We’ve all had that uncomfortable feeling of being tailgated. It’s not just an annoyance. It’s a dangerous behavior that can lead to an accident. But just how risky is tailgating and what can we do about it? Read on.
What is tailgating?
When you’re too close to the car in front of you, you’re riding “on its tail,” or tailgating. Tailgating is an aggressive behavior that can be mistaken for road rage, and even lead to it. Interestingly, even though drivers who tailgate seem to rush ahead, tailgating has little effect on getting there faster.
Why do people tailgate?
There are many reasons why people tailgate. Here are a few of the most common ones.
Aggressive drivers tend to tailgate. These are the same folks who speed and cut it close when making lane changes. They also can quickly escalate into road rage episodes.
Drivers who are impatient or frustrated may tailgate. They’re in a hurry and they want to get past the traffic to their destination.
Intoxicated or drowsy drivers may tailgate without realizing it. Their state of mind causes them to misjudge the distance to the car in front of them.
Young drivers sometimes tailgate. They do not fully understand the safe distance between cars and/or the consequences of this risky behavior.
Distracted drivers may tailgate because they’re not paying attention to the road. They’re on their phones or fiddling with something in the car.
Almost always, drivers who tailgate have a false sense of security. They think they can stop in time. Yet it may take longer than you think. Stopping distance is directly related to the size and weight of your vehicle. A large truck will take much longer to stop than a small car. Sharing the road with vehicles of all sizes is important. You need to give yourself an adequate cushion of safety so you have enough time to react and stop your vehicle.
What are the effects of tailgating?
At the very least, you can make the driver in front of you nervous by tailgating. You may even cause them to drive too fast or shift lanes quickly which can cause an accident. They also may tap on their brakes to tell you to back off. That can trigger an accident or road rage incident. In a worst-case scenario, they can stop short, causing you to rear-end them. You may even cause a chain reaction of rear-end collisions.
Some days it seems we’re practically living in our cars. Having the right things on hand can make our lives that much easier.
As you’re going from soccer practice to dance and back again, make sure you have the kid-friendly “must-haves” in your vehicle. In honor of Child Passenger Safety Week, we’ve also included some important items to keep everyone safe.
Stock the basic travel items to keep everyone clean and comfortable.
Wipes: These include wet wipes to clean hands and faces as well as disinfecting wipes for surfaces such as car seats. Up your game with stain remover wipes for those “oops” moments.
Tissues: Travel packs are easy to store. Not only are they good for the sniffles, but they can also double as napkins after eating, or toilet paper if you’re in a bathroom that has run out.
A towel: Dry off, clean off, or use to cover a hot seat. Towels can even double as a blanket or a napkin in a pinch.
Scissors: These are helpful in case you need to cut a seatbelt in an emergency. In non-emergency situations, use them to cut open items that won’t easily tear.
Pro Tip: Use a laundry basket for the things going from the car into the house and back again. It’s especially useful for sports equipment.
Keep some extra things for everyone in your family.
Ponchos and/or umbrellas: You’ll want these for when you’re caught in the rain. You can find inexpensive disposable ponchos that do the trick.
Extra pair of clothes: Include a change of clothes with underwear, and a plastic bag for dirty or wet things.
Flip flops: It’s easier storing these than shoes for those times when your child splashes in muddy puddles. They’re more forgiving in size and you buy them on clearance.
Coats, sweatshirts, and blankets: These are great when the air conditioning is blasting, or the weather turns colder unexpectedly.
Snacks and Water
Sometimes plans change, or things take longer than you expected. This way, you’ll avoid the question, “can we stop somewhere for dinner?”
Snacks: Stock child-friendly snacks and update even nonperishable ones regularly.
Self-serve containers: Invest in spill-proof cups and containers that enable toddlers and young children to serve themselves.
Water: Choose reusable bottles, filled with fresh water to keep everyone hydrated. Water is also helpful when someone has sticky hands or sandy/dirty feet.
Trash bag: You want a place where the kids can throw their trash. Disposable plastic or paper bags are good options. Make sure to empty them often.
Keep them occupied with their favorite activities so that you can stay focused on the road.
Shoe box of toys: Let them decorate a shoe box and choose their favorite toys for the car. Include crayons and add some coloring books to your bag of books, below.
Reading: Pack a bag of books for every age level. Consider audio books for longer trips.
Power converter: Charge everything from phones to kids’ tablets to portable DVD players.
Restaurant backpack: Stopping to eat? Fill a backpack with toys and activities for kids to use at the restaurant.
We recognize Child Passenger Safety Week each September. It’s a reminder to keep safety in mind when we’re on the road.
LifeVac anti-choking device: Enjoying snacks in the car? This rescue suction device can save a life in a choking emergency.
Safewise seat alarm: This device detects when you open a back door before starting the engine. It sounds a chime, then issues escalating reminders so that you won’t accidentally leave a child behind in a hot car.
First aid kit: From band aids to antibiotic ointments, chances are you’re going to have to take care of minor injuries on the road. Make sure your first aid kit is fully stocked with the items you need. Include a first aid manual for those situations where you’re not exactly sure what to do.
Emergency roadside kit: Make sure you’re fully prepared in case you get stuck or stranded. Flares, flashlights, and jumper cables are good things to have in your emergency car kit.
Teach your children safety in and around vehicles for added protection. Finally, protect your car with the right insurance. It will give you peace of mind as you take care of your most precious cargo—your children. Safe travels.
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.
Thump, thump, thump. The sound of a flat tire doesn’t have to ruin your day. Be prepared for a future blow-out or puncture by reviewing how to use a car jack safely. In honor of National Preparedness Month, we’ve prepared a step-by-step guide. Bookmark this or print it out for when you need it.
First, what kind of jack do you have?
There are different kinds of jacks, and they operate slightly differently. Know which one you have.
Chances are you have a scissor jack. These are the jacks that typically come with new cars. Their compact size allows them to easily fit in a vehicle’s trunk. They look like two pairs of scissors joined at the tips, creating a diamond shape. Scissor jacks are designed to get the job done but they’re not meant for repeated use over time.
Hydraulic floor jacks are used by car enthusiasts. They’re also known as bottle jacks. They have a metal base with a lever extending to the side. They can be used repeatedly over time. However, their bulkier size makes them harder to store.
Step 1: Park the car.
You saw the tire warning light or heard the thudding sound of a tire going flat. Safely pull over away from traffic. Don’t try to drive on a flat tire; it can cause harm to the wheel.
Make sure you are parked on solid ground. Don’t put a jack on dirt or grass. It will not be stable enough. (If you have to park on dirt or grass, use a thick, flat piece of wood to create a stable platform for the jack.)
Don’t use a jack on an incline. If you must, make sure you’re close to the curb. If you’re parked downhill, turn your front wheels toward the curb. If you’re parked uphill, turn your wheels away from the curb.
Put the car in park and engage the parking brake. If your car has a manual transmission, put it in first gear and engage the parking brake. Turn the engine off and put on your hazard lights.
Step 2: Secure the wheels.
For an added precaution, you will want to “chock” at least one wheel. A chock is a block or wedge placed against a wheel to prevent it from moving.
You can buy an inexpensive chock block or wheel wedge from an auto or big box store. If you don’t have one, you may use wood blocks or bricks.
If you’re lifting the front of the car, put the chock behind the back tire.
Do the opposite of the corner that you’re going to lift. If you’re lifting the front right wheel, then chock the rear left and vice versa.
Step 3: Set up the jack.
You will find your jack in the trunk or under the luggage floor cover.
Jacks are not labeled with “this side up.” Make sure that it’s not upside down when you place it on the ground. For a scissor jack, look for a larger flat base at the bottom and a smaller “saddle” pad at the top.
If you have a handle assembly, put the handle together. For scissor jacks, slip the included rod tool through the hole and turn to pull the sides of the scissor inward and the top and bottom of the jack apart. For hydraulic jacks, you will need to place the handle in the opening. To operate hydraulic jacks, simply pump the handle.
Practice without a load. You can use silicone spray if the jack is tight or jerky.
Step 4: Place the jack.
On most vehicles, there are 4 jacking points with reinforced metal to safely lift your car.
Look just behind the front wheels and just in front of rear wheels or consult your owner’s manual.
If you are lifting just one wheel, choose a jack point near that corner. Most likely, the right place is on the pinch weld (where the metal pieces are welded together) between the front and rear tires. There may be a solid square of metal underneath the car for your jack point.
It’s going to be a hot one. When you’re traveling, that can be a problem. Vacationing in extreme heat is not only uncomfortable, but it can put you in real danger. Here’s how to keep your cool when you’re traveling or vacationing in extreme heat this summer.
Avoid the hottest hours.
The sun is highest at midday but that’s not when the air is the hottest. While it depends on your geographic location, generally the hottest times of day are between 3 and 6 pm. It’s a good idea to avoid being outside during those hours. Take a siesta in your vacation home. Plan an itinerary that includes outdoor adventures earlier in the day or in the evening. The advantage of traveling in the summer is that sunset is very late in some countries so there’s extended daylight well into the evening hours.
Pro Tip: Check for evening discounts. Some attractions may offer them.
Wear the right clothes.
Look for white or light-colored clothing made of rayon, cotton, or linen. Those fabrics will allow heat to pass through and keep you cooler. Avoid synthetics and dark colors which absorb heat. Choose loose styles that allow your body the space to “breathe” and sweat. Don’t forget your hat and sunglasses; both will help.
You sweat more when it’s hot, and so you need to replenish the water and nutrients lost by your body. Try to drink every 15-30 minutes even if you’re not thirsty. Stick to water or sports drinks that have electrolytes. Avoid caffeinated drinks and alcohol, both of which are dehydrating.
Pro Tip: Set reminders on your phone to hydrate. There are apps available that can make it fun.
Choose the right foods.
When we eat a lot of heavy foods, our bodies work hard to digest them. In the process, that creates heat. Choose lighter fare instead. Hydrating foods like fruits and salads do double duty and provide extra water. Cold foods, like ice cream and smoothies, naturally help to cool down your body. Salty snacks such as salted nuts, popcorn, and trail mixes help replace electrolytes.
If you can’t get to a swimming pool to cool down, there are some creative options. Take a cold shower or dunk your head under the faucet. Wet hair will make breezes feel cool. Hold your wrists under cool running water. Wet your hat or wear a damp evaporation scarf. All of this will help lower your body’s core temperature.
Pro Tip: Invest in a breeze fan and bring the misty breeze along with you.
Use an umbrella.
Think of it as your personal shady spot. By keeping the sun’s rays off you, an umbrella will make you cooler. Heading to the beach? Bring a tent or umbrella for a similar effect. In general, it’s a good idea to seek out shade wherever you go.
Look for places to cool off.
Look for malls, libraries, museums, and galleries that can offer quick relief. Plan for those inside activities during the hottest part of the day. You may want to call ahead to confirm that they have air conditioning. It is not necessarily the norm in countries outside the U.S.
Don’t overdo it.
Exercise raises your core body temperature. Limit physical activities in the heat. Avoid climbing hills or doing any activities that require exertion. These activities will only put extra stress on your body as it’s trying to deal with the heat.
Take care of your car.
Extreme heat can affect your car, too. If you’re on a road trip, make sure to be aware of the effects. The heat could make it hard for your battery to hold a charge. It can affect tire pressure and even cause tires to overheat, putting you at risk for a blowout. Air conditioning puts extra stress on the engine. Before you plan a road trip in the summer, have your vehicle checked to make sure it’s in its best shape to travel.
Acclimate yourself before your trip.
You can adjust your body to the heat before your vacation. Go to a sauna or steam room. Work up to spending 30-40 minutes in that sauna/steam room over 7-10 days. It allows your body to get used to the heat.
Beware of heat stroke.
Know the signs of heat stroke and a place where you can get medical attention while traveling. Children and the elderly are especially vulnerable so you will want to take extra precautions to keep them cool.
Safe travels and enjoy the journey!
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.
With its beautiful beaches, rich culture, and delicious cuisine, Mexico is a popular travel destination. Plus, it’s one that can be reached by car for many Americans. If you’re planning a family road trip to Mexico or heading there for some much-needed rest and relaxation, you’ll want to do your research. Here are some tips to get you started.
Apply for Mexico Auto Insurance.
Mexico does not recognize U.S. auto insurance. If you’re driving to Mexico from the U.S. in your own car or a rental, you will need to purchase a tourist auto policy.
A Mexico auto policy will allow you to cover damages if you’re involved in an accident.
If you cannot show proof of Mexican insurance, you can be heavily fined and even arrested. This is true even if you are not at fault for the accident.
You can get coverage for the duration of your trip: a few days, a few months, or longer.
You can purchase this coverage from your U.S. insurer.
If driving your own car, apply for a vehicle permit.
Mexico requires temporary import permits, which essentially is registering your car in the country. The government agency that issues permits is called Banjercito. You will be asked to leave a monetary deposit that will be returned to you when you return home.
You may purchase this temporary import permit at the border.
You also may find it online. (Click the Ingles/English version to see the page in English.)
Avoid rental car scams.
It’s common for car rental places in Mexico to quote very low prices but to have hidden rental fees. When you show up to get your car, you discover that you have to pay crazy high fees.
Be wary of low car rental fees and make sure to read the fine print.
Discover Cars is a reputable website that helps you find the best rental prices.
Make sure you carry valid identification.
U.S. citizens must present a valid U.S. passport (book or card) and an entry permit which you will receive at immigration when you cross into Mexico. If you are driving a car, you also need a driver’s license.
A U.S. driver’s license works in Mexico, but if you have time, you may apply for an international driver’s permit. It sometimes takes about 6 months to receive one, but it will translate your license into Spanish.
When the immigration officer hands your stamped passport back to you at customs, it will include a tear-off FMM form. Hold onto this form and keep it with you. It is important documentation and you will need to show it when you leave the country. Otherwise, you will have to pay a fine.
Understand Mexican road markings and signage.
You’ll want to brush up on your Spanish for your Mexico road trip. That’s the language for the road signs. The signage also may look a little bit different than what you’re used to, so familiarize yourself with it before you go. Also, Mexico uses the metric system, so you may want to reacquaint yourself with it.
Remember that both distance and speed limits are in kilometers. If you’re driving your U.S. car, it should have a reading for kilometers. If you’re driving a rental car from Mexico, kilometers should be displayed automatically.
Keep a copy of Mexican road signs with English translations with you in the car.
Stop lights are horizontal rather than vertical.
Know Mexico’s road system.
While you may expect traveling in Mexico to be a bit different than the U.S., you may be surprised at some basic differences. There are Facebook groups where you can talk to former U.S. citizens living in Mexico – ex-pats – and ask specific questions about your proposed route.
There may not be gas stations in rural areas. You can ask around, as sometimes gas is sold in convenience stores.
You have to pay to travel the highways and they can be surprisingly expensive. They only take cash, not credit cards.
On the free roads, look out for speed bumps that may or may not be marked. These are known as topes and can cause damage to your car if you hit them too fast.
If you’re traveling between states in Mexico, there are military-style checkpoints where you will have to stop and let them search your car.
Ride the bus.
Mexico has a bus system with different classes of service, and many U.S. visitors enjoy its higher classes—which are comparable to business class airline service.
Executive and first-class bus travel come with comfortable seats, air conditioning, and onboard restrooms. These routes are efficient and operate on time with few stops.
Some bus stations include lounges for executive travelers.
Toilets at bus stations come with a charge of between $3-$5 for entry, so be prepared.
Mexico also offers shared minibusses and vans known as colectivos (and other names). While you can save money using these, they may be cramped, without air conditioning and they have been known to break down—so use these with caution.
Know where you want to go.
Mexico has 758,00 square miles (or 2 million square kilometers) to explore. This includes beaches, mountains, cities, canyons, jungles, and more—plus plenty of distinctive food, culture, architecture, and activities. Plan out where you are going to go so that you can get the most out of your trip, and do it safely.
In some parts of Mexico, there are caverns with underground water where you can swim. These swimming holes are called cenotes.
Beaches in certain regions of Mexico have a seaweed problem known as sargassum. This starts in late spring and continues to the fall, so check to see whether this affects where you will be visiting.
Most of Mexico’s museums are closed on Mondays so plan your trip accordingly.
Be an informed traveler.
Travel helps to broaden your horizons with exposure to different cultures and experiences. Do your research on your destination so that you will not only understand the local perspective but you can enjoy it.
Know that time is relative in Mexico. Do not assume that everything is going to start on time. In most cases, it probably won’t. Plan for this when making your itinerary.
There is no free Wi-Fi in Mexico’s cafes and restaurants.
The Spanish word for women is “mujeres,” which means that bathrooms labeled with the letter “M” are for women. (This is especially confusing to American travelers!)
Don’t drink the tap water in Mexico. It’s not safe. To avoid paying lots of money for bottled water, consider bringing a reusable water bottle with a disposable filter.
Cash is king in Mexico, so where possible, pay with pesos. When paying with a credit card, many merchants will add a tip before running the card, so be aware. (You can actually tell them the tip you want to add before running the card.)
When withdrawing money, look for ATMs that are located inside banks. If you have a problem with a street ATM, it may be hard to locate the owner.
Pay attention to State Department travel warnings.
Whenever you are traveling out of the country, it is good to check the U.S. State Department’s website for any travel warnings for your destination. These will include any security or health risk warnings, including updates on COVID-19.
Sign up for the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, a free service that gives you the latest updates when you’re traveling out of the country.
The State Department will tell you if there are regions to avoid and precautions to take on your travels. Follow their recommendations.
A vacation could turn into an expensive COVID-19 quarantine if you unexpectedly have to cover the costs of additional days in Mexico, so plan accordingly.
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.
Looking forward to relaxing on a warm beach, hitting the slopes on a scenic mountain, or choosing day trips for a stress-free staycation this Spring Break?
Check out our timesaving guide for planning your next vacation or staycation.
Set your budget.
Where can you go and what can you do? It depends on your budget. A travel budget is not an ironclad number; it’s more of an estimate. Think of a figure that you’d be willing to spend on a vacation or a staycation. Then determine if that amount covers the major expenses of your trip: accommodations and travel expenses.
Research travel deals and airfare specials.
Check out the rates of less popular airports near your destination to save money.
What’s your vacation style? Maybe you like touring museums and cultural attractions or you prefer lounging by the pool. You might like being active, such as skiing, hiking, or bicycling. The types of vacation that you most enjoy will help determine your destination. Match that to the budget and you’ll be able to choose a great destination.
Take advantage of discounts, such as credit card points, AAA, or military.
Check out additional discounts on Groupon, Kayak, Priceline, booking.com, and other services.
Book your airfare and/or reserve your rental car.
Create a draft travel itinerary. Buy tickets for popular activities so you won’t arrive and find them sold out.
Select your accommodations.
You may not be spending a lot of time in your room, but you do want a central location that allows you to do what you want to do. In some cases, like on a staycation, your lodging may be your entire vacation because it provides everything you need.
Determine the amenities that are important to you. Do you want a kitchen where you can cook meals? A beachside location? A place that’s walking distance to everywhere you want to be? On-site entertainment? All-inclusive services?
You can stay in a hotel, a cabin, a treehouse, a resort, a bed-and-breakfast, on a cruise ship, or any of a number of options. Choose the right lodging for your vacation style and your budget.
Do you have friends or family that you’d like to visit? Consider staying with them and incorporating them into your vacation plans for all or part of spring break. Alternatively, see if they’d like to swap houses with you for the week.
Purchase insurance just in case.
Accidents happen and plans change. That’s where travel and rental insurance come in. Travel insurance can reimburse you if you are unable to go on your trip. Rental car insurance can help in the event of a collision or other damage to your rental car.
If you’re renting a car out of the country, double-check that your auto policy covers you. For example, when traveling in Mexico, you will need a special Mexico policy.
Travel insurance comes in many varieties. You can get trip cancellation, trip interruption, or trip delay insurance. You also can get baggage loss coverage. Talk to your insurance provider about what is available to you.
You also can get medical expenses and medical evacuation coverage. This is important for trips outside the country. Once again, speak to your insurance provider to make sure you qualify for the coverage.
For the foreseeable future, you will want to take precautions to guard against COVID-19. After all, it’s no fun to be sick on vacation; neither is it a good idea to bring a virus back to your students. When traveling, follow these guidelines.
Some destinations require COVID tests. Know the rules and regulations so that you can schedule your test before your trip or at the airport.
Wear your mask at the airport and on the plane.
Wash your hands frequently.
Avoid crowds where possible, and stay 6 feet away from others.
Plan a staycation.
A staycation can be as much fun as a vacation with the advantage of being a lot more affordable. While you can certainly use the time for projects around the house, you can enjoy a real break by planning day trips and fun activities.
You don’t technically have to stay home during a staycation. Consider one or two nights at a local hotel or other fun lodging.
Choose a theme for your staycation, such as gourmet traveler, spa serenity, or tourist in your own town. Use it to inspire your activities.
Enjoy fun takeout or restaurant meals that make the week feel special.
Disconnect from social media and the news. Enjoy movie nights, game nights, and other interactive fun.