Today’s bits: smartphones and driving… not smart at all

Smartphones, crashes, and auto insurance

Has your auto insurance policy premium increased recently? Chances are it’s because of smartphones. Costs associated with crashes are outpacing premium increases for some companies, and insurers say the use of smartphones to talk, text and access the internet while on the road is a new and important factor behind the wrecks. The self-driving car can’t get here soon enough.

Over the last decade, new cars have gotten electronic stability control systems to prevent skids, rear-view cameras to prevent fender benders and more airbags to protect occupants in collisions. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent on campaigns to remind the public of the dangers of drunken driving, failing to buckle up and texting while on the go.

Despite all that, more Americans are dying on roads and highways than in years, and the sudden and sharp increase has alarmed safety advocates.

The latest batch of bad news arrived Wednesday in traffic fatality estimates released by the National Safety Council, a nonprofit organization that works closely with federal auto-safety regulators. According to its estimates, 40,200 people died in accidents involving motor vehicles in 2016, a 6 percent rise from the year before. As I mentioned… the self-driving car can’t get here soon enough.

Hotels by the hour…

No, not what you are thinking. There are apps which allow you to book hotel rooms when you need them, not when the hotel wants you to check it. If your 12-hour flight arrives at 4 am, you probably want to find a hotel room ASAP. Typically, hotels only let you check in at 3 pm. This app helps you secure a hotel room when you need it.

As You Stay is a free app that works with hotels so that you can book for hours at a time. It works with hotels trying to fill inventory which would otherwise remain empty. The app’s interface is similar to HotelTonight. You select your destination, travel dates, and time frame, and the app retrieves a handful of hotels that can accommodate you, along with the total cost. When you tap on a hotel, you’ll get details on amenities, maps, and more. (Lifehacker)

Weight loss apps: worth their “weight?”

Surprise! Your wearable fitness device doesn’t seem to make you fitter. I am addicted to my pedometer. I find it’s a great motivator, but it turns out it doesn’t do much to help you lose weight. A study comprised of almost 500 adults took place. All participants were put on a low-calorie diet, had group counseling sessions, and were advised to increase their physical activity. They all received counseling sessions, text-message prompts, and study materials. Half were given wearable devices which monitored their activity. At the end of the two year study, those without access to the wearable technology lost an average of 13 pounds. Those with the wearable tech lost an average of 7.7 pounds. A new report suggests that eating whole grains may aid in weight loss. (Upshot)

Put your money where your mouth is

We love to eat at restaurants; we are now spending more at restaurants than we are at supermarkets. That said, you are likely spending more than you have to at the supermarket. U.S. households spent an average of $7,023 — or 12.5% of income — on food in 2015, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Like it or not, buying groceries is a part of life. But paying top dollar for your weekly supermarket trip doesn’t have to be a given. Some really good, logical ideas here. (Marketwatch)

Water you doing? Your retirement money might not be as liquid as you think

Delaying when you start taking your Social Security benefits means that you will have a smaller portfolio, but you will have greater flexibility in terms of what you can do with that portfolio — “true liquidity.” (Oblivious Investor)

Offers

The world’s best-reviewed WiFi system. Click here for a $50 discount. Offer expires on Mar 12, 2017. (eero)

Chart of the Day

Infographic: The Smartphone Platform War Is Over | Statista You will find more statistics at Statista

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