Booster Seats – When, Why and How

Booster Seats – When, Why and How

Booster seats were designed for that critical time when a child has outgrown their car seat but isn’t yet tall or heavy enough to be safe in a seat belt alone.

Here’s a primer on the different booster types, tips for buying and installing one, and help on determining when it’s safe to transition your child out of the booster for good.

 

Booster Seat Types

There are 4 types of boosters, differentiated by your child’s needs and also your preferred functionality.

Backless Booster Seat – Boosts the child’s height so that the seat belt fits properly. Best for cars that have headrests.

Booster Seat with High Back – Like the first seat type, this raises the child’s height so as to ensure a proper seat belt fit, but it provides neck and head support.

Combination Seat – Accommodates a child’s growth by transitioning from a forward-facing seat with a harness into a booster.

All-in-One Seat – Like the combination seat, this one transitions as well, but goes from rear-facing seat, to forward-facing, and finally to a booster.

Whatever style you choose, make sure the seat has a guide for your car’s shoulder belt, so that it lies across their torso correctly. Also, make sure the guide allows the belt to retract easily. Some seats have clips, wings, and even adjustable bases, all of which further tailor to your child’s height/weight and the specifics of your vehicle.

Learn more about seat types at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) page.

 

 

Tips on Buying and Installing

Buying a booster seat

  • Always buy new, as used seats may not fit your child correctly or could even be unsafe.
  • If your child weighs less than 40 lbs, a combination seat may be your best bet.
  • Avoid seats with a reclining feature as they can put your child at an increased risk of injury in an accident.

Installing the seat

  • Like car seats, boosters should only be installed in the back seat.
  • The safest spot is in the center of the rear seat — which best protects against side-impact crashes — but only if your vehicle has a lap and shoulder belt in the center. If there’s only a lap belt, put the seat on the passenger side so you can better see your child from the driver’s seat.
  • If using a combination seat, use the anchoring system. This is called the LATCH system, short for Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children.
  • Use the seat’s belt-positioning clips if it came with them. They ensure that the belt crosses your child’s chest correctly.
  • Check out these videos by the NHTSA for instructions on properly installing high-back boosters, backless boosters, combination boosters, and all-in-one boosters.

 

 

A Checklist: When Can They Graduate Out of a Booster?

According to the NHTSA, more than 25% of kids aged 4 to 7 are transitioned out of a booster seat too soon. The organization recommends that children continue using a booster until they’re at least 4 feet 9 inches tall AND 8 to 12 years old. They should also have outgrown the seat manufacturer’s weight and height recommendations.

If you can answer “yes” to all of the below when your child is sitting on the vehicle seat, then they can move from a booster to seat belts only.

  • Is their back flat against the seat back?
  • Do their knees comfortably bend at the seat’s edge?
  • Does the shoulder belt lie between their neck and shoulder?
  • Does the lap belt lie against their hip bones/tops of thighs?
  • Can they remain comfortable for the whole trip? (i.e. without fidgeting, sliding, or pushing the belt out of position)

We know that boosters can be a hassle and that you’re probably fielding the “Do I still have to use the booster seat?” question a few times a week — but hang in there! Graduating your child when they’re actually ready to leave the booster is much safer for your precious cargo — and may be closer than you think.

 

Booster seats? Check. Need tips on car seats? Check out our blog post here.

 

 

This article is furnished by California Casualty, providing auto and home insurance to educators, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and nurses. Get a quote at 1.866.704.8614 or www.calcas.com.

 

7 Top Defensive Driving Techniques

7 Top Defensive Driving Techniques

Labor Day weekend marks the unofficial end of summer – celebrated across the country with boating trips, long camping weekends, and backyard grilling and pool parties. But it also marks one of the year’s deadliest times on the road.

If you and your family are planning to travel by car this holiday weekend, use these defensive driving techniques to stay safe out there.

 

7 Principles of Defensive Driving

 

1. Be aware of your surroundings – Avoid tunnel vision, making sure to keep track of any pedestrians, bicycles, motorcycles, or cars around you. Maintain an awareness of the road in front and behind, as you’re susceptible to the ripple effects of traffic events such as rear-endings, collisions, and other unexpected road emergencies. Also, stay alert to the weather — rainy, snowy, icy, foggy, and windy conditions can change from minute to minute.

2. Anticipate bad moves by other drivers – Assume other drivers are going to do the wrong thing. For example: turning without signaling, changing lanes into a blind spot, or crossing multiple lanes to make the off-ramp. Most of the time, they won’t make the dangerous move, but if they do, you’ll be prepared.

3. Avoid distractions – Distracted driving comes in 3 flavors: visual, manual, and cognitive.  The first takes your eyes off the road; the second, your hands off the wheel; and the third, your mind off the road. Cellphones, passengers, snacking, daydreaming and GPS controls are common culprits. Before you set off on the road, make sure your phone’s tucked away, food’s already eaten, and kids are strapped in and occupied. Stay focused on the road while driving and remember you can always pull over if you need to.

4. Leave yourself an out – Especially on busy highways, try not to get boxed in by cars on all sides. Always leave yourself an out in case you need to move to safety quickly. For instance, if your tire blows, a deer jumps out in front of you, you encounter debris on the road or the car in front of you collides with another, you may have to change lanes, pull over or reduce speed – fast.

5. Be seen – One of the most dangerous places on the road is in another driver’s blind spot. Always position yourself where you can be seen. Use your headlights from 30 minutes after sunset until 30 minutes before sunrise, and when posted signs require them. Also know that if your car’s color doesn’t stand out, other drivers may not see you easily. Position yourself strategically and remember you can always use your horn as a last defense.

6. Follow the laws – Control your speed and follow all traffic laws. Knowing right-of-way rules will keep you safer at every intersection. Maintain safe distances from other vehicles and don’t tailgate. Finally, make sure you and your passengers wear seat belts at all times. By following the rules of the road, you can proactively reduce the chances of getting into an accident.

7. Expect the unexpected – In the spirit of principle #2, remember that anything can happen at any time on the road. And when it comes to car accidents, it’s often the unexpected that’s the catalyst for a crash. For this reason, the best offense is defense — and solid defensive driving skills.

You can’t control road conditions, weather, or random chance, but you can control how you react to all of them. Make safety a matter of habit, and always respect other drivers and the law.

Finally, consider defensive driving courses – either for you or your young driver. No matter the driver’s experience level, these courses are designed to help drivers anticipate situations and make safe, well-informed decisions.

 

This article is furnished by California Casualty, providing auto and home insurance to educators, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and nurses. Get a quote at 1.866.704.8614 or www.calcas.com.

Do I Need to Insure My Boat Year-Round?

Do I Need to Insure My Boat Year-Round?

If you’re like most boat owners, you probably only use your boat a few months out of the year. And after all those summer trips are done, and your boat’s cleaned up and ready for storage, you might be tempted to cancel the insurance.

After all, if your boat won’t even be on the water, why would you need coverage?

Turns out, there are some compelling reasons to keep your insurance throughout the year, not the least of which is that it can actually save you money in the long run. Here are 4 top reasons.

1. Accidents Don’t Have an Offseason

More than half of the claims are filed for accidents that occur between September and January. The majority of those are for theft, vandalism, fire, and flooding. Boats are typically unattended during this time, which increases accident risk. When you carry boat insurance, these claims are covered by comprehensive coverage, costing far less than out-of-pocket payments would for repair and replacement in the event of an insurance lapse.

 

2. It May Be Required

If your boat is financed by a lender, you may be obligated to carry insurance year-round. Even if you own your boat outright, some marinas may require boats on the premises to be insured.

 

3. Don’t Count on Your Homeowner’s Policy

Many boat owners assume that damage to their boat is covered under their homeowner’s policy. Most times this isn’t the case, as the boat would probably only be protected if damage occurred while on the covered property. And even then, a homeowner’s policy might not fully cover the damage and/or leave the owner with coverage gaps (for example, many homeowners policies have length and horsepower limits that apply to boats). Boat insurance policies are crafted to meet specific needs and protect against risks inherent to boating.

 

4. It Makes Financial Sense

Depending on your insurer, signing up for a full 12-month policy can make you eligible for discounts or loyalty benefits, saving you money over the long term. Also keep in mind that many insurers already adjust the off-season monthly premiums to be lower than the on-season ones, so an annual policy, in the end, does offer better protection dollar for dollar than one for just several months. And don’t forget that as your boat ages you may find it more difficult to secure insurance if you cancel your policy. Finally, if you insure your boat with the same company as your car or homeowner’s insurance, you can most likely get a multiple policy discount.

Just as with homeowners and car insurance, a policy protecting your boat against damage and liability not only provides peace of mind but is a wise financial decision. And given the risks specific to boats, choosing a year-round policy is even smarter.

 

 

This article is furnished by California Casualty, providing auto and home insurance to educators, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and nurses. Get a quote at 1.866.704.8614 or www.calcas.com.

The 10 Worst Things You Can Do to Your Car

The 10 Worst Things You Can Do to Your Car

Routine keep up and maintenance will prevent breakdowns and help keep your car in good working condition for years, but when you put off signs of trouble or little things like appointments to get your oil changed, you risk a break down every time you get behind the wheel.

Not taking care of your vehicle can also cause major internal damage which could end up costing you thousands of dollars in repairs.

Yahoo has created a list based on a survey given to mechanics on The Ten Worst Things You Can Do to Your Car. Here were the results.

 

1. Putting off routine maintenance – This includes: checking your battery and brakes, aligning your tires, getting your oil changed, etc.

 

2. Ignoring the check engine light – The check engine light is the generic indicator that something is wrong with your vehicle and you should take it to a licensed mechanic.

 

3. Not changing the oil – When you don’t change your oil it can cause poor engine performance or even complete engine failure.

 

4. Failing to check tire pressure – Even with new tires, you will lose about one PSI every month. Poorly or overinflated tires could lead to a blowout and/or accident. You should continue to check and fill them monthly as needed.

 

5. Ignoring transmission, brake, coolant, and other fluid services – These fluids all play a part in making sure your vehicle is functioning properly.

 

6. Continuing to drive an overheated vehicle – This can easily lead to an engine fire and completely total your vehicle and/or cause series injuries to the driver.

 

7. Not changing fuel and air filters – Not changing these filters will degrade your vehicle’s performance and cause wear and tear on the engine.

 

8. Having someone unqualified service the vehicle – Don’t fall victim to cheap parts and faulty repairs. Look at reviews and make sure your mechanic or repair shop is properly licensed.

 

9. Using generic aftermarket parts and not manufacturer quality parts – When you use generic parts, you do not know if they have been properly inspected. This could lead to more issues in the future.

 

10. Trying to service your own vehicle – Although you may know how to do a few things yourself, when you take your vehicle to a professional, you can receive a full service and they will inspect and make sure everything in your vehicle is functioning properly and suggest needed maintenance/repairs.

 

Are you guilty of any? If so, it’s probably time to take your car to the mechanic before it’s too late.

Make sure your vehicle is covered, under the hood and on the road. Speak with a California Casualty representative today to review your auto policy so you can have peace of mind the next time you get behind the wheel. Click here or call 1.800.800.9410.

 

 

This article is furnished by California Casualty, providing auto and home insurance to educators, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and nurses. Get a quote at 1.866.704.8614 or www.calcas.com.

 

Intersections 101: Who has the Right of Way?

Intersections 101: Who has the Right of Way?

While there may be fewer people on the road these days, there is an increase in reckless and dangerous driving, resulting in more accidents — and sadly, fatalities.

Even for the best driver, intersections are some of the most dangerous places on the road. It’s really no surprise, though, given all the commotion concentrated in a small space: vehicles crossing each other’s paths, signals, signs, honking, merging lanes, pedestrians and bicyclists. Add in the all-too-common confusion many drivers experience around right-of-way, and you have a recipe for a fender bender or worse.

By brushing up on the traffic rules for intersections, you can feel more confident in safely maneuvering them. Here are some simple right-of-way reminders, listed by intersection type.

 

A Four-Way Stop

This is the most common type of intersection, where two roadways cross each other.

    • Yield to drivers who’ve arrived before you. The first car to arrive always receives the right of way.
    • If you arrive at the same time as another driver, the one who’s farthest to the right gets the right of way.
    • If three vehicles arrive at the same time, the rule of “right-most has the right of way” still holds, and the car farthest left goes last.

 

 

Intersection Without a STOP or YIELD Sign

Known as an “uncontrolled” intersection due to lack of signs or signals, these often trip people up.

    • Yield to drivers already in the intersection or those who’ve arrived before you.
    • If you arrive at the same time as another, the right-most vehicle has the right of way.

 

A T-junction (Three-Way Intersection)

This is where a minor road dead-ends into a major roadway.

    • Vehicles on the major road (the through road) always have the right of way.
    • If you’re entering from the minor roadway, you must come to a complete stop and yield to drivers on the through road, no matter which way you’ll be turning.

 

A Traffic Circle

Also called a roundabout, this is an intersection of four or more roadways that converge into a single road that flows in one direction around a center island.

    • When approaching the circle, always slow and yield to the vehicles in the traffic circle.
    • Merge by turning right so that you’re driving around the circle in a counterclockwise direction.
    • Turn right to exit the circle when you reach your roadway.
    • Do not stop in the roundabout – a steady flow and speed is critical to safety.

 

 

U-Turns or Left Turns Onto Two-way Roads

    • You’re basically last in line: Don’t turn until you yield to oncoming cars, motorcyclists, bicyclists, and pedestrians.
    • Keep in mind that both of these turns carry extra risk, so remember safety first, always.

Besides employing the rules above, remember to always slow down and pay attention when approaching intersections. This is a winning combo for smoothly navigating any intersection and getting to where you’re going safely.

 

 

This article is furnished by California Casualty, providing auto and home insurance to educators, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and nurses. Get a quote at 1.866.704.8614 or www.calcas.com.

Are You and Your Motorcycle Road-Ready?

Are You and Your Motorcycle Road-Ready?

Late summer riding beckons; open roads, open skies, long days, and beautiful sunsets. The flipside? Extreme heat. And also a transition period of reacquainting yourself with the roads and traffic. Use these tips to keep your bike and yourself cool and safe.

 

For Your Bike

Keeping your ride cool and running smoothly through the summer usually entails a little extra maintenance. Here are some of the priority areas to fitness-check before setting out.

  • Tires – Tire blowouts are usually caused by underinflated, rather than overinflated, tires. Make sure to inflate to the manufacturer’s recommended PSI. And remember that high external temps cause tire pressure to increase due to expanding gas. Check them each week and adjust as necessary. Also keep an eye on the tires’ condition, looking for any cracks, punctures, bulges, or worn tread.
  • Fluids – Check oil, brake, coolant, hydraulic fluids, and their reservoirs for debris, condensation, and discoloration or changed consistency. Get them changed if they’re due. Check the water pump and hoses regularly for leaks, cracks, and tears. Pro tip: cover your radiator to keep the engine cool (and protect it from dirt, bugs and UV rays). On the hottest days, avoid stationary idling to prevent engine overheating.
  • Gas tank – If your bike has been sitting all winter with fuel in the tank, it might not start up. Drain the tank — if there’s any brown grit in the fuel, your tank has probably rusted. You can take it to a mechanic or DIY by flushing with acid remover. After cleaning, treat the new gasoline with a fuel stabilizer.
  • Electrical connections – If your electrical connections aren’t secure, the moisture from humid environments can short the connection and stop your bike from functioning. Inspect all wires and connections to components (including battery) and fasten any loose ones. If they’re corroded, it’s best to replace them.

 

For You

Riding in extreme heat can increase your chance of health risks, overheating, and accident risk. Follow these tips to stay safe and comfortable.

  • Hydration – Staying hydrated is one of the best preventive measures for summer riding. Drink water at every stop and consider purchasing a CamelBak for extended rides. Avoid alcohol, as it can easily dehydrate you.
  • Sun safety – Even if it’s overcast, you’re still getting hit by UV rays. Wear sunscreen and reapply to exposed skin as often as possible.
  • Clothing – Safe riding means extra layers, even in the summer heat. Here are some hacks to keep you cool in your gear.
    • Form-fitting sportswear can keep your body temperature down – look for moisture-wicking fabric.
    • A lightweight base layer under your jacket and pants can prevent discomfort and keep you dry.
    • When leather pants are too hot, check out specialized jeans that have Kevlar fabric lining and other safety components. Never wear shorts.
    • Opt for ventilated summer-weight boots, which allow airflow to cool the feet and ankles.
    • Mesh-backed gloves will let you grip the handles while allowing for ventilation – as well as hand protection in case of a fall or skid.
    • There are options for jackets that protect while keeping you comfortable in the heat. Ventilated jackets with mesh panels allow for aeration, and many perforated leather jackets come with zip vents, which help you release body heat.
    • A proper helmet – required by law in all but 3 states – is safety rule number one. Investing in a breathable, lightweight and ventilated helmet will keep your head (and by extension, your body) cool and protected. The best ones are usually carbon fiber.

 

Get Re-Accustomed to the Road

If you’ve been traveling mostly by car and are just getting back to the roads on 2 wheels, give yourself some time to re-adjust. You no longer have the wrap-around metal protection of a vehicle, and you may need to fine-tune your reaction time for sharing the road with cars.

Most motorcycle accidents are attributed to unsafe lane changes, car doors, speeding, sudden stops, left-turn accidents, and lane splitting, among others, so make sure you’re visible to the cars around you.

Finally, know the signs of heat stress (check out our article here). It can come on suddenly, so knowledge and prevention are your tools to stay cool and healthy.

 

This article is furnished by California Casualty, providing auto and home insurance to educators, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and nurses. Get a quote at 1.866.704.8614 or www.calcas.com.

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