Avoiding distractions while driving could save your life

You’ve seen them on the roads; you might even know a few of them.

And you could be one yourself.

Distracted drivers in come in all shapes, sizes, ages and experience levels. Even if you’re not one today, you could become one at any moment — in the time it takes you to answer your cell phone or check the kids in the back seat when you’re driving through {neighborhoods}.

If you or someone else you know thinks you can drive just fine while talking on your phone, think about this: More than 450,000 people were injured in crashes that reportedly involved distracted driving in 2009, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. More than 5,000 of those people died

Distractions on the road come in many forms, according to www.distraction.gov, a U.S. Department of Transportation website. There are three main kinds of distractions:

Visual – taking your eyes off the road

Manual –taking your hands off the wheel

Cognitive – taking your mind off what you’re doing

To help you avoid all three kinds of distractions the next time you’re behind the wheel of your car here are a few tips:

Put your phone in silent mode and store it away from the front seat or in a purse or bag. This helps reduce temptation.

Have a passenger answer your phone or return text messages for you.

If a call or a text can’t wait, pull over in a safe spot before using your phone.

This one seems obvious, but finish shaving or applying makeup before you get in the car!

If you’re emotional, wait until you’ve calmed down before hitting the road.

Avoid road rage. You’ll be happier and safer.Strayer-3-tiers-distraction

So You Need (or Want) to Take a Defensive Driving Course

Whether you were caught speeding (or worse), you’re looking for a discount on your car insurance, or you simply want to be a better driver, there are a wide range of defensive driving and driver improvement courses available in Ohio these days.

But, which is right for you? Here are five tips to help you decide:

  1. Check with your state or municipality. If you’re taking training to avoid a traffic infraction, not just any course will do. You’ll need to take an approved course – ask for a list before signing up.
  2. Check with your insurer. The same goes if you’d like to potentially save on your car insurance. Your carrier may only offer a car insurance discount for completing certain courses. Also ask how much your discount will be — this will help when it comes time to choose a course.
  3. Choose the type of course. There are online and classroom options, typically ranging from 4-12 hours depending on the course material. And, there are advantages to each. Online courses offer convenience (and sometimes a lower cost), while in-person settings can provide more interaction.
  4. Determine how much you want to spend. If you’re trying to avoid a ticket (and a potential increase in your insurance premiums), the cost might not be much of an issue. If you’re taking a course to receive an insurance discount, however, make sure the total discount you’ll receive is greater than the cost of the course.
  5. Check out the reviews. Online review sites, such as Yelp, can show you what others thought of a course. Keep in mind, people who felt “forced” to take a course might have a biased opinion, especially compared to someone who took the course willingly.

No matter why you’re considering a defensive driving course, we’re happy to help you weigh the pros and cons. The biggest pro being, once you complete your training, you’re likely to be a little more careful the next time you get behind the wheel. And, that always pays off!143

Talking to Your Teen About Safe Driving

When teens begin to drive, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the National Safety Council, the sobering statistics start to pile up:

  • Car crashes are the leading cause of death for U.S. teens ages 14 through 18.
  • A teen’s crash risk is three times that of more experienced drivers.
  • Being in a car with three or more teen passengers quadruples a teen driver’s crash risk.
  • More than half of teens killed in crashes were not wearing a seat belt.

You can help your young driver make better decisions behind the wheel, however. Start by setting a good example yourself. And set time aside to have a serious discussion about the following issues, all of which have a large impact on the safety of teen drivers:

    • Speed: According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, speeding continues to grow as a factor in fatal crashes involving teen drivers. Thirty-three percent of such accidents in 2011 involved excessive speed. While a lot of emphasis is rightfully placed on the risks of driving under the influence or while distracted, the danger of speeding is just as important.
    • Alcohol: If drivers are under 21, driving with any amount of alcohol in their system is illegal. It’s as simple as that. And not only does the risk of a serious crash increase once alcohol is involved, jail time is a possibility as well.
  • Seat belts: Teens don’t use their seat belts as frequently as adults, so it’s important to set a good example and always have yours on. Seat belts are the simplest way to protect themselves in a crash, so let teens know that buckling up is mandatory.

  • Phones: Distracted driving is dangerous driving, especially for an inexperienced teen. That means no calls or texting when behind the wheel — no exceptions. Again, it pays to set a good example when you’re driving with your teen in the car.
  • Passengers: The risk of a fatal crash goes up as the number of passengers in a teen driver’s car increases, according to the NHTSA. Depending on your state’s licensing laws for young drivers, limiting your teen to one passenger is a good guideline. (And some states don’t allow teens to have any passengers for a time

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Of course, any driver needs to have a good grasp on the laws and rules of the road, and, because teens don’t have much experience, it’s important to have regular conversations about safe driving. How teens drive doesn’t just depend on them. It depends on you, too!Mom stop worryingI knowwhat I'm doing!

Protect your family from the “silent killer”

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Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless, invisible gas that results when certain fuels do not burn completely. And it can be deadly. That’s why it’s important to know how to prevent it, detect it, and protect yourself and your family from its effects.

In the home, carbon monoxide is most commonly formed by flames and heaters, as well as vehicles or generators that are running in an attached garage. As temperatures drop and more people are cranking the heat and hovering over the stove inside and warming up the car’s engine before hitting the road, it’s especially critical to ensure your family’s safety against this lethal gas.

Since carbon monoxide cannot be detected without a carbon monoxide detection device, it is essential to install and maintain one or more detectors in your home.

Detector Tips

At Advantage Insurance Agency, we want you and your family to stay protected, so check out the following tips from CAL FIRE San Diego County Fire Authority for safeguarding your household.

  • The International Association of Fire Chiefs recommends a carbon monoxide detector on every floor of your home, including the basement. A detector should be located within 10 feet of each bedroom door, and there should be one near or over any attached garage.
  • Each detector should be replaced every five to six years.
  • Battery-only carbon monoxide detectors tend to go through batteries more frequently than expected. Plug-in detectors with a battery backup (for use if power is interrupted) provide less battery-changing maintenance.
  • Thoroughly read the installation manual that comes with the individual detector you purchase. Manufacturers’ recommendations differ to a certain degree based on research conducted with detectors for specific brands.
  • Remember that carbon monoxide detectors do not serve as smoke detectors and vice versa. You can, however, purchase a dual smoke/carbon monoxide detector that can perform both functions.
  • Do not install carbon monoxide detectors next to fuel-burning appliances, as these appliances may emit a small amount of carbon monoxide upon startup.

In case of exposure

At Advantage Insurance Agency, we hope you never have to use the following tips from the Mayo Clinic, but please read on for good information that could help save a life.

If you suspect that you or someone you know has been exposed to carbon monoxide, check for the following symptoms:

  • dull headache
  • weakness
  • dizziness
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • shortness of breath
  • confusion
  • loss of consciousness If any of the symptoms exist, move the individual into fresh air and seek emergency medical care immediately.

If any of the symptoms exist, move the individual into fresh air and seek emergency medical care immediately.

When Water Goes Where It Shouldn’t

Even a small leak can become a major problem, so knowing what you’re covered for and how to prevent water damage are equally important. The below tips should help uncover any potential water problems down the road and keep your property dry.

Check appliance hoses. Standard hoses are not as durable as they used to be. Replace rubber hoses with steel-braided hoses. This is a low cost fix that can save thousands in water damage.

Broken tiles in the shower can allow water to leak into the walls or on the floor. Replace cracked tiles and re-grout when needed.

Run dishwasher and washing machine only when you are home. If a leak occurs, you can turn the appliance off right away.

When on vacation, turn off the main water supply to your house

Keep storm drains near your house clear of leaves.

Install a gutter guard. This can prevent a rooftop disaster caused by drain clogs, and also prevents flooding by water that isn’t carried away from the house.

Install a water pressure gauge. An inexpensive gauge can prevent damage caused by water pressure that’s too high. Pressure should be between 60 and 80 PSI.

ceiling-leak

7 Tips to Help Keep Student Athletes Safe

Your Akron household may be one of the millions this fall in which student athletes are dreaming of victory on their school playing fields. Of course, we here at Advantage Insurance Agency want to see them succeed, but we also want them to be safe.

So, here are seven tips for students, parents and school staff to keep in mind as the new season gets underway:

    1. Start off on the right foot: All athletes need a preseason physical and should share any medical conditions, such as sickle cell trait, with coaches. And, parents, don’t forget to provide your contact information and permission for emergency medical care.
  • Think about nutrition: A healthy diet offers plenty of complex carbohydrates, plus moderate amounts of protein, salt, sugars and sodium. Keep fat, saturated fat and cholesterol to a minimum. 

 

  1. Be smart about injuries: Athletic trainers and consulting physicians, not coaches, should decide whether athletes continue playing following an injury. Athletic staff needs to know how to use defibrillators and keep them nearby during both practice and games. Finally, athletes should always speak up about and seek medical attention for such symptoms as dizziness, memory loss, lightheadedness, fatigue or imbalance after a hit in the head or a fall. In most cases, they should not rejoin practice or play that same day.
  2. Maintain equipment and facilities: Helmets and pads should be properly fitted; gymnastic apparatus well-maintained. Facilities must be kept clean and checked for germs regularly.
  3. Warm up, cool down: Always warm up and stretch before beginning activities. Cool down and stretch when finished, and take plenty of breaks in between.
  4. Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of water (costly sports drinks aren’t usually necessary) before, during and after a workout or practice.
  5. Build up a heat tolerance: To avoid heat illnesses, especially in sports requiring protective equipment, start slowly and build up to more intensive training requiring the full gear.

We hope these tips help set up your student athletes for success this season. We’ll be rooting for them!

kids-football-game-tackle-players-sport

After-School Safety Tips for Parents and Kids

Parents, class is back in session in the Akron area so you’ve likely already reviewed the basic safety tips for kids who walk or bus to and from school.

Those tips, of course, are:

  • Walk with a buddy
  • Stay in well-lit areas
  • Never accept a ride with strangers
  • Once home, lock the door and don’t let anyone in

However, Dr. Michele Borba, author of The Big Book of Parenting Solutions, urges you not to overestimate your kids’ safety smarts. Kids under 10, for example, may not grasp the concept of crossing a street safely, she says.

She suggests teaching them: “Stop. Left. Right. Left.” Meaning that children should, “stop at the curb, look left, right, then left again before crossing, and keep looking as they cross.”

Another thing kids need to know, says Borba, is how to ask for help. Have kids practice saying, “I need help,” out loud and instruct them to “find a uniformed employee, a police officer or a woman, preferably with a child,” when they need assistance, she says.

Once home, kids will likely use the Internet, so be sure to discuss digital safety too.

Staying Safe Online

Internet safety advocate Sue Scheff, author of Wit’s End and Google Bomb, says that, “we need to put parental controls/security measures on computers and cell phones. Unfortunately, these aren’t guarantees, so having a cyber-smart child is your best defense.”

Teach kids about the dangers of sharing personal information, such as their home address and phone number, online. And about using social media responsibly.

While online, it’s best for kids – and adults – to converse and connect only with people they truly know and trust, to keep their social accounts private and to still be cautious even then. After all, photos and information that go online today will still be there years later, when kids apply for college scholarships and jobs.

Above all, stay involved in your kids’ digital lives. Let them know you’re there for them, always – to talk, not to judge or punish, says Scheff. “Many kids fear having their Internet removed if they tell their parents they are being bullied online,” she says.

So keep the lines of communication open to help keep everyone safe, both in and outside of your home.m_walking_2_school

Make football season not just fun, but also safe

Finally, we’re welcoming fall, that eagerly anticipated season when we get to enjoy cooler temps, colorful leaves, the start of school and, of course, football season in Ohio!

Football season in Akron brings with it a whole host of seasonal activities for football fans, from game-day tailgates and sports bar outings, to friendly bets and bowl parties. At Advantage Insurance Agency, we want your football season to be both exciting and safe, so as you cheer your team to victory, consider the following tips.

  • Keep it clean: Tailgating is one of America’s favorite pastimes! If you’re tailgating, opt for non-breakable, recyclable containers. This will make cleanup easier and help avoid injuries resulting from broken glass.
  • Be smart: Whether you are tailgating, hosting a football-watching party at your house in Akron, sitting in the stands at InfoCision Stadium-Summa Field or joining your buddies at the local bar, know your limit on alcohol intake and make sure you have a designated driver.
  • Know where you’re going: Pre-plan travel to and from the stadium to avoid getting lost and to make finding parking easier if you drive.
  • Fill those bellies: Whenever alcohol is consumed, make sure food is too!
  • Be weather wise: If you’re heading to the stadium, be sure to prepare for the weather. In colder temps, bring layers and blankets (especially if you’re bringing the little ones along). Also, avoid umbrellas if you find yourself in a lightning storm.
  • Keep it close: Whether you’re hitting the live game or the local tavern, be sure to keep your valuables, such as wallets, mobile phones and purses, safe. Also, keep it close to you (better yet, attached) at all times to avoid theft.

Wherever and however you’re watching the game this weekend, we hope you enjoy every last minute. Go Zips!

Game day insurance tips

Here are a few pointers for making sure your insurance provides an additional safety net on game day:

  • Make sure you have adequate auto coverage to cover any contents that may be stolen in the unfortunate event of a break-in at the stadium parking lot.
  • Ensure you have sufficient liability coverage on your homeowner’s policy, as well as medical payments coverage and possibly umbrella coverage. These exist to protect you in the event someone becomes injured while at your house.

• Consider roadside assistance coverage. In the event your vehicle breaks down or you lock your keys in your car, it can save the day.  If you have questions or need any info call us at 330-940-2288.

Protect your boat with insurance and winterization

Now that summer’s over and the weather is cooling down, it’s time to think about pulling your boat out of Lake Erie and putting it away until next year.

As you begin to prepare your boat for the winter, take the time to make sure it still has the right insurance protection. After all, we here at Advantage Insurance Agency want to make sure you’re ready for the next boating season! (And maybe, just maybe, you’ll also be ready to invite your favorite insurance agent out for a day on the lake. Just a thought.)

First things first: Insurance

If you have a small boat with limited power, you may have some coverage under your Ohio homeowners or renters insurance policy. If you aren’t sure, please check with us. Of course, larger and faster boats, along with personal watercraft, require their own policies. And we can help with those, too!

But do you even need boat insurance during the offseason when your boat won’t even be in the water? Well, that depends. Keep in mind that your boat can still be damaged no matter where it is. Often, damage from fire and theft isn’t covered unless you have a watercraft policy. And there always is the chance that we could get a streak of great weather in November that lures you to take the boat out on Lake Erie for a day or two! There are plenty of reasons to keep year-round coverage, but if you have questions about seasonal policies, give us a call: 330-940-2288.

And while you’re thinking about insurance, consider your current watercraft coverage. Is your boat older? It might be time to move to cash-value coverage instead of agreed value. Do you have a lot of expensive fishing equipment? Make sure you have enough optional coverage so your gear isn’t at risk. You might also want to consider uninsured boater coverage and a personal umbrella policy, which provide more liability protection than a standard watercraft policy.

And remember, you might be able to save money on your insurance by taking a boating-safety course, increasing your deductible or bundling your policies with one company.

Now: A different kind of protection

After you’ve squared away protecting your boat with the right insurance options, it’s time to think about protecting your boat in a more literal sense – by properly preparing it for winter. Below are some general tips to follow, but, of course, you should check your owner’s manuals for manufacturer recommendations.

Your engine

Follow manufacturer instructions when winterizing your engine, but you’ll want to flush the engine with fresh water and make sure to drain fuel from the carburetor to prevent a build-up of deposits. Use fogging oil in the cylinders to lubricate cylinder walls and pistons.

Stern drive

Do a thorough inspection and remove plant life or barnacles from the lower unit. Drain the gear case and clean the lower unit with soap and water.

Fuel tanks

Fill your fuel tanks to avoid a buildup of condensation and add fuel stabilizer, following the product instructions.

Fresh water system

Drain the fresh water tank and water heater, and pump a nontoxic antifreeze into the system. Then, turn on all faucets until you see the antifreeze coming out.

Interior

Remove all valuables from the boat. Clean drawers thoroughly, and turn cushions on their edges to allow air to circulate. Clean the refrigerator and freezer.

Cover it up!

A cover will keep your boat clean and protect it from water and UV rays, which can break down hoses and fade upholstery.

Now, with your boat safely stowed, you can focus on your other toys this winter. Snowmobiles, anyone?

As kids head back to school, let’s keep them safe

The end of summer means many things, such as cooler weather, shorter days and … the start of football here in Ohio!

But most important, it means kids are headed back to school. And that means we all should be extra careful on the roads, in school zones and around buses in Cleveland and Akron. Remember to watch for bikes, too! Here are some tips for both parents and kids to make sure everyone stays safe.

Use caution on the roads

  • There are going to be a lot more kids on the sidewalks and streets when school starts, so take it slow and always be aware of your surroundings. That’s good advice for all situations, of course, but be extra cautious around the times when school starts and ends for the day.
  • Watch out for school zones! They’re usually easy to spot, as many have flashing signs indicating a slower speed limit.
  • Remember to follow school-bus rules. You aren’t allowed to pass the bus on either side of the road when the red lights are flashing. Even when the lights stop, make sure the coast is clear before moving on. Kids can move quickly and erratically.
  • Leave yourself extra time to make it to your destination. Whether you’re headed to work or dropping your child off at school, rushing is a recipe for disaster.
  • Be especially careful in school or child-care parking lots and loading zones!

Teach kids to be safe while walking

Just a few minutes spent explaining some basic safety rules to your child can help keep them safe when they’re walking to or from school. Young children should never cross streets alone, but if your child is old enough to walk with others, remind them to do the following:

  • Always use marked crosswalks when crossing streets and look both ways twice.
  • Do not assume that drivers can see you. Try to make eye contact with them, if possible, when crossing the street.
  • Watch for driveways when walking on the sidewalk.
  • Be aware of cars that are turning or backing up.
  • Never move into the street from behind a car or other obstacle. Don’t chase a ball, pet or anything else into the street.
  • Always use sidewalks and paths. If there is no sidewalk or path, walk facing traffic and as far to the left as possible.

Help them stay safe on their bikes

Just as it’s important to help your children learn safety tips for walking to and from school, it’s important to teach bike safety, especially by setting good examples yourself.

  • Make sure your child wears a properly fitted helmet every time he or she rides a bike.
  • Before the bicycle is ridden, do a quick inspection to ensure it is working properly and reflectors are in place.
  • Show your kids how to ride on the right side of the road with traffic and to stay as far to the right as possible.
  • Encourage your child to walk his or her bike across busy intersections. Or better yet, choose a route without any busy crossroads.
  • Explain to your child why no one should ride on the handlebars.
  • Demonstrate the rules of the road by using proper hand signals and obeying traffic signs when you ride bikes together with your child.
  • Set curfews so your child is not riding a bicycle at dusk or in the dark.
  • Most importantly, supervise your children every time they ride until you are certain they have good judgment.

We know you’re probably familiar with all of these good ideas, but everyone needs reminders. So take it slow, and let’s have a happy and safe school year!