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In the eleventh hour, it looks like we once again have an extension.  The House has approved legislation that would extend the National Flood Insurance Program for 60 days, a measure that would give lawmakers more time to work on a long-term reauthorization of the program, which is scheduled to expire today. The bill was sent to President Barack Obama for approval. Lawmakers seem more likely to pursue a revamp of NFIP, said PCI’s Ben McKay, adding that “this is the closest we’ve been in a couple of years.”

Hope springs eternal!

I really get tired of hearing that we are up against yet another deadline for the expiration of the National Flood Insurance Program. I am equally tired of hearing it touted as good news that our elected officials have managed to give us another short term extension. Let’s hope that the voice of reason will finally prevail and we can bring some stability to this important safety net of protection for so many. You can read more about it in the May 9th issue of Insurance Journal

With concerns mounting over the dangers of driver distraction from cell phones and texting, a new British survey is highlighting perils from GPS devices.

Swinton Commercial insurance brokerage in Manchester, England, said a survey of 1,200 van drivers revealed one-in-five had hesitated while on the road as a result of an instruction from their satellite navigations systems.

The firm said one-in-60 also admitted “their Sat Nav had either caused or nearly caused an accident while driving.”

In addition to distraction, the firm expressed concern that guidance systems can send truck drivers into locations too small for their vehicles to pass through.

According to Swinton, in 2009, satellite navigation systems were blamed for causing around 300,000 crashes in Britain, while a further 1.5 million admitted performing sudden direction changes because they were following the devices’ directions.

The firm said an estimated 14 million U.K. drivers now rely on satellite navigation or GPS units.

In the United States, even as lawmakers focus on cell phone and texting usage bans, the problem “is much bigger and includes lots of things from looking at a GPS screen and changing a radio station to reaching down for your coffee mug and just daydreaming,” said Russ Rader, a spokesman for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

However, Mr. Rader noted that with the exception of cell phones, independent evidence pinpointing specific distractions as an accident cause is lacking. With cellular telephones, he said, call records can be examined after an accident, while for other causes “the evidence we have is what comes from police reports, and you obviously can’t always depend on what people tell police officers.”

Phil Moss, Swinton commercial vehicle manager, in a statement noted that in the United Kingdom, “we’re seeing more van drivers making van insurance claims for damage to their vehicles after following their Sat Navs down unsuitable roads.”

The company said it is urging “all commercial vehicle owners to use their common sense when approaching a potentially impassable road.”

According to Mr. Moss, the biggest problem for drivers of larger vans and trucks is that GPS units don’t always show low-lying bridges.

“Sat Navs can be incredibly useful but it’s vital that van drivers exercise caution when listening to instructions and ensure they are stationary when typing in details of their destination,” he advised.

Mr. Rader said that recently U.S. laws have been enacted regarding cell phone use when there is “no evidence [the laws are] reducing crashes. In fact, the evidence is that they are not reducing crashes.”

Mr. Rader said that while technology is surely part of the problem of driver distraction, it may also eventually be the solution.

“We have automakers really blazing a trail with crash avoidance technology that actually alerts drivers when they are not paying attention on the road,” he said, noting that Volvo now has a system that can brake the car if the driver fails to react quickly enough.

In 2000 a U.S. Department of Transportation National Highway Traffic Safety Administration study that had drivers use devices on a test track found that “visual-manual methods are ill-advised while driving” and “all route navigation system destination entry tasks that required visual-manual methods…were associated with disrupted lanekeeping.”

via U.K. Poll Finds GPS Units Distract, Cause Crashes – Agent/Broker – Property and Casualty Insurance News.

Isn’t it time for a permanent solution? God forbid we should actually need flood insurance while our senators need to go on vacation.

It is true that Congress could reinstate the NFIP and other affected programs retroactively with a yes vote today, but it would only extend the flood insurance program until April 30, 2010 so lawmakers will have to revisit the issue.

Maybe it is just because of where I live, but I am hard pressed to find anyone who is a strong proponent of the bill that Barrack Obama signed last month. Here is a piece on the growing opposition.

http://ping.fm/RxVAr

It is no surprise that as the economy has worsened more people have been willing to break the law to make a fast buck. But the issue in NY is deeper than that. Some have said that the way the laws are written leave an open checkbook for those who are organized and know how to work the system. It is past time to consider some changes.

You can find more in this National Underwriter article http://ping.fm/hkn15 but here are some excerpts:

The number of suspected fraudulent no-fault claims for the year far outpaced all other forms of insurance fraud reported.

The number of suspected fraudulent no-fault reports has increased by more than 30 percent since 2005.

New York’s no-fault claim costs are the second-highest in the country.

“As an inevitable consequence, auto insurance rates for New York drivers are increasing as well.”

Superintendent James Wrynn has proposed revisions to Regulation 68, which implements the no-fault statute.

The proposed revisions, according to the report, would:

•reduce payment of fraudulent claims and instances of over-billing.”

• Simplify procedures to suspend payments for claims submitted by the owners of medical clinics suspected of fraud while an investigation is underway.

• Require insurers to schedule medical examinations they request, so as not to overly burden the insured.

• Raise the maximum attorney fee from $850 to $2,500 to reduce the incentive to file small claims separately and “to encourage the consolidation of claims in arbitration and litigation.”

Ellen Melchionni, president of NYAAIF, said in a statement, “No-fault fraud is often committed by organized criminal enterprises operating corrupt medical clinics that submit fraudulent claims for treatment that was either not performed or not necessary. Unfortunately, it’s innocent New Yorkers who are footing the bill for this fraud through higher auto insurance premiums.”

The House Judiciary Committee held a hearing to discuss legislation aimed at breaking the auto manufacturers’ monopoly on setting the prices of auto-replacement parts.

http://ping.fm/qLddU