OC Auto Insurance: California Senate Passes Self-Driving Cars Bill

Self-Driving cars might be hitting Pacific Coast Highway soon. According to the Los Angeles Times, a bill to allow self-driving cars on California’s roads passed the state Senate.

The bill, SB1298, sponsored by Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima), established the guidelines for “autonomous vehicles” to be tested and operated in California.

Organizations such as Google and even Cadillac in an indirect way have been working to develop self-driving vehicles. The vehicles use radar, video cameras, and lasers to navigate roads and safely get from Point A to Point B without any human assistance. Padilla discussed the motivation behind pushing the bill:

“Human error is the cause of almost every accident on the road today. If autonomous technology can reduce the number of accidents, then we also reduce the number of injuries and fatalities on California’s roads,” Padilla said. “For me this is a matter of safety.”

The bill highlights are as follows: (Source: LA Times)

  • Sets up safety and performance standards for the safe operation of autonomous vehicles on California’s public roads.
  • Allows for the operation of autonomous vehicles on California’s public roads by a licensed driver.
  • Requires that an autonomous vehicle meets all applicable safety standards and performance requirements in state and federal law.

Allows the Highway Patrol, in consultation with the Department of Motor Vehicles, to recommend to the Legislature additional requirements for the safe operation of such vehicles on California’s roads.

Google’s goal is to have the car completely drive by itself. Currently, self-driving cars must legally have a person at the wheel to assume control if anything goes wrong. Advocates are hoping it will improve the fuel efficiency of vehicles and enable cars to communicate with each other and ease traffic flow.

From Chevys in the 1960s to BMWs today, cars remain one of the biggest purchases our clients will ever make – and that’s why they come to Blackwell Insurance Agency, an expert source of Orange County Auto insurance for decades. Depending on your needs, we can assemble coverage that protects your car from unforeseen damages and injuries. Contact us today for more information.

OC Homeowners Insurance: Best DIY Home Improvement Tips

OC Homeowners Insurance: Best DIY Home Improvement TipsAccording to a recent study by HomeGain, a little DIY work in your home can go a long way. The study surveyed 500 real estate agents about the top do-it-yourself improvements that can help increase your home’s value when you’re looking to sell.

The top home improvement tip continues to be de-cluttering your space. Buyers will open every door to examine the nooks and crannies of the property. Make sure closets are neat and as empty as possible- a buyer should be able to open all doors without having anything tumble out on their head.

The second most popular is lightening and brightening the home. Buyers examine every inch of a home when they are viewing it for the first time. If a home is dark and difficult to view, most buyers won’t want to spend any time in it. Dark homes are dreary, uninviting and unwelcoming. There are three types of lighting: accent, ambient & functional. Having all types of light will create a warm, welcoming home. That’s 3 strikes to any potential buyer who walks in the door.  For more natural light, make sure to keep all furniture away from the windows so it doesn’t block any light.

The DIY improvements to achieve a higher ROI could be a reflection off difficult economic times. With many houses falling into foreclosure or entering the market as a short-sale, there is a lot of inventory that could use attention.

Rounding out the top DIY home improvements are repairing any electrical and plumbing problems, landscaping, staging your home to make it look good to buyers, shampooing and replacing the carpets, repair floors, paint interior walls, update kitchen & bathroom, and paint the exterior of the home.

Whether you’re selling your place or looking for a new one, there is no place like your Orange Count home. And, as one of the most important purchases you’ll ever make, your home needs a solid insurance plan that offers protection from all kinds of unforeseen events. The professionals at Blackwell Insurance Agency have decades of experience in helping homeowners in Orange County and throughout California protect their biggest investment. Contact us today for more information.

Homeowners Insurance: California Foreclosures Down 30% this Year

Homeowners Insurance: California Foreclosures Down 30% this YearFinally some good news for Southern California homeowners. Instead of the new surge of foreclosures experts predicted, the numbers have actually decreased.

The Orange County Register reported that housing tracker DataQuick Information Systems assessment of California foreclosures- when lenders seize homes to pay off delinquent mortgages- fell to the lowest level in 4 ½ years during the first quarter of 2012. That’s a 29.7% decline from last year.

According to the report, California had 30,262 homes lost to foreclosure in the first quarter, compared to 43,052 previously. The drop marks the lowest level since the summer of 2007. The following 2008 summer peaked at 80,000.

Default notices, filed after a homeowner missed at least three monthly payments, also fell to 56,258, down from 68,239 a year ago.

Other number crunches have found the same results: ForeclosureRadar and Irvine –based RealtyTrac all reported declines in defaults and foreclosures during the opening months of the year. The lower foreclosures rates come as a surprise, especially as foreclosure rates increase in other states.

Furthermore, the positive wave is expected to continue. Orange County housing observer Steve Thomas of ReportsOnHousing.com likewise predicted that a second wave of foreclosures won’t materialize.

“For those that have been banking on a wave of foreclosures to hit the market, it is time to face reality and put that surfboard away,” Thomas wrote in a recent report. “There simply is not going to be a new wave of foreclosure activity.”

You’ve weathered the ups and downs of the housing market. Through economic ups and downs, your number one priority is to protect your family’s home. When it comes to orange county homeowners insurance, nobody does it better than Blackwell Insurance Agency, a family-owned and operated agency in Orange County, California. We serve clients with one goal: to provide real peace of mind by offering quality Personal insurance, Business Auto, and Surety products and services all at affordable rates. Contact us today for more information.

Earthquake California Quake Test, Boring is Good

Earthquake California Quake Test, Boring is GoodIt was touted as one of the most ambitious earthquake simulations ever attempted. And in this case, the more boring, unexciting results the better.

Engineers from the University of California San Diego constructed a five-story building complete with an operating room, elevator, fully stocked kitchen, and a heavy air-conditioning unit, placed atop a “shake table” on the outskirts of San Diego, according to the New York Times. The shake table is a rectangular hydraulic platform designed to mimic the shaking motions of an earthquake.

On April 17 at 10:30 am, the shake table released the equivalent of a one minute 6.7 magnitude earthquake, to match the Northridge quake that hit Los Angeles in 1994.

Here’s the boring part- the building barely moved. No shattered glass, broken windows, or any damage was visible whatsoever. Furthermore, inside the building, no heavy equipment hit the operating room and upon initial inspection the elevator was still functional.

The shake table then simulated an 8.8 magnitude earthquake to mimic the Chilean one in 2010 with the same results: nothing. The non-exciting results are attributed to seismic safeguards that were incorporated into the buildings; cylindrical rubber bearings that act as shock absorbers for buildings in earthquake prone areas. Known as base isolators, the safeguards absorb much of the shaking, preventing it from affecting the building and averting significant damage.

The experiment is part of a 5 million dollar project paid for by the Seismic Commission and the National Science foundation. The project is focused on the effect of huge seismic events on schools, hospitals and municipal buildings.

While the results are promising, the base isolators that protected the building are scarce in California; only 30 buildings in the state have them- and none of those are personal homes.

Protect your family from the effects of an earthquake with Blackwell Insurance Agency. Especially in California, getting earthquake coverage (which is typically excluded in standard homeowners insurance), can protect your home and household possession against any earthquake damage. Contact us today for more information.

Orange County Auto Trend: SUV’s Still Popular, Only Smaller

SUVs are synonymous with larger than life size and gas-guzzling tendencies. They have been depicted as the soccer mom’s preferred carpool vehicle and music artist’s chosen ride in their music videos. Now however, they are going small.

In a new trend in luxury automobiles (according to the Wall Street Journal), companies are going out of their way to convey to customers that SUV’s don’t have to be huge gas devouring machines. Conscious of the wallet-gripping times, many luxury car brands are rolling out smaller versions of the popular model. For example the BMW X1, on display at the New York Auto Show in early April is classified as a subcompact vehicle and will be the smallest luxury brand utility vehicle on the U.S. market.

Land Rover and its Range Rover have pushed the new Evoque model. It is the smallest, lightest model ever offered under the Range Rover name and gets 28 mpg on the highway.

The smaller models will also come with lower prices too, making it easier for younger consumers to cross into the luxury brand market- BMW’s X1 starts at 31,545.

Other brands have begun to shrink their luxury SUV’s as well. General Motors Co.’s Cadillac brand and Ford Motor Co.’s Lincoln brand are both coming out with smaller models.

The new models mark a decided shift away from large, honking models that have been integrated into American culture. The change comes at a time where rising gas prices make fuel-efficiency is a top priority.

From Chevys in the 1960s to BMWs today, cars remain one of the biggest purchases our clients will ever make – regardless of the size. That’s why they come to Blackwell Insurance Agency, an expert source of Personal Orange County auto insurance for decades. Contact us today for more information.