Beat the Urge to Use Your Smartphone Behind the Wheel

While we worry about our teens texting while behind the wheel, what kind of example are we setting?  Nearly one-third of drivers of all ages admit to texting, talking or checking a map app while on the road.  With Americans spending an average of an hour a day on the road, that’s too many opportunities for a serious crash.

As usual, technology may give us the boost we need to stay on task, avoiding texting while driving. There are a variety of apps to reduce your temptation to use a smartphone while behind the wheel. Most of us already use apps for workouts, calorie counting, music and banking – why not add one for safer driving?

Five Apps to Stop Phone Use While Driving:

  1. AT&T DriveMode, a free app for iOS and Android that silences incoming calls, restricts texting, and sends alerts when the app is turned off
  2. DriveSafe Mode, an app available for iOS and Android that prevents texting and emailing while driving and sends notifications when the phone is in use or when the driver shuts off the app
  3. Cell Control, a subscription service that allows businesses or families to block sending or receiving texts while driving and sends an alert if it is deactivated
  4. On My Way Realtime GPS (available at iOS app store), a free app that allows others to track where you are in real time without the need to send a text or make a call while driving, and lets them know when you arrive at your destination
  5. LifeSaver, a subscription service for both Android and iOS that blocks phone use, monitors driving behaviors, sends alerts when the driver arrives safely and allows them to earn points while using the app

Your phone may already have a Do Not Disturb While Driving feature. Search within your phone settings to activate it.

Some other tips to help drivers concentrate on the road and not on technology include:

  • Mapping out the route before getting into the car
  • Creating music lists at home to play on the ride
  • Making calls to friends, work or relatives before the drive and after you arrive at your destination


Learn more about distracted driving and efforts to prevent it here.


Good To Know: If Disaster Strikes Your Community – Are You Ready?

Fires, tornados and other disasters are unpredictable and can turn dangerous for you and loved ones in just a matter of moments. Here are some things you can do now to be more prepared.

  1. Know and practice using as many evacuation routes as possible.
  2. Have a plan where you and family members will meet and how you will communicate if you become separated.
  3. Prepare a disaster kit that includes enough water, food, medications and other essentials for at least three days (don’t forget necessities for babies and pets), along with important insurance, banking and other papers.
  4. Complete a home inventory of all the items you own (clothing, shoes, mattresses, bedding, kitchen appliances, pots and pans, furniture, and electronics) to help replace your possessions.
  5. Review your insurance with an advisor to make sure you’re adequately covered.

If you need to evacuate:

  • Text SHELTER and your ZIP code to 43362 (example: SHELTER 12345) to find the nearest shelter, or visit the American Red Cross webpage to locate shelters
  • Contact California Casualty as soon as possible and save all receipts for living expenses, such as hotels, meals and other essentials
  • Monitor local media about conditions, further evacuations, or when it might be safe to return home

When you return home, be very careful. There are many potential dangers, such as:

  • Dangerous toxins, ash and debris following a fire
  • Gas leaks
  • Electrical shock
  • Poisonous snakes or other animals
  • Structural instability and collapse
  • Sewage and chemical tainted water

For additional recovery help afterwards:

Please remember, you are not alone if a disaster strikes. California Casualty will be there when you need us the most. National and local governments will provide resources for safety and recovery, and numerous entities and nonprofits will offer food, clothing and other essentials as communities come together.

TAKEAWAY: California Casualty is ready to help you when you have a claim. Contact our Claims department 24 hours a day at or call 1.800.800.9410 option 4.

Flood-Damaged Vehicles Across the U.S. – Buyer Beware

If you’re in the market for a used car or truck, be aware that water-damaged vehicles could soon be coming to your community. While most will arrive from areas deluged by tropical storms and hurricanes, others can come from flooding in other parts of the country. The U.S. Justice Department and the National Association of Insurance Commissioners warn that crooks often ship these flooded vehicles across the country to unwitting buyers, and any used vehicle in any part of the country needs to be checked for water damage.

Carfax estimates there are now more than 325,000 water-damaged vehicles on American highways. They’ve been found from California to Maine and Minnesota to Florida. In fact, the cities where the most flooded cars have washed up are Houston, New York, Philadelphia, Dallas/Ft. Worth and Chicago. The states with the most flood-damaged vehicles are Texas, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, Florida and Kentucky.

A waterlogged vehicle can have chronic issues that can last for years. Water fouls fuel lines, destroys electronics, and rusts engines, brakes and other important parts.

You should always test drive and inspect any used vehicle you plan to purchase. Here are some signs a vehicle has suffered water damage:

  • A musty odor or heavy aroma of cleaners or disinfectants to mask mold odors
  • Water marks or dirt in the dashboard, carpets or trunk
  • Rusty door hinges and truck latches
  • Corrosion around bolts or screws
  • Silt or mud under seats, glove compartments or window wells
  • Electronics that flicker or don’t work
  • Fog or moisture in interior lights or the dashboard

When test-driving a used vehicle, experts say you should:

  • Turn on the ignition and check all instrument panel lights and accessories
  • Test the interior and exterior lights, air conditioning, windshield wipers, turn signals, high beams and heater
  • Turn on the sound system and check door speakers, which often become damaged in water
  • Look at the engine oil – when mixed with even small amounts of water it turns murky and looks like a melted chocolate shake
  • Inspect the air filter for water stains

If you suspect you unknowingly bought a water-damaged vehicle, the Federal Trade Commission has a wealth of resources for used car buyers who fear they are victims of fraud.

You can get a free vehicle history check from Carfax or through vendors approved by the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System.


Learn more about avoiding flood-damaged vehicles at

The Dangers of School Safety Zones

You might be surprised to learn that school zones and bus stops are some of the most dangerous places for kids as they go to and from school. Since it’s been a few months since school has been in session, these safety refreshers can make this back to school season safer for our children:


  • Be aware of school zones
    • Pay close attention to all school zones along your route. Warning signs, flashing lights and speed bumps are good indicators that a school zone is nearby.
  • Never drive distracted, especially in areas where children travel to and from school
    • Drinking coffee, texting, talking on the cell phone and completing the morning routine to get ready for the day (applying makeup or shaving) are all distractions.
  • Slow down and observe school zone speed limits
    • Avoiding the need to rush by building in extra time can save a life. Slamming on the brakes is not the best approach to reducing your speed in a school zone.
  • Be patient and expect increased traffic during drop-off and pick-up times
    • Don’t get overwhelmed by the controlled chaos. Your patience is greatly appreciated.
  • Avoid double parking or blocking crosswalks in school drop-off zones
    • Always yield to pedestrians, whether or not they are in the designated crosswalks.


  • Yield to buses at all times
    • Filled with precious cargo, they deserve the right of way.
  • Stop when you see school bus yellow or red flashing lights and the stop arm extended
    • Drivers behind the bus as well as those approaching it are required to stop.
  • Let students getting off of the bus cross in front of your car and wait to ensure all riders have crossed safely
  • Stopping a good distance from the bus will help you to see the students and the students to see you
  • Be aware of kids standing at bus stops
    • They may accidentally step off of the curb and into your path. Be ready.


Nothing is more valuable than the lives of our children. These simple rules can prevent tragedies and keep our school zones safer for all.

TAKEAWAY: Find a great back to school safety resource at

Good to Know: Get Your Ride Ready for Summer

The weather is warming and it’s time to ride. Whether you’re an “Easy Rider” or a café cruiser, don’t let a dead battery or clogged fuel line keep you from your adventures.

We know your life is hectic, so here’s a quick reminder of some things to inspect before you start your motorcycle’s engine:

  • Battery – check the terminals, clean dust and corrosion, tighten cables and give it a charge
  • Oil – start with fresh oil and filter
  • Fuel – drain old fuel and start with a fresh tank if you didn’t winterize your bike
  • Fluids – check that brake and hydraulic fluids are still good, replace any that looks dirty, and refill reservoirs
  • Brakes – look for cracks or leaks in lines, inspect the pads and test for any scraping or squealing noise
  • Inspect the drive belt tension and look for cracks or tears, or if you have a chain look for damaged links and worn or broken teeth
  • Tires – replace worn tires and check for pressure leaks

As you know, it’s also a good time to make sure your headlight, brake lights and turn signals are all working properly.  And if you bought a new bike or haven’t ridden all winter, safety experts recommend that you take a test ride to see how everything is working and have an opportunity to regain the feel of the road.

California Casualty can join you on the ride with quality motorcycle insurance at competitive rates. We cover most motorcycles, and if you ride something we don’t insure, we can find you motorcycle insurance through one of our partner providers.


TAKEAWAY: Make sure you have the protection you need before you hit the road. Call a California Casualty advisor today at 1.800.800.9410 or visit

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Make the Most of Your Memorial Day Getaway

If you’re piling into your car or truck for Memorial Day fun, here are important tips to keep it from becoming a “Griswold Family” vacation:

  • Plan ahead – research the route and possible hazards and know the rules of the road in the new places you’re traveling to
  • Have your vehicle serviced – make sure it’s road-worthy by having fluids, tires, battery and other essentials checked and replaced
  • Prepare a safety kit – extra water, jumper cables, fire extinguisher, reflective triangles and sealant for flat tires can be trip savers in an emergency
  • Get plenty of rest – drowsy driving is dangerous. The effects of driving for 18 hours straight can equate to a blood alcohol level of .05; 24 hours straight is equivalent to a blood alcohol level of .10. Switch drivers or take a short nap if you feel tired
  • Always wear seat belts – safety groups estimate seat belts save 14,000 lives a year, yet as many as 10 to 20 percent of drivers don’t buckle in themselves or their passengers
  • Observe “move over” laws – every state now has a move over law requiring you to slow down and move over when you see an official vehicle with it’s warning lights on, to protect highway workers, first responders and law enforcement officers
  • Never leave children or pets in a vehicle – the heat inside a vehicle can reach dangerous levels in less than half an hour, even on 70-degree days

If you’re having a get-together instead of a getaway, remember these important safety tips:

  • Understand safe grilling – read grill instructions, check hoses, keep grills away from structures and never leave them unattended to avoid a disastrous fire
  • Check your deck – inspect and repair cracked boards, loose planks and rails, rusty hardware or rotted supports to prevent dangerous collapsing
  • Know pool safety – keep uninvited guests and small children out with full fencing, teach everyone in your family how to swim, never leave children alone near a pool, know CPR and consider removing slides and diving boards
  • Ensure you have enough liability protection – protect your assets with high liability limits or an umbrella policy in case someone sues if they get hurt at your home. Umbrella policies help pay for legal defense, medical costs and loss of wages

Whether you are home or away, some auto repairs may be more complicated. That’s why it’s important to have a reliable backup. Whether the battery let you down, your spare tire went flat or you locked the keys in the car, for as little as a couple dollars a month California Casualty’s towing and roadside assistance pays for:

  • Dead battery start
  • Flat tire repair
  • Lockouts
  • Fuel, oil or coolant delivery

California Casualty’s towing service also covers getting your vehicle to the nearest shop, even if you get stranded off-road in deep mud.


Contact our Customer Service department to add Express Road Assistance or to  purchase extra liability insurance at 1.800.800.9410 option 3, or email   

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