The CDC analyzed data from its 2010 National Health Interview Survey
and from the National Sleep Foundation. Despite continual public recommendations that adults should be sleeping 7 to 9 hours in each 24-hour period for optimum health, 30% of workers, approximately 40.6 million people, are getting just 6 or less hours of sleep per day. And unfortunately, the transportation industry ranks at 67.9%, more than double the national average of those who are operating on short-sleep hours.

Some other statistics from the research:

  • An estimated 20% of vehicle crashes are linked to drowsy driving;
  • Among all workers, those who usually worked a night shift had a much higher
    prevalence of short sleep than those who work a day shift; and
  • Short sleep duration was significantly higher among workers with more than one job, and among those who worked more than 40 hours per week.

The National Sleep Foundation also offers a list of 10 Healthy Sleep Tips to help achieve optimum sleep and describes the benefits provided. Among them are:

  • Maintain a regular bed and wake time schedule including weekends;
  • Create a sleep-conducive environment – dark, quiet, comfortable and cool;
  • Avoid caffeine, nicotine and alcohol close to bedtime;
  • Finish eating at least 2-3 hours before your regular bedtime; and
  • Exercise regularly and complete your workout a few hours before bedtime.

Short sleep duration is associated with various adverse health effects, such as
cardiovascular disease or obesity, decreased workplace and public safety and
impaired job performance. Professional limousine drivers have a responsibility
to be alert and aware every time they get behind the wheel. If you are having
any problems with sleep, keep a sleep diary noting what the problems are and
talk to your doctor. There may be underlying causes that you’re not aware of,
and you need to take care of yourself.

LimoDirect’s policyholders have free and exclusive access to our highly
acclaimed video for limo drivers, Driver Fatigue: A Deadly Serious Problem,
available on our website, http://www.limoinsurancedirect.com/.

LimoDirect offers limo liability insurance, limo physical damage insurance and limo
general liability insurance while providing superior coverage & claims service.

D.O.T. Releases “Blueprint For Ending Distracted Driving”

Eating, shaving, texting or talking on the phone should wait until you can safely pull off the road, so you don’t become a distracted driving statistic.

The U.S.Department of Transportation (DOT) has devoted a vast amount of time and dollars to educate the American people on the very real and horrifying dangers associated with distracted driving. The DOT website, www.distraction.gov, is devoted exclusively to keeping the public informed and aware of the tragedies caused by motorists taking their attention off the road, and the efforts the DOT is making to help eliminate distracted driving in all its forms.

Earlier this month, a comprehensive strategy to address the “distraction epidemic” was released by U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. The Blueprint For Ending Distracted Driving outlines a plan that builds on the national momentum the DOT has advanced over the past several years to stop this destructive driving behavior. The plan
specifically:

  • Encourages the remaining 11 states without distracted driving laws to enact and enforce this critical legislation;
  • Challenges the auto industry to adopt new and future guidelines for technology to reduce the potential for distraction on devices built or being brought into vehicles;
  • Partners with driver education professionals to incorporate new curriculum materials to educate novice drivers of driver distraction and its consequences. Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) show drivers under the age of 25 are two to three times more likely than older drivers to send text messages or emails while driving;
  • Provides all stakeholders with actions they can take that go beyond personal responsibility to helping end distracted driving nationwide.

As a professional limousine driver, there is little doubt that you will be affected by distracted drivers every working day. And while you can’t control the dangerous driving behavior of others, you can take steps to help keep the roads safer. Learn to recognize
the signs that a driver is distracted: inconsistent speed; continual hard-braking; insufficient following distance; eyes continually looking down and not ahead through the windshield; wandering into another lane. Keep your distance from those drivers that seem oblivious to the flow of traffic. And for any behavior that you would normally do outside your vehicle – eating, shaving, putting on make-up, texting or talking on the phone – wait until you can safely pull off the road to do these things so that you don’t become a distracted driving statistic.

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general liability insurance while providing superior coverage & claims service.

The 3 Most Common Limo Accidents & How To Prevent Them

The 3 Most Common Limo Accidents - Click to enlarge.Contrary to commonly held beliefs in the limousine industry, the 3 most frequent types of accidents (click on images at right) reported to insurance companies involve low-impact collisions.  What’s more, limousine company owners can easily add prevention measures to avoid all three accident types in their chauffeur and driver training program.

Not surprisingly, the leading type of limo accident is the rear-end collision.  This is the limo striking the rear-end of the vehicle directly in front of it.  While this type of accident is certainly not uncommon to all drivers, it is one that the professional driver or chauffeur can avoid by focusing on two preventive measures.  First, back off and allow a minimum of 4 seconds between the limo and the vehicle in front.  With larger stretches, limo vans and limo buses, the distance should increase to 6 seconds because of the increased stopping distance larger and heavier vehicles require.  Secondly, professional drivers and chauffeurs should avoid distractions, such as, using cell phones and GPS devices, and focus on the task at hand – safe driving.

The second most frequent accident type involving limousines is the sideswipe.  That is the limo, limo van or limo bus striking a fixed object such as a utility pole, another vehicle stopped in traffic or, in the case of high-profile vehicles such as vans and
buses, hotel/restaurant awnings.  The key to avoiding sideswipes is making sure the drivers and chauffeurs have been trained on the handling characteristics, mirror placement and turning radius of all vehicles to which they are assigned.  Placing an unprepared driver in an unfamiliar vehicle is usually the precursor of a sideswipe accident.

And, believe it or not, the last of the top 3 most common limo accidents involves the moving limousine striking a parked car.  More often than not, the unoccupied car being struck is parked in a commuter parking lot, shopping center parking lot or at a sports stadium or entertainment venue parking area.  Such locations are usually very congested and difficult to navigate through and have many unexpected blind spots.  The best accident avoidance tactics are to slow down, anticipate blind spots and focus on the driving task.

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general liability insurance while providing superior coverage & claims service.

Using Turn Signals Is Not An Option

The failure of drivers to simply use their turn signals is responsible for as many as 2 million accidents annually.

As a professional limousine driver, you’ve probably seen just about every kind of driving behavior, the good, the bad and the ugly, as you perform your daily duties. But, according to a new study from the Society of Automotive Engineers, it’s what you’re NOT seeing that is creating as many problems as distracted driving. Specifically, the failure of drivers to simply use their turn signals is responsible for as many as 2 million accidents annually. That’s more than twice the 950,000 annual incidents attributed to distracted driving!

Do you use your own turn signals, or do you often think it’s such a minor action that it doesn’t really matter? The SAE research indicates that drivers either neglect to use their signals when changing lanes (or fail to turn them off) 48% of the time. When drivers are making a right or left turn, the failure rate is about 25%. That equates to 2 billion times a day that drivers fail to use their turn signals, or 750 billion times annually. One of the study’s results found that, after slow drivers in the left lane, the second biggest driving pet peeve is drivers who don’t use turn signals. And, sadly, the problem does not seem to be going away.

Whatever the reasons drivers fail to engage their signals, their use is required by law
and they are a vital safety feature in all vehicles. So what can you, the professional limousine driver, do? First and foremost, always use turn signals whenever turning, changing lanes or taking any action that would indicate you are moving your limo into the potential right-of-way of another vehicle. Even if you are the only vehicle on the road late at night, use your turn signal so that it becomes second nature to your driving behavior.  You can’t guess if another driver will fail to use turn signals before making a move in traffic, but there are situations, especially when approaching intersections with turning lanes, that you can expect turns or other actions from other drivers that will not be signaled. Always stay alert and keep space around your vehicle to help avoid the mistakes and careless driving behavior of others.

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general liability insurance while providing superior coverage & claims service.

Avoiding Aggressive Driving

Our whole culture is geared at a faster pace and with everyone’s time at a premium, drivers are becoming much more aggressive.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), aggressive driving has become a growing problem on our roadways, increasing significantly over the last 10 years. NHTSA defines aggressive driving as “when an individual commits a combination of moving traffic offenses so as to endanger other persons or property, or any single intentional violation that requires a defensive
reaction of another driver.”

NHTSA has published an online brochure called Stop Aggressive Driving, available
in both English and Spanish. The three-part pamphlet asks and explains topics
such as:

Are You An Aggressive Limousine Driver?
Do you:

  • Express Frustration
  • Fail to Pay Attention When Driving
  • Tailgate
  • Make Frequent Lane Changes
  • Run Red Lights
  • Speed

How To Avoid Becoming Aggressive “In The Fast Lane”:

  • Plan Ahead and Allow Extra Time
  • Concentrate
  • Relax
  • Drive the Posted Speed Limit
  • Identify Alternate Routes

What to Do When Confronted With Aggressive Drivers:

  • Get Out of the Way
  • Put Your Pride Aside
  • Avoid Eye Contact
  • Avoid Gestures
  • Report Serious Aggressive Driving

As a professional limousine driver, you have probably seen more than your share of aggressive drivers who seem to have no respect for themselves or the safety of others. Our whole culture is geared at a faster pace than ever before and with everyone’s time at a premium, drivers are becoming much more aggressive on the road, especially during morning and evening commute hours. And if the situation becomes especially stressful for the aggressive driver, the behavior can quickly become an instance of road rage, potentially producing even more dangerous behavior.

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general liability insurance while providing superior coverage & claims service.

Sharing The Road Safely With Motorcycles

The death rate for motorcyclists is one of the few areas of highway safety in which progress is not being made.

The warmer weather seems to bring out something in the human spirit that craves the freedom of the open road. And, consequently, increased traffic is inevitable, especially in the popular tourist and vacation spots in every state. Sharing the road safely with motorcycles, the ultimate symbol of carefree, easy transportation, can become a problem, especially for professional chauffeurs who often transport passengers in larger, multi-passenger vehicles.

A preliminary report released on May 22nd by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) found that motorcycle fatalities in the United States did not significantly change from 2010 to 2011, totaling 4,500 each year. All 50 states and the District of Columbia provided the data for the report. With the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) projecting that overall motor vehicle fatalities declined 1.7% in 2011, reaching their lowest level since 1949, the death rate for motorcyclists is one of the few areas of highway safety in which progress is not being made. NHTSA also reports that when motorcycles crash with other vehicles, it is often because the larger vehicle has violated the cyclist’s right of way.

So what can you do?
The following guidelines can help make sure that each trip is a safe one for you and motorcyclists with whom you share the road.

  • Allow a motorcyclist a full lane width. Respect a motorcycle as
    you would any other vehicle, with the same rights and privileges.
  • Keep a greater following distance. Motorcyclists often slow
    by downshifting or merely rolling off the throttle, thus not activating the
    brake light. Also, because motorcycles can usually stop in shorter distances,
    leave additional space ahead for that extra cushion of safety.
  • Be alert for motorcycles that may appear suddenly. Sometimes riders may
    take advantage of the cycle’s size and maneuverability to cut between other
    vehicles. When turning right, watch for motorcycles that may be traveling in
    the space between your vehicle and the curb or other lane of traffic.
  • Check mirrors and blind spots before turning, changing lanes,
    backing up or parking.
    Because of its small size, a motorcycle can be easily hidden in a limousine’s blind spots or masked by objects or backgrounds (bushes,
    fences, bridges, etc.). And don’t be fooled by a motorcycle’s single headlight
    and single tail light which sometimes blend into the lights of other vehicles
    at night.
  • Communicate clearly. Signal your intentions before changing lanes,
    turning or merging with traffic. This allows the motorcyclist to anticipate
    traffic flow and find a safe lane position.
  • Exercise care at intersections. Collisions between
    motorcycles and other vehicles, including limousines, are most likely to occur
    at intersections. A motorcycle’s small profile makes it difficult to judge its
    distance and speed. A second look can make all the difference in avoiding a
    collision.
  • Don’t be fooled by a motorcycle’s flashing turn signal. Motorcycle signals may not be self-canceling and riders sometimes forget to turn them off. So don’t
    assume a turn is imminent.

The GHSA report has come out just before Memorial Day Weekend, when at least five large motorcycle rallies are planned across the country, including “Rolling Thunder” in Washington, D.C., where approximately 100,000 riders are expected to congregate.

So be alert, and extend courtesy to the two-wheelers with whom you share the road.

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general liability insurance while providing superior coverage & claims service.

It’s the Deadly Season for Pedestrians

The NHTSA reported that approximately 4,092 pedestrians were killed and another 70,000 injured when vehicles and pedestrians collided.

Spring is in full bloom across the country and the summer months are just around the corner. And with the warmer weather comes a huge influx of pedestrian traffic in cities and towns.  Unfortunately, for professional limousine chauffeurs and drivers, the more pedestrians on the streets, the greater the risk of pedestrian accidents with their vehicles.

The Problem Grows
Pedestrian-vehicle crashes are a major problem in the United States. In 2009, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that there were approximately 4,092 pedestrians killed and another 70,000 injured when vehicles and pedestrians collided. The Center for Problem-Oriented Policing  (POP) estimates that, on average, a pedestrian is killed in a traffic collision every 113 minutes and injured every eight minutes, and although only 8.6% of all trips are made on foot, 11.4% of all traffic deaths are pedestrians. The POP analysis also found that most pedestrian injuries occur between 6:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m., with a peak time between 3:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. Fatalities usually happen at night between 5:30 p.m. and 11:00 p.m. Most pedestrian-vehicle crashes take place on Friday and Saturday and the fewest happen on Sunday. However, during the vacation months, especially in crowded tourist areas, crashes happen frequently at any time in the 24-hour day and on any day in the week.

The Elderly Pedestrian
A recent article in the Los Angeles Times described the dangers that slower-moving elderly people are facing as they walk through a crosswalk along New York City’s wider but busy streets. Statistics show that more than a dozen elderly citizens have been killed in just one fashionable upper westside 10-block area of Manhattan in the last 10 years. That would equate to hundreds of elderly pedestrians perishing in crosswalks across the City that they simply cannot cross in time to evade traffic. Arguably, stoplight signals that don’t seem to be allowing enough time for an elderly person to cross safely add to the problem as well. In vacation areas, towns and rural areas, sidewalks may be in poor condition or there may not be any sidewalks for people to use, and the rough non-sidewalk surface can be especially difficult for an elderly person to navigate.

Other Dangers With Pedestrians Present
Especially during the summer season with so many compact crowded areas, vacationing pedestrians use the roads as if they were extensions of the sidewalks and they may not pay proper attention to following and oncoming traffic. Very often, pedestrians will ignore the traffic walk/don’t walk signals just because the rest of the crowd is moving without regard for safety. Children are especially at risk because they tend to make sudden movements without watching where they are headed. They can also be difficult to see because of their size.

What Can You Do?
Professional limousine drivers know that reducing speed will help safe driving in many ways. Generally, pedestrians do have the right-of-way at intersections and will take it, even if safety tells them they need to wait things out. You need to stay on your guard and slowing down will help avoid unexpected and careless pedestrian behavior. Don’t block a crosswalk with your limousine when stopped at a red light because it puts pedestrians around you in danger. Don’t use your horn or try other ways to get pedestrians out of your way. Take your time and wait until pedestrians are clear of your vehicle before moving.

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general liability insurance while providing superior coverage & claims service.

Bad Things Can Happen To Good Limo Drivers

The two most common accident types are head-on collisions and passing stop signs or red lights.

Limo drivers and chauffeurs should be aware that every day, good, experienced drivers who obey the speed limit and stay alert, are injured or killed by inexperienced, careless, drunk or reckless drivers. The National Safety Council (NSC) estimates that there are, on average, approximately 34,700 motor vehicle deaths in the U.S. each year. The NSC analysis also determined that even good drivers are injured or killed by the two most common accident types: head-on collisions and passing stop signs or red lights.

Head-On Collisions
According to NSC statistics, the head-on collision kills about 42% of the ”good drivers” on the road.  These accidents are the most sudden and most difficult to avoid. There is often little time for evasive maneuvers and the speed of both vehicles increases the violence of the crash. The estimates are that 63% of head-on collisions appear to be caused by distracted drivers or by drivers who fell asleep at the wheel and drifted into oncoming traffic; 20% occur around curves in the road when a driver was going too fast and veered into the opposite lane of travel; and 6% were caused by drivers passing another vehicle at a bad time.

Passing Stop Signs & Traffic Lights
The NSC statistics further showed that 16% of good drivers were killed when another driver failed to stop at a stop sign, and 8% of drivers were victims of red-light running. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) estimates that each year, more than 800 people die and over 200,000 are injured in crashes which involve red light running. The IIHS has further determined that crashes at red lights have increased more than three times the rate of all other types of fatal vehicle accidents in the U.S. After monitoring several busy intersections in Virginia over several months, IIHS discovered a pattern of red light violation rates of three per intersection per hour…and the rate was
more frequent during peak travel times!

What Limo Drivers Can Do?
Our nation’s highways are still the safest place to drive. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)  statistics show just 14% of traffic fatalities occur on highways, while an amazing 86% occur on city streets, side roads and byways. Of course, highway driving is never the only option you have, so use your professional training to avoid the poor driving habits of others. Stay alert and slow down when you travel side roads. Keep your eyes moving to look far down the road, and stay alert for potential conflicts at all times. Approach curves with caution and at a safe speed. The same applies with intersections; be wary when you come to a stop sign or red light, even when you have the right of way. Watch other vehicles and their drivers to help anticipate their actions. When your light turns green, take a couple seconds and check
both ways before proceeding.

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general liability insurance while providing superior coverage & claims service.

What If Your Limousine Catches Fire?

USFA data revealed that one in every four fire department responses is to a vehicle fire.

Vehicle fires, including those involving limousines, stretch limos and limo buses, are dangerous, fast-acting and frightening. And they happen more often than you might think. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), 33 car fires are reported every hour in the United States. In 2007, (the last year with complete NFPA statistics), 258,000 vehicle fires caused 385 deaths, 1,675 injuries and cost $1.41 billion in damages. Thankfully, regular maintenance, safe driving and common sense can often help prevent a vehicle fire.

Causes And Effects
The United States Fire Administration (USFA) research shows that mechanical failure or design problems such as broken fuel lines, faulty catalytic converters, electrical failures, blown tires and overheating, cause 66% of vehicle fires and are the leading causes of vehicle injuries. USFA data also reveals that one in every four fire department responses is to a vehicle fire – more than the responses to residential properties. Electrical wiring and fuel are the leading forms of material ignited in vehicle fires and following a collision, fires are the leading cause of vehicle deaths.

What Are The Signs?
Under-inflated tires can overheat quickly. When you make routine stops, make it a habit to check the tire pressure, especially if a tire looks low on air. Worn brakes can overheat and cause a fire, so make sure they are checked on a regular basis. If a fuse keeps blowing, it may be a sign of electrical trouble, so have it looked at as soon as possible. Overloaded wiring, particularly in a heavy accessorized limousine, can also cause a fire. If you smell burning plastic or rubber while you’re driving, pull over as soon as it is safe to do so, turn off the engine and investigate the source. If you can’t determine what the trouble is, call for help.

Some Tips On What You Could Do
One of the best defenses against a vehicle fire is to be prepared. During your pre-trip inspection, check for any tell-tale leakage or electronic irregularities. Make sure the limousine you drive is well maintained, tuned up regularly in accordance with manufacturer recommendations and that your maintenance program meets all local, state and federal requirements. Mount a fire extinguisher in the passenger compartment for easy accessibility and check it regularly for proper operation. A fire extinguisher rated ABC for all types of fires is the best.

Make sure you are familiar with how to use the extinguisher should the need arise. One thing is certain: an emergency is not the time to start reading the instructions on how to use your fire extinguisher. Be sure to check local, state and federal regulations about fire extinguishers in limousines and follow them carefully. If you are faced with a vehicle fire while on the road, don’t panic. Signal and move off the road to a safe spot, shut off the engine, evacuate your passengers to a safe distance and call 911. Stay at least 150 feet away from any flames you see in the rear of the vehicle, especially near the gas tank. And know what your company policy is concerning your response to a vehicle fire.

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general liability insurance while providing superior coverage & claims service.

Limo Drivers Take Note: Warm Weather = More Work Zones

Work zones account for an average of 700 fatalities each year.

The annual “Work Zone Awareness Week” begun in 1999, was held this year from April 23 -27. The program is designed to bring national attention to motorist and worker safety in work zones. This year’s theme is Don’t Barrel Through Work Zones! Drive Smart to Arrive Alive. Work zones account for an average of 700 fatalities each year, 85% of them being motorists and passengers, and 15% are the people working in a zone. There are multiple hazards limo drivers will face driving through the increasing number of work zones the warmer weather brings, especially when you are driving an oversized vehicle.

Defensive Driving
Your best driving defense in a work zone is to slow down and focus on your driving. The most common crash in a work zone is a rear-end collision, so leave at least 6 seconds of space between you and the vehicle ahead, and even more space when road conditions deteriorate with bad weather or rough surfaces. Give yourself space to move in case anything goes wrong, especially in stop and go traffic with fewer lanes to maneuver. Stay in your lane, obey the posted speed limit and remember, fines are often doubled in work zones.

Nighttime Safety Issues
Night work zones are increasingly common because authorities prefer to avoid lane closures and congestion during peak daytime traffic. However, with less overall traffic at night, drivers tend to go faster. Speed and darkness are the main reasons why 55% of work zone fatalities occur at night and crash rates increase by 65%. Darkness makes visibility poorer even with lighting towers, warning lights and reflective worker clothing
turning night into day. Drivers are more likely to be fatigued or driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs so stay alert.

Watch Out And Plan Ahead!
As you approach the warnings of a work zone ahead, merge as soon as possible to avoid forcing your vehicle into the traffic flow. Once you’re in the zone, if traffic merges into fewer lanes, use caution and courtesy to reduce the chance of a sideswipe. The worst of all merges is when a vehicle at a full stop in one lane attempts to move directly into a lane where the traffic is moving. The front wheels of a stopped vehicle turning toward the lane that is moving could signal that the vehicle will try to merge. Reduce your speed and keep your distance. Continuously scan the work zone and watch traffic, the workers, traffic flaggers and any moving equipment. Keep headlights on, wear your seat belt and always be prepared to stop. Relax and take your time getting through the congestion. Before you leave on your trip, check various state DOT web sites to see if there are work zones along your route. If you think you might be delayed, plan a different route or leave earlier to reach your destination. Staying alert and aware of what’s happening around you will help you safely navigate these congested areas.

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general liability insurance while providing superior coverage & claims service.

A Limo Safety Plan For Spring Celebrations

Consider having a separate Code of Conduct or Rules Agreement for the passengers to sign.

It’s the season of proms and graduations again, and some of your best vehicles will be filled with teenagers. So it will be up to you, in partnership with your riders’ parents, to set the tone for requiring responsible behavior from everyone riding in your limousine by having a limo safety plan.

Start With a Signed Agreement

Adults who rent limousines for their children’s special night want their concerns addressed and their questions answered before they sign a contract that, among other things, covers the special circumstances that come with providing services to passengers who are often still minors. The person who signs the transportation agreement should be a parent or guardian who gives permission to the riders to use your services and who will be liable for charges and damages that might occur. Speak to the parent personally so you’re sure the contract signature is genuine. Obtain the parents’ phone numbers so they can be contacted in case of an emergency. As part of your limo safety plan, you should also consider having a separate Code of Conduct or Rules Agreement available for the passengers to sign. The agreement details the expected (and acceptable) behavior from your minor passengers when they’re riding in your vehicle. Keep a copy of the signed contracts on the vehicle being utilized.

What Are The Contract Rules?

The first thing parents and passengers should know is that if there is any violation of the contract rules, you will immediately terminate the trip, the responsible parent will be notified, all fees will be charged and forfeited and, though the driver will remain with the group, the parents will be responsible for picking up their children. Pick-up and drop-off locations and times for the trip should be detailed in the agreement, along with an exact itinerary provided by the parent. There should be no deviation from the plans. No side
trips will be allowed without the permission of the signing parent and the owner of the driver’s company. One of the rules you must enforce is prohibiting drugs, tobacco or alcohol in the vehicle. Stipulate that the driver has the right, at his or her discretion, to examine any backpacks or packages being brought on board. Use of these substances by minors is illegal and dangerous and could cause an accident both inside and outside your limousine. This behavior could put you at risk even though you had nothing to do with the actions of your passengers.

Other Safety Precautions

Before you depart, ask your passengers if they have any questions about the contract rules or the services you will be providing to avoid misunderstandings. Discourage risky behavior by keeping the moon roof locked-closed and the driver’s glass divider locked-open. And since state contractual laws vary, you should consult with your attorney to make sure your rules are appropriate. You want your passengers to have a great evening, so treat them with respect and provide them with transportation in the safest and most responsible way possible.

LimoDirect offers limo liability insurance, limo physical damage insurance and limo
general liability insurance while providing superior coverage & claims service.

Luxury Cars See Safety Technologies First

Crash Avoidance Technologies
Crash avoidance safety features are already being featured on luxury autos of most manufacturers. Visit www.safercar.gov for more information.

The Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI), an affiliate of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), has released a study on the development of important automotive safety technologies that should be available to most . . . in 30 years. Crash avoidance safety features, such as lane departure warning systems, side view assists and forward collision alerts, are already being featured on luxury autos of most manufacturers. However, these existing safety features and others currently in development won’t likely be seen in most registered vehicles for decades.

The study, “Estimated Time of Arrival,” published in the IIHS journal Status Report, projects the years in the future when all vehicles will finally have some of this new and important safety equipment. Antilock brakes sure sounds like an attribute that’s the norm for all cars but, in fact, that feature won’t be standard for all cars until 2015. And surprisingly, it won’t be until 2016 that 95% of all registered vehicles are equipped with front airbags. It won’t be until 2028 that side airbags make it into most vehicles. The most recent advances dealing with collision avoidance technologies could potentially reduce or mitigate 1.9 million crashes, including 1 in 3 fatal crashes, according to the study. But that technology won’t be available to most vehicles until 2049.

We all know how fast technology changes, but like any of the electronics that have become an integral part of our lives, it takes time for the newest advancements to reach
the general population, including important features like crash avoidance in automobiles. Even when a breakthrough is announced, not everyone rushes out to replace their old vehicles, especially given the present state of the economy. Government mandates can often expedite the process of making safety features
commonly available, but it’s still a slow-moving process. For example, Electronic Stability Control (ESC) was introduced in model-year 1995. By 2000, it was standard on 10% of the models and an option on 4%. ESC has been shown to dramatically reduce crashes, particularly rollovers. As a result, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) required that ESC be standard on all passenger vehicles as of model year 2012. The feature was available on 95% of cars by 2010.

While the U.S.can’t quite envision a crash-free future just yet, safety features being introduced now and in the last 10 to 15 years offer great promise. Cars that can talk to each other and cars that can talk to infrastructure are being discussed as platforms that
could advance crash avoidance. There are even cars being modified to operate without a driver, technology that has already been granted a patent. But for now, and for at least 30 years into the future, that won’t happen. So when you’re on the road, either in your professional capacity as a limousine chauffeur or driving your family to a weekend vacation, keep your eyes moving, maintain a safe following distance and don’t speed. These three collision avoidance techniques are timeless and will never be replaced.

LimoDirect offers limo liability insurance, limo physical damage insurance and limo
general liability insurance while providing superior coverage & claims service.

Limousine Drivers: Good Impressions Generate Referrals & Repeat Business

Do you ever consider the less obvious but necessary qualities a limousine driver should have in order to run a successful business?

Are you aware of the impression you make on your customers? Of course, appearance matters and it’s hard to imagine any professional limousine chauffeur showing up for work in jeans and a t-shirt! But what about the rest of your appearance? Is your hair combed? Does your suit look clean and pressed? Are your hands clean and fingernails clipped to a reasonable length? What about personal hygiene? While all of this may seem quite obvious to any self-respecting chauffeur, do you ever consider the less obvious but necessary qualities a limousine driver should have in order to run a successful business?

The Best Qualities To Have

A recent article posted on Articles Alley, a website devoted to postings from various industry experts on a wide variety of topics, outlined several essential qualities that limousine drivers need to attract and keep customers coming back. One important quality is being prepared. Before every trip, make sure you know the most efficient routes to take and also alternate roads to travel if you are faced with long traffic delays. Before you leave, check on possible adverse weather conditions along your route so you can make alternate plans for a safe drive. Be punctual to your pick up location. Arriving early is much preferable to getting there late. Always be courteous and don’t let a customer who might be in a bad mood affect your behavior. Have a smile on your face, open the doors, take care of storing and retrieving luggage, do what you can to
keep your clients comfortable from the start, during and at the finish of the trip. Respect the privacy of your clients and that means not talking about them to others after you’ve dropped them off, especially when the clients may be well-known persons.

Important Quality #1

Above everything, you should never neglect your good driving skills. Don’t ever lose your attention on the road ahead. Are you answering your phone, even a hands-free one? In many cases, it shows a disregard for the law and for everyone on the road. Do you continually hard-brake in crowded traffic situations? That indicates you are traveling too fast for the traffic conditions. Do you allow yourself to be bothered by what other drivers do and then complain about it to your customers? That portrays you as short-tempered and impatient – not great qualities to be displaying to customers who have a choice on who they hire to get them from place to place.

Two Things That Customers Will Appreciate

Having a working knowledge of more than one language could be a factor that sets your services apart. Being professionally trained in basic first aid techniques and carrying a first aid kit in your limousine can also be an advantage.

Remember, you’ll never get a second chance to make that first impression.

LimoDirect offers limo liability insurance, limo physical damage insurance and limo
general liability insurance while providing superior coverage & claims service.

Study Focuses On Limo Driver Fatigue Issues

A poll conducted by the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) showed that many transportation industry workers struggle with sleep and, consequently, fatigue. The first-of-its-kind national survey on sleep habits of professional drivers, pilots and train operators, the 2012 Sleep in America Poll: Planes, Trains, Automobiles and Sleep, is an
eye-opener for professionals in the transportation industry, and in general, a pat on the back for limousine drivers/chauffeurs. The statistics here for limousine drivers were grouped with bus and taxi drivers because their responses were all in very similar percentage ranges, and much different than the responses of other transportation professionals.

The national internet survey polled 1,087 total respondents with a sample error of plus/minus 3%. The primary objectives of the research were:

  • To compare the sleep habits, including wake and bed time routines, across a range of transportation professionals;
  • To compare the sleep habits of transportation professionals to a control group of
    individuals between ages 25-65 who are NOT employed in transportation;
  • To compare coping measures for inadequate sleep for transportation professionals; and
  • To measure how work schedules, among other factors, impact sleep.

While the report asserted that a limousine driver’s daily shift varied and 59% reported usual start times between 6:00 am and 9:00 pm and end-shift times between noon and 6:00 pm, it needs to be noted that many limo drivers have other full-time jobs and only drive part-time – meaning that the average driving shift might be in addition
to a full day of work at their other job.

Limousine drivers say they get enough quality sleep on most working days, with 27% of respondents reporting sleeping 8 hours or more. This is significantly more than train operators or pilots. 53% of limo drivers also say they will take naps during break periods if they believe they need to sleep.

The survey has many more interesting statistics comparing the work and sleep habits of workers in the transportation industry. LimoDirect policyholders can order a free and exclusive copy of our highly acclaimed DVD: Driver Fatigue: A Deadly Serious Problem, available on our website, www.limoinsurancedirect.com. Sign in to our policyholder section and access the Safety/Loss Control section for more information.

LimoDirect offers limo liability insurance, limo physical damage insurance and limo
general liability insurance while providing superior coverage & claims service.

Limousine Drivers: What Happened To Safe Driving?

As a leading limo insurance provider, we know that statistics don’t deter drivers who fail to come to a full stop at a red light or stop sign.

As professional limousine drivers, you are arguably among the best and safest drivers on our increasingly busy roadways. As we approach warmer weather and the crowded traffic conditions that brings, you may begin to wonder how so many of the drivers you observe could have forgotten – or choose to ignore – safe driving rules and behavior. So don’t let the bad habits of others on the road cause you to become frustrated, especially when you’re driving.

Keep Your Head
As one of the leading U.S.companies providing limousine insurance, we know chauffeurs are often behind the wheel of a luxury vehicle, including over-sized models that look very classy and expensive. It seems to be a quirk of human nature that other drivers don’t want you to have a better road position than they do, often resulting in careless and dangerous maneuvers by motorists who want to “beat” you or get ahead of your “classy” vehicle. Because you can’t determine what’s going on in other drivers’ minds, you have to be cautious when you’re approaching travel areas that could pose a danger. Concentrate on the road, especially in merge areas, keep space around your limousine and be aware of lane changers and vehicles traveling in your blind spots. Stay calm and obey the speed limits.

A Lost Art
It’s been estimated that almost 60% of drivers do not consistently use their turn signals. This basic element of safe driving may be considered a nuisance to careless drivers. Yet, as a professional limousine driver, you know that it’s important to signal the driving actions you are about to take. With drivers’ minds seemingly on everything but their driving, you can’t afford to let your attention wander. In fact, by using your signals, you actually help others be safer drivers. Communicating your intentions allows others to adjust their speed and distance as needed. Use your signals at all times, whether you’re in heavy traffic or driving in the early morning hours when it seems like yours is the only vehicle on the road. It helps reinforce the habit of signaling your intentions.

Another Danger Ignored
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), red light running in the U.S. results in 218,000 crashes, 880 deaths and 181,000 injuries each year. Yet, as a leading limo insurance provider, we know that these statistics don’t deter the many drivers who fail to come to a full stop at a red light or stop sign. Very often, a light has turned red, but at least one driver continues through with no thought to the danger. This is especially true at left-turn lights. It’s also a problem when vehicles fail to slow down or stop at amber lights. With delayed green, drivers all too often feel they are entitled to those few extra
seconds and speed up rather than slow down. Pay close attention to traffic signals and be prepared to slow down or stop based on the conditions that confront you. Limousine drivers can set on-the-road examples as how to drive safely and carefully for other drivers who may not be as safety conscious.

LimoDirect offers limo liability insurance, limo physical damage insurance and limo
general liability insurance while providing superior coverage & claims service.

Limo Drivers Beware of Deadly Driving Mistakes

Limo Insurance
Speeding is dangerous all year round, but especially deadly during the winter weather conditions.

Limo drivers need to take note of potentially deadly driving mistakes.  From time to time, Forbes Magazine publishes research on Ten Deadly Driver Mistakes. It’s unfortunate that in the last few published articles, the causes of deadly crashes on our nation’s highways hasn’t changed much except for an increase in the number of crashes resulting from text messaging. Because surveys show a majority of drivers admitting that they have committed some of these driving transgressions, the warnings bear repeating.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Adnministration (NHTSA), drifting from the lane of travel is one of the most simple, but also one of the most deadly driving mistakes. That includes running off the road or wandering into an adjacent lane. It is possible that one reason why this driving behaviour is so dangerous is because it is very often combined with three other deadly driver mistakes: distracted driving and using an electronic device, especially for text-messaging; the driver being under the influence of alcohol; and the fatigued driver. Alcohol is a factor in 40% of the more than 40,000 traffic deaths that occur each year. According to the Automobile Association of America (AAA) one alcohol-related crash injury occurs every two minutes nationwide.

Underestimating weather conditions causes nearly 20% of highway fatalities, according to the University of California, Berkeley, School of Public Health. Poor weather is associated with 7,000 fatalities, 800,000 injuries, more than 1.5 million crashes annually, and an economic toll of $42 billion. Speeding is dangerous all year round, but especially deadly during the winter weather conditions. AAA states that speeding is involved in about 13% of all crashes and 33% of fatal crashes. Speeding shortens the amount of time drivers have to react, and the single most effective way to avoid accidents is to slow down.

Road And Travel Magazine called road rage “contagious.” Around 1,500 people are seriously injured or killed in the U.S. each year as a result of a traffic dispute and/or an altercation. Closely tied with road rage is aggressive driving – cutting someone off, weaving in and out of traffic, tailgating and speeding. These reckless behaviours angers other motorists and both actions can lead to trouble.

Rounding out the common deadly behaviours are: not wearing seat belts, closely tied with not using a car seat for infants and toddlers; not having eyes and ears checked regularly to make sure you have the ability to drive safely; and not knowing how to control the vehicle if you begin to slip or skid while driving. All of these driver mistakes can be avoided if you know and follow safe driving techniques, and remember to keep your emotions in check and slow down.

LimoDirect offers limo liability insurance, limo physical damage insurance and limo
general liability insurance while providing superior coverage & claims service.

2012 ILCT Annual Convention

Manufacturers such as Chrysler, BMW, Cadillac and Toyota all featured vehicles which they believe are suitable replacements for the Town Car which has been the limousine industry’s standard bearer for decades.

The 2012 International Limousine and Chartered Transportation (ILCT) recently concluded annual convention and trade show was very well attended and had much to offer both educationally and socially.

Held in conjunction with the annual meeting of the National Limousine Association (NLA), the ILCT presented a robust trade show which featured many of the new vehicles vying to replace the leadership position of the Lincoln Town Car which is no longer in production.   Manufacturers such as Chrysler, BMW, Cadillac and Toyota
all featured vehicles which they believe are suitable replacements for the Town Car which has been the limousine industry’s standard bearer for decades.

The trade show also featured vendors offering a wide assortment of high tech reservation and booking systems geared to the smart phone using demographic.  Insurance companies, such as industry leading Lancer Insurance Company, were on hand to feature their products and services and to participate in the educational
sessions targeting limousine owners and their senior staff.  In fact Lancer’s Safety Director Bob Crescenzo gave an informative presentation to a packed room on the challenges limousine companies have as their operations evolve from sedan-only to mixed fleets of sedans, mini-buses, vans and full-sized motorcoaches.   Crescenzo highlighted the regulatory, operational and driver training issues which must be part of the transition process.

LimoDirect offers limo liability insurance, limo physical damage insurance and limo
general liability insurance while providing superior coverage & claims service.

Red Light Cameras – Is Big Brother Watching?

As a professional limousine driver, you need to be aware that intersections are where most accidents happen.

In recent years, whether you are a professional limo driver or not, you can’t seem to escape the scrutiny of a camera, no matter where in the world you are. On street corners, in businesses, on highways and roadways, on the dashboards of vehicles and in the hands of anyone over the age of 5! But one area that has been causing a lot of controversy is the benefit of red light cameras set up at busy intersections to, in theory, make dangerous intersections safer for all drivers.

Dueling Surveys

For more than seven years, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has been studying the impact, safety and general attitudes towards red light cameras. The surveys have examined rural, suburban and urban roadways and have questioned thousands of people of various driving ages to compile their data. In the latest IIHS survey published in June 2011, the results indicated that, while respondents felt that the cameras were primarily put in place to raise revenue from drivers running red lights, there was no doubt that in cities using red light cameras there was a major drop in fatal crashes. The study data also shows that motorists are more likely to comply with traffic laws when they perceive a high likelihood of being cited for a violation. Thus the ultimate conclusion is that red light cameras are a
beneficial addition to the safety of the motoring public.

However this study has come under scrutiny from several sources and seems to be coming down to a battle between advocates and enemies of red light cameras. The University of South Florida (USF) Department of Health Policy and Management questioned the lack of some data that should have been used by IICF to compile their figures. USF further focused on seven studies that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) identified as the most scientifically sound with regard to red light cameras. None seemed to find any significant safety benefit from the cameras, and several showed that crashes actually increased!

Cameras Are A Fact Of Life

No matter what your feelings about red light cameras, their use is increasing across the
country. According to the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), 21 states have laws permitting at least one type of intersection enforcement device and 10 states have acted to prohibit using them as an enforcement tool. As a professional limousine driver, you need to be aware that intersections are where most of the traffic accidents
in the United States happen. As you approach, keep your eyes moving, watch for “stale green” lights and flashing cross walk signs that indicate the light is about to turn red, cover your brake and slow down to better prepare yourself for all the problems a busy intersection can bring.

LimoDirect offers limo liability insurance, limo physical damage insurance and limo
general liability insurance while providing superior coverage & claims service.

Can You Hear Me Now? Limo Drivers Take Note.

FMCSA mandates commercial limo drivers be able to perceive a forced whispered voice in the better ear at not less than five feet with or without the use of a hearing aid.

Overall health and well-being are essential elements of living a productive and fulfilling life. As a professional limo driver, they are also necessary for the safe performance of your job. But there is one part of good health that often gets overlooked when we evaluate how healthy we are.

A Common Problem
According to the National Center for Health Statistics, a division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 20 million people, approximately 8.6% of the total U.S. population, have hearing problems. Of that 20 million people, 6.3% are aged 35-44 years old, 10.3% are 45-54 years old and 15.4% are 55-64 years
old. So it’s evident that hearing impairments are associated with age. And gender seems to be a major factor in hearing loss, with 10.5% of males of all ages having hearing loss compared to 6.8% for women.

Hearing Loss and Crash Risk
There is little doubt that receiving auditory information is a necessary part of safe limo driving. You need to be aware of any signals your vehicle is sending you that something may be wrong, that the operation just doesn’t “sound” right. In some vehicles, there are electronic auditory clues to tell you of a mechanical failure or other problem in the vehicle. General road noise, screeching brakes, horn honking, railroad crossing warnings, sirens from first responder vehicles, are all outside auditory information telling you that you may need to adjust your driving. If you don’t hear an alarm, chances are
you don’t respond to it. While many studies cited by NHTSA have determined that the correlation between crash risk and hearing loss is most significant in older drivers, the Agency warns that hearing loss is a problem for drivers of all ages, and especially for
professional limo drivers who are most susceptible to high noise levels for a longer
duration.

Time For A Hearing Evaluation?
Most people have no qualms about seeing an ophthalmologist or an optometrist to keep their eyes healthy. But a visit to an audiologist is not considered essential and often, the prospect of wearing a hearing aid is not as acceptable as wearing glasses. A professional limo driver is constantly bombarded with noise pollution while in the vehicle. Traffic congestion on the outside and the hum of the operation of your vehicle on the inside are assaulting your eardrums every day. That’s why you need recognize the signs that it may be time to have your ears checked. Do you have trouble hearing
when the background is noisy? Do you have dizziness, pain or ringing in your ears? Do you find yourself asking people to repeat themselves? These are just some of the reasons to see a doctor.

Federal Mandates
If you have a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) license, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) mandates you to “be able to perceive a forced whispered voice in the better ear at not less than five feet with or without the use of a hearing aid,” and other requirements if tested with an audiometric device. Be sure you are aware of and adhere to the rulings.

Limo Drivers Should Be Aware of the Most Common, Most Expensive & Most Preventable Accidents

Limo drivers should be aware that more than 10,000 accidents in the U.S. are caused by fatigue each year.

Limo drivers should be aware that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports the most common accident types on America’s streets and highways are rear-end accidents, followed by sideswipes, turning collisions, collisions with animals and run-off-road accidents. According to www.SmartMotorist.com, over 95% of all traffic accidents are caused by five specific driving behaviors:

  • Fatigue: More than 10,000 accidents in the U.S. are caused by fatigue each year. Drowsy or sleeping drivers cause more than 1,500 deaths and an estimated 40,000 injuries;
  • Driver Distraction: Drivers can be distracted by any number of things going on around them, including eating, talking with passengers, adjusting the radio or CD player, and watching other traffic or accidents. It is four times more likely that drivers talking or texting on cell phones will be involved in a traffic accident than drivers not using a phone;
  • Aggressive Driving: Aggressive drivers force their way through roadways by using maneuvers which are dangerous to other motorists and in violation of traffic laws. Aggressive driving is often the cause of highway sideswipe accidents;
  • Drunk Driving: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that every day, a drunk driver causes 36 deaths and about 700 injuries. Drunk driving on average, accounts for more than one-third of the total number of fatal accidents each year; and
  • Speed: The faster a driver travels over the speed limit, the greater the chances are that driver will be involved in an accident. Speeding reduces a driver’s control over the vehicle, limits the ability to evaluate surroundings and greatly reduces reaction time and the ability to stop the vehicle quickly.

Any one of these driving behaviors is dangerous and can be deadly, and they are all preventable behaviors. Over 30,000 people are killed in crashes each year in the United States and, besides the toll on victims’ families and friends, the total accounts for
an estimated $41 billion in medical and work-loss costs.
The United Nations launched a Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020 in May, 2011. The stated goal is to stabilize and then reduce the forecast level of road traffic fatalities around the world by increasing activities conducted at the national, regional and global levels. The tragic
and alarming statistics of the death and destruction caused by traffic accidents each year needs to be addressed. And as a professional limo driver, you and your limo insurance company can take the initiative in helping to make the roads a safer place for everyone.

Limo Driver Tip: Don’t Let Mild Winter Weather Fool You

Winter Limo Driving
Be mindful of other drivers that may be lulled into a false sense of security by the mild winter weather conditions.

The extended periods of mild winter weather so far this season have provided an unexpected break for limo drivers from the icy, snowy and slippery roads typically seen throughout most of the country this time of year. Over 70% of the nation’s roads are located in snowy regions which receive an average annual snowfall of more than five inches, and almost 70% of the U.S. population lives in these snowy regions. And although there have been some cold snaps, the unseasonable conditions, particularly in the Midwest, have made many roads easier to drive than usual. Consequently, the typical delays and the increase in accidents haven’t been much of a factor this year for most limo drivers.

So what does this mean to a professional limo driver?  For one thing, you’re probably experiencing more vehicles on the road and traffic moving at a higher rate of speed.  The ability to get to your destinations on time is surely a positive result of the milder temperatures, but there are two hidden hazards relating to the good weather conditions.

The first risk relates to what happens when the inevitable change in weather conditions does occur, even if just for a brief period of time. As a professional limo driver you know how to adjust your speed and following distances accordingly, and understand the change in braking distance when rain, frozen rain or snow begins to fall. However, not everyone is a trained professional. Be mindful of other drivers that may be lulled into a
false sense of security that because of the mild conditions, adverse weather will not be a factor. Those motorists may not be as quick to adjust their driving habits to changing conditions. This means that you need to watch carefully for traffic that doesn’t make the adjustment in speed and following distance, and be on the lookout for lane jockeys that don’t apply common sense when changing lanes.

The next risk regards maintenance. Wipers, antifreeze, the defroster and all those other items that are normal factors during sustained winter weather may slip your mind under current conditions. You don’t want to be surprised to find out that you’re out of washer fluid because you haven’t had to fill it as often as in past winters. Be sure to complete a
thorough pre-trip inspection and check your vehicle often along the way.  And, for safety’s sake, don’t assume that because things are clear today, they’ll stay that way for the rest of the winter. Keep informed of the latest weather and road conditions so you can be ready for whatever nature throws your way.

Limo Drivers: Using GPS Systems Safely

Taking your eyes off the road to read a GPS display, even for a few seconds, can be a very dangerous distraction.

The use of Global Positioning Systems (GPS), for limo drivers and non-limo drivers alike, has grown steadily across the country over the past few years. However, the increase in reliance on these GPS devices has also created some problems that have led to accidents, lost drivers and drivers finding themselves stuck on streets too narrow to navigate safely, especially when driving an over-sized vehicle. Much like using online map services like Mapquest or Google Maps, seemingly good directions aren’t always that accurate, send you through circuitous routes and sometimes, don’t give you the whole picture of what you’re driving into.

Many state legislatures have growing concerns that drivers can become very reliant on GPS commands and displays, to the point at which they might lose focus on the road and forsake safe driving basics. Taking your eyes off the road to read a GPS display, even for a few seconds, can be a very dangerous distraction. Following GPS directions without looking ahead to ensure the road is clear to safely make a turn can lead to hitting fixed objects or pedestrians. Drivers should be careful to not allow the convenience and ease of use of a GPS to lull them into following commands without applying the fundamentals of safe driving before they respond.

It should also be noted that GPS devices often provide directions and information about exiting and turning shortly before the need to make the actual maneuver without accounting for the size, turning radius and length of time needed for a larger vehicle to complete the suggested move.

Auto manufacturers have come up with “Augmented Navigation Displays”   which put GPS information and other road information directly onto the windshield. The objective is to minimize your loss of visual contact with the road and create a safer drive. The devices have begun appearing in the latest model automobiles.

Some other basic rules to remember when using GPS devices are:

  • Don’t program the GPS while moving. Instead, enter your destination BEFORE starting your vehicle. If you need to change your destination, pull over where it’s safe and legal to do so.
  • Learn to rely on the voice directions, with an occasional glance at the map, much as you would look at the speedometer or other instrument, to confirm or preview turns. Keep your focus on your driving.

Finally, never depend solely on a GPS device.  No matter what type of commercial vehicle device you use, the map data is not always 100% accurate.  As a professional
limo driver, you’re still responsible for obeying all road signs, bridge heights and restricted areas and following safe driving rules.

Limo Insurance: What Have You Done For Me Lately?

Loss of use of a damaged vehicle can have more impact than the actual claim: Repair costs? Replacement vehicle costs? How will you handle upcoming business you've committed to?

LimoDirect’s Loss Recovery Program Is Like “Found Money”

When shopping for limo insurance, price isn’t everything. A wise limousine operator will also look into what kind of claim support he or she can expect from the company chosen to insure his or her limousine(s)…the company’s life blood.  After all, that is really what you are paying for.

Very few limo insurers put a lot of thought into the total impact a serious claim can have on a limousine company. Besides the obvious claim of the insured limousine, there are many other issues that the limo company must face. How long will the repairs take and will I have to rent a replacement vehicle? Will I have to replace the vehicle? What about the contracts and upcoming business I have committed to? In total, loss of use of the damaged vehicle can add up to as much or even more than the original claim.

One limo insurance company, Lancer’s LimoDirect, has its claim team assist its policyholders, at absolutely no cost to them, to recover monies from other insurance companies for out-of-pocket expenses which are either below their collision deductible or not insured at all, including cost of replacement vehicle(s), vehicle downtime and related revenues and expenses.

Lancer’s LimoDirect Loss Recovery Program is a free policyholder benefit which allows its policyholders to keep 100% of monies recovered on your behalf versus paying a vendor a 30%-50% fee for assisting in the recovery.

The process is made simple for its policyholders. LimoDirect assigns a professional limousine insurance claims expert to the policyholder with a claim. The claims expert quickly locates the adverse party and promptly sets up the claim on the policyholder’s behalf with the other insurance company. This step allows them to give an early notice of “loss of use” of the affected limousine.

The claim professional then documents the claim and guides the LimoDirect policyholder through the process, including:

  • Sending estimates and photographs for the insured and providing loss of use documentation such as revenue reports,contracts, replacement vehicles, etc.;
  • Obtaining an agreed cost of repair;
  • And, most importantly, getting their limousine back on the road in revenue service.

Here’s an example of what the insurer’s Loss Recovery Program did for one of its policyholders:

“Lancer’s loss recovery service has saved us almost $390,000! Over the past five years, Lancer has recovered almost $1.3 million in property damage and loss of use for us. We used to pay around 30% for third-party loss recovery, but with Lancer, it’s
included as part of a comprehensive benefits package. Lancer knows how important loss recovery is for a limo company. That’s why they provide the service — and fight so hard for every dollar we’re due.”

Rich Doherty, Director, National Fleet Services,
EmpireCLS Worldwide Chauffeured Services, Secaucus, NJ

When it comes to insuring your limousine company, price isn’t everything… be sure to look into exactly what your limo insurer will do for you and how much of your money they are willing to protect!

It’s Not Just Wrinkles That Signal Aging in Limousine Drivers

Research from the Harvard Medical School Health Publication has shown that exercise can actually slow down the aging process.

Aging in Limousine Drivers – If you were born between and including 1946 and 1964, you are a part of the Baby Boom generation, the largest generation in American history.  And, in today’s economy, more and more boomers are working past retirement age than ever before. According to a recent AARP survey of Baby Boomers, 40% of them plan on working “until they drop.” That’s especially true of workers who really enjoy what they do, and professional limousine drivers tend to be satisfied with their jobs. Driving is a physical experience and requires a certain level of strength, flexibility and coordination to drive safely.

The Inevitable March Of Time

Older drivers bring a good deal of driving experience when they’re behind the wheel and drivers in their fifties and sixties have just about the lowest crash rates of anyone on the road. Fatal crash rates rise sharply however, after a driver has reached the age of 70. But aging doesn’t mean a person needs to stop driving. What it does mean is being  aware of tell-tale signs indicating that aging might be interfering with safe driving and knowing how to adjust your driving skills to help prevent problems.

How Aging Affects Driving

HelpGuide.org has a section on its website that goes into detail about how to understand and deal with the ways aging affects your driving. They list warning signs like trouble focusing your vision, increased sensitivity to light or trouble seeing in the dark; decrease in hearing when you don’t detect emergency sirens or hear cars honking at you; your reactions are slowing when you have to brake suddenly or you mistake the gas pedal for the brake; and problems with your memory, like missing exits or getting lost frequently. The site also offers suggestions on how to maximize safety on the road:

  • Get your eyes checked every year; make sure any corrective lenses are current; keep windshield, mirrors and headlights clean and turn brightness up on your dashboard instruments. Be aware that the amount of light reaching the photoreceptors in your eyes at age 50 is just 35% of the same light seen by a 20 year old.
  • Have hearing checked annually. Wear prescribed hearing aids while driving.
  • Get sleep so you are not fatigued. If you suffer from sleep apnea, make sure you see a doctor for help.
  • Drive defensively by slowing down and keeping ample space around your vehicle. Avoid distractions such as talking on the phone while driving. If you need to use the phone, consult the GPS or read some directions, pull over when and where it’s safe to do so.

Keeping Fit

Fit drivers make better drivers. Aging will bring some decline in physical abilities, but research from the Harvard Medical School Health Publication has shown that exercise can actually slow down the aging process which, the research says, actually starts as early as your thirties. Physical activity is good for the heart, muscles and joints, and can keep you more alert when you’re behind the wheel. And watch your weight. Most Americans begin to gain weight in midlife, putting on 3 – 4 pounds a year, and, because you’re losing muscle around that time, the weight you put on will be all fat.

How Professional Chauffeurs Can Maintain A Healthy Lifestyle

You should be making the effort to avoid fatigued driving.

In an industry that typically involves irregular work and rest cycles, irregular mealtimes and long working hours, it is difficult for a professional chauffeur to maintain a healthy diet and a regular physical fitness routine. During the winter months when just about everyone is susceptible to colds and flu, it’s especially important that you take care of yourself. It is clearly not pleasant for passengers if you’re coughing and sneezing throughout a trip.

Fatigued Driving Affects Driver Health

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) recently published a study, Health andWellness Programs for Commercial Drivers. While the research focused on truck and bus drivers, the results apply to professional chauffeurs as well. One of the biggest problems is fatigue. Unpredictable work schedules, lack of rest or nap periods during work, sleep deprivation, sleep disruption and poor diet are among the contributing factors to fatigue. And when you are continually tired, your resistance lowers and it becomes more difficult for you to avoid illness. It’s not easy to keep yourself fit when you often can’t predict what kind of work schedule you will have, but you should be making the effort to avoid fatigued driving.

Try To Maintain Healthy Eating Habits

Your diet should not consist of foods that are high in fat and calories and that have little or no nutritional value. Always strive for a balanced diet  of foods rich in vitamins, minerals and proteins to help keep your body performing at peak efficiency. Eat a nutritious breakfast daily, snack on fruits and vegetables, try not to eat late at night, especially when you are doing a lot of sitting and eliminate high-calorie drinks and include water in your diet. Making some simple changes in your daily diet can help you lose some weight and even feel better throughout your work schedule.

Start Moving

Exercise is a way to improve your mood and attitude as well as physical well-being. It boosts your energy level and helps to reduce stress and the risks of disease. You can start on a regimen of 30 minutes of exercise three times a week. Starting with something as basic as taking a walk can even be done during your work schedule. Getting up and moving, especially if you know you will be sitting for long periods, is a beneficial way to get your circulation moving and helping you stay alert. A poor diet and lack of exercise increase the risk of obesity and that is a major factor in developing cardio-vascular disease, diabetes, hypertension and stroke.

Smoking

One of the most difficult habits to break is smoking. Every year, hundreds of thousands of people die from smoking-related diseases. If you smoke, stop. The benefit to your health and well-being will be immeasurable.

Driving Customers – To Your Limo Website

Just having a nice looking website, even if you spend a good deal of money to get it developed, isn’t enough to bring people to your site.

If there is just one thing all limousine drivers have in common, it’s dealing with heavy traffic. But how about the heavy traffic you want to attract your limo website? Are you making the most of the digital online resources available to keep ahead of the pack?

No matter what your marketing strategy, it should include an online plan. According to statistics from 15miles, a local search study site, 82% of local searchers follow up offline via an in-store visit, phone call or purchase. And with the internet literally at your fingertips and on your phones at all times, users can access information without a serious time commitment. The Kelsey Group, a local Media and Advertising Expert, predicted in their Fall, 2011 media forecast update that the rate of growth for the overall local ad markets over the next five years will remain flat. But digital media will be a “bright spot,” with double-digit growth expected for the forecast period 2010–2015. So while you shouldn’t ignore traditional advertising markets and those hands-on ideas to get your services known, you simply must utilize the internet.

Just having a nice looking website, even if you spend a good deal of money to get it developed, isn’t enough to bring people to your site. You will need to invest time and/or more money to get more customers. Assuming you have a website, the first, relatively simple thing you should do is include your website URL (Uniform Resource Locator) on your business cards, flyers, any materials you may give away and/or ads you publish.

Make online search engines your friend. Prospective customers will find your site by using the common search engines and browsers, by typing your company name or some other phrase that would link your site to the inquiry. But how do you insure that your business will be one of the first ones listed? With thousands, even millions of answers resulting from an inquiry, if you’re number 1,000 in line, how many people do you think will make it to your website? What you need to do is optimize your place on the search – known as search engine optimization (SEO) — so that you land on the first page when people type in some related keywords or key phrases. There are a number of ways to do this. You can hire a company that specializes in this type of help, or you can make changes and additions on your own. Two websites offer excellent advice: http://www.searchenginewatch.com/ is an online newsletter offering comprehensive tips about creating or enhancing a site that search engines can find; and www.wilsonweb.com, an information center that has several articles listed on how to promote your website.

Limo Business: It’s The Little Things That Count

What are you doing to ensure that your limo business customers will come back, that they will think of you first the next time they need a ride?

It’s one thing to spend time seeking out ways to attract customers to your limo business, to make your services stand out so that potential clients will choose you when they’re
looking to hire a limousine. But what about after the trip is over? What are you doing to ensure that your limo business customers will come back, that they will think of you first the next time they need a ride? Are you showing your customers that you are grateful for their business? Are you doing just a bit more than saying “Thank You” when the job is done?

In the limo business it’s the little things that count. Actions speak louder than words. Go the extra mile. The proof is in the details. All of these wise sayings endure because they are true. Books about being successful in business focus on the small but powerful things people do that make a lasting impression. An interesting and insightful website called Alexandra Levit’s Water Cooler Wisdom offers a number of ways to get along in the workplace, and also goes into ways to make yourself memorable by doing just a little extra when on the job. For example, do you make an effort to remember some general information about customers, like their children’s names, places you’ve taken them, special events in their lives, so you can make friendly conversation and show that you value your clients? Have you ever considered writing a very brief Thank-You to the people who trusted you to get them to their destination safely? A blank Thank-You card with a hand-written note mailed to a client saying YOU enjoyed the trip costs less than $1.00 and could be worth so much more in repeat business and referrals.

“The Two Most Powerful Words For Your Business,” an article written by Randi Busse, president of Workforce Development Group in Amityville, New York, and published in the November 2011 issue of Limousine Digest, hammers home the importance of saying “Thank You.” And, the author says, “Don’t just thank your new customers – thank those that have been with you for a long time as well, because we too often take them for granted. Remind them how much you appreciate them and the fact that they have been your customer for many years.” Avoid sending an email – it’s too impersonal and easy. Sending a note takes your time and shows you genuinely value a client’s business.

My sister recently hired a LimoDirect insured limousine company for my niece’s wedding. The company provided the exact vehicle she wanted, the driver was on time, attentive and in a great and festive mood. What really made the limo experience memorable for my sister, who swears she’ll forever choose that company first, is a couple of weeks after the wedding, she got a note from the limo company’s owner, thanking her for her business. The note included a pro-rated refund check because the time they used the limo was one hour shorter than originally contracted for. My sister never asked for it and never expected it. But the limousine company knew it was a good thing to do and it was a great way of saying “thank you.”

It certainly is the little things that make a big difference.

Helping Win The Battle Against Limo Insurance Fraud – Part II

There are steps you can take to reduce chances of becoming a limo insurance victim.

Last week, we covered the four most common types of staged accidents in limo insurance fraud that criminals are using to scam the system and collect large financial settlements from unsuspecting drivers, especially those who drive large and expensive vehicles. Whether these limo insurance fraud accidents involve an organized crime ring or an individual attempting to make a few extra bucks, there are steps you can take to reduce your chances of becoming a victim:

  • Look out for large, older vehicles with three or more occupants. Scammers often crowd into old cars when looking to stage an accident.
  • Don’t tailgate. Make sure you leave plenty of room in front of you and around your vehicle so you can react to the sudden movements of other drivers.
  • Use your own judgment in driving situations. Even if other drivers signal that it’s OK to merge when you are near them, you make the call whether or not it’s safe to do so.
  • Keep a pen and paper in your vehicle and use your Lancer-provided Accident
    Reporting Kit
    to gather information. If an accident occurs, record names of
    all vehicle occupants, addresses, license plate numbers, the adverse driver’s
    license number and insurance details, witness information and any other
    pertinent facts for immediate documentation of what occurred.
  • Keep a 24-shot, disposable flash camera, like Lancer’s free-to-order AccidentCam in your glove box, or use your cell phone to take pictures. Borrow a camera if you don’t have one, because it’s important to take photos before any vehicles are moved. Take pictures of your vehicle, other vehicles involved and the entire scene. Have photographs to help tell the story of what happened.
  • Call the police to come to the scene, even if the adverse vehicle occupants insist it is not necessary. Get the officer’s name and information from him/her on how to get the police report. Do this even if you think the damage is minor.
  • Report any accidents or incidents 24/7 to LimoDirect immediately at 1-800-521-6155 or whomever you insure your limo with. The sooner claims professionals begin their investigation, the better the chances fraud can be detected.
  • Contact Lancer’s Special Investigation Unit (SIU) at 1-800-533-8552 and contact the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) at 1-800-TEL-NICB if you suspect a scam. You can also email Lancer at stopfraud@lancer-ins.com.

Helping Win The Battle Against Limo Insurance Fraud – Part I

Limousine companies are viewed as easy targets for fraud because of their large insurance coverage limits.

With the busy holiday season in full gear, traffic is going to increase on the highways, in the cities and in the suburbs. With so many vehicles on the road, it is also a prime time for unscrupulous thieves to attempt to perpetrate on-the-road limo insurance fraud against you and your company. The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NCIB) has warned that the one industry that continues to show sustained growth, even in tough economic times, is limo insurance fraud. And the crooks are getting more and more creative about ways to separate you from your hard-earned dollars. According to the Association of Fraud Examiners, insurance fraud is costing the American public more than $96 billion in increased premiums per year, and over $400 billion in total costs of goods and services. The cost to transportation companies is a very large share of these totals because they are viewed as easy targets with large insurance coverage limits. Staged accidents have risen by 33% since 1992 and fraudulent claims by passengers in other vehicles, body shops, phony medical facilities and other claimants have shown a steady increase as well.

So what do you need to look out for when you’re on the road to avoid limo insurance fraud? Today’s staged accidents are actually very sophisticated and well planned events. They usually involve more than one vehicle and often have passengers on board, carelessly putting them in harm’s way. Four of the most common scams are:

Swoop and Squat. A scammer’s vehicle swoops in front of you and its driver slams on the brakes, causing a rear-end collision. Often, another vehicle is in on the scam and pulls up next to you, blocking your ability to move and avoid the stopped auto of his partner in crime in front of you. While the vehicles may only suffer minor damage, the crooks file a large claim for fake injuries and vehicular damage.

Drive Down. As you attempt to merge, another driver waves you forward. As you proceed, the suspect purposely accelerates and collides into your vehicle, then that driver denies ever motioning to you and often has a passenger who will swear you just cut them off.

Sideswipe. As you round a corner at a busy intersection with multiple turn lanes, the scammer’s vehicle deliberately sideswipes you if you inadvertently drift into the other lane while completing the turn. The clever cheats will take advantage of any slight mistake on your part to minimize danger to themselves and maximize the damage to their vehicles which are frequently already damaged.

Adding Damage. After a collision, staged or not, the scammers go to another location, cause more extensive damage to their vehicle and claim the damage happened as a result of the original accident. Fortunately, the proliferation of camera-phones and instruction-laden AccidentCam cameras provided by commercial auto insurers like Lancer’s LimoDirect has helped lessen the frequency of this often expensive claim.

In our next installment, we’ll discuss how you can fight back against the scammers and reduce your chances of becoming a victim of limo insurance fraud.

Proper Chauffeur Hiring is Key to Limousine Company Success – Part IV

Even the most technically proficient chauffeurs will make driving mistakes if they do not have the right personality to manage the stress of driving.

It’s More Than Just Driving

When considering a chauffeur candidate’s driving skills, be sure to evaluate the following:  city driving, highway driving, turning, backing, adaptation to weather and/or road conditions, reaction to driving stress/pressure, ability to navigate/read a map, ability to manage multiple tasks and ability to manage passengers.  Even the most technically proficient chauffeurs will make driving mistakes if they do not have the right personality to manage customers and the stress of driving.  Observing the chauffeur in “people” situations is critical to his or her success as a professional chauffeur.

Chauffeur training is the final step in the hiring process.  It is critical that the driver training efforts be documented and consistent.  Getting the chauffeur into the vehicle is often a slower process than both of you would like but, if done properly, will protect your company and your customers.

Don’t assume an experienced chauffeur will adapt on his or her own to the unique aspects of your operation or customers.  Don’t assume a new chauffeur understands every aspect of each vehicle model.  Don’t assume a new chauffeur knows how to drive to the locations you travel to.  If the chauffeur is experienced, then review how your company manages these issues.  If it’s an inexperienced driver, then take the time to teach him or her how to do these things properly.  The payoff of training is chauffeur retention and customer satisfaction, two of the most important operational issues limousine company owners face each day.

The cost of hiring a professional chauffeur is rising, but the cost of not hiring properly is skyrocketing.  The chauffeur is the cornerstone of your company, so every minute of time you spend training before that individual is assigned to a vehicle will pay off in the future.

Lancer Resolves TLC Registration Issue

Lancer LimoDirect Resolves TLC Registration IssueLancer LimoDirect attorneys recently met with New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) members and successfully negotiated a solution to a TLC registration issue regarding the city’s Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage.

In a meeting at the TLC’s offices on November 18th, Lancer LimoDirect attorney James Harinski and former TLC Chairman Matt Daus, who is currently with the transportation law practice of Windels, Marx, Lane & Mittendoff, LLP and was retained by Lancer, met with TLC personnel and the TLC agreed to communicate to all its inspectors, licensing personnel and other affected staff that the insurer’s New Jersey limo policies meet the TLC’s insurance requirements and that Lancer’s policyholders were eligible to re-file their applications for TLC decal renewals. The TLC also indicated it would move to dismiss any open summonses issued to Lancer’s New Jersey policyholders related to the insurance issue.

For more information, please see LCT Magazine’s “NJ Operators Seek Help To Review Insurance Policies” article.

Proper Chauffeur Hiring is Key to Limousine Company Success – Part III

After the manager identifies the candidate as someone who is acceptable for chauffeur hiring, the following steps have to be completed: driving/road test; complete background check; obtain and review the Motor Vehicle Record (MVR).

Chauffeur Hiring: Turning A Candidate Into A Chauffeur

Once the interview process is complete and the applicant becomes a candidate you still have a lot of work to do.  This process can often become one-sided if either the applicant or the manager has different impressions.  There is a “mating dance” to the chauffeur hiring process and the stage between the interview and the hiring is critical to both the candidate and the employer.  After the manager identifies the candidate as someone who is acceptable for chauffeur hiring, the following steps have to be completed: driving/road test; complete background check; obtain and review the Motor Vehicle Record (MVR).

The job of turning the candidate into an employee can only work if the manager has a script and the script is directly related to the initial steps of having a job description and hiring standards.  So, if you didn’t start at the beginning, you will get lost in the middle and lose in the end.  Always recognize that the informal information you gather is important but unless it is verified, should not be taken as fact.

Proper Chauffeur Hiring is Key to Limousine Company Success – Part II

During the interview, you should evaluate the chauffeur's appearance, personality, speech, intelligence, education, experience, abilities, potential for further development and ambition.

Hiring Standards are Critical

In order to select a chauffeur you have to establish job standards including tasks and duties of the job.  These standards must be applied equally to all applicants.   Once you have established the standards, it is important to create a job description.  If you are not clear on what you expect the chauffeur to do, how can the driver ever really know how to do his or her job properly?  A simple list of the job duties and responsibilities during the hiring process will go a long way in solving the dilemmas that occur when a chauffeur is not performing well.  The candidate should be provided with a copy of the job description.  Once the standards are established and the job description list is created, then you can create the job application form.  While using standardized forms is acceptable, make sure you add appropriate questions that will provide information that is specific to your type of operation.  Finally, your company driver training/orientation program must be in place before you hire the driver so both of you have a road map to follow once a hiring decision has been made.

Once a candidate has been identified and the application reviewed, you must conduct an interview.  Interviews are very important because they give each of you a chance to evaluate the work situation.  Interviews are “planned communications”.  It is important for you to have a specific set of questions and ask them in an open-ended manner.  Be prepared for the interview and schedule the time and place.  Your job is to listen to the answers, so give the candidate all of your attention even if it is a short interview.   Answering the phone or dispatching while you are interviewing will not work.  Be cordial and purposeful and conduct the interview in as private and quiet place as possible.  During the interview, you should evaluate the following:  appearance, personality, speech, intelligence, education, experience, abilities, potential for further development and ambition. Be sure you do not make promises; be truthful and specific.   And, if you say you will get back to the candidate, do so.

Proper Chauffeur Hiring is Key to Limousine Company Success – Part I

Your Chauffeur Is Your Company

Driver selection and chauffeur hiring are the most critical management functions in maintaining a safe limousine operation.  When you fail to select and hire properly, the result is always unsafe acts committed by unqualified drivers.  When driver selection and chauffeur hiring is done properly and management adheres to established company standards, a better chauffeur force will result.  Your company IS personified by your drivers so why not make the selection, hiring and retention of your most valuable resource your top priority.

It is important that you and your company abide by both the spirit and the letter of the law in all areas of operations.  In the process of recruiting, selecting and hiring chauffeurs this requires operators and managers to be familiar with all aspect of state and local laws and regulations.

Hiring the wrong driver could result in accidents and the associated high cost of a claims settlement.  The chauffeur reflects your company and a poor selection or shoddy hiring practices will cost you in the end.   It is better to have a vacant position then to fill it with the wrong person who does not meet your standards.  Shortcuts in the hiring process can be deadly to both your business and your customers.

Driven To Distraction – Limo Driver Safety

Don’t become a holiday traffic statistic by failing to keep your entire focus and attention on your limo driving.

The holiday season is upon us and, especially for limo drivers, it comes with increased traffic everywhere, more than the usual delays, more pedestrians paying less attention and the inevitable increase in impaired drivers. Don’t let yourself become a limo driver statistic by failing to keep your entire focus and attention on your driving.

A recent study conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) estimates that almost 80% of crashes and 65% of near-crashes happen within three seconds of some form of driver distraction. The study also estimates that 25% of all tow-away crashes are related to driver inattention. The problem is so prevalent, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) created a website, http://www.distraction.gov/, dedicated to preventing distracted driving, and DOT Secretary Ray LaHood has made educating the public and lessening the incidence of distracted driving the centerpiece of his administration.

There are so many distractions vying for your attention when you are behind the wheel, and they come from inside and outside your vehicle. The most common exterior distractions are other vehicles, rubber-necking accidents, debris on the road, seeking destination landmarks, glare, pedestrians and billboards, to name a few. Interior distractions include cell phone usage, even with hands-free devices, eating, drinking, adjusting the radio, climate or other vehicle controls, or trying to visually follow a GPS system. Other less recognized distractions are fatigue, conversing with passengers, picking up something that fell, daydreaming, road rage and even smoking. People have admitted to applying make-up, shaving and reading while driving. While most of these distractions wouldn’t apply to professional drivers, they do emphasize how the driving habits of others have become a threat to everyone else on the road.

The NHTSA study placed driver distraction as the fourth most serious driving safety issue we face, after drunken driving, aggressive driving and speeding, However with innovative technologies becoming standard upgrades in newer vehicles, distracted drivers are becoming less safe drivers. Sophisticated entertainment centers, on-board navigation devices, internet connections, email access and fax machines have increased the time that drivers are distracted and they all pose a threat to roadway safety. If drivers are distracted from concentrating on the task at hand, even for a second, they are three times more likely to be involved in a crash than are more attentive drivers. The problem will only grow larger and more complex as distractions increase in the form of conveniences.

As a professional driver, you can take the lead in helping prevent this deadly and growing problem. Keep your focus on your main responsibility – driving. Stay alert and be aware of all traffic around you and the pedestrians who aren’t paying attention. Drive defensively and keep your eyes moving and your wits about you.

Have a safe and happy holiday season!

Simple Steps Can Take Your Limo Business A Long Way

Pre-trip Inspections

Pre-trip inspections are very important and worth your time to identify and fix any possible problems before you leave.

If you want to leave a positive impression of your limo business services with your customers, whether they are repeat clients or brand new contacts, you must know what you are doing and where you are going. That means you are familiar with the routes to the pick-up location so you arrive on time. You know the streets and roads you will need to take to get efficiently to the destination, as well as alternate routes along the way in case you run into traffic delays, and have knowledge of frequently requested destinations, such as airports, bus and railroad terminals, convention centers, hotels, restaurants and other points of local interest. You should also have knowledge of fire and police stations as well as area hospitals along your routes. Don’t assume a GPS system is foolproof. It is much wiser to prepare yourself before you get behind the wheel.

You should always prepare your vehicles before each and every trip as well. A vehicle breakdown can rarely be predicted and you don’t want that to ever happen during a trip if you can help it. So pre-trip inspections are very important and worth your time to identify and fix any possible problems before you leave. Check fuel, oil and windshield washer fluid levels. Check all lights, front and back, as well as high beams, emergency flashers, brake, back-up lights and turn signals. Check tires, brakes, and windshield wipers for proper function, and make sure your heater/air conditioner is in working order. Inspect your vehicle for cleanliness inside and out and get rid of any trash or anything else that makes your limousine look messy or unkempt.

Keep an umbrella, extra paper or cloth towels, an ice scraper and brush and small shovel in your limousine’s trunk to help out if you encounter poor weather. Use television, newspaper or radio reports, or internet services to check weather conditions on your route before you leave, and check on any traffic problems along the way that can delay your trip. Weather and traffic are out of your control, but you can pre-plan to help avoid them.

These simple steps can take your limo business a long way.

Limo Insurance Expert Stresses Long-Term Relationships

Tim Delaney explains how operators can protect themselves from the dizzying price swings that often occur in the area of specialty insurance.

Senior Executive Vice President for the Lancer Insurance Company’s Passenger Transportation Underwriting Division, Timothy Delaney is one of the foremost experts on the subject of transportation insurance in the country. With more than 25 years of hands-on experience in the limousine transportation and limo insurance industries, Mr. Delaney is well aware that developing a partnership with clients is an excellent way to help them operate their businesses more safely, more efficiently and more profitably.

Chasing The Lowest Price

He was recently interviewed by Jim Luff of Limousine, Charter & Tour Magazine after a presentation he made at the 2011 International LCT Show. The topic, “How To Get The Max From Your Premium Insurance Dollars,” is an analysis of how operators can protect themselves from the dizzying price swings that often occur in the area of specialty insurance including limo insurance. Tim explained that limousine, bus and van companies, which carry many passengers at once, can be faced with claims that reach $5 million, the liability limit that many transportation companies purchase. So if insurance providers who are less experienced in the specialized needs of passenger transportation companies have priced their premiums low in order to bring in business, they’re in for a rude awakening when they realize they failed to factor in the huge claim payments associated with a serious accident, and their premium intake is nowhere near enough to be paying those claims. Suddenly, the affected companies need to raise their premiums dramatically, and many of their policyholders just aren’t prepared to absorb those increased costs.

Build Long-Term Relationships

Loyalty is one of the most important elements of a long-term relationship between your insurance company and your policyholders, and Mr. Delaney says that this one fact is a very large part of Lancer’s success. By charging fair, actuarially sound premiums, aggressively tackling the claims process from the moment an accident happens to final outcome, and reinforcing Lancer’s total commitment to the safety of its policyholders by offering many free and exclusive chauffeur training and safety products, Lancer has an excellent record of long-term client retention. It’s no wonder that the Ward Group recently named Lancer one of the 50 top-performing P&C Insurers for 2011 in the U.S., “setting the bar for excellence and demonstrating a high threshold of safety and consistency.”

Limousine Operators: Protect Yourself Before A Trip

A well-written and binding signed contract can help you avoid some unfortunate situations for limousine operators.

One of the attractions for professional limousine operators is the variety of clients you will meet and the interesting places you may travel. But that very aspect of your work is what could get you in trouble if you’re not prepared for the seemingly endless issues you have to deal with, especially when it comes to the surprising behavior of some of your passengers.

“How to Deal with the Less Glamorous Side of Retail, an article by Wayne Blanchard published in Limousine Digest, offers some solid advice on how limousine operatorts can deal with the unexpected. Some of the actual incidents cited in the article might seem familiar, but every situation will be different and pre-planning for the unusual can help you avoid some unfortunate situations.

Blanchard bases his advice on three major components:

  1. A well-written and binding signed contract;
  2. Proper chauffeur training (yours and anyone you may hire);
  3. A code of conduct for clients (with penalties for non-compliance)

He offers suggested rules for clients that will help keep the passengers, the limousine operator and the vehicle in good, undamaged condition. Spelling out what a client could be financially responsible for if there is damage sustained to the vehicle, if there are changes to the agreed itinerary or any other mishaps that are the result of client behavior, can often be a deterrent to irresponsible conduct.

Successful Limousine Claim Management Is A Solid Investment

Successful limousine claim management can immediately, and aggressively, investigate and build a strong defense to any claim made against your company.

By Paul Berne
Senior Vice President, Claims
Lancer Insurance Company

Something goes bump in the night. It’s your limousine. And, it’s a bad situation. A high-speed interstate accident resulting in a fatal injury to the other driver, and injuries to your passengers. The scene is cluttered with wrecked vehicles, ambulances, policemen, firemen, EMTs. A local television crew arrives. After several hours, the road is clear, the injured are at medical care facilities, the officials are busy doing paperwork and you’re on your way back to your office wondering what will happen next. You’re worried about your vehicle, the image of your company, your customers, and your insurance rates. It’s hard to find good news given the situation, but there is some. Your insurance company should be able to provide you with excellent limousine claim management through the entire claim process.

What actually is involved in the claim adjusting process? Who does the work? How much work is there? What does it cost an insurance company to adjust a claim like the one described above?

You know that the limousine and livery industry has become a favorite target of plaintiff lawyers. You know that jury verdicts are out of control, and that it is essential to immediately and aggressively investigate and build a strong defense to any claim made against your company. Some insurance companies choose to stick their heads in the sand and avoid adjusting and legal expense. What they pay at the back-end in higher settlements and verdicts more than offsets what they should have spent at the front-end to keep the loss costs under control. Let’s break down where and how the money is spent.

THE FIRST RESPONSE

The media reports chaos, mayhem and a battle scene. A good limo insurance company, such as Lancer’s LimoDirect, is experienced in dealing with the press, and handles the communication in such a way that their interest is diffused within 12 hours of the incident. Within 24 hours, the media has no interest in following the story.

WHAT’S NEXT?

Now the battle begins. The insurance carrier for the driver of the car that hit your limo contends that the accident was your driver’s fault. So does the lawyer hired by the family of the deceased. A lawsuit is filed and punitive damages are alleged. Your insurer, through the evidence gathered at the preliminary adjusting phase, should be able to establish that fault primarily rests with the other driver. The police suspected the car driver might have been under the influence of alcohol. A responsible insurance company will hire a toxicologist to examine the lab records. This expert confirms that the level of intoxication was sufficient to impair driving ability. Not by much, but there is an argument that it contributed to the accident. The insurance company-retained accident reconstructionist produces a video animation that demonstrates that fault could not rest entirely with your driver. Of course, the plaintiff attorney has hired an expert with similar credentials, and his reconstruction indicates that complete fault rests with your driver.

Your company records are scrutinized by the plaintiff attorney to the last detail; your driver file, maintenance records and your safety and training program. Unfortunately, there is an adverse finding. The records reveal that the vehicle missed the completion of scheduled maintenance relating to the brakes. The records also indicate you knew about it, but you were fully booked and just didn’t get to the required maintenance. This creates a huge problem; you are exposed to punitive damages and the jury will be inflamed by what the plaintiff attorney will describe as your “putting profits ahead of safety”. He’ll argue that you had a “conscious disregard for the safety of others”. Your insurer retains yet another expert witness to defend you; this one specializes in explaining to juries why your conduct did not contribute to the accident. The case will be made that any issues with the brakes could not have had anything to do with the accident. The defense knows that will be a tough sell.

THE JURY DECIDES

Cases take twists and turns over the months and years they stay open. In the final analysis, what looked like a favorable liability situation for your company turns out to be a toss-up at best, with a better than 50-50 chance that a jury will find your driver is at least 75% at fault. But, your passengers have been treated fairly and promptly all along. They did not hire attorneys; their claims are settled and closed. Your insurer gets aggressive in demanding a contribution to the settlements for your passengers from the insurance carrier for the adverse auto. Under threat of a lawsuit, the other driver’s insurer finally relents and pays a significant percentage of each claim.

By leveraging the evidence gathered, experts hired and through the skilled handling of your attorney and claims adjuster, the case is settled for $1.2 million two weeks before trial. The total adjusting and legal cost is $124,000. Every penny spent was worth it; had the case not been prepared as it was, the outcome would have been a much higher settlement, or a verdict well in excess of what the case ultimately cost.

Some claims are fairly simple; fixed object or parked car cases, no liability incidents, and low impact fender-benders without injuries. When the bad thing happens however; injuries, fatalities, extensive property damage, it is essential that insurance companies step up the tempo and spend the time and money necessary to build the best defense possible. Strange as it seems, spending money on claims will help keep loss costs under control.

Distracted Driving Is Every Limo Driver’s Problem

New technologies can cause serious distractions for limo drivers.

New technologies are changing the landscape for limo companies. Not only can they offer new opportunities for you to get to know your customers, they can help you provide exceptional services and cutting edge convenience previously unavailable to the limousine industry. Your limo can be equipped as a mobile WiFi hotspot. You can offer broadcast television. You can operate your vehicles with onboard cameras that can help prevent fraud and show the reasons for an accident. And you can stay in touch with your limo business and home base no matter where you are.

So What Can Go Wrong?

All of these technologies can present serious distractions to limo drivers. (NHTSA) has published a study, Traffic Safety Facts 2009, which extensively reports on the most recent data available on the dangers of distracted driving. In 2009, 5,474 people were killed on U.S. roadways and an estimated additional 448,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes where distracted driving was involved. And while cell phone use, especially texting behind the wheel is the most common distracted driving behavior, distractions can be as simple as daydreaming and can include drinking a beverage, eating, smoking, using maps or GPS systems, grooming, adjusting a radio or other entertainment device and driving while fatigued. The U.S. Department of Transportation has made preventing distracted driving its mission and has a website entirely devoted to the problem.

What Should You Do?

First and foremost, keep your attention focused on your primary task – driving. Don’t make or take calls while driving. Wait until you’ve dropped off your passengers or you can safely pull over before you answer the phone. Even hands-free phones pose distraction problems, and it’s never a wise idea to give your passengers the impression that 100% of your focus is not on your driving. Don’t let passengers distract you and cause you to take your eyes off the road. You can be completely professional and still give your customers a safe and smooth ride. Your time behind the wheel is not the time for multi-tasking. Taking your eyes off the road for even three seconds is a hazard. A recent Virginia Tech Transportation Institute study revealed that almost 80% of crashes and 65% of near-crashes involved some form of driver inattention within three seconds before the event. Don’t let yourself become a statistic because of a momentary need to take your eyes off the road. Plan ahead, be fully rested, stay vigilant and make safety your number one priority.

http://www.lctmag.com/technology/article/1592/what-are-common-technology-traps

Controlling Your Limousine Insurance Costs By Blowing Your Own Horn

 

Controlling Limousine Insurance Costs

Look upon the limousine insurance application process as a marketing opportunity to sell your unique and compelling attributes to agents and underwriters.

Although the cost of Limousine Insurance is not as critical a consideration today as it was in the early 2000’s, considering the formidable challenges confronted by limousine companies in today’s tumultuous marketplace, it is an area where some expense relief might be welcomed.  While fuel costs and the state of the overall U.S. economy are today’s hot button issues, the cyclical nature of insurance pricing will eventually move it back to or near the top of the list sometime down the road.

Promote Uniqueness

Interestingly, whenever limousine company owners have an opportunity to verbally describe their operations, the points they make are striking.  Specifically, they go to great lengths detailing how their company is decidedly different (and better) than their competitors for a variety of reasons.

Unfortunately, when it comes to applying for an insurance quote, painfully little of that positive message reaches those who need to know it most – the insurance underwriters.  Don’t allow that to happen. Look upon the insurance application process as a marketing opportunity to sell your unique and compelling attributes to agents and underwriters. 

Getting Started

  • Put together a “sales” piece similar to what you would use to sell a top client.
  • Include any awards your company gets from customers, civic groups, industry magazines or other pertinent sources.
  • Just like you always answer the question, “Why should I hire you?” when putting together sales pieces, answer the question, “Why should I give your company better rates?” when preparing for your insurance renewals.
  • Include differentiators such as chauffeur safety training, sensitivity training, CPR, on the road and class room training, etc. That will show how your company is not just another cookie cutter operation.
  • Include industry involvement.  People who are involved in industry associations (both nationally and locally) are usually the ones who take operating to letter of the law very seriously.  If you participate on the board of an association or in some other capacity, let us know.
  • If clients are raving fans and have sent testimonials, put them in the package.
  • Include information about your packages and what makes your company truly unique.
  • Tell us who is using your service—Be a name dropper.  If Microsoft uses you exclusively, that is something that will help the underwriter understand more about your company. 
  • Remember that although your agent knows you and your company, he may not be conveying all of the great attributes that will make a difference to your underwriter. 
  • Keep a file that you update as things occur throughout the year.  When your renewals come up, you will have all of the information in one place ready to go. 

A Chauffeur Dilemma: When To Answer Your Phone?

What should you do when all logic tells you to answer every call to your business?

What should you do when all logic tells you to answer every call to your business?

With SmartPhones, instant messaging, email, tweeting and seemingly hundreds of other ways to stay in touch and be contacted in an instant, the question for a chauffeur is who is answering your phone when you are on the road doesn’t seem to be a cause for concern. But those times when you are behind the wheel, by yourself or with a customer, your first priority is to keep your eyes on the road and your attention focused on your driving. So what should a chauffeur do when all logic and advice tells him to answer every call to his business?

Who Answers Your Phone?

It is always a good idea to have a real person answering your phone. You will most likely book more limo business when a potential customer speaks to someone who can make the immediate sale. Spouses can be very helpful in this regard if they have the time. During the summer, a student looking to pick up some extra money in a tough economy could also be trained on phones and to run errands for a limo company. But what about calls that come in after-hours or when no one else is available to help? An answering service is one way to go if you can swing it. You just have to make sure that whoever answers your phone is knowledgeable about your business and prepared to answer any questions that may come up like basic price quotes or booking a client. A potential customer will not excuse ignorance or incompetence.

Technology is coming at us so fast, it’s hard to keep up with the benefits – and the pitfalls.

Making Smart Use of Technology

Technology is coming at us so fast these days, it’s hard to keep up with the beneficial uses of it all – and the potential pitfalls as well. There are many excellent articles from trade magazines that can provide a wealth of information. You may think it’s a good idea to just have calls forwarded to your cell phone, but what if you are driving at the time? A limo customer doesn’t want to see your attention wandering from your driving duties or doing other business when they should be your main concern. When voice-mail is your only choice, back it up with a positive, dynamic website with auto-response capabilities. If you don’t yet have a website, there are many companies that can help you set one up quickly and efficiently or help you improve on the one you already have. Do the research. One of the best things you can do for your limo business is to be prepared for whatever may come your way.

Further Reading:
http://www.lctmag.com/technology/article/1592/what-are-common-technology-traps

Understanding And Managing Insurance Cycles to Protect Your Limo Business

 By Randy O’Neill

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
George Santayana, The Life of Reason

“We have experienced four such cycles since 1985, with today’s highly competitive soft market by far the most prolonged.”

“We have experienced four such cycles since 1985, with today’s highly competitive soft market by far the most prolonged.”

Because a few of the limousine industry’s insurance specialty companies have been providing coverages for a few decades, they know where pricing should be. They are very familiar with the cyclical nature of the business, as well as the problems that hard and soft markets create. “We have experienced four such cycles since 1985, with today’s highly competitive soft market by far the most prolonged and potentially harmful to limousine operators in a quarter century.”

Iinsurance industry predicting a slow hardening of commercial insurance market

“Many insurance industry pundits are predicting a slow hardening of the overall commercial insurance market to begin later this year.”

In fact, we have experienced four such cycles since 1985, with today highly competitive soft market by far the most prolonged and potentially harmful to limousine operators in a quarter century. When the inevitable hard market hits, and it will, it can lead to insurance company bankruptcies, market withdrawals, and premium increases, leaving many operators scrambling for affordable coverage.

What Can a Limo Operator Do?
Thankfully, not all limousine operators wilt be negatively impacted by the impending market hardening. The most vulnerable are those who chose to “ride the cycle” by chasing the lowest price; those best positioned are operators who have established long-term relationships with an insurer that is committed to the continued financial health of the limousine operators it insures.

“The most vulnerable are I those who chose to [chase] the lowest price.”

Savvy operators know that, regardless of fleet size, they can reduce their annual insurance costs by up to 60 percent by prudently using deductibles on both their liability and physical damage coverages. With savings like that achievable, operators should review their historical losses and only transfer to any insurer what’s truly unpredictable. A pretty simple approach, but very effective regardless of market cycles.

Excerpted from SEPTEMBER 2011 LIMOUSINE DIGEST.

 

Are You Prepared for A Catastophic Accident?

CASE STUDY OF A SERIOUS LIMO CRASH
by Paul R. Berne, Senior Vice President – Claims, Lancer Insurance Company

Serious Limo Accident Management
You will be asked a barrage of questions…

It’s one of your worst nightmares…The phone rings, and your driver reports that he’s just been in a serious accident. He tells you: the scene is complete chaos; the police are questioning him; passengers are injured; ambulances are everywhere; your limousine is badly damaged; and he doesn’t know what to do.If you have ever received one of these calls, you’ll recognize the questions that immediately fly through your mind:

“What do I do?’ “Should I go to the scene?” “What should I tell my driver?”
and the inevitable…
“Can my business survive this crisis?”

You dread the emotional and financial roller coaster that lies ahead. But, most of all, you recognize the critical importance of having a serious loss accident response plan in place and having an insurance company partner that is expert in responding to and managing severe limousine accidents.

If you’ve never experienced a loss of this type — good! And I hope you never do. But you should know the importance of having a disaster preparedness/crisis management plan in place which covers a wide range of perils and accident types. It’s never too soon to review what can and should happen if you do have a severe limousine accident. Consider questions like: What should you expect from your insurance company? Is there a “right” way to handle accidents of this type? Does it matter if your insurance carrier specializes in handling limousine and passenger transportation losses?

Trucks Haul Cargo; Limousines Transport People
Insurers who consider themselves ‘commercial auto specialists” usually have trucks as the largest component of their policies in force, including long haul, local/intermediate delivery vehicles, tow trucks and business autos. Is mixing “trucks, limos and other commercial autos” a problem? Maybe not when you’re buying insurance, but ask yourself this important question: Is a passenger transportation vehicle claim the same as a truck claim? The answer is obviously “no”; the losses encountered in your business are very different in many ways than truck, or any other “business auto” claims. Passenger transportation losses at all levels require adjustment by an insurance company that knows your business and specializes in your industry. This is especially true in the case of severe accidents involving multiple injuries and, frequently, fatalities. Let’s explore why this is important by closely examining a real case we recently handled involving a complex limousine loss.

How To Manage A Limo Claim
The incident involves a limousine company transporting six passengers on a winery tour in northern California. The trip is progressing smoothly until an inattentive motorist disregards a stop sign and places his 2007 BMW directly in the path of the limo. The impact is severe. The chauffeur does an excellent job of maintaining control, but the limo still ends up in a ditch on the side of the road.

Some passengers are ejected; all are injured to some degree. The BMW driver and his passenger are seriously injured, and the scene, putting it bluntly, is a bloody mess. The police, ambulances, fire department and wreckers respond. Fault can’t be immediately determined; there are witnesses to interview, measurements and photos are required for the police reconstruction, but the police are, rightly so, more concerned with getting help for the injured and clearing the scene to avoid additional accidents.

Fortunately, our policyholder listened to our message to report all losses promptly and had effectively delivered the message throughout his organization, The chauffeur contacted his dispatcher via cell phone within minutes of the accident and then the dispatcher called our toll-free 24-hour claim reporting number. Immediately thereafter, Lancer’s Vice President and Western Division claims manager, Bob Burns, was on the phone with the driver, dispatcher, a local investigator and accident reconstruction engineer and a defense attorney within ten minutes of the first call. Resources were rushed to the scene and a catastrophic loss management plan was implemented at the onset. The plan priorities were very clear and were immediately acted upon.

Teamwork Is Critical
Setup a communication system — The team involved Burns, the investigator, the attorney, the accident reconstruction engineer, the driver, management at the limo company, the passengers and the police. This coordination process is much more complex to accomplish than it sounds, especially when you’re dealing with several injured passengers. On-scene personnel must coordinate communication through a central management source. Bob Burns, having managed many multiple passenger injury limousine cases and having worked with this same response team in the past, managed the process via frequent conference calls, clear instructions and quick analysis by the attorney and engineer as each “next step” was evaluated.

Establish passenger needs
Medical attention, shelter, telephones, replacement transportation, money… the sudden disruption to a carefully planned trip requires that these, and many other areas, be addressed, including retrieval and securement of personal items. This case involved the delicate balance of taking care of passenger needs, while conducting a liability investigation that required obtaining passenger written or recorded statements detailing where they were seated, what they saw and what they heard. We were able to get what we needed by having the right number of investigators on scene, a consistent approach with each passenger, readily available aid and assistance for the group and by taking advantage of the already existing sense within the passenger group that they wanted to protect the chauffeur and ensure blame was placed where they knew it belonged — with the driver of the BMW!

Get the facts
It’s important to record the facts and, as importantly, preserve them so they will hold up in court. Forward thinking must begin at the first phone call, and every step of the response must give consideration to what is admissible in court at a later date. Evidence must be preserved with this in mind. The direction of an attorney at the scene insured this would happen. As the investigators prepared to obtain statements, take photos and gather data, the attorney and the accident reconstruction engineer were able to provide specific instructions on the approach they should take including: what questions had to be asked; how they should be phrased; and the types of photos that would help the defense should they someday need to he shown to a jury.

Assist the police
Sometimes the best way to assist is simply staying out of the way. In other instances, such as this one, the police accepted our offer to assist them. There were eyewitnesses who confirmed the BMW ran the red light and the limousine driver had no chance to avoid the impact. The Lancer adjuster and attorney directed them to the police to ensure their identity and detailed versions were reported. Priorities after any accident include, where necessary, moving vehicles to reduce ongoing hazard and tending to the injured. In this case, however, the police agreed that the vehicle movement could be safely delayed until the engineer obtained crucial measurements.

Protect the chauffeur
You want a clear-thinking company representative on the scene, so getting your driver calmed down before he gives a statement to the police is critical. This process was initiated over the phone within minutes of the report and continued throughout the investigation.

Unlike other accident types, passenger transportation losses involve drivers who can become very emotional given the number of people injured, and the immense responsibility they usually feel for the safety of their passengers. With credibility, we were able to tell the limousine driver: “We’ve done this before we know what you’re going through, and we’re here to help you.” The chauffeur‘s response in this claim actually helped in the final outcome.

This is a real wild card, as it is usually impossible to determine if they’ll even respond to an accident scene, Responses can vary from a single reporter, to helicopters and live cameras. It is essential to have a media response plan in place. Of course, the worldwide web picked up the accident news and within hours there were 50 or so sites posting the story. Within days that had grown five-fold. Several web articles were filled with misinformation. We worked with our policyholder to determine which were best ignored and which needed to be addressed. Our instructions were repeated to everyone representing the limousine company. The result? The media lost interest and left after minimal intrusion into the situation.

Protect the reputation of the limousine company

You will be hit with a barrage of questions…

“Who is the driver? How long has he been driving professionally? Was he tired? Has he ever driven a limousine like this one? Why didn’t the limo company select a better chauffeur? How many accidents have they had? What are they doing to take care of their passengers? Is their equipment safe?”

These and many other questions directly challenge the credibility of your company and must be dealt with quickly. Some should be answered immediately, others should not be. A key part of our loss response includes direct involvement of a Lancer Regional Safety Manager and Bob Crescrenzo, Lancer’s Vice President of Safety.

The driver qualification file, vehicle maintenance file, regulatory inspection reports and all related documents were reviewed in detail. We were able to present the limousine company as caring, compliant and responsible, all of which made the difference in preserving its reputation in the community and with its customers. This review helps in another way; it established exactly what would be necessary to defend against allegations made against us pertaining to company operations by lawyers at a later date.

Protect the limousine company’s financial interests — Beyond your business reputation.
This protection includes making arrangements for prompt repair of your vehicle so that your downtime is minimized. We also assisted the policyholder in recovering money from the BMW’s insurance carrier relating to its uninsured business loss.

Ongoing case management
This is an area in which passenger transportation vehicle losses are very different from other accident types. Passengers involved in this accident required follow-up contact to determine injury status, and to obtain statements pertaining to what happened if they had not been interviewed at the scene. We have in place a network of field staff and designated local investigators who responded immediately. In some situations, investigators actually met returning passengers as they arrived home or at other destinations.

Once fault is determined, it is necessary to direct claiming parties (including your passengers) to the insurance carrier responsible for paying their claims. The communication link that had been established on this loss made that an easy process. And, as mentioned earlier, we were able to get our policyholder paid for their loss promptly and with minimal disruption to his business.

When the lawsuits showed up, (and they did…), the plaintiff lawyers were hit hard with the result of our investigation which clearly showed the chauffeur and the limousine company were negligent-free. If you’re wondering if the expenses relating to the response were justified, consider this: each and every plaintiff lawyer that attempted to make a claim against the limo company dropped his claim after seeing the extent of our investigation and after giving consideration to the cost he would incur in attempting to build a case that could beat ours. No lawsuits meant no litigation defense costs, no indemnity payments to the claiming parties and a file that was closed, and has stayed closed.

Contenders vs. Pretenders
When you get a chance, take the time to have your internal crisis management plan expanded to ensure it covers serious accident response. If you handle your own claims under your deductible, evaluate your serious loss response process and make sure it addresses the areas captioned in this article. Is it worth the time? You’ll have to answer that one yourself…hopefully before the phone rings and your worst nightmare becomes a reality.

Limo Company Rules and Standards

A prepared limo driver is a safer limo driver.

Establishing limo company rules and standards doesn’t just apply to large limousine businesses with hundreds of employees. Any rules and standards you might expect from someone you would hire for a limo company should apply to you as well. The longer you stay in the limo business, the more responsibility you will take on and the better you keep yourself neat, healthy, courteous and organized, the more successful you will be. Be sure to take the time to develop some rules for your business and a set of standards for yourself that you follow during every work situation.

The Department Of Labor website can offer you some ideas about standards that will be helpful for a limousine company business owner. The site also offers help with establishing rules that you yourself should follow so that you make necessary decisions thoughtfully and with confidence. Pay attention to the things you need to practice consistently to keep customers calling you first. For every trip, consider:

  • Time and Schedules: arrivals, departures, waiting, on-duty limits;
  • Safe Driving: following distance, speed, intersections, highway driving, use of signals, avoiding distractions, dealing with fatigue;
  • Your Appearance: cleanliness, grooming, uniform, accessories;
  • Vehicle Condition: pre-trip inspections, cleaning and polishing, maintenance, fuel and oil;
  • Customer Service: pickup/drop off procedures, baggage handling, stops enroute, itinerary changes;
  • Billing and Payments: fare schedules, credit, handling cash, extra services, gratuities.

Be sure to contact your state Department of Motor Vehicles to determine exactly what specific governmental requirements limo companies must comply with before you even put a vehicle on the road. It’s very true that you never get the chance to make a second first impression and you have to keep this in mind whenever you pick up a customer, whether it’s the first time or it’s a job from a repeat client. Giving yourself common sense rules and standards to follow for every trip will help keep you in demand and ahead of the competition.