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Insurance 101: Terms You Should Know

Just like any specialized industry, insurance has its own vocabulary. When you’re shopping for a new policy—or trying to make sense of the policy you already have—it helps to understand some of the most commonly used insurance terms. Plus, understanding these terms can also help you get the best insurance rate. How? Because understanding a few key terms will help you compare policies accurately, buy the coverage you need, and even help determine how much money you’ll receive if you make a claim!

General terms

There are a few general terms that apply to several different types of insurance. For instance, you probably know that a deductible is the amount you’ll pay out of pocket before your insurance kicks in. An endorsement (also known as “rider”) is an amendment to the insurance policy that changes its coverage, terms, or conditions. Some examples of endorsements include a change of address when you move, adding or removing a vehicle or driver on an existing auto policy, or adding coverage for sewer backup to a homeowners insurance policy.

Homeowners insurance terms

One of the most important sets of terms you should know is actual cash value versus replacement cost. These terms are most often found in a homeowners insurance policy.

Actual cash value refers to the amount you would be reimbursed for replacing damaged or destroyed property with comparable new property, minus depreciation. Replacement cost is the amount needed to replace damaged or destroyed property or personal belongings without deducting for depreciation, up to the policy limit. If you make a claim thinking you have replacement cost but you actually have actual cash value, you could receive thousands of dollars less than you expect.

Car insurance terms

Occasionally, clients become confused about the different types of injury and liability coverage available in a car insurance policy.

Some states, including Florida, are no-fault states, meaning that drivers must carry insurance for their own injuries, regardless of who is at fault in an accident. This coverage is called personal injury protection (PIP). It covers both the named insured and his or her passengers.

Property damage pays for damage you cause to another vehicle if you’re at fault in an accident.

Bodily injury refers to coverage for injuries you cause in an at-fault accident.

Uninsured motorist pays for your injuries (once you have used up your PIP) if you’re hit by a driver who does not have bodily injury liability insurance or is underinsured.

Still have questions?

These are just a few of the more commonly asked-about insurance terms. There are many more. If you still have questions, don’t be afraid to ask your agent to explain. Personal service is one of the prime benefits of working with an independent insurance agency like L & M Insurance Group. Please give us a call at 813-672-4100 if you have questions about your policy. Please click here for a car insurance quote, or here for a homeowners insurance quote.

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Partner With Your L & M Insurance Agent to Get the Best Rate

We know car insurance in Florida can take a big chunk out of your budget. Choosing an independent insurance agency like L & M Insurance Group is one way to get the best deal—our agents are experts in the local insurance market and we represent dozens of great standard and non-standard car insurance companies. We’re committed to helping you find low-cost car insurance—but there’s something you can do to help us do that.

Information please

To give you the most accurate rate, your L & M Insurance agent will need some information from you. We keep all your personal information confidential, but we do need certain details in order to give you an accurate quote. Taking a few minutes to compile this information will help us to serve you better.

Here are some things we’ll need:

  • Make, model, and year of all vehicles to be insured.
  • VIN numbers of vehicles.
  • Names and ages of all drivers in household. If you have a teen driver in the household, does the student driver maintain a 3.0 grade average? You might qualify for a discount. Also let your agent know if your young driver is living away at school, whether or not he or she took a car with them.
  • Driving record information for each driver. Agents will pull reports that show claims and violations, but be sure to tell your agent if there is anything new not on record yet.
  • Your current insurance coverage and limits if you already have insurance. You can find this information on the declarations page (“dec page”) of your current auto policy. This helps us quote the same coverage you are currently carrying so you get a fair cost comparison.
  • Your insurance history: how long you’ve been insured overall, and how long you’ve been with your current company. Discounts are available for maintaining continuous coverage.
  • Your address and where vehicles are kept when you’re not driving since your location can affect your premium.
  • How much you drive. If you’re working from home now and putting very few miles on your car, let your agent know. There are insurance companies that will reward you for that.
  • Any business use of your vehicles. If you use your vehicle in your work, drive for a ride share service (Uber/Lyft), or deliver pizza, you’ll need a commercial auto policy. Don’t just assume a commercial policy will cost you more. Ask your agent if you have questions.
  • If your vehicle has any of the newest special safety features, like automatic emergency braking, lane-assist, or blind spot detection. While many safety features are now standard and insurance companies account for that, some are not yet common and might earn you a small discount.

Communication with your agent is key. If you don’t or can’t give your agent full and accurate information, he or she cannot give you the most accurate quote. It often backfires if you hide things from your agent because you think you’ll get a cheaper rate. It could cost more in the long run because you could be charged an additional premium, or you might have a claim denied. If your agent had the most accurate information to start with, he or she likely could have placed you with an insurance company more appropriate for your needs.

Your neighborhood insurance agency

The agents of L & M Insurance Group call the Tampa Bay area home, too, and we take pride in being able to help our neighbors with their insurance needs. Remember, even though we represent many quality insurance companies, we really work for you. If you need a car insurance quote—or information on another type of insurance coverage—please give us a call at 813-672-4100 or contact us online. Thank you for giving us the chance to serve you!

L & M Insurance Group also offers commercial auto policies, homeowners and renters insurance, health insurance, Medicare Advantage plans, and real estate investors policies.

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Why is Car Insurance So Expensive in Florida?

Living in the Tampa Bay area has many advantages, but cheap car insurance isn’t one of them. In fact, the Sunshine State has the third costliest car insurance premiums in the nation. Florida consumers pay about 48 percent more per year that the national average.

So why is Florida car insurance so expensive? Here are a few factors that contribute to higher auto insurance premiums for Florida drivers. (See below for a few things you can do to make sure you’re getting the best car insurance rate.)

High percentage of uninsured drivers

Florida has the highest percentage of people driving without insurance in the U.S.—more than one fourth (26.7 percent) of the drivers on our roads are uninsured. Insurance companies compensate for that with higher premiums for everyone who is insured.

High percentage of higher-risk drivers

Florida has many elderly drivers, tourists unfamiliar with the roads, and college students attending universities. These drivers are considered to be higher-risk, and therefore more likely to cause or contribute to an accident.

Extreme weather

Severe thunderstorms, hurricanes, and flooding events cause property damage to cars that insurance companies must pay for. Residents near the ocean, rivers, in low-lying or other flood-prone areas are especially affected.

PIP requirement

By law, Florida drivers must purchase Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance. This coverage, also known as “no-fault” coverage, pays for medical expenses for you and your passengers if you’re injured in an auto accident, regardless of who is at fault.

More lawyers, more money

Unfortunately, some areas of Florida are known for a high prevalence of fraudulent claims, as well as a high number of claims where there is lawyer representation. One of the latest problems with fraud involves assignment of benefits abuse related to windshield claims. Inflated claims and legal expenses raise the cost of doing business in Florida, and the result is higher insurance premiums for everyone.

Busy roadways

Florida roads are the third busiest in the U.S. More traffic means more chances for accidents.

What can you do?

Now that you know why car insurance is so expensive in Florida, there are a few things you can do to lower your auto insurance premiums. Of course, strive to keep your driving record clean, but also improve your credit score. Before buying a new-to-you vehicle, ask how it will affect your auto insurance rates. Remember, safe and boring is almost always cheaper to insure than fast and flashy! If your financial situation allows, raise your deductibles.

At least once a year, shop for the best rate, and ask about all available discounts. But be sure that you’re comparing the same coverage limits and deductibles. Shop again when a life event takes place that might change your insurance rates: a teen getting his or her license, a wedding, a child going away to college, etc.

And be sure to call L & M Insurance Group (813-672-4100) for a quote from one of our many quality auto insurance companies—or if you prefer, click here to request a quote via email. As an independent agency, L & M Insurance Group specializes in helping you find the best coverage for the best possible rate. We’ve been helping our neighbors in Riverview, Valrico, Brandon, and surrounding areas for more than 30 years, and we’d love to help you.

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Tips for a Safer Thanksgiving

As you prepare to gather with family and friends for Thanksgiving, L & M Insurance Group wants to thank you for your business, and wish you a happy holiday. We also want to remind you of a few Thanksgiving safety precautions to take to ensure that you also have a safe holiday. Thanksgiving can be a surprisingly perilous day.

While your car and homeowners/renters insurance should protect you financially if you face one of these Thanksgiving mishaps, we hope you will never have to spend any of your holiday time making a claim. Here’s a look at the more common accidents that happen on Thanksgiving, and some tips for avoiding them.

Car accidents

Millions of motorists hit the roads during the four-day Thanksgiving break. Unfortunately, many of them will be distracted or driving while under the influence of alcohol. The National Safety Council estimates that 417 people will die in traffic accidents during the 2019 Thanksgiving holiday, and 47,500 injuries will occur. If you’re driving to a Thanksgiving celebration, take extra care. Buckle those seat belts, put away your phone. If alcohol figures into your Thanksgiving celebrations, make sure you designate a driver, or use a ride service. If you’re the host, don’t be shy about arranging a ride home for a guest who’s had too much to drink. 

Fires

On Thanksgiving Day, cooking fires are three times more common, do more property damage, and claim more lives than on any other day of the year. Unattended cooking is usually the culprit, so keep a close eye on the stove and oven when they’re in use. Have a fire extinguisher on hand, and know how to use it. Check the batteries in smoke detectors and make sure they’re functioning before the festivities start.

Candles left burning are another source of home fires. Be sure to blow them all out before leaving the house or going to sleep. And never leave children unattended in a room with a lit candle.

Falls

To prevent a slip or trip and fall, keep all high traffic areas clear. Watch out for kids playing, toys, purses, or bags where people will be walking. Check handrails for sturdiness, and warn guests of any slippery spots on your driveway or walkways.

Pet problems

Holiday parties can be stressful to pets, and cause even friendly ones to bite or scratch. If you have pets, for both their safety and that of your guests, provide a safe and quiet place for them to retreat while you have company. A dog bite or cat scratch can quickly spoil a party. (Click here for more information on dog bite liability.)

Happy Thanksgiving from all of us here at L & M Insurance Group. We thank you for allowing us to serve you. Please don’t hesitate to call (813-672-4100) or email us if you have questions about your insurance needs. We’re here to help.

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Bad Credit Affecting Your Auto Insurance Rates? Don’t Despair—We Can Help

Insurance companies use many factors when they calculate what to charge for their policies, and more than 90 percent of them consider credit history when setting auto insurance rates. Insurers have found a strong correlation between bad credit and a higher likelihood of a client filing an insurance claim.

Therefore, if you have bad credit, it’s likely costing you money in your car insurance premiums. According to Nerd Wallet, Florida drivers with bad credit pay an average of $1,898 more per year, or $158 more per month, for their auto insurance than drivers with good credit.

While it’s true that having good credit is one way to help keep your insurance premiums low, even if you have bad credit, or little to no credit history, L & M Insurance Group can help.

We’ll do the checking for you!

If your credit is less than stellar, you should definitely compare the insurance rates of several different companies before buying a policy. While there are insurance companies that don’t use credit as a rating factor, they may charge higher rates overall. A better option may be an insurance company that penalizes you less for your credit score than other companies do! (And don’t worry—getting multiple auto insurance quotes does not lower your credit score.)

Sound confusing? It doesn’t have to be. L & M Insurance Group can do the checking for you! We represent more than 25 quality auto insurance companies, and have more than 30 years in the insurance business. We’re committed to helping all our clients find the most cost-effective policies possible.

Improved credit equals lower insurance rates

It’s still a good idea to improve your credit by paying bills on time, maintaining a low credit utilization rate, and checking your credit report to make sure it’s accurate. If you don’t have much credit history, you can build one by applying for credit judiciously—just don’t apply for too many lines of credit, because that can also hurt your credit score. You may need to start with a secured card, or by becoming an authorized user on a trusted family member’s account.

As your credit score improves, you may be able to save money on your insurance premiums. Be sure to ask your L & M Insurance Group agent to compare rates at renewal if your credit has improved.

No matter whether your credit is good or bad, L & M Insurance Group has an insurance option for you. Give us a call at 813-672-4100 or email us for an auto insurance quote today!

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Just Married? Time to Review Your Insurance Coverage

Now that you’ve opened the presents and returned from your honeymoon, it’s time to consider some of the changes getting married will bring to your financial life. For instance, if you haven’t done so already, you should review, compare and consolidate your insurance policies. Good news—you may get a discount just for being married, because many insurance companies consider married people a better risk than single people.

Review your existing coverage

Car insurance

Compare your car insurance policy limits and coverage. It may be less expensive to combine all your vehicles onto one policy because you will be eligible for a multi-car discount. Get a quote from each of your car insurance companies to see which is the better deal. If you change policies, make sure new coverage goes into effect before the old coverage is cancelled so you don’t have a lapse in coverage.

Homeowners or renters insurance

If you’ve been living separately, you may have both been carrying homeowners or renters insurance. You should be able to cancel one policy if you no longer own or rent that second home, but make sure the policy you’re left with is appropriate for your needs. 

For example, you may need to increase your personal property limits now that all your belongings are under one roof. You may also need special coverage for high value items like your wedding and engagement rings, high-end electronics, or expensive wedding gifts.

And remember to officially add your spouse to your policy!

Health insurance

Now that you’re married, you have a limited time to enroll in a new health plan or join a spouse’s plan—usually 60 days. If either or both of you have employer-based plans offering spousal benefits, you’ll want to compare these three scenarios: you each keep your current plan; you join your spouse’s plan; your spouse joins your plan. Ask questions about monthly premiums, deductibles, and other out-of-pocket costs. If you don’t have health insurance through work, you can buy or change your coverage through your state or federal exchange. See healthcare.gov for more details.

Life Insurance

Consider buying life insurance—even if neither of you have children. The death of one partner could lead to financial difficulties for the surviving spouse if you have bills or a mortgage one person can’t afford on their own.

One more thing: be sure to update your beneficiaries and emergency contacts.

Need help? We’ve got you covered!

Feeling overwhelmed? Don’t be! Your friendly L & M Insurance Group agent can help you make sense of it all. Whether you’re an existing client or a new one, we will be happy to help you sort through your options. As an independent agency, we represent many financially sound insurance companies and will help you make the best choices for your financial situation. Call us today at 813-672-4100, or email us for a car, home, renters, health, or life insurance quote.

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Got Great Credit? Let Us Save You Money on Your Auto and Home Insurance!

What does your credit score have to do with insurance rates? Plenty. Since the 1990s insurance companies have been using consumers’ credit scores to help set insurance premiums. Industry studies have indicated that using credit-based scores helps insurance companies better predict risk.

What does that mean for you? It means that if you have good credit, you’ll likely save money on your home and auto insurance.

“Just as insurance scores help insurance companies assess and price risks, so too can these scores help insurance customers—particularly if they are considered good risks,” according to the Insurance Information Institute (iii.org).

Insurance scores are different from credit scores, though they are both based on your credit report. And each insurance company makes those calculations a little differently. For an insurance score, “Emphasis is placed on those items associated with credit management patterns proven to correlate most closely with insurance risk, such as outstanding debt, length of credit history, late payments, collections and bankruptcies, and new applications for credit,” according to iii.org.

Therefore, the higher your insurance score, the lower your insurance rates.

What if your credit isn’t so good?

If your credit scores could be better, lower insurance rates are one more reason to improve them. If you want to improve your score, start by keeping a closer eye on it. Make sure there are no errors in your credit history. Make payments on time, avoid high “credit utilization” (the amount you owe divided by your credit limit), and don’t make too many applications for new credit. Remember, credit scores aren’t the only factor used in determining insurance rates. For car insurance, driving history and type of vehicle are also crucial. For homeowners insurance, your location, the size and age of your home, as well as your level of coverage will also affect your rates significantly. However, improving your credit score could make a significant difference in your insurance premiums. According to creditkarma.com, improving from one credit tier to the next can save you an average of 17 percent per year. And Consumer Reports noted that drivers who improved their credit score from the “good” level to the best paid an average of $214 less per year for their car insurance.

If you have good credit, let L & M Insurance Group help you reap the benefits with lower car and homeowners insurance rates. Call us today at 813-672-4100 for a free quote, or drop us an email. For more than 30 years, L & M Insurance Group has helped customers within Riverview, Brandon, Gibsonton, Apollo Beach and Tampa. We also work closely with many customers throughout Hillsborough County, Manatee County, Pinellas County, and Clearwater.

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Moving to Florida 101: Registering an Out-of-State Car

If you’re a new Florida resident, or are thinking of moving to Florida, you may have questions about your car insurance and what steps you need to take to get your vehicle registered. We get a lot of calls from people moving to Florida who have questions about this process, and we’re happy to answer them, and to welcome them to the state.

Once you move to Florida, you have 30 days to get a Florida driver’s license, but only 10 days to buy insurance and title/register your vehicles. Where should you start? Before you register your vehicle, you’ll need to buy insurance valid in Florida. And coverage requirements here are a little different than in other parts of the U.S.

Coverage requirements

Currently, to register a car in Florida, you must have an insurance policy with a minimum of $10,000 Personal Injury Protection (PIP), and $10,000 Property Damage liability (PD).  PIP covers injuries you or certain others receive in a crash, regardless of who is at fault. (It also covers your injuries if you’re hit while you’re a pedestrian.)  PD protects your liability if you’re at fault in an accident and you damage someone else’s property, such as a vehicle, building, or telephone pole. Please note that this is the minimum coverage required to drive legally in Florida, but such low coverage is not recommended for most people because it is most likely inadequate to protect you financially if you’re in an accident.

In addition, Florida has something called the Financial Responsibility law, which “requires that any person at fault in a crash resulting in bodily injury and property damage to others must have in effect at the time of the crash full liability insurance coverage.” This means that if you are at fault in an accident and you injure someone, you must be carrying at least $10,000 per person Bodily Injury (BI) coverage in addition to PIP and PD coverage at the time of the accident.

Click here if you’d like to get a car insurance quote—you’ll need the driver’s licenses of all drivers in the household, as well as the vehicle identification number (VIN) for each vehicle. Have your current car insurance policy handy so you can tell your new insurance agent what coverage you currently have as well as what you would like to have on your new policy. 

For additional information on insurance coverage in Florida, please see “New to Florida? Here’s What You Need to Know About Car Insurance.”

Remember: before you can transfer the title or registration for your vehicle to Florida, you have to have proof of insurance.

In addition to proof of insurance, you’ll also need proof of identity, your out-of-state title/registration, and you’ll have to have your vehicle’s VIN verified by inspection. (Please click the Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicle Department link below for printable application forms and complete details on what you’ll need to do to register your vehicle and get a Florida driver’s license.)

Your local independent insurance agent

When moving to Florida, you’ll want to find a local independent insurance agent to handle your insurance needs—an agent familiar with Florida’s insurance laws. An independent agent will also be able to check rates with multiple insurance companies, so he or she can shop for the best rates for you rather than being exclusively tied to one company.

L & M Insurance Group is a locally-owned, independent insurance agency with more than 30 years experience helping customers in Riverview, Valrico, Brandon, Gibsonton, Apollo Beach, Tampa, and surrounding areas. We represent more than 15 financially sound car insurance companies. We want to be your Florida insurance agents—so please call us at 813-672-4100, or email us so we can help you begin your new life in the Sunshine State!

For more information:

Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles

Florida Department of Financial Services • Division of Consumer Services Florida Auto Toolkit

Four Ways You Can Drive More Safely on Florida’s Roads

Need Car Insurance and Have PIP claims?

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Why Florida Drivers Need Uninsured Motorist Coverage

Despite the fact that insurance is required, too many Florida drivers go without it. In fact, Florida has the highest rate of uninsured drivers in the nation at 26.7 percent! If an uninsured driver injures you and/or your passengers, you’ll have to pay your own medical expenses, and you know how quickly those can skyrocket. One way to be sure you can protect yourself financially if an uninsured motorist hits you is to carry uninsured motorist coverage.

Uninsured Motorist (UM) basics

First, let’s look at how uninsured motorist coverage protects you—and how it doesn’t.

Uninsured motorist (UM) pays your and your passengers medical bills if you’re in an accident caused by an uninsured driver. In addition, it reimburses you and your passengers for things like pain and suffering, wrongful death, and loss of enjoyment of life. It also covers you if the other driver is under insured—that is, if his or her insurance policy limits don’t cover the extent of the injuries caused by the crash. And it will pay if an uninsured motorist hits you while you’re a pedestrian, or if a hit-and-run driver injures you.

What uninsured motorist does NOT do is pay for damages to your vehicle. You’ll need to carry collision insurance if you need or want your vehicle covered if an uninsured motorist damages it.

UM limits are indicated using two figures, such as 25,000/50,000. The first number is the limit of what the policy will pay per person, the second number is the limit per accident. You can only buy UM if you also purchase bodily injury (BI) liability, and you can’t purchase UM coverage higher than your BI limits.

Stacked vs. non-stacked

There are two types of UM coverage: stacked and non-stacked.

Non-stacked is cheaper to buy, but doesn’t offer as comprehensive coverage as stacked UM does.

Stacked UM provides higher limits and more complete protection. There are two ways in which stacked is more comprehensive than non-stacked.

If you insure more than one vehicle on your policy, the amount you’re able to collect can be “stacked”—that is, the maximum policy limit is multiplied based on the number of vehicles on your policy. So if you have limits of 25,000/50,000 and three vehicles on your policy, you can multiply the 25/50 limits by three, which means limits of $75,000 per person, $150,000 per accident will be available to you and your passengers.

What if you only have one vehicle to insure? Would you still want to carry stacked UM? Possibly. There are several scenarios in which you could be injured by an uninsured motorist where non-stacked insurance would not pay but stacked would. For example:

  • You ride a motorcycle. If you’re injured by an uninsured driver while riding, stacked UM from your auto policy will pay for your injuries. It will also pay for injuries to a passenger riding with you. Non-stacked will not. Stacked UM coverage on a personal auto policy is generally cheaper to buy than UM coverage on a motorcycle policy as well.
  • You are a “snowbird” who keeps one car in Florida and one car at your other home. You’re injured by an uninsured motorist while driving your “up north” car, but you don’t carry UM on that vehicle. You do carry stacked UM on your Florida vehicle—and that coverage will pay for your injuries, even though you were driving a vehicle you own that is not listed on your Florida personal auto policy.
  • You own a pickup truck which you use for business purposes and insure on a separate commercial auto policy, but you’ve chosen not to carry UM coverage on that policy. If you’re injured while driving the truck, and you carry stacked UM on your personal auto policy, it will cover your injuries.

We think UM coverage is important to carry, especially in Florida where so many drivers either have no insurance or don’t carry enough insurance. If you have any questions about uninsured motorist coverage, or anything else on your auto insurance policy, please call your L & M Insurance Group agent at 813-672-4100, or email us. We will be happy to discuss your financial situation to determine what coverage makes sense for you.

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Distractions and Driving Don’t Mix

We’ve all done it. We hear the telltale ping or ring of our cell phone while driving. Surely it will be OK just to sneak a peek at the screen to see who is trying to reach us? Maybe even answer the phone?

Unfortunately, all too often it’s not OK. Instead of focusing our full attention on the road, we’re driving distracted.


According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 3,450 people were killed in 2016 in “distraction-affected” crashes—92 percent of all crash fatalities. In 2015, 391,000 people were injured in crashes involving distracted driving.

Using a cell phone while driving increases crash risk, but phones aren’t the only things distracting us on the road. Eating or drinking, interacting with passengers (or pets), adjusting the radio, consulting navigation, and personal grooming (applying makeup, combing hair) all keep our full attention from being on our driving. Distracted driving is driving while doing any activity that takes full attention away from driving, whether it takes our eyes off the road, our hands off the steering wheel, or our minds off our driving. Texting is the worst thing we can do, since it involves all three of those things. Sending or reading a text for even five seconds at 55 miles per hour is like driving the length of a football field with our eyes closed!

Many states already ban hand-held cell phone use and texting. The Florida Legislature is currently considering a bill that would prohibit drivers from texting, reading data, or talking on hand-held devices. Texting while driving is now only enforced as a secondary offense when a driver has been stopped for another infraction.

Whether or not the bill passes, for our safety and the safety of others on the road, we should decide to put aside all distractions and keep our full attention on our driving. We also need to share this information with our teens, some of the worst offenders when it comes to phone use while driving.

So the next time a call or text comes in while you’re driving, do the right thing and keep your hands on the wheel and your eyes on the road until you get to your destination, or you can pull off the road safely to check your phone. We promise we will, too.

L & M Insurance Group is an independent insurance agency. Our staff has been serving eastern Hillsborough County, Tampa, Riverview, Lithia, Valrico, Seffner, Bloomingdale and surrounding areas for more than 25 years. We represent more than 15 quality auto insurance companies, and strive to provide our customers with the best coverage at the most competitive rates. If you need help with your auto insurance, please give us a call at 813-672-4100, or request an insurance quote by clicking here.