Tips to Check Tire Tread

Tire problems are thought to be a factor in one out of 11 vehicle crashes.1 Blowouts, tread separation, under inflation, and worn treads—the grooves in your tires that offer stability and traction—are some of the tire problems associated with these crashes.

Like a pair of sneakers that get more slippery with use, your tires lose their ability to grip the road as their treads wear down. Checking your tire treads can help keep you safer on the road. It only takes a few minutes, and some spare change.

Putting the Brakes on an Age-Old Debate About When to Replace Tires

Many people think only worn tires need to be replaced. That is certainly true. But old tires are also a concern. As tires age, they become more prone to failure, whether they have been used or not.

Replacing tires when they are between 6 and 10 years old is recommended by some manufacturers.2 That goes for the spare in your trunk, too. You can use the last four digits of the Tire Identification Number (TIN) on the wall of your tire to help determine the age of your tire (e.g., 2613 means the tire was manufactured in the 26th week of 2013).3

But age is not the only factor. Tread matters too. A worn tire can be just as dangerous, or even more so, than one that is simply old. In one study, vehicles with shallower treads (less than 2/32″ deep) were 3 times more likely to experience pre-crash tire troubles than those with deeper treads.4

While the minimum safe tire tread depth is 2/32″, consider replacing your tires at the 4/32″ mark, especially if you drive in rainy and snowy conditions. A recent Consumer Reports study of tires worn down to half of their original tread depth (about 5/32″) found increased risk of hydroplaning, longer stop time in the rain, and reduced snow traction.5

Luckily, you can test your treads using spare change:

Take a penny and place it in multiple grooves around your tires. If the top of Lincoln’s head is always covered, you have more than 2/32″ of tread remaining. If you can see all of Lincoln’s head, it is time to replace your tires.6

For an added measure of safety, consider replacing your tires at 4/32″. The extra tread can help your tires handle water and snow more effectively. Using a quarter, your tires have more than 4/32″ tread if the top of Washington’s head is always covered.

Basic checks like these take just a few minutes and can help save lives. So put that change in your pocket to good use to help keep you safe.tireblowout_medium

How to Protect Your Car From Theft

Technology has helped to change auto theft in significant ways. Engine immobilizers, audible alarms and vehicle recovery systems have made cars harder to steal and easier to recover. Today’s thefts are often the product of opportunity, with would-be thieves looking for unsuspecting drivers who leave their cars unattended.

While motor vehicle theft rates have declined 42% over the past decade,¹  a car is still stolen every 44 seconds in the United States.² Between 40-50% of thefts are due to driver error,³ including doors that are left unlocked or keys that are left in plain sight.

In order to help protect your vehicle from a crime of opportunity, you need to take some preliminary steps to slow down any potential thieves. Try to avoid parking in places where a thief will have time to bypass the ignition system. And even if you are running a quick errand, always lock and set the alarm on your car. Be sure to bring inviting items, including your keys, phone, GPS, laptop, and wallet with you, or stow them out of sight.

Safety specialist Chris Hayes and our Special Investigations Unit offered these additional tips to help prevent your vehicle from becoming a target.

Stow Valuables Before You Park

Many thieves watch parking lots looking for people who leave valuables in their cars.  Stow valuables out of sight before you park so not to attract the attention of thieves.

Park in Plain Sight

Always remember to park your car in a safe and visible location. Thieves will act even in broad daylight if they can find cover. Look for well-lit areas and open, unblocked spaces when you park.

Do Not Leave Your Vehicle Unattended While Idling

Even if you are just making a brief stop, always take your keys with you. Thieves tend to frequent convenience store parking lots and gas stations, where people may leave their cars running and keys in the ignition. During cold weather, it might be tempting to let your vehicle idle to warm up. This makes an inviting target for car thieves.

Hide All Electronic Cords

Avoid unintentional visual tips for thieves, which include leaving chargers for phones and gadgets as well as holsters for navigational equipment in plain sight.

Take Precautions and Make Tracing Your Car Easier

When leaving your car, lock all doors, roll up the windows and remove the keys. If you have one, activate the alarm and set the parking brake. Install wheel locks to prevent theft of wheels and tires. Consider an after-market steering wheel/brake lock if you are in a high-crime area. Having your vehicle’s VIN etched on all windows can also help deter thieves.

If You Believe Your Car was Stolen:

  • Verify that it was actually stolen and not parked or moved by someone else with access to your vehicle.
  • Call the police.
  • If you have a vehicle recovery device or vehicle assistance plan or system, contact the company to activate the locator.
  • Notify your agent or insurance company.autotheft_large

Staying Safe in Work Zone Traffic

Roadwork can be frustrating, but it is a necessary fact of life for all drivers, whether you drive for a living, commute on a regular basis or run the occasional errand.

Delays and frustrations brought on by traffic jams caused by roadwork can make even the calmest person impatient. And that can be dangerous in a work zone: In 2014, auto accidents in work zones resulted in 669 fatalities and about 30,500 injuries.1

Driving in work zones does not have to be a stressful experience, though. Being mindful of those around you—both workers and other vehicles—can increase the safety of everyone on the road.

If your driving route includes work zones, here are a few things to keep in mind to help promote maximum safety and minimum stress. When entering a work zone:

  • Be prepared for the unexpected: Situations can change quickly in work zones. Traffic could slow or stop unexpectedly, traffic lanes can merge, or equipment and workers can enter the roadway. Be aware and be prepared.
  • Slow down: More than one-third of fatal accidents in work zones are caused by speeding.1 Obey the posted speed limit, even if you do not see any work currently in progress.
  • Obey road crew flaggers and road signs: Flaggers and warning signs are there to help all drivers move safely through the work zone.
  • Keep a safe following distance: Rear-end collisions account for 30% of work zone accidents.1 Keep a safe distance between you and other cars, construction workers and equipment to help avoid accidents.

Once you are in a work zone, it is important to maintain a safe speed and keep your eyes—and ears—focused on what is going on around you. Specifically:

  • Stay alert and focused: Your full attention should be on the road. Never multitask while driving, especially through a work zone, where activity is happening all around you.
  • Keep up with traffic: Do not slow down to watch the roadwork, or you may cause an accident.

The safest—and least-stressful—plan is to avoid work zones altogether. Consider the following tips:

  • Plan ahead: Before hitting the road, check traffic reports for any delays. Some smartphone map apps now offer real-time traffic information, including accidents and construction zones.
  • Leave early: If you know you will have to drive through a work zone, give yourself a few extra minutes to reach your destination on time.
  • Be patient: While roadwork can be an inconvenience, remember that the crews are working to improve roads and make everyone’s drive safer.

With a little foresight—and a lot of patience—driving through a work zone can be safe and stress-free for everyone on the road, drivers and workers.workzone_large

5 Teen Texting and Driving Tips

Your teen receives a text. Thumbs flash, head bends forward, eyes only on the tiny screen in hand; the urge to connect, nearly irresistible.It is hard to imagine your teen (or any other teen) not responding.   But that is exactly what young drivers must do to help stay safe on the road.

Considering teens’ desire for constant connection, that is not always happening. And the results are often tragic. In 2010, 11% of young drivers in fatal crashes were distracted; of that number, nearly one out of five were using cell phones, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Here are five things that you can do to help prevent your teen from texting:

  1. Accept that your teen driver is more likely to text than an adult, and will do so in more risky situations, according to research from Virginia Tech Transportation Institute.
  2. Know the facts about the effect of texting. It may only take a driver’s eyes off the road for a few seconds, but that is the equivalent of traveling the length of a football field at 55 MPH without looking at the road, increasing the risk of crashing or nearly crashing 23 times, according to research from Virginia Tech Transportation Institute.
  3. Adopt a “coaching approach” to share these facts in regular conversations with your teen about their overall driving. Provide clear instruction, expectations and support. And consider putting it all in writing in a simple, parent-teen contract.
  4. Consider technology that can be installed in your vehicles to help you coach your teen to become a safer driver. The technology can help you learn about your teen’s driving habits. Some provide feedback when a driver brakes harshly – often the mark of a texting driver, suddenly refocusing on the road and spotting the rapidly approaching bumper of the car in front of them.
  5. And do not text while you are driving.textingandteens_large

Distracted Driving Statistics

A recent study from the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute found that manual-visual tasks associated with hand-held devices, such as reaching for the phone or dialing, increased the risk of getting into a crash by three times. The study also reported that even hands-free devices involve manual-visual tasks at least half the time, which is associated with a greater crash risk.

Are you fully aware of all the statistics behind distracted driving, whether those distractions are cognitive or visual? Read and share the infographic below with friends and family to see how much distracted driving puts you and others on the road at risk.

distracted-driving-statistics-infographic

 

 

 

 

 

 

Choosing Safe Cars for Teens

If your teenager has just gotten a driver’s license, it may be hard to imagine handing over the keys to your brand new car, but that may be the smartest vehicle to choose.

However, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) say there is something worried parents can do to protect their teens — choose a safe vehicle.

  • Avoid vehicles that encourage reckless driving. Teen drivers not only lack experience, but may also lack maturity. As a result, speeding and reckless driving are common. When you are picking a vehicle for your teen, avoid sports cars or other vehicles with high performance features that could encourage speeding or other reckless driving.
  • Do not let your teen drive an unstable vehicle. Sport utility vehicles, especially the smaller ones, are inherently less stable than cars because of their higher centers of gravity. Abrupt steering maneuvers — the kind that can occur when teens are distracted or over-correcting a driver error — can be more likely to cause rollovers. A more stable car would, at worst, skid or spin out.
  • Pick a vehicle that offers good crash protection. Teenagers should drive vehicles that offer state-of-the-art protection in case they do crash.
  • Do not let your teen drive a small vehicle. Small vehicles offer much less protection in crashes than larger ones. However, this does not mean you should put your child in the largest vehicle you can find. Many mid- and full-size cars offer more than adequate crash protection. Check out the safety ratings for mid-size and larger cars.
  • Avoid older vehicles. Most of today’s cars are better designed for crash protection than cars of six to ten years ago. For example, a newer, mid-size car with airbags would be a better choice than an older, larger car without airbags. Before you make a final choice on the car your teenager will drive, consult the U.S. Department of Transportation or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.choosingsafecarforteen_large_image

3-Second Rule for Safe Following Distance

Rear-end collisions are the most common accidents between vehicles.1 They occur when drivers do not have enough time to perceive and react safely to slowing or stopped traffic. Increasing your following distance can help give you time to react when someone brakes in front of you.

Increasing the distance between you and the car ahead can help give you the time you need to recognize a hazard and respond safely. The National Safety Council recommends a minimum three-second following distance.2

Determining the three-second gap is relatively easy. When following a vehicle, pick an overhead road sign, a tree or other roadside marker. Note when the vehicle ahead passes that marker, then see how many seconds it takes (count 1-1,000; 2-1,000; 3-1,000) for you to pass the same spot. If it is not at least three seconds, leave more space and increase your following distance.

Think of following distance in terms of time, not space. With a standard of 2.5 seconds, highway engineers use time, rather than distance, to represent how long it takes a driver to perceive and react to hazards. The National Safety Council also uses this standard (plus a little extra for safety) when recommending the three-second rule for following distance.2

Sometimes Three Seconds Is Not Enough

The three-second rule is recommended for passenger vehicles during ideal road and weather conditions. Slow down and increase your following distance even more during adverse weather conditions or when visibility is reduced. Also increase your following distance if you are driving a larger vehicle or towing a trailer.

Distractions, such as texting, reaching for a drink or glancing at a navigation device, also play a role in rear-end collisions. Even if you use the three-second rule, you may not have time to react to a hazard if you are distracted. It is another reason why you should avoid distractions while driving.hazardperceptiontestbooklet-29-2

Snowbirds: Winterize Your Home While You’re Away

snowbird_largeIf you are a snowbird heading south for the winter, there are several key things you can do to help protect your vacant home. Taking these steps can help protect your home from theft, water damage, heating or electrical system malfunctions and other possible threats while you are away for an extended period of time.

1. Make Your Home Appear as Though It Is Continuously Occupied

  • Forward your mail, stop newspaper delivery, and ask a friend or relative to collect flyers or other items that may be left at your door.
  • Arrange for someone to remove snow after storms.
  • Put motion-sensitive exterior lights and interior lights on timers and set them to come on at varying times to discourage prowlers.

2. Take Steps to Protect Your Home from Thieves

  • Confirm that your alarm systems are in working order and have been activated.
  • Secure external doors and windows with deadbolt locks, security-type hinges and sturdy door frames that cannot be spread apart. Install slide locks or other equivalent security locks on sliding glass doors or French doors.
  • Store valuables that you are not taking with you in a safe deposit box or other secure offsite location.
  • Do not post your vacation or travel plans on social media sites, as potential thieves can use that information to learn that your house is vacant.

3. Protect Your Pipes to Avoid Water Damage by Turning Off Your Water Supply

  • If a pipe bursts or leaks while you are away, it could cause significant damage. Consider completely turning off the water supply if no one will be in the home for an extended period of time. If your home is heated by an older steam heating system, consult with your heating professional to determine if it is safe to turn off the water supply for your particular heating system. Also, if your home is protected by a fire sprinkler system, do not turn off the water to this system.
  • Drain your pipes of all water by opening the faucets, and flush your toilet to clear the water from the tank and bowl, then consider pouring antifreeze in toilet tanks and bowls to prevent any remaining water from freezing and cracking.* Always use non-toxic antifreeze rated for plumbing systems.
  • To help confirm that the pipes have been drained, consider having a plumber blow compressed air through the pipes.

4. Keep Your Home and Plumbing Warm if Your Water Supply Stays On

  • If you decide against draining your water pipes, keep the furnace running to help ensure the home stays warm and the pipes do not freeze.
  • Set the temperature at 55°F or higher to help keep the interior of the floor and wall cavities, where the water piping is likely located above freezing temperatures. Keeping room and cabinet doors open also helps heat to circulate and warm the areas where pipes are located.
  • Shut off the water to washing machines and dishwashers where possible, to avoid any leaks or broken hoses while you are away.
  • Turn off the heat source and water supply to hot water heaters (if separate from your boiler).
  • Consider shutting off and draining outdoor water faucets to prevent vandalism and freezing damage.
  • Have a water flow sensor and low temperature sensor installed on your main water supply pipe and hooked into a constantly monitored alarm system or your smart phone.

5. Perform Routine Maintenance Before You Leave

  • Have your heating system inspected and serviced before winter. Have your fuel tanks filled before you leave, and ask someone to check on heat and fuel levels regularly while you are gone.
  • Be sure to maintain electrical power if required to keep the heating system running. If electrical service to the home is to remain on, consider having a licensed electrical contractor inspect your main electrical panel, wiring and outlets, if necessary. This way, they can repair or replace anything that may be defective.
  • Have your roof inspected before you leave and clean your gutters to help prevent ice from building up.*
  • Remove dead trees or large overhanging limbs that could damage your house.
  • Unplug all unnecessary appliances before you leave. Make sure you can retrieve messages on your home answering machine or voicemail so it does not indicate FULL or unattended when someone calls.

6. Make Your Home Unattractive to Pests

  • Clean your home thoroughly to help discourage new “residents” from moving in.
  • Clean, defrost and unplug refrigerators and freezers, wiping them dry and leaving doors propped open to prevent mildew. Also clean the oven.
  • Inspect your home for openings that animals could use to enter. For example, make sure your fireplace flue is closed, as bats, birds and squirrels are known to get inside this way.
  • Check weather-stripping, insulation and exterior doors and windows to ensure no major deficiencies are present. Water and insects can enter through these openings.
  • Chimneys should be inspected by a chimney service and, if necessary, cleaned to ensure that they are free from obstructions such as nesting birds. Install chimney guard screen-caps to help prevent any infestation.

7. Be Ready for Emergencies

  • Notify the police department that the property will be vacant, and provide emergency notification numbers.
  • Install smoke detectors on at least every floor (preferably tied to a constantly monitored fire alarm system so the fire department will automatically be notified in case of alarm), and confirm that the sensors and system are tested regularly.
  • In higher wind-exposed or coastal areas, install storm shutters (or other mitigation measures, such as 5/8” marine plywood) to secure windows. Properly anchor personal property that will remain outdoors.
  • Ask a trusted friend, neighbor or relative to keep an eye on your home and be available in emergency situations. Give them access to your home so they can regularly monitor heating, electrical and water systems.
  • If the weather turns frigid, have them also check the roof for ice dams and inspect for leaks inside. Make sure they have your contact information and a list of local contractors they can reach if repairs or service are needed.

Share the Road

We have all encountered scenarios in which other drivers make us shake our heads. People often are quick to accuse other drivers of being reckless, but if pressed, they may admit to sometimes driving recklessly themselves. If unsafe driving is everyone’s problem, what is the solution?

Our safety professionals have put together three tips that can help make sharing the road safer while getting from point A to B.

Assume You are Invisible

It can be easy to assume everyone else on the road is paying attention, following traffic laws, and can see you clearly. However, that is not always the case. Next time you are expecting another driver to respect your right-of-way or let you merge into another lane, do not assume they are on the same page.

Avoid Competitive Driving

Whenever you are on the road, resist the urge to drive competitively. Instead, go with the flow and drive defensively. See yourself as part of a community of drivers – all trying to get to your destinations safely. Your improved driving behavior may rub off on others and help create safer conditions for everyone on the road.

Control Your Emotions

It may be easy to react to aggressive driving by becoming aggressive yourself. But taking the high road is often the best route. Someone cuts you off? Take a deep breath and just let it roll off your back.

Here are some ways to help prevent your emotions from getting the best of you on the roadway:

  • Be patient when traffic delays slow you down.
  • Keep a safe following distance behind other vehicles. You never know when someone may stop short.
  • Avoid confronting aggressive drivers—be polite and courteous, even if others are not.
  • Use your turn signals and leave plenty of room when turning or changing lanes.sharingtheroad_large

Do You Have Enough Coverage to Rebuild Your Home?

Imagine how devastating it would be to lose your home in a fire. Now imagine not being able to rebuild it completely because you didn’t have the correct amount of insurance.

Selecting the proper amount of coverage is the single most important decision you can make with your Homeowners policy. Without it, you may not have enough coverage to rebuild after a total loss. This is called “insurance to value.” Below are some explanations and tips to help you make the right choices for your needs — and remember, if you need help, we’re just a phone call away.

What is insurance to value?

Insurance to value is the relationship between the amount of coverage selected (typically listed as “Coverage A” or “Dwelling Coverage” on your policy declarations page) and the amount required to rebuild your home. Insuring your home for anything less than 100% insurance to value could mean you wouldn’t have enough coverage to replace your home in the event of a total loss.

Why is the cost to rebuild different from the market value?

A home’s market value reflects current economic conditions, taxes, school districts, the value of the land and location, and other factors unrelated to construction cost. The cost to rebuild your home is based only on the cost of materials and labor in your area. It is important that you insure your home based on its reconstruction cost, NOT its current market value

Why is reconstruction more expensive than new construction?

New-home builders typically build many homes at once, and solicit bids from various sub-contractors to receive the best pricing. Their business model is based on economies of scale. For example, they may purchase 20 bathtubs at once, securing a lower unit cost. These economies of scale don’t exist when building a single home.

How can I make sure I have the correct amount of insurance?

Work with your agent to provide detailed information at time of purchase to be sure that you receive a thorough and accurate quote.

Ask us about additional coverage options that may be available.Review your insurance to value calculation on a regular basis with your agent.Tell your agent about any changes or improvements that you make to your home.dreamstime_s_23224200