While winter weather has been lingering for a couple of months, there’s still more to come. Did you know that heavy rains, blizzards, and ice storms often arrive in February and March across many parts of the country?
Here are a few life-saving tips to remember as you get on the road this season.
- Remove bulky coats/jackets when buckling children into car safety seats.
In an accident, the material will squish down and the harnessing system will be too loose to be effective. Layer blankets on your child’s lap after buckling them in.
A list of recommended warm clothing that won’t interfere with car seat safety can be found here.
- Keep your gas tank at least half full.
This prevents water condensation from getting into and freezing up fuel lines. A frozen fuel line means limited gas supply to the engine, stopping you in your tracks.
- Use wiper fluid that is formulated to NOT freeze.
Windshields coated with ice or splashback from roads create dangerous visibility. You will need to clean your windshield while driving, and only fluid that stays liquid will do the job.
Experts recommend carrying tire chains, jumper cables, a shovel, ice scraper, and even spare wiper blades. Other life-saving items include bottles of water, high-calorie foods and snacks, blankets or sleeping bags, a spare pair of boots, flashlights, gloves, solar cell phone chargers, and a first aid kit. Kitty litter for traction is also a good idea.
- Be aware of deadly carbon monoxide in your vehicle(s).
If you can smell exhaust in your vehicle’s cabin, you should have your systems checked. Leaks in exhaust systems, defective ventilation systems, and even an unsecured back hatch or partially open trunk can allow carbon monoxide gas into your vehicle. Tailpipes blocked with snow or ice can send carbon monoxide into the vehicle too.
Also, warming a car in a garage, even with the door open, allows dangerous concentrations of the gas into the vehicle and even into your home.
It’s important that everyone knows the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning.
- Bring essential medications in case you get stranded.
- Don’t venture out in extreme conditions unless it’s an emergency.
You are not only putting your life in danger, but also the lives of first responders who will have to venture out to search for you if you get lost or stranded.
TAKEAWAY: Find more winter driving tips and preparation at the California Casualty blog.
Many of us will be using smartphones and laptops for our holiday shopping. While it may be more convenient than a drive to the mall, going online presents dangers to your credit and personal data. Cyber-crooks are lurking, just waiting for a slip-up to steal your identity and get into your bank and credit card accounts. As you tap in and surf for deals, be cautious about where you go and the information you give others. It’s estimated that one-in-five Americans have been a victim of identity theft, and 43% of those had their identity stolen while shopping online during the holidays.
It’s more important than ever that you protect your personal information. Here are some important internet shopping safety tips to remember:
- Don’t open suspicious or unsolicited emails that can often take you to dangerous sites
- Shop with familiar companies, looking for the secure “https” in the URL (“S” indicating it is a secure site), and beware of copycat sites with slight misspellings
- Use strong, unique passwords for online accounts
- Avoid using debit cards and pay with a credit card for online shopping (credit cards offer the most fraud protection)
- Refrain from shopping or banking while using free or public Wi-Fi
- Be aware of fake charity, pet adoption and lonely-hearts solicitations
- Check your credit card, bank and other accounts often for suspicious or fraudulent charges
- Never send a gift card for payment (a trick many crooks use)
If you are planning on giving to a charity, you also need to take your time and do research to make sure your donation goes to a good cause. Scammers know that people’s good hearts make them easy targets for rip-offs. Remember to:
- Be skeptical of email solicitations from charities you have never heard of or supported before
- Avoid giving to any organization requesting gift cards, wiring money, or transferring funds to an overseas bank
- Realize that many social media donation sites may not be legitimate
- Seek out each charity’s authorized website (crooks often use sound-a-like sites and misspellings)
- Check the legitimacy of charities through sites such as the Better Business Bureau, Charity Navigator and GuideStar
If you suspect that you have been an ID theft victim, the Federal Trade Commission recommends:
- Placing a freeze on your credit report (locking down your credit to anyone)
- Placing a fraud alert (protecting your credit from unverified sources) with one of the three nationwide credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax and TransUnion)
- Filing a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission
Find more ID theft protection information https://mycalcas.com/?s=cyber+crooks.
One of the many benefits that California Casualty offers with every auto and home/renters policy is free ID theft resolution services from CyberScout. Learn more at www.calcas.com/identity-theft or call 1.800.800.9410, option 3 to learn more.
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Seeing a wall of flames or a madly spinning tornado bearing down on your community or neighborhood is the worst time to wonder, “Do I have enough insurance to build my home again?”
While some areas of the country have already experienced tornadoes and record flooding, fire and storm season is just beginning.
We’ve seen enough disasters to know the stress and financial impact they leave behind. More out-of-control fires and powerful storms have resulted in higher cleanup costs, elevated rebuilding prices and shortages of manpower and materials, due to the damage in a concentrated area.
It’s very important to make sure that you have enough insurance for your home and property.
- Half of American homeowners have told experts that they don’t really know what their homeowners insurance policy covers
- Other studies estimate that six out of ten homeowners are underinsured by an average of 20 percent – meaning if their house costs $200,000 to replace, they would fall short by about $40,000 if they had a total loss
- Less than 20 percent of those in flood or earthquake-prone areas have flood or earthquake insurance
Here are some of the factors that could lead to a home being underinsured:
- Improvements and upgrades. When you buy new appliances, remodel kitchens and bathrooms or add on to your home, those improvements may not be covered by your original insurance policy.
- Hazardous materials removal costs. After a disaster, your property may be full of dangerous chemicals, asbestos and other hazardous materials. It may take months to get proper permits, and the costs to remove the toxic residue can be quite high.
- Rising construction costs. After large-scale disasters, building materials, construction crews and equipment may be in short supply. Costs in many areas have skyrocketed after massive property destruction.
- Updated building codes. Rebuilding an older home to meet today’s safety codes may be expensive, especially if you bought your home decades ago.
- Limited loss of use coverage. Make sure you have enough coverage to pay for extra living expenses (rent, food and other essentials) while your home is rebuilt or repaired. It’s important to factor in extended time after large disasters, sometimes more than a year.
- Not enough personal property protection. Make sure that you have enough contents coverage to replace the many items you own – bedding, clothing, kitchen items and electronics. Don’t forget scheduled personal property for high value items, such as jewelry, special musical instruments, fine art and collectibles.
A yearly policy review is a must. As your insurance partner, it’s imperative that you tell us about any home improvements/upgrades that you’ve made. A California Casualty advisor will take the time to explain your policy and help make sure that you have the coverage you need with the discounts you deserve.
Its’s also important that you make an inventory of your possessions. Not only will it help determine the amount of coverage you need, but it speeds up the process of replacing those items. Only half of American homeowners and renters have done an inventory, which could leave them in the lurch after a disaster.
Take a moment and contact one of our customer service representatives for your policy review by calling 1.800.800.9410, option 3.
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.
Technology can 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:
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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.