Tips for Handling a Tire Blowout

For many drivers, there is nothing more frightening or potentially dangerous than a tire blowout at almost any speed. While the number of tire-related crashes has dropped dramatically since 2008, when all new vehicles were required to have automatic tire pressure monitoring systems, these numbers still remain high. The stats do not lie, as tire blowouts and flats result in nearly 11,000 collisions and 200 fatalities each year.1

With all the advances in safety standards and technology, why are tire blowouts still such a significant safety issue? One reason may be that since blowouts are now a rarer occurrence, when they do happen, drivers are less prepared to handle them and react properly. When a tire blows out, it can take about ¼ second before your ride suddenly becomes a struggle to avoid an auto accident. How you react can make all the difference in how the situation resolves itself. The first step is staying calm and in control of your vehicle.

What Does a Tire Blowout Sound Like?

Expect to hear three key sounds that may vary depending on your specific situation. First, you may hear a loud boom or bang of the tire popping reverberating through your car. You may then hear a whooshing sound or the sound of the air quickly escaping from the tire, and finally, a repeated flapping or flopping of the deflated tire hitting the road.

What Does a Tire Blowout Feel Like?

When a tire explodes at speed, first you will feel the vehicle slow down, then it will pull strongly to the left or right depending on which tire burst.2 If it was a front tire that burst, you will feel the force mostly within the steering of your vehicle. With a rear tire, you will feel it more in the seat or body of the car. Whether the blowout occurred in the front or back, your response should be the same in either situation.

How to Drive Through a Tire Blowout

According to the National Safety Council and other safety experts, there are some important tips and best practices to remember if you experience a tire blowout.

  • Keep a firm grip on the steering wheel.
  • Do not slam on the brakes.
  • Let your car slow down gradually.
  • Pull to the side of the road once you have slowed to a safe speed.
  • Activate your emergency flashers.3

What to Do After a Tire Blowout

After a blowout, only exit your vehicle if you are certain you are safely off the road and out of harm’s way. Turn your emergency flashers on to alert other drivers, and put out reflective cones or triangles if you have them. If it is not safe to change the tire where you are, or you are unsure how, call for roadside assistance.

Also keep in mind that a spare is only recommended for emergencies and should not be driven for long distances or at high speeds. Take the time to read your owner’s manual to learn where your spare tire and necessary tools are located. Your manual may also provide instructions on how to change a flat tire. It is a good idea to be familiar with these procedures before you get stuck on the side of the road.

How to Prevent a Tire Blowout

The good news is that many tire blowouts are preventable with the proper effort and attention. Most occur from May through October when the road surface is the hottest, resulting from an underinflated tire, excessively worn treads, or an overloaded vehicle. A simple, routine inspection of your tires to check for slow leaks, wear and tear, and proper pressure is important. Keeping your load light, within your vehicle manufacturer’s recommendations (found in the same spot as the recommended tire pressure), can help too.4

Cooking Fire Safety

Cooking has long been and continues to be the most common cause of home structure fires and home fire-related injuries. Whether preparing for a family dinner or a quick snack, practicing safe cooking behaviors can help keep you and your family safe.

  • Never leave your range or cooktop unattended while cooking. If you have to leave the room, turn your range or cooktop off.
  • Wear short, close-fitting or tightly rolled sleeves. Loose clothing can hang down onto hot surfaces and can catch fire if it comes in contact with a gas flame or electric burner.
  • Keep your cooking area clean and free of combustible materials. Food wrappers, oven mitts or other materials left on or near the stove may catch fire.
  • Be sure to clean up any spilled or splattered grease. Built-up grease can catch fire in the oven or on the cooktop.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher readily available. Having an extinguisher nearby is important, but you also need to have the correct type of extinguisher and know how to properly use it.
  • Never throw hot grease in the garbage as it can ignite combustible materials. Be sure to let grease cool and dispose of it in an old can, such as a metal coffee can.
  • Do not store food or other items in your oven. It can be easy to forget there is an item in your oven, and this could catch fire while preheating.

What to Do If a Cooking Fire Flares Up

By exercising caution at all times in your kitchen, you can help reduce the risk of a kitchen fire. But if a fire does flare up, you need to be prepared.

  • Your safety should always come first. If you are unsure about whether it is safe to fight the fire, leave the scene, call 911 for help, and let the fire department control the fire.
  • If a small fire flares up and you are going to attempt to extinguish it, call 911 for help first. A fire may grow out of control more quickly than you anticipate. It is safer to have help already on the way.
  • Smother a grease fire – never throw water on a grease fire. The super-heated water can change to steam, and can cause severe burns. Oil also can splash and spread the fire. If a grease fire starts in a pan, smother the flames by sliding the lid – while wearing an oven mitt – over the pan. If safe to do so, turn off the heat source. Do not move the pan, and keep the lid on until the fire is out and the pan is completely cool.
  • If a fire starts in your oven, keep the door closed and turn off the heat source. Keeping the door closed will help smother the flames. Do not open the door until the flames are completely out.
  • If a fire starts in your microwave, turn off the microwave and do not open it until the fire is completely out. Unplug the microwave only if you can safely do so.cookingfires_large

How to Use a Fire Extinguisher

You should know exactly how to use a fire extinguisher in the event a fire develops and you feel you are safely able to fight it. It is recommended that only those trained in the proper use of fire extinguishers consider using them when appropriate.

Call for help before attempting to extinguish a fire. A fire may grow out of control more quickly than you anticipate. It is wise to have help on the way.

Determine a safe evacuation path before approaching the fire. Do not allow the fire, heat or smoke to come between you and your evacuation path.

Attack the Fire Using the PASS Method:


Pull the pin – by pulling the pin, the operating lever should unlock and allow you to discharge the extinguisher.

Aim low – point the extinguisher hose/nozzle at the base of the fire.

Squeeze the lever – this should discharge the extinguishing agent. Some extinguishers may have a button or other means of activation.

Sweep from side to side – while you are aiming at the base of the fire, you should sweep back and forth until the fire is extinguished. If the fire re-ignites, repeat the process.

Remember Additional Safeguards:

  • Keep your back to an exit so that there is a viable means of retreating from the fire.
  • Stand at least 8 feet from the fire and begin PASS.
  • If the fire does not extinguish immediately, leave the fire.
  • Have the fire department survey the area to ensure the fire has been extinguished and that there are not concealed areas where a fire could be smoldering.
  • If an extinguisher is used (even partially), it needs to be recharged or replaced.

Fire Extinguisher Maintenance

Fire extinguishers should be regularly checked to ensure the following:

  • The extinguisher is not blocked by furniture, doors or anything that may limit access during an emergency;
  • It is properly mounted in the path of an exit and away from heat sources; and
  • The pressure is at the recommended level. Your extinguisher may have a gauge that indicates when the pressure is too high or too low.

6 Essential Travel Tips

Vacations are for reducing stress, not adding to it. Unfortunately, things can happen to make any vacation a stressful experience, no matter how beautiful the locale or destination.

Some things you are not able to control, such as the weather or flight delays. Other things, such as missing documents or stolen credit cards, have the potential to interrupt your fun but do not have to end your vacation if you are prepared.

Before you pack your bags and turn on your email out-of-office message, here are six tips to make your vacation one for the books:

  1. Make Copies of Your ID and Passport: Make two photocopies of your license or passport in case either is lost or stolen. Bring one copy and store it separately from your original, and leave another with a friend or relative. The U.S. Government also offers the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, a free service for U.S. citizens and nationals traveling abroad. The program permits enrollment with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate, which can assist during an emergency such as a lost or stolen passport.
  2. Streamline Your Wallet: Lost wallets are the leading cause of identity theft. Only carry the card(s) you plan to use on your trip, and leave your checkbook and the rest of your cards at home. If you decide to bring more than one credit card, consider stashing the extra, along with account information and customer service numbers for the cards you have with you, in a hotel safe or other secure location.
  3. Check Out Guides: Before you book that zip-lining, parasailing or river rafting trip, check online for any customer reviews. Seeing what others have to say about the company and the excursion can help you choose a safe and well-run adventure.
  4. Travel like a Local: When visiting any location, know your surroundings and plan your route in advance. Be aware of how the locals talk and dress, and consider whether certain actions will make you stand out as a tourist.
  5. Check the Weather: Into every life—and vacation—a little rain must fall, so take steps to protect yourself from lightning, hail, thunderstorms and severe weather by monitoring the local weather and packing the appropriate gear. Also, keep tabs on the weather at home to make sure your property is protected.
  6. Avoid Oversharing Online: Posting photos or checking in on social media sites advertises your absence from home. Real-time updates can be tempting, but wait until you return safely home before sharing your adventures.

Take advantage of your time away to decompress and relax by taking a few steps to help avoid potential problems before you travel.vacationsafety_large

How Crumple Zones Work

This may be a hard concept to accept but, despite what your intuition tells you, you may want a car that crumples. In fact, statistics show that the risk of being killed in a personal motor vehicle on U.S. roads has decreased each year, with the exception of 2012, when fatality and injury rates increased slightly.1 And much of that progress in car safety can be attributed to car design that has evolved from the invention of the crumple zone.2

The Crumple Zone – How Physics Saves Lives

Early designs of car bodies were designed to be rigid without much regard for what happened to the car and its occupants in a crash. The laws of physics dictate that if you are driving at 50 mph, and a crash causes the car to stop immediately, passengers will continue moving at 50 mph. The results can be fatal.

In a crash, crumple zones help transfer some of the car’s kinetic energy into controlled deformation, or crumpling, at impact. This may create more vehicle damage, but the severity of personal injury likely will be reduced. Crumpling allows the vehicle to take a little longer before coming to a stop, in effect lowering the average impact force, and increasing the survival space for the belted passengers. An engineered crumple zone works best in conjunction with a rigid occupant compartment, also known as a safety cage, to minimize potential injuries.

The idea of crumple zones is not new. In 1959, Mercedes-Benz started to manufacture cars designed to absorb impact energy using the concept.3 And with the introduction of safety ratings in the late ‘70s, virtually all manufacturers of passenger cars and light trucks have adopted the design to improve their scores.

Along with crumple zones, other modern design factors and improvements have helped to make cars safer. Seat belts, air bags, head restraints and interior features redesigned to be more flexible, cushioned and rounded all help to minimize injuries and protect drivers and passengers in a crash. In addition, virtually all new passenger cars now come equipped with electronic stability control (ESC), a system that can help detect when a skid is about to occur, and selectively applies brakes to different wheels for driver control. Other new crash avoidance technologies are emerging, such as lane departure and forward collision warning systems, promising to help drivers avoid a collision in the first place.

How to Buy a Safer Car

Whether you intend to buy a new or used car, a little research can help you choose the car that meets all your needs and helps put safety as a priority.

Two respected national organizations, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, have programs to rate vehicles for safety while each organization provides annual ratings of safety performance of automobiles in crashes. In addition, third-party rating organizations can help you make a safer choice.crumplezones_large

Keeping your teen safe on the road.

1 in 6
newly licensed teens will get in a crash within the first 6 months.1

The more you talk
to your kids about safe driving, the safer and more responsible they’ll be behind the wheel.

What to look for:

1 Speeding

Teens tend to drive too fast for road conditions. And are more likely to speed than adults.

If you learn that your kids are speeding, talk to them about why and figure out a solution (or consequence for this kind of behavior) together.

2 Harsh Braking

Teens fail to recognize and respond to hazards.

three cars

The number of car lengths teens should leave between them and the car in front of them.

Remind your kids to constantly scan the road for hazards and keep a safe distance from other cars on the road.

3 Distracted Driving

Teens are 3X more likely to crash or nearly crash while texting.

1 out of 3 teens admit to texting or emailing while driving.


Distracted driving includes:

Reaching for a water bottle

Talking to passengers

Putting on makeup

Putting on makeup

Looking at an accident

Looking at an accident

Looking at the GPS


Changing the radio

Make sure your teen knows distracted driving isn’t just about texting… it’s anything that takes your eyes off the road for more than two seconds.

4 Late Night & Weekend Driving


Weekends claim more teens’ lives than all weekdays combined.5

Teens are more likely to get in an accident between the hours of 9pm and 3am.

Most states have graduated license laws that restrict new drivers from being on the road after a certain time. Know your state’s laws and enforce them with your teens.

5 Drinking and Driving

8% of teens admit to drinking and driving.4

24% admit to riding with a driver who has been drinking.4

24 percent

Even moderate amounts of alcohol (below the legal level) can dramatically increase a teen driver’s risk of a fatal crash. Reinforce that no drinking and driving means no alcohol, period.

6 Too Many Passengers

For each additional teenage passenger, the risk of a teen driver dying in an accident goes up.4

Graduated License laws restrict teen drivers from taking along their friends. Know your state’s laws and consider imposing passenger restrictions of your own until your teen gains more experience.

7 Tips

Now that you know what to look for, here are some tips for successfully talking to your kids about safe driving:
Lead by example: Drive safely when your teen is in the car.
Get involved in your teen’s driving education: Make sure they’re putting in enough hours on the road.
Stay involved: Once your teen has their license, don’t relax the rules too much.
Know and reinforce your state’s GDL laws: They’re proven to help, and in many cases, parents are the laws’ main enforcers.
Be supportive: Take a coaching approach that sets expectations, gives clear instruction and encourages good behavior.
And last but not least, encourage your teen to sign a safe driving contract: Download the Travelers Teen Driving Contract.parentguideines_large

  1. Changes in Collision Rates Among Novice Drivers During the First Months of Driving. Accident Analysis and Prevention. September 2003
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Teen Drivers: Fact Sheet October 2, 2012
  3. Virginia Tech Transportation Institute
  4. Youth Risk Behavior Survey 2011
  5. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Fatality Facts 2011


Car Safety Technology

Our cars are full of many innovative technologies designed to help keep us safe and make driving easier. In fact, vehicle technologies are advancing so quickly, one day our vehicles might just drive themselves.

Here are some of the most notable advances and how they can help make driving safer:

Adaptive Cruise Control

This is the next generation of cruise control. Adaptive cruise control systems can sense vehicles ahead and adjust your speed to keep a safe following distance. Some systems incorporate emergency braking to help slow your vehicle to avoid a collision.

Adaptive Headlights

Designed to help illuminate the road ahead during turns, adaptive headlights can help improve nighttime visibility on curved roads. As you turn, the lights adjust to illuminate the roadway ahead.

Anti-Lock Braking System (ABS)

A requirement for years now, ABS is designed to keep your brakes from locking up when you stop. Even though ABS may not help you stop more quickly, it can help you maintain control of your vehicle when you stop by preventing your wheels from skidding.


This system automatically adjusts your headlights based on your surroundings. For example, if you drive into a tunnel, it turns them on, and once you emerge, it will turn them off again.

Automatic Parking

Once you have placed your vehicle in a position where the automatic parking system can take over, multiple sensors detect obstacles and calculate steering angles while guiding your vehicle into a parking spot.

Backup Camera/Alarm

Backup alarms can help alert you to objects behind you. Backup cameras allow you to see directly behind your vehicle in spots that otherwise might not be seen.

Blind Spot Monitoring

Now you can get a heads up when another car is in your blind spot. Sensors around your vehicle give you a warning when another car is detected. Depending on the vehicle, warnings can be visual, audible or tactile.

Electronic Stability Control (ESC)

This has been around since the late ‘90s, and as of 2012 was required in all newly manufactured vehicles. The system can help detect when a skid is about to occur, or is already occurring, and can help you stay in control by selectively applying the brakes to different wheels.

Forward Collision Warning

This system may use radar, laser or camera sensors to detect when a crash is imminent. Once detected, the system alerts the driver to take action. Some of these systems are capable of braking automatically and preparing for a crash by pre-charging the brakes and tightening seatbelts.

Lane Departure Warning

Lane departure warning systems alert you with a warning if you drift out of your lane.

These technologies, and others yet to be developed, are changing how we drive and helping to make driving safer. No matter how amazing these advances are, though, it is important to remember who is really in the driver’s seat. Use these technologies to help you stay safer on the road. Drive at safe speeds, watch your blind spots and always stay attentive, even if your vehicle has technology designed to help you with these important

Teen Driving Statistics

Consider these sobering statistics on teen driving:

  • Automobile accidents are the number one killer of our nation’s youth.
  • Drivers under the age of 20 were involved in 13% of all accidents, yet they account for only 5% of all drivers.
  • 5,000 teenagers die each year from auto accidents.
  • Alcohol is responsible for almost half of all teen motor vehicle deaths.
  • 25% of all teen accidents involve speeding.
  • Half of all teenage traffic fatalities occur between 6:00 p.m. Friday and 3:00 a.m. Sunday.
  • In one year, drivers 19 and under were involved in close to 3 million motor vehicle accidents.
  • The price of a bad decision can include injury to yourself or others, loss of life, loss of life style or loss of personal freedom. soberingstatistics_large
Source: Insurance Information Institute;

Keeping Your Teen Driver Safe

The first years teenagers spend as drivers are very risky. In fact, teen drivers have the highest death rates of any age group, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

While getting a drivers license is an exciting rite-of-passage for teens, it can be enough to make a parent frantic. Here are some steps parents can take help their teens be safe:

  • Pick a safe car. You and your teenager should choose a car that is easy to drive and would offer protection in the event of a crash. Avoid small cars and those with high performance images that might encourage speed and recklessness. Trucks and sport utility vehicles (SUVs) should also be avoided, since they are more prone to rollovers.
  • Understand your state’s teenage driving laws. Many states have specific restrictions on teenage driving, often referred to as Graduated Drivers License laws. You should understand your state’s restrictions and the quality of those restrictions before your teenage begins driving: Governors Highway Safety Association and Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
  • Have your teen take a certified driver’s education course. A teenager who has learned to drive through a recognized driver’s education course may be viewed more favorably by insurers. In some states, teens must take a driver’s education course if they want to get a license at age 16; otherwise, they have to wait until they are 18. The more driving practice they have, the more confident your teen will be behind the wheel, and the better able to react to challenging situations on the road.
  • Enroll your teen in additional safe driver programs. There are many additional “safe driver” programs that can provide additional assistance for teenage drivers. Check in your community, with your child’s school or with your insurance company to find such programs—if your teenager completes the program, you may be eligible for additional insurance discounts. In addition, some insurers now offer discounts for parents and teens who install tracking devices in the car. Parents can monitor and provide coaching on their children’s driving with a small global positioning system (GPS) device fastened to the dashboard. The GPS is connected to a website that lets parents set limits on their children’s driving. For example, if the car goes over a certain speed, or ventures too far from home or school, the parents will automatically receive a message.
  • Talk to your teen about the dangers of combining driving with alcohol, drugs, lack of sleep and distractions. Teach your children about the dangers of drinking and driving, and other distractions. Accidents occur each year because a teen driver was driving while drinking, using a cellphone, text messaging, playing with the radio or CD controls, or talking to friends in the backseat. Also, teens should be careful not to create distractions and to exhibit safe behavior when they are passengers in their friends’ cars.
  • Be a good role model. New drivers learn by example, so if you drive recklessly, your teenage driver may imitate you. Always wear your seatbelt and never drink and drive.parentguideines_large

Space Heater Safety Tips

In order to save money in the colder months, many people opt to use a space heater to heat one room rather than heat the entire structure. Regardless of your plan, it is important to be cautious. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) estimates that nearly 18,000 residential fires every year are associated with the use of room (space) heaters.*

Space Heater Selection

Before purchasing a space heater, it is important to consider how it will be used. Will it be used for supplemental heat in colder rooms or other areas, or will it be used for emergency heat? As a general rule of thumb, electric space heaters are typically safer than portable fuel-burning models (e.g. natural gas, propane, kerosene.)

Remember to choose a unit that is listed or labeled by a nationally recognized testing laboratory such as UL (Underwriters Laboratories), CSA (Canadian Standards Association) or ETL (Intertek). This will ensure that the heater’s construction and performance meet voluntary safety standards.

Also, look for specific safety features that will shut the unit off under certain conditions. These can include:

  • Overheating
  • Low oxygen levels (aka oxygen depletion sensor)
  • Tip-over switch
  • Touch sensor (if the grill is touched)

Setup and Use

When setting up a space heater, remember to keep it at least 36 inches from any flammable or combustible materials and place it on the floor, unless it is designed otherwise.

Areas where space heaters are used should be free of flammable liquids. Do not put them on easily ignitable or combustible surfaces, such as rugs or carpets, or use them to dry wet clothing.

When using a fuel-fired space heater in an enclosed area, it is a good idea to leave a window or door partially open to allow for fresh air to enter. This will help prevent carbon monoxide (CO) buildup or a depletion of oxygen. Never take a gas-fired or kerosene heater into a confined space as the results could be deadly.

All unvented fuel-fired heaters manufactured after 1983 should be equipped with an oxygen depletion sensor (ODS). The ODS will shut off a heater if it detects a reduced level of oxygen in the area where the heater is being used.

For natural gas or propane-fired space heaters, remember the following safety tips:

  • If you smell gas, do not attempt to light the space heater. Turn off all controls, open a window or door and leave the area.
  • Remember that, unlike natural gas, propane is heavier than air and does not dissipate rapidly. If you smell gas, do not touch any electrical switches or use an electrical appliance, radio or telephone in the area you smell gas. Do not smoke. A spark could ignite the gas.

Electric heaters should be kept out of wet or moist places like bathrooms as water could lead to a fire or shock hazard. Also, be sure to plug electric space heaters directly into an outlet since using extension cords could result in overheating and fire.

Be sure to clean your space heater regularly, and follow your manufacturer’s guide for specific advice on maintenance and