How to Make Your Car Last Longer

How to Make Your Car Last Longer

Your car is more than just a mode of transportation; it’s a companion on life’s journey. But like any good friend, it needs a little care to keep it going strong. Whether you’re a road trip enthusiast or someone who relies on their wheels for daily commutes, extending the life of your vehicle makes sense. So, buckle up as we explore some simple yet effective ways to make your car last longer.

Ditch the heavy keychain.

When you put the key into the ignition, a heavy keychain can drag it down. That puts pressure on the tumblers inside the ignition. Over time, that can cause the ignition switch to fail. If your car keys share space with lots of other keys, consider a car-only keychain.

Watch for this warning sign: your key sticking in the ignition when you turn on the car. Get the ignition replaced before it leaves you stranded.

Use your parking brake.

The parking brake has an important job: to keep your car from rolling when parked. However, you don’t just need a parking brake on an incline; you need it whenever and wherever you park. Parking brakes help take the stress off the transmission. In addition, if not used, your parking brake can corrode over time. This can lead to expensive repairs. So, engage that parking brake whenever you park.

Don’t idle in the driveway.

It’s not a good idea to idle your car for long periods of time. Not only does it waste gas, but it can also do some damage. During idling, the oil pressure may not send oil to every part of the engine. The engine also won’t operate at its peak temperature. That means there could be incomplete fuel combustion, soot deposits on cylinder walls, contaminated oil, and damaged components.

Be mindful of moisture.

Moisture can do a lot of damage to your vehicle. Water that seeps into your car’s body panels can cause rust. Extreme heat and humidity can reduce your car’s battery life. Moisture inside your car can also lead to mold and mildew. Finally, salt water can damage your car’s paint. Don’t drive through water, which can expose your undercarriage to unnecessary moisture. Clean corroded battery terminals if you live in humid areas. Make sure to keep your car dry and as cool as possible during the hot, humid months to avoid expensive future repairs.

Change the oil and the air filter.

If your oil is dirty, it can affect the components in your engine. Without proper oil changes, your engine could seize up, which will cost you more than nearly any other car repair. Most manufacturers suggest changing the oil every 5,000-7,500 miles. Newer vehicles will alert you when you need an oil change. You also need to change the air filter, although not as often as the oil. The air filter removes dirt and debris, which also can harm your engine. Change your air filter every 15,000 to 20,000 miles.

Help your tires wear evenly.

Tires naturally wear down over time. Keep them working well by inflating them at the recommended pressure. That will help prevent blowouts. Tires also wear unevenly; that’s why it’s important to rotate them every 6 months or 6,000-8,000 miles. Otherwise, your tires will wear out faster and have to be replaced.

Wash your car.

Cars get dirty, and that dirt buildup is more than cosmetic. It can slowly destroy your paint, which can lead to rust. That’s why washing your car is important. How often depends on the weather, whether you park outside, and if your car is exposed to pollen, bugs, sap from trees, salt on winter roads and more. Wash biweekly or as needed and wax every month or so.

Prevent pests.

If you leave food and wrappers in your car, you could attract mice and bugs. They in turn can do damage that requires repairs. Clean up all food items, wrappers, and containers. Block broken seals or holes where they can get in. If you suspect pests, have your upholstery professionally cleaned.

Protect the interior.

Leather can become dry and brittle after years of exposure to the sun. Apply a conditioning solution routinely to help prevent cracks and keep seats in good condition. Use a windshield shade to help slow upholstery fading.

Don’t fill your tank if you see the tanker.

Gasoline tankers can stir up sediment as they refuel the tanks at gas stations. That could cause you to get dirty gasoline, which can clog your fuel filter or fuel injector. Avoid filling up at a station when it is being filled by a tanker. You’ll avoid a potential expensive repair.

Avoid bad driving habits.

Certain driving habits can reduce the lifespan of your car. Don’t brake hard all the time, it can lead to deterioration of your brake pads. Don’t turn at high speeds; that’s hard on your tires. Don’t strongly accelerate when the engine is cold. Don’t rev your engine when your car isn’t properly warmed up. Avoid potholes and running over curbs which can harm your tires. Good driving habits can help reduce the need for expensive repairs.

Pay attention to maintenance lights.

Don’t skip routine maintenance. It may cost you now but save you money in the long run.

If you have a newer car, it will let you know when it needs service. When the maintenance light is on, schedule your appointment. However, you can look out for things, too. If you hear an unusual noise, take your car in. Watch for puddles under your car. It’s better to get ahead of potential problems than to pay for them as they become big issues.

Keep your car protected.

You may do everything right but accidents still happen, including some that could total your car. Your car is one of your greatest investments. Protect it with the right auto insurance for added peace of mind.

Check out our blog on Pro Tips to Keeping Your New Car Ageless for more tips.

 

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.

 

Time Management Tips for First Responders

Time Management Tips for First Responders

In the fast-paced world of first responders, every second counts. Effective time management isn’t just a skill – it’s a lifeline. We’ve put together the essential time management tips that will help you navigate multiple demands, changing priorities, and importantly, a life outside of work.

Tip #1: Plan ahead.

Look at your work schedule within the context of family and social commitments. Then create a master calendar that has everything on it at-a-glance.

  • Write down your work schedule, family time, “you” time, and social commitments. Plug them into your calendar. Pro Tip: If you’re using a computer, you can color code by work and non-work time.
  • The master calendar doesn’t need detail. It’s an overview for your reference.
  • Note any larger projects/events that you will need to address (work or otherwise), and schedule the tasks associated with those into your calendar. This helps you break down a large commitment into smaller bite-sized tasks. Add a deadline to each task.
  • Place this in a calendar that you see daily. This way you won’t overcommit or forget about meetings or tasks, and you can review and adjust as needed.

Tip #2: Set priorities.

Work can be quiet or chaotic for first responders. You’ll want to prepare, knowing that at any given moment, you might need to change course.

  • Set your work goals for the week. Some people use a spreadsheet with columns for tasks, person responsible, and status.
  • Organize each goal by priority: high or low. You can use color coding to provide a visual distinction.
  • Use this weekly list to create a daily checklist. Put high priorities first on that list.
  • Anticipate potential problems and prepare contingency plans. Schedules and commitments frequently change, so allow extra time for tasks.

Tip #3: Establish a routine.

You may not be able to control the emergencies, but you can determine how you will tackle the workload. Creating a regular routine can help.

  • Start your day in a way that will energize you mentally and physically. Give yourself enough time to eat and hydrate before a shift.
  • Tackle the top priority items first when you get to work.
  • Leave the lower priorities for when you have extra time. That way you won’t invest too much in noncritical tasks.
  • For the first week or so, keep a daily activity log. This will help you track what you’re doing. Then you can review and adjust your schedule as needed.

Tip #4: Minimize distractions at work.

It’s easy to get sidelined by distractions, from conversations in the office to emails, texts, and social media. Pay attention to the distractions that keep you from being productive, then take steps to minimize them.

  • Turn off email notifications or sounds from your computer and phone.
  • Set a time each day where you will check messages for a specified amount of time only. You may want to do it every hour on the hour for a 5-minute period, or if communications are less critical, then at the start, middle, and end of your shift.
  • Close your door to minimize conversations, or let colleagues know that you’re unavailable for a certain time.
  • Stay off the Internet so you’re not tempted to surf the web. Designate web surfing time at home.

Tip #5: Avoid multi-tasking.

It may seem as if you’re doing much more by multi-tasking, but splitting your attention between tasks is less productive. You’ll have better outcomes and feel less drained if you tackle one task at a time.

  • Try the 20-minute rule. Set a timer. Tackle a task for 20 minutes. As the timer sounds, decide if you will continue for another 20 minutes or put the task down for later.
  • Remove everything from your desk or screen except the work you are doing. This will help you to focus on one task.
  • Don’t start on anything else until you have finished the task at hand.
  • If you do want to switch gears, put away the first project and bring out the new one.

 Tip #6: Remove things from your to-do list.

You don’t have to do everything even though some days it may feel like that. Remember that you are part of a team working toward the same goal, and similarly part of a family unit or friend group.

  • Don’t invest time in tasks that have no long-term effects. These are naturally low priority.
  • Focus your energy on tasks that you alone can accomplish and ask a team member to complete the others.
  • Say no to tasks that you don’t have time for, especially last-minute requests that are low priority.
  • If you can’t say no, don’t say yes immediately. Ask if you can let them know. That way you can better evaluate the commitment.

Tip #7: Be flexible.

Priorities change, things happen, and the best laid plans may have to be adjusted. Be ready, and flexible enough to make those changes.

  • Schedule 50% of your day, allowing time for emergencies. If there are no emergencies, then you will get more done.
  • Plan for high-priority tasks first and leave lower priority tasks for the remainder of your shift.
  • Be mindful when you are going off track. Adjust priorities accordingly.
  • If you’re interrupted and can’t seem to re-engage with work, tackle a lower priority task.

Tip #8: Get enough sleep.

You need to be well-rested to be the most productive. We know it may be hard to get enough sleep when working 12-hour shifts or double shifts.

  • Set your thermostat to about 65 degrees for optimum sleeping temperature.
  • Create a bedtime routine that does not include devices or television. Sometimes a warm shower or bath can help just prior to bed.
  • Use a white noise machine or wear ear plugs to soften distracting noise.
  • Use blackout shades or curtains and/or wear an eye mask.
  • Try to go to bed at the same time every day even on your off days.

Tip #9: Leave work at work.

Separating work and home are essential for you to feel rested and recharged. If you’re able to manage your time effectively at work, you should be able to leave it there.

  • Use your commute to decompress from work.
  • Create an after-work ritual, whether it’s listening to music, watching a favorite show, changing into PJs, that signals you are done working.
  • Resist the temptation to bring work home or to check emails on your days off. Know that your colleagues can handle anything that is needed.
  • Take care of your mental health. Be aware of signs of post-traumatic stress disorder. Seek professional help if needed.

 

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.

 

Love Your Pet Day – 8 Ways to Show Your Pet Some Love

Love Your Pet Day – 8 Ways to Show Your Pet Some Love

Are you ready to unleash some serious tail-wagging fun and purr-fect joy? Whether you’ve got a barking buddy, a whisker-twitching sidekick, or a feathered friend, it’s time to shower your pet with extra attention. After all, Love Your Pet Day is Tues., Feb. 20, and who loves us more than our pets?

Give them treats and toys.

  • Store-bought treats are great, but making your pet a treat is extra special. It’s also easier than you may think. Check out our blog on easy pet treat recipes for dogs, cats, rabbits, birds, and reptiles.
  • Most cats love to eat grass and need it for their digestion. You can grow your own cat grass right inside your home. Not to be confused with catnip, cat grass is a mixture of rye, barley, oat, or wheat seeds. It’s a healthy option for cats, and may keep them away from your plants.
  • Take your pet to a pet store and let him/her choose a special toy or treat. Consider Kong-style toys that you can fill with peanut butter for dogs or treat dispensing toys for all types of pets. While you may not take your bird to a pet store, try wrapping their gift. Birds can have as much fun unwrapping as they do with the treat or toy.

Spend some quality time.

  • Playtime is a great way to bond with your pet. So, grab that squeaky toy, dangle that feather wand, and get ready for some tail-chasing, treat-tossing, cuddle-filled bliss! Dance with your bird to their favorite music. Give your rabbit, bird or reptile some out-of-habitat time to safely explore under your supervision.
  • Challenge your pet with a puzzle. Hide treats in an empty egg carton. Cats love to hunt, so consider hiding feeders around the house for them to find. You can make your own puzzles for dogs, cats, and birds, or find ones online from a reputable pet supplier.
  • Schedule some cuddle time. Playtime can be exhausting so follow it with a nap on the couch or some quiet time. Follow your pet’s cue on the cuddle, though. Some pets like hugs and kisses; others do not.

 Learn your pet’s language.

  • Your pet “talks” to you in their language. Wouldn’t it be fun to know what they’re saying? Check out Canine Body Language: A Photographic Guide by Brenda Aloff for dogs or Think Like a Cat by Pam Johnson-Bennett.
  • Pay attention to your pet’s nonverbal cues. Try to understand what your pet enjoys and what he or she wants.
  • Songbirds and parrots are able to mimic human speech. They need to be taught with lots of repetition. Dogs and cats have been known to press buttons that “speak” human words. Whether or not your pet communicates at these levels, you can enjoy the learning process.

Take a class, meet a friend.

  • Consider training classes for mental and physical enrichment for your pet. For dogs, there are classes on social skills, tricks, nose work, and agility. You can help your pet to earn their Canine Good Citizen or Therapy Dog certification. Look up tutorials online for tricks and activities that you can do with your type of pet.
  • Join a local pet enthusiast group. Not only will you make friends with others who love pets, you might enjoy local meetups at pet-friendly places from outdoor dining to parks, and more.

Get some exercise.

  • We and our pets both benefit from regular exercise. Get your dog walking, running, playing fetch, tug of war, learning agility, and more can help keep them physically fit. As a bonus, you’ll get exercise too.
  • Yoga is an exercise that you can do at home with your pet. Dog Yoga is increasingly popular. Incorporating your pet into your yoga routine will make them feel important and you might be more likely to exercise. Even if it’s a complete fail, you’re likely to enjoy laughter and cuddles.

 Feed them healthy food.

  • Just like humans, pets require a balanced diet to stay healthy. A diet rich in essential nutrients helps support their immune system, promotes healthy growth and development, and provides the energy they need for their daily activities.
  • A nutritious diet can prevent various health issues such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease, extending your pet’s lifespan and enhancing their quality of life. By prioritizing their nutrition, you’re investing in your pet’s long-term health and happiness, ensuring they lead a vibrant and fulfilling life by your side.

Get them groomed.

  • Regular grooming doesn’t just help your pet look their best; it helps to remove dirt, debris, and loose fur from their coat. This prevents matting and reduces the risk of skin irritations. Brushing your pet’s fur also promotes healthy circulation and distributes natural oils, keeping their coat shiny and healthy. Plus, it’s a nice time to bond with your pet.
  • Additionally, grooming sessions provide an opportunity to check for any abnormalities such as lumps, bumps, or parasites, allowing for early detection of potential health issues.

Visit the vet.

  • Just as humans need regular check-ups with a doctor, pets require routine veterinary visits to monitor their overall health, detect any potential issues early, and ensure they receive appropriate vaccinations and preventive care.
  • Pet insurance can help offset some of the larger costs of pet care. For a nominal monthly fee, you can have access to coverage that will help if your pet needs surgery or has health issues. Shop around for a pet insurance policy that fits your needs. Before you purchase, make sure you understand the deductible, the coverage limits, and the exclusions. Some policies do not cover pre-existing conditions or wellness care.

 

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.

Recipes for the Big Game – 8 Heart-healthy Touchdown Treats

Recipes for the Big Game – 8 Heart-healthy Touchdown Treats

We’re gearing up for game day with a winning lineup of Super Bowl snacks. From classic comfort food to delicious remakes of our favorites, we’re doing it all with a heart-healthy* twist. Needless to say, this is “nacho” average football party!

Cauliflower Tots

Cooking spray

4 cups cauliflower florets, steamed (about 1/2 large cauliflower)

1 large egg, lightly beaten

1 cup shredded cheddar

1 cup freshly grated Parmesan

2/3 cup panko breadcrumbs

2 tablespoons freshly chopped chives

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup ketchup

2 tablespoons Sriracha

  • Preheat oven to 375°. Grease a large baking sheet with cooking spray.
  • In a food processor, pulse steamed cauliflower until riced.
  • Place riced cauliflower on a clean kitchen towel and squeeze to drain water.
  • Transfer cauliflower to a large bowl with egg, cheddar, Parmesan, Panko, and chives, and mix until combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Spoon about 1 tablespoon of the mixture and roll it into a tater-tot shape with your hands. Place on prepared baking sheet and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until tots are golden.
  • Meanwhile, make spicy ketchup by combining ketchup and Sriracha in a small serving bowl.
  • Serve warm cauliflower tots with spicy ketchup.

 

Chicken & Feta Sliders

Cooking spray

1 pound ground chicken breast

1/4 cup crumbled herbed feta or regular feta

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

8 dinner rolls

8 thin slices fresh tomato

  • Coat a stove-top grill pan or griddle with cooking spray and preheat to medium-high.
  • In a large bowl, combine the chicken, feta, parsley, oregano, garlic powder, cumin, salt, and pepper.
  • Mix well and shape the mixture into 8 sliders, each about 3/4-inch thick.
  • Add the sliders to the hot pan and cook for 3 minutes per side for medium.
  • Arrange the sliders on the rolls and top with tomato slices.

 

Crispy Oven-Baked Lemon-Pepper Chicken Wings

3 pounds chicken wings

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon garlic powder

½ teaspoon salt

1 ½ tablespoons lemon zest, divided

1 ¼ teaspoons ground pepper, divided

Lemon wedges for serving

  • Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a large, rimmed baking sheet with foil. Place an oven-safe wire rack on the prepared baking sheet; coat the rack with cooking spray.
  • Pat wings dry and place in a medium bowl.
  • Add oil and baking powder; toss to coat well.
  • Add garlic powder, salt, 1 tablespoon lemon zest and 1 teaspoon pepper; toss well.
  • Arrange the wings in an even layer on the prepared rack.
  • Bake, flipping once, until the skin is crispy, and a thermometer inserted into the thickest portion registers at least 165°F, about 1 hour.
  • Transfer the wings to a clean bowl. Add the remaining 1/2 tablespoon lemon zest and 1/4 teaspoon pepper; toss well. Transfer the wings to a platter. Serve with lemon wedges, if desired.

 

Lightened Up 7-Layer Dip

2 cups chopped romaine lettuce
2 avocados, mashed well
1 cup non-fat Greek yogurt
2/3 cup black beans
1/2 cup diced tomatoes
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Sliced black olives and scallions, to garnish

  • Spread chopped romaine lettuce at the bottom of a large bowl.
  • Add avocado layer on top, and smooth out with a spoon to even height.
  • Spoon Greek yogurt layer, and smooth if necessary.
  • Layer black beans, then diced tomatoes on top.
  • Sprinkle cheese and add olives and scallions.

 

Loaded Zucchini Skins

½ pound bacon cooked until crisp, then chopped

4 large zucchini

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon pepper freshly ground

½ teaspoon chili powder

¼ teaspoon ground cumin

2 cups shredded cheddar

green onions (optional)

sour cream (optional)

  • Preheat oven to 400°F and line a baking sheet with foil. Set aside.
  • Cook bacon using your preferred method and chop into small pieces. Set aside.
  • Cut zucchini in half lengthwise. Using a large metal spoon, scoop out seeds from the insides, then cut each half into chunks.
  • Place zucchini pieces into a colander & sprinkle with salt to draw out excess moisture for about 5 minutes.
  • Transfer zucchini to the prepared baking sheet and toss with olive oil. Season with chili powder, cumin, salt, and pepper.
  • Bake until slightly tender, about 5 minutes.
  • Remove from oven and top each piece of zucchini with cheese and bacon.
  • Return to oven and bake until cheese is bubbly, and zucchini is tender, about 10 minutes more.
  • Garnish with sour cream and green onions before serving.

 

Mediterranean Nachos

4 pita pockets, sliced into 8 triangles each

1/2 cup chickpeas, drained and rinsed, pat dry

1 teaspoon olive oil plus more for drizzle

Salt and pepper to taste

1/4 teaspoon onion powder

1/2 medium cucumber, diced small

1/4 cup kalamata olives, pitted and sliced

1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes julienned

1/2 cup banana peppers, sliced

1 small shallot, thinly sliced

1/2 cup feta crumbles

2-3 green onions, sliced for garnish

2-3 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped for garnish

Hummus, for serving

Tzatziki sauce, for serving

  • Preheat oven to 375°F. Line one baking sheet with parchment paper and spread pita triangles across. Drizzle olive oil lightly across the pita bread, along with salt and pepper, and toss to coat evenly.
  • On a second baking sheet, spread out the rinsed and dried chickpeas. Toss with 1 teaspoon olive oil, salt, pepper, and onion powder. Place both sheets in the oven and bake for 10 minutes, tossing each halfway through.  Check for desired crispiness and remove from oven.
  • Meanwhile, prepare toppings and dips, if making homemade.
  • When the pita chips come out of the oven, transfer them to a serving tray/plate (or just leave them on the tray!). Top pita slices with olives, sun-dried tomatoes, banana peppers, shallot slices, and feta crumbles.
  • If desired, put the nachos back in the oven for 3-5 minutes if you want the toppings to be warm, too. Garnish with green onion and chopped parsley. Serve immediately with hummus and/or tzatziki sauce.

 

Squash & Walnut Crostini

2 small (or 1 large) acorn squash, halved and seeded

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon olive oil, divided

2 cloves garlic, sliced

1/2 cup walnuts, roughly chopped

1 ½ teaspoon sherry vinegar

1 (12-ounce) baguette, sliced and toasted

2 oz. blue cheese, crumbled (about 1/2 cup)

Fried sage leaves, for serving (optional)

  • Season squash with salt and pepper. Arrange cut sides down on a microwave-safe plate or baking dish. Microwave on HIGH until tender, 8 to 10 minutes. (Squash can also be roasted in a 425°F oven for 25 to 30 minutes.) Scoop flesh into a bowl; discard skins. Add 1 tablespoon oil and mash with a potato masher. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Meanwhile, heat remaining 1/4 cup oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and walnuts. Cook, stirring often, until the nuts are lightly toasted and fragrant and the garlic is golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in vinegar.
  • Spread squash mixture on toasts, dividing evenly. Top with walnut mixture, blue cheese, and fried sage, if desired.

 

Ultra-Crispy Air Fryer Chickpeas

19-oz can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/8 teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon garlic powder

¼ teaspoon onion powder

½ teaspoon paprika

¼ teaspoon cayenne (optional)

  • Heat air fryer to 390°F
  • Drain and rinse chickpeas. No need to dry.
  • Toss with olive oil and spices.
  • Place the chickpeas in the air fryer basket. Cook for 12-15 minutes, shaking a few times.
  • Remove from air fryer. Add more salt and pepper to taste.

*These recipes contain salt. If you’re under the care of a cardiologist, please check with your physician for your specific heart-healthy dietary needs.

 

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.

 

Traffic Laws You Might Not Realize You’ve Broken

Traffic Laws You Might Not Realize You’ve Broken

We all know the basics: stop at red lights, obey the speed limit. What about laws about passing cars on the right, or restraining pets in your vehicle? We put together a list of the lesser-known traffic laws that potentially could land you in trouble if you break them. Not knowing about them – unfortunately – isn’t a defense if you get stopped.

Use your turn signal.

Most states require that you signal when you turn right or left and when you change lanes. In fact, you are supposed to signal 100 feet before you turn or move to a new lane. You could get flagged for a non-criminal moving violation if you fail to do this.

Don’t change lanes in the middle of an intersection.

In some states, it is illegal to change lanes in the middle of the intersection. You’re expected to stay in your lane as you cross through it. Even when it is legal, it might be unsafe, and you can be pulled over for that, too.

Come to a complete stop at a stop sign.

You may be tempted to pause rather than stop at a stop sign. The law clearly states that you must come to a complete stop. That means no forward momentum with the speedometer at 0. If you don’t come to a complete stop, you can be cited for running a stop sign. We suggest stopping for three seconds, which will be long enough for an observing police officer to see you have stopped. It’s also long enough for you to check for oncoming traffic, pedestrians, or road hazards.

Follow the rules at a four-way stop.

With a four-way intersection, every driver has a stop sign. That means each vehicle should come to a complete stop. The first vehicle to arrive has the right of way. If two cars arrive at the same time, the car to the right goes first. Bicycles must follow the same rules as cars at a four-way stop and yield to the vehicle who arrived first, or the one on the right. Pedestrians, however, have the right of way, and can cross before any vehicles proceed.

Know about improper passing.

In New Jersey, you cannot pass a car on the right except in special circumstances. The car must be turning left or there must be at least two lanes of traffic traveling in the same direction. In Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Illinois, it’s illegal not to move to the right if a car is trying to pass you. In some states, the far left lane is only for passing.

Restrain your pets.

We want to keep our pets safe, and there are several states that have laws on the books to make sure we do. New Jersey has a law requiring you to secure your pet in a carrier or with a seatbelt. In Hawaii, you can be fined for having your pet on your lap or rolling down the windows without restraining your pet. Maine, Connecticut, and Arizona classify pets under distracted driving.

Know when to yield.

It may be obvious that you need to yield at a yield sign. But did you also know that in many states, you must yield to pedestrians in a crosswalk? You also must yield to those who are blind and using a white cane or seeing eye dog. In a “T” intersection, where a road dead ends into another road, the car at the dead end must yield to the continuing road. Finally, if you’re making a turn onto a road, you must yield to traffic on that road.

Move over and slow down for emergency vehicles.

When you see flashing lights, it’s time to slow down and move to the side of the road. This allows for the safe passage of emergency vehicles. Every state has a Move Over law except for Washington, DC. If you don’t move over or slow down, you could be subject to a fine, license suspension, or even jail time.

Put headlights on when it’s raining.

Visibility is down when it’s raining. That’s why several states require headlights to be on anytime your wipers are in use, even in daylight. Some states only require headlights in dense fog, low visibility, and at night. In these situations, your headlights can help other drivers see you better.

Don’t tailgate.

Tailgating is considered a traffic violation. While states aren’t consistent with how they define tailgating, often such tickets are issued after a rear-end collision. If you’re alert and focused on the road, it takes you about 2 seconds to react to a roadway hazard. That means a safe following distance is at least 3 seconds or more.  Use the 3-second rule as a starting point. You can measure the distance in seconds this way: Find a landmark such as a mile marker or telephone pole. Start counting once the car in front of you passes that landmark. Count slowly until your car reaches the same landmark.  That is the number of seconds that you are traveling behind the vehicle in front of you.

Wear your seat belt.

Most of the country has laws for seat belts. Some states require you to wear both front and back seat belts. Others just focus on front seat belts. If you’re caught without your seatbelt, you could be subject to fines.

Know your state’s cell phone laws.

Most states require cell phone use to be hands-free, and consider texting while driving as distracted driving. However, some states go further and penalize drivers for accessing, viewing, or reading non-navigation content on phones.

Keep the minimum insurance.

Most states require drivers to carry auto insurance. The state sets the minimum amount and type. Generally, this includes bodily injury liability and property damage liability. If you have a leased car, your lender will require you to have more extensive coverage.

 

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.

Winter Fitness Tips

Winter Fitness Tips

It’s easy to exercise in the spring and fall when the weather beckons you to come outside. It may take a bit more inspiration in the winter, but it’s worth it.

Getting outside in cold weather connects you with nature, lifts your mood, and gives you a beneficial dose of sunlight/vitamin D. It also boosts your immunity during cold and flu season. With no heat and humidity, you might even be inspired to work out longer.

However, there is a way to do it safely. Follow these winter fitness tips for the basics of exercising in cold weather.

Choose the right fabrics.

When you’re wet, you lose body heat and that makes you feel cold. The colder you are, the less likely you’ll want to work out. In addition, cold can put you at risk for frostbite or hypothermia. Avoid active wear made from cotton, which holds in moisture from sweat and rain/snow. Instead choose synthetic fibers like polyester, nylon, and polypropylene. They dry quickly and wick away moisture.

Layer your clothes.

Use layers to trap warm air next to your body. Start with a thin base layer of synthetic fabric, which will keep sweat away from your skin. Then add a middle layer such as a fleece. Your outer layer should be either a lightweight nylon windbreaker or if it’s cold, a heavyweight waterproof jacket. As you exercise and get warmer, remove a layer, and tie it around your waist. That will help you from getting hot and sweaty which can lead to feeling damp and cold.

Pro Tip: Wear bright colors. Visibility is more limited in winter from rain, snow, fog, or dark skies. Be seen by the people and vehicles in your immediate area.

Protect your hands and feet.

In cold weather, blood is circulated to the core of your body, leaving less heat funneled to your extremities – your fingers, ears, nose, and toes. That means these areas are less warm. To counter that effect, wear a hat or headband, gloves or mittens, and thick socks. Choose materials like wool or synthetic as cotton could get wet. If your toes get cold, consider your shoes. Running shoes are designed to let heat escape. You can buy shoe covers at skiing and hiking stores. There also are specialty running sneakers designed for winter.

Protect your skin.

Winter isn’t just cold; it’s dry, and that can affect your skin. Apply moisturizer or lotion regularly. When you’re going to be outdoors, also apply sunscreen. SPF rays can damage your skin even when it’s cloudy. Snow reflects up to 80 percent of UV rays, so you get doubly exposed. UV rays also increase with elevation. Every 1,000 meters (3,281 ft.) in altitude, UV radiation increases by 10 percent.

Make sure you have traction.

When you’re exercising on icy surfaces, it’s easy to slip. That can lead to injury. Make sure that you have footwear with good traction and stay on plowed surfaces or salted ones. Take care to remove ice from your own property. If you will be primarily on the ice and snow, consider adding snow or ice spikes to your footwear. Just note that while those spikes help on icy surfaces, they can affect your balance on dry ones.

Take the time to warm up.

It’s especially important to warm up for an exercise routine in cold weather. You want to

Increase your blood flow and temperature so you’re not at risk for sprains and strains. A good analogy is what happens when you stretch a cold rubber band. It can snap more easily than a warm one. That’s what could happen to your muscles. For your warm-up, choose low intensity moves that are like those in your workout. Lunges, squats, and arm swings, for example, are good for runners.

Pro Tip: Head into the wind at the beginning of your workout. When you’re on your way back and feeling sweaty, you won’t have to fight the wind chill as much. That will help keep you warmer.

Pay attention to your breathing.

Cold weather causes your airway passages to narrow. That’s why it can hurt to breathe when you’re exercising in cold weather. Breathing through your nose can help but isn’t always possible when you’re moving intensely. Try wrapping a scarf or some thin fabric around your mouth. It will help keep in the humidity.

Hydrate.

You may not feel as thirsty during cold weather workouts. However, you’re still losing fluids. Dehydration carries risks, including headaches and a drop in energy. Sip water while you’re exercising. If you’re going to be exercising for more than 90 minutes, choose a sports drink like Gatorade.

Cool down. Change clothes.

You can get chilled fast after a workout. Take the time to cool down, which helps reduce later muscle soreness. It also helps your heart transition from an exercise pace to a normal rhythm. Then get out of your damp clothes. Take a warm shower and change into clean, dry clothes.

Avoid severe weather.

While cold weather workouts are beneficial, there’s a limit to when you should exercise outside. Avoid the extreme cold. Don’t exercise outdoors during winter storms. Prolonged exposure to the cold can cause frostbite and hypothermia. The cold also can put a strain on your heart. If you have a chronic health condition such as asthma or a heart problem, talk to your doctor about whether cold weather exercise is right for you.

Know the signs of hypothermia.

Finally, be aware of the signs of hypothermia. That’s when your body temperature drops too low and affects other systems in your body.  If you experience any of these signs, get medical help right away.

  • Shivering
  • Lack of coordination
  • Slow reactions
  • Slurred speech
  • Mental confusion
  • Exhaustion or sleepiness

 

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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