Traveling with Fido – Pup-Proof Your Car

Traveling with Fido – Pup-Proof Your Car

It’s time for a ride in the C-A-R. Cue the excited barking and tail wagging. Whether you’re planning a cross-country road trip or just a quick spin around the block, we have some paw-some tips to turn your car into the ultimate canine-friendly cruiser!

Floor Mats

Face it. Our fur babies can be messy. Dogs can track mud, sand, and debris onto your car’s floor. Protect it with rubber floor mats that are waterproof and easy to clean. They cover your car’s carpet and shield it from dirt. You can get floor mats that are custom fit to your car, ones you can trim to fit, or universal mats. Avoid mats made with harsh chemicals such as lead, cadmium, latex, and PVC, as they will have unpleasant odors.

Seat Covers

As any dog owner knows, fur floats everywhere. It can easily get into crevices and stick to seats. Plus, if car rides stress your dog, he will shed even more. Seat covers will help keep your seats fur-free and mess-free. Cover the seats where your dog will be. Choose tightly knit fabrics that also will be scratch proof. Some covers are padded for shock absorption; some have nonslip designs with a rubber base. Still others have pockets for storage. Look for ones that are washable so you can periodically clean them.

Pro-Tip: A felt blanket is a simple alternative to a seat cover. It attracts fur and it’s easy to remove and wash. Just make sure to tuck it in the crevices of your seat.

Cargo Liners & Hammocks

If you put your back seats down for your dog, consider a cargo liner or hammock that extends from the back of the front seats. These are larger than traditional seat covers, and they give your dog a chance to spread out and lay comfortably. Look for one that is non-porous, water resistant, tear resistant, and easy to clean. Make sure it is comfortable for your fur baby.

Window Protection

Nose prints on windows are just a fact of life, right? They don’t have to be. Try a magnetic window shade, which also protects against UV rays. Alternatively, you can buy shatter resistant window film to add another layer of protection to your glass. In a pinch, clear plastic wrap works too.

Scratch Protection

Paint and surfaces can be easily scratched. You can help to prevent scratches with some paint protection film on doors and trunk sills where your dog usually enters your vehicle. If your dog will wear them, nail caps can work too.


While our dogs may want to ride in the front seat, it’s not a good idea. In the event of an accident, your front seat airbag could deploy. Safety is important, and you want to keep them from jumping into your lap when you’re driving. That’s where barriers come in. They keep your fur baby safely in the back. Barriers come in various materials, from breathable mesh to heavy duty fabric to plastic or metal.

Safety Belts

Just as we wear seat belts, it’s a good idea to secure your dog. Some safety belts hook right into your car seat belts. Others attached to your seats. Choose a harness that goes around your fur baby’s body. Never secure them by their collar as the leash can pull unnecessarily on their necks.


You can also travel with your fur baby in a crate or pet carrier. They come in a range of styles. Some are soft mesh and others are hard. Some come with wheels for easy transport. Make sure the crate is large enough so that your dog can stand, turn around, and lie down in it.

Tips for Traveling with Your Pet

Follow these additional tips for traveling with your pet.

  • Start with short trips to get your dog used to the car before driving long distances.
  • Feed your dog 3 hours before you leave.
  • If you need to feed your dog on the road, stop the car to do it.
  • Stop regularly along the way so dogs can stretch their legs and go to the bathroom.
  • Give your dog access to clean water. Riding in the car can be stressful for dogs and if they pant, they can lose water.
  • Don’t let your dog hang their head out the window.
  • Never leave your dog alone in the car. Hot cars are dangerous, but even in cool weather, a well-meaning passerby may try to release your dog.
  • Pack an emergency kit for messes. Include gloves and cleaning supplies. (A moistened rubber glove is great for picking up pet fur.)
  • Don’t forget your dog’s favorite treats.

Finally, protect your fur baby with pet insurance. You can easily add coverage from Pet’s Best to your California Casualty auto or home policy.  Find out more about what pet insurance can cover by talking with a California Casualty customer service representative today.


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

Do I Need a Home Safe?

Do I Need a Home Safe?

A home safe is a fortress for your prized possessions and a sanctuary for your peace of mind. In an unpredictable world, a safe might be exactly what you need to protect your valuables. How do you know if one is right for you, and which one do you need? Read on.

Reasons to buy a home safe:

There are many reasons why people buy home safes. These include:

  • Protecting valuables from theft
  • Storing firearms safely
  • Safeguarding important documents
  • Keeping items safe from damage during fires, floods, and natural disasters

 Types of Safes

The reasons that you want a home safe will determine the type of safe that you need. Safes are specially designed with certain features, depending upon their use. Note that you can get safes that combine features such as a burglary safe that is also a fireproof safe. Here are some of the most common types:

Burglary Safe

This type of safe protects your cash and other valuables from being stolen. While no safe is 100% secure, a burglary safe is designed with sturdy material that can withstand attacks by hammers and cutting instruments. Burglary safes are often classified based on the tools and techniques required to break into them. Common burglary ratings include:

  • Residential Security Container (RSC): Suitable for residential use, providing basic protection against burglaries.
  • TL (Tool Resistant): Indicates resistance against common hand tools like hammers, chisels, and drills.
  • TRTL (Torch and Tool Resistant): Resistant to torches and more advanced tools.
  • TXTL (Explosive and Tool Resistant): Provides high-level protection against explosives and advanced tools.

Data Safe

A data safe is used to store electronic data such as hard drives, USB sticks, DVDs, film, tapes, and more. These products can be damaged by heat, humidity, dust, and electric/static charges. Not all safes will protect computer media and data. A data safe uses specially insulated material to keep the inner part cooler than traditional safes.

Fireproof Safe

This type of safe protects its contents from heat, fire, and smoke damage. Fireproof safes usually have a thin metal exterior, a middle core made of flame-retardant material, and an inner layer of felt or carpet. However, since the metal on a fireproof safe is typically thin, it can be easily punctured or cut with simple tools. Fireproof safes are tested to see how long they can maintain a certain internal temperature without damaging the contents. Common ratings include:

  • 30-minute
  • 60-minute
  • 90-minute
  • 2-hour
  • 3-hour

Floor Safe

A floor safe is embedded in the floor, usually in the concrete foundation. Floor safes are great for concealing valuables. They protect well against burglaries and fire. However, in the event of a fire, floor safes often fill with water so you will want to include any contents in waterproof containers. Floor safes also can be expensive and messy to install. You need to install them in a concrete foundation which means the location might be inconvenient.

Gun Safe

A gun safe is ideal for guns and ammunition. These safes can be small enough to fit in a nightstand drawer or larger depending on how many weapons you must store. Many people keep them easily accessible but out of view, so guns are safely tucked away from children, guests, and importantly criminals. Look for a gun safe with a minimum of a 1-hour fireproof rating, a secure locking mechanism, and half-inch or thicker steel.

Jewelry Safe

While you might keep your necklaces, earrings, and bracelets in a jewelry box, you might consider a jewelry safe for higher worth items. After all, jewelry is an easy “grab and go” option for thieves and it’s relatively easy for them to resell precious gems and gold. Jewelry safes often include fabric-lined drawers for organizing your collection. You’ll want to have a burglary safe and fireproof version to keep jewelry from being damaged in the event of a fire.

Wall Safe

These safes are installed in your wall and can be concealed. They’re usually mounted between support beams. You’re limited by size and weight. You don’t want the wall safe to stick out into another wall; nor do you want it too heavy to be held up when attached to drywall and wood studs. While wall safes may be placed in convenient locations, they are less secure than a safe bolted to the floor. A wall safe can be cut out of the wall.

Waterproof Safe

A waterproof safe keeps its contents dry even when the safe is fully submerged in water. While no safe is truly waterproof, there are different water protection ratings. Look for ETL water protection ratings that identify the timing and depth, such as up to 8 inches deep for 24 hours or fully submerged for up to 72 hours. Waterproof safes can help in cases of extreme weather.

Types of Locks

When you buy a safe, not only do you have to consider the body, but the lock that secures it. Following are the different kinds of locks available.

  • Key – If you have the key that fits the lock, you gain access. Certain key locks allow you to change keys for times when keys are lost, stolen or if you think they’ve been duplicated.
  • Mechanical Combination – Similar to a combination lock that you may have had on your locker or to secure your bike, a mechanical combination lock relies on a dial or wheel that you spin in a certain sequence. The combination locks for safes can have as many as 1 million code variations, and the four-wheel variety can have 100 million code combinations.
  • Digital Combination – These combination locks use a keypad rather than a dial to enter your numbers. Codes may be changed as necessary. Digital combination locks rely on batteries, so make sure yours are up to date.
  • Dual – A dual key and combination lock gives you the option to use either method to open your safe.
  • Biometric – These locks work by scanning your fingerprint, palm print, face, or eye. There’s no need to remember a code or carry a key. They can be set up to store more than one user’s credentials to allow access to several people.

 Safes come in many sizes.

You will usually see measurements in cubic feet. To find the interior size of a safe in cubic feet, multiply its height, width, and depth, then divide by 1728. For instance, if a safe is 20” x 15” x 20”, its interior is approximately 3.47 cubic feet. It’s wise to select a slightly larger safe than you initially think you need, as your storage needs may grow over time.

Whether or not you decide to purchase a safe, you can take steps to prevent a burglary. Finally, protect the things inside your home with personal property coverage. This will help ensure your valuables are fully covered.


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

Teen Driver Monitoring Apps

Teen Driver Monitoring Apps

You gave your teen the keys to the car, and now they’re off. How do you know they’ll be safe on the road? The latest technologies can help. We’ve done a deep dive into some of the most popular driving monitoring apps that can help your teen establish safe driving habits. Here’s what you need to know.

What can apps measure?

  • Speed limits: With limited driving experience, your teen may not realize the dangers of driving fast. They may not know how much time it takes to slow down a car. There are apps that set a speed limit and notify you if the driver exceeds that limit.
  • Distractions: Distracted driving is an issue for us all but new drivers are especially vulnerable. They may not realize how much can happen if they take their eyes off the road for even a few seconds. Even responding to a phone call or changing playlists can lead to an accident. Some apps set a Do Not Disturb mode when the car reaches a certain speed. If your teen disables the setting, you will be notified.
  • Locations: GPS tracking can let you know your teen is where they are supposed to be. Some systems also have a silent alarm so that your teen can signal an SOS if they feel unsafe.

Before you install a driver monitoring app, it’s important to have a conversation with your teen. Make sure you include any other family rules such as the curfew for the car being home, and how you wish your teen to check in with you. Discuss distracted driving and how they should handle calls and texts.  In doing so, you are setting up your teen for a lifetime of safe driving.

The Apps

Auto Coach (free)

This app is designed to help parents teach teens how to drive safely. It was developed by the Shepherd Center Hospital in conjunction with the Georgia Governor’s Office of Highway Safety. It includes interactive lessons for teens with cognitive and physical disabilities. The app tracks driving hours and keeps parents involved in the process.

Bouncie (monthly subscription plus one-time device charge)

This offers real-time detailed insights and driving reports on speed, location, idle time, and hard braking. Bouncie also can monitor gas mileage and fuel economy, battery level, oil level and vital alerts. Information is accessible on your smartphone or computer. Bouncie requires a device that plugs into your vehicle. It works for most vehicles made after 1996.

FamiSafe (monthly subscription)

This app goes well beyond safe driving. It also tracks screen time and inappropriate content on kids’ devices. From a driving perspective, the app reports on speed limit, total distance traveled, and real-time physical location. It instantly notifies you if your teen speeds or brakes suddenly. Weekly driving reports help to analyze patterns. You manage all devices from a FamiSafe Dashboard on your smartphone or computer.

Family360 (monthly fee)

This app synchronizes your family into a private “circle.” It tracks everyone’s locations in real time through mobile phones. You can be notified when someone in your circle leaves or enters the places you go to most frequently.

Life360 (free and paid options)

This app offers real-time location monitoring and detailed driving reports. It tracks speeding, hard braking, and in the paid version signals crash detection and sends roadside assistance. It does more than tracking driving, however. The app includes digital monitoring, stolen phone protection, medical assistance, travel support, and disaster response.

On My Way (free)

This app pays you for safe driving. Users get 5 cents for every mile they drive without texting. While they cannot withdraw real cash, your teen can use it toward food, gas, events, travel, and gift cards.

Road Ready (free)

Part of the Parent’s Supervised Driving Program, this app logs the state’s required drive time for learners and tracks driving experiences. It also provides tips for safe driving.

Teen Time: Parental Control (free and paid options)

This is a location app that also monitors screen time and how kids are using their phones. It allows parents to limit use of games and apps. You can use it to track use of devices while your teen is driving.

TrueMotion Family Safe Driving (free)

This app tells you where your family members are and how they got there, with details on exactly how they drove. It records phone use, texting, aggressive driving, speeding, and more.


Finally, make sure that your car is well maintained and fully insured with your teen listed on the policy. Talk to your insurance agent about ways that you can save with a teen driver.


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

Best Cars for Teen Drivers in 2024

Best Cars for Teen Drivers in 2024

The hunt for the perfect set of wheels is a rite of passage for teen drivers. While they may want style and speed, you know it’s better to choose safety and value. How do you find the perfect car that will win them over and fulfill your wish list? Here’s what you need to look for when determining the best cars for teens in 2024. (Scroll down for a list of recommended vehicles by price.)

There are certain safety features that are helpful for new, young drivers. When you look for cars for your teen driver, look for these:

  • Blind spot monitoring to alert drivers of nearby vehicles
  • Automatic emergency braking systems to avoid collisions
  • Lane-keeping assist and lane departure warning systems to keep the car in its lane
  • Pedestrian detection systems
  • Speed warnings and audio muting while driving

Several automakers help parents monitor teen driving habits with technology that can set limitations, like maximum speed. Ford has MyKey and Chevy has General Motors’ Teen Driver Technology.

Some vehicles could be dangerous for teen drivers. Knowing what to avoid is also important. 

  • Sports cars have excessive horsepower which might encourage teens to drive recklessly. These cars also are more expensive to insure.
  • Compact cars weighing less than 2,750 pounds may lack adequate crumple zones—important in a collision.
  • Large vehicles have prolonged braking distances. They are also harder to maneuver and park.
  • Vehicles that seat numerous passengers could raise the risk of distractions.

New Cars vs. Used Cars

New cars will automatically come with many safety features. However, they will also come with a higher price tag. Used cars are a better value. If you can’t get every safety feature, at minimum, you will want the following: anti-lock brakes, traction control, and stability control. Also, most cars from model year 2017 and later have rearview cameras.

Recommended Vehicles

The following vehicles offer top safety ratings from the IIHS and NHTSA. IIHS is the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. NHTSA is the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The ones we’ve selected also consider reliability and fuel economy and are recommended by the Kelley Blue Book. Prices listed are based on the Kelly Blue Book Fair Purchase Price national average and could vary due to purchase location, mileage, condition, and trim package.

Cars under $30,000

2023 Toyota Prius $27,450
2024 Honda Civic $23,950
2024 Toyota Corolla $21,900
2024 Kia Seltos $24,390
2024 Subaru Crosstrek $24,995
2023 Hyundai Kona $22,140
2024 Chevrolet Trailblazer $23,100
2024 Nissan Sentra $20,630

 Cars under $20,000 

2017 Toyota RAV4 $16,665
2018 Mazda CX-5 $15,176
2017 Honda CR-V $18,272
2020 Toyota Corolla $15,872
2019 Mazda3 $13,983
2017 Honda Accord $16,021
2017 Toyota Prius $17,157
2018 Kia Sportage $12,989
2018 Honda Civic $16,049
2019 Chevrolet Equinox $13,594

 Cars under $15,000 

2018 Kia Soul $10,807
2017 Toyota Corolla $11,959
2018 Mazda3 $12,299
2015 Honda CR-V $14,141
2016 Mazda CX-5 $11,969
2015 Toyota Prius $12,442

 Cars under $10,000 

2013 Honda Accord $9,626
2013 Toyota Camry $9,344
2014 Mazda3 $7,773
2013 Toyota Corolla $8,441
2015 Honda Civic $9,463
2009 Toyota RAV4 $7,926
2010 Honda Element $9,760
2011 Toyota Avalon $9,873


Final Thoughts

 There are ways to save when adding a teen driver to your auto policy. Check with your insurer to find out more.

Safe travels to you and your new driver.


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


Plants and Pets – A Guide

Plants and Pets – A Guide

Spring is in the air, and your yard is practically begging for a green makeover. Before you dive headfirst into planting paradise, however, let’s talk about our four-legged friends. Pets don’t just smell the roses, they eat them. Which plants are a big “no-no,” and which ones are safe for our fur babies?

Pet-friendly plants:

We did the research to find the list of plants that are considered pet friendly. Here are some of the most popular options for your garden.

  • Camellias are flowering shrubs with pretty blooms. They are perennials, and once established will come back again and again. These plants prefer shade, and once established need little care.
  • Cat grass is great for digestion, and cats love it. This is an annual plant that you can put directly in your garden, after the frosty season has passed. Most likely you’ll grow I from seed. Make sure you watch for weeds and pests, both of which are common outdoors.
  • Coral bells feature small sprigs of tiny flowers on long stems. Their leaves also are colorful and can come in shades from green to orange and black.
  • Fuchsias have beautiful pink and purple blooms that look great in hanging baskets. They bloom from spring to late fall.
  • Marigolds are colorful annuals that act as a type of natural pest control. They keep beetles and other bugs away, while also attracting bees.
  • Purple basil plants add vibrant color to your garden and, as a bonus, can be harvested and used in your favorite pesto recipe. They prefer a sunny spot and need plenty of water.
  • Snapdragons are beautiful additions to your garden with their range of colors on tall stems. They do best in full sun.
  • Sunflowers come in a variety of sizes and colors. They can grow several feet tall for a dramatic effect. Plus, the seeds attract birds throughout the fall.
  • Zinnias come in many colors including purple, white, yellow, orange, pink, red, and even green. You will love that they attract butterflies to your garden.

Spring is for outdoor gardening, but don’t forget that there are many pet-friendly house plants too.

Plants dangerous to pets:

There are hundreds of problematic plants — too many to list in a single blog. We’ve compiled a list of some common ones you might already have in your garden. After all, you didn’t know until now that they could be harmful. Before you plant anything new or unfamiliar, do your research to ensure it’s safe for your pet.

  • Azaleas can cause stomach upset, heart issues, and seizures. Eating azaleas can be fatal without treatment.
  • Daffodils can cause severe vomiting and diarrhea, low blood pressure, and heart arrhythmias. In addition, the sharp calcium oxalate crystals contained in daffodils also can cause irritation of the tongue, mouth, and throat. Even drinking water from a vase filled with daffodils is dangerous.
  • Foxglove can cause nausea, vomiting, an irregular slow pulse, tremors, and bloody diarrhea. This can be life-threatening.
  • Hyacinth can cause intense vomiting, bloody diarrhea, and tremors. The bulbs include toxic calcium oxalate crystals which pierce a pet’s sensitive mouth and the inside of the intestines. The result could be severe intestinal damage.
  • Lilies can cause kidney failure in cats. They are also somewhat toxic to dogs, causing upset tummies.
  • Morning glory can cause vomiting, diarrhea, tremors, rapid heartbeat, and liver failure. The seeds are the most toxic part of the plant, and ingesting a large amount may cause hallucinations.
  • Rhododendrons are related to azaleas and have similar effects, including stomach upset, heart issues, and seizures. They can be fatal if eaten.
  • Tomato plant leaves are full of solanine, which can cause nausea, vomiting, and a slow heart rate.
  • Tulips can cause vomiting and diarrhea, abdominal pain, tremors, and even coma. Even drinking water from a vase filled with tulips is dangerous.
  • If you live in the western part of the U.S., be on the lookout for foxtails, a type of grass-like weed. Not only can they get stuck in your pet’s hair, but they can also work their way up into their nose and ears, causing serious infection and even death.

For added peace of mind, consider pet insurance which can help make treatments more affordable if your fur baby does get into a household danger or outdoor hazard.

Happy Spring and safe gardening!


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

Vehicle Tires – Air vs. Nitrogen

Vehicle Tires – Air vs. Nitrogen

When it comes to keeping your tires inflated, you have a choice. You can fill up with air, like people have done for decades, or you can use nitrogen. What are the pros and cons of each? Let’s take a closer look.


Remember when you studied molecules in science class? Molecules are the smallest amount of a substance that still carries its properties. Nitrogen molecules are larger and slower than the molecules in air.  As a gas, nitrogen also is drier. These properties give nitrogen some advantages.


    • Nitrogen won’t seep out of your tires as quickly as air because of its larger, slower molecules. That will help you to maintain your tire pressure longer.
    • The moisture naturally found in air can cause changes in temperature. With nitrogen, there is no moisture and therefore it is less susceptible to temperature changes that affect tire pressure.
    • Nitrogen is especially good for locations with very high or low temperatures. It is often used in race cars, heavy vehicles, and aircraft because it is nonflammable and able to more easily maintain its temperature.
    • Nitrogen will not react to rubber, steel, or any of the tire’s components. There is no oxidation which can damage tires. That should help preserve your tire over time.


    • You most likely will pay to inflate your tires with nitrogen. The initial charge to remove the air and fill them with nitrogen can cost about $30 per tire. Then, it will be about $7-10 per tire for topping it off as you need more nitrogen.
    • Nitrogen may not be significantly better than air at maintaining tire pressure. Consumer Reports found only a 1.3 psi difference between air and nitrogen over the timeframe of a year.
    • There is no scientific evidence that nitrogen helps with fuel economy.
    • It is harder to find places to fill up with nitrogen. You will have to search for locations that offer nitrogen, even for a fee.

 Note: If your tire is low and there is no place to get nitrogen, you can top your tire off with air. It won’t harm your tires, but it will reduce the effectiveness of the nitrogen alone.


You may be surprised to learn that air is composed of mostly nitrogen. In fact, the mix is 78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen, and about 1% of other gases. Air, which has been used to inflate tires for over a century, also has its advantages.


    • Air is often free. If it costs, it is minimal such as a dollar or two.
    • Air is readily available. You can find it at gas stations, convenience stores, wholesale clubs, tire shops, and more.
    • While air loses pressure over time, its rate is close to that of nitrogen. Plus, with air, drivers are more likely to check in often versus relying on nitrogen to stay pressurized.


    • You will experience more pressure changes with air. Air is affected by temperature changes due to water vapor in its mix. However, it is worth noting that most tire shops have moisture separators that limit the amount of water vapor.
    • The oxygen in air can cause oxidation, which can make rubber brittle over time.
    • You will have to fill your tires more often when you have air versus nitrogen.

Tire Pressure is Key

When you fill up with nitrogen, you get a green cap on your tire valve. When you fill up with air, your cap will be black. However, whether you use nitrogen or air, you still will fill your tires to the same recommended pressure. Check the inside of your door or your driver’s manual to find the right psi.

Maintaining the correct pressure helps your tires last longer, your car handle better, and could even help with fuel economy. Under or over inflated tires increase your risk of a blowout and increase wear and tear. No matter whether you use nitrogen or air, regularly checking the pressure of your tires is part of responsible vehicle maintenance.

Your car is one of your greatest investments. Protect it with the right insurance for added peace of mind.

Safe travels from all of us at California Casualty.


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

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