Oct. 21--The director of the S.C. Department of Insurance told the Rotary Club of Aiken on Monday that he "wholeheartedly" supports efforts in the Palmetto State's legislature to crack down on distracted driving.
"Quite honestly, we are not good drivers anyway," said Ray Farmer during the local organization's meeting at Newberry Hall. "It is well documented that South Carolina has some of the worst drivers in the country. For the last few years, we have led the nation in fatalities for 100 million miles driven. That's not good.
"A lot of it," he added, "is that we're doing things in our cars other than driving. Please put your phone down on the way out and on your way home or back to your office."
Farmer described distracted driving as an issue among Palmetto State vehicle operators of all ages.
"It's not just one segment," said Farmer, who believes there is plenty of evidence that young drivers learn the behavior from their parents.
He also praised S.C. Rep. Bill Taylor, R-Aiken, and S.C. Sen. Tom Young, R-Aiken, for their efforts to get anti-distracted driving bills passed.
Young is the primary sponsor of Senate Bill 723, which also is known as the South Carolina Hands-Free Act, which was introduced in March.
That bill is scheduled to be considered during a Senate Transportation Committee subcommittee meeting at 2 p.m. Oct. 29 in Room 207 of the Gressette Building in Columbia.
The Senate version is similar to House Bill 3355, which also is known as the Driving Under the Influence of an Electronic Device (or DUI-E) Law.
That legislation, spearheaded by Taylor, was referred to the House's Judiciary Committee after debate on the House floor.
He told the Aiken Standard in March that "legislative trial lawyers" and the referral likely killed that bill.
South Carolina already has a texting-and-driving ban.
During Monday's Rotary meeting, Farmer also talked about the importance of planning for retirement.
Forty-five percent of baby boomers "don't have a retirement plan other than Social Security," he said. "There are some insurance products available to help you plan for your retirement such as annuities and life insurance. They are licensed products, but I would encourage you to talk to your investment adviser and talk to your insurance agent. Make sure you talk to somebody you know."
He also recommended shopping around for the best prices.
Long-term care insurance is another option, but companies offering are seeking huge increases in the rates.
"The last few years, companies have come in for rate increases of 80, 90 and over 100%," Farmer said. "They're not getting them. The most anybody will tell you they have gotten lately is 20%. But if you add those 20 percents up over a period of years, your are paying a lot of money."
The Department of Insurance has scheduled a public hearing about Continental Casualty Company's request for rate increases on long-term care insurance for Nov. 7 at 10 a.m.
It will be held in the conference room on the 11th floor of the Department of Insurance's office building at 1201 Main Street in Columbia.
In addition, Farmer discussed flood and earthquake insurance. In general, they aren't included on homeowners' policies, and most people don't realize that, he said.
Farmer urged his Rotary audience to consider buying flood and earthquake insurance even though they might not think their homes are vulnerable to those natural disasters.
"We aren't supposed to have floods in the Columbia area, but in 2015 we did," he said.
Natural disasters in South Carolina mainly involve hurricanes that cause wind-related and flood-related damage, according to Farmer.
"And ground shakes here from time to time," he said.
Dede Biles is the Aiken County government, business and horse industry reporter for the Aiken Standard. Follow her on Twitter @DBethBiles.
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