Winter Driving Tips

The winter will always bring with it precarious driving conditions. Whether it’s icy roads, heavy snowfall, low visibility, or any other combination of harsh weather, knowing how to control your car is key to staying safe as you journey through the snow. In fact, winter driving conditions account for more than 40% of all auto accidents and more than 113,000 injuries each year.

In addition to being more cautious while driving in adverse weather, motorists should know the safety rules for dealing with winter road emergencies.  Since road conditions can also change quickly in winter, drivers need to be aware of situations and surroundings, and be prepared to react more quickly than in other driving scenarios. Extreme temperatures may also impact vehicle function.

Below you will find some additional information on navigating your vehicle in winter weather.  And, if you do happen to experience an accident, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our office.

Winter Driving

  • Avoid driving while you’re fatigued. Getting the proper amount of rest before taking on winter weather tasks reduces driving risks.
  • Never warm up a vehicle in an enclosed area, such as a garage.
  • Make certain your tires are properly inflated.
  • Never mix radial tires with other tire types.
  • Keep your gas tank at least half full to avoid gas line freeze-up.
  • If possible, avoid using your parking brake in cold, rainy and snowy weather.
  • Do not use cruise control when driving on any slippery surface (wet, ice, sand).

Tips for long-distance winter trips:

  • Watch weather reports prior to a long-distance drive or before driving in isolated areas. Delay trips when especially bad weather is expected. If you must leave, let others know your route, destination and estimated time of arrival.
  • Keep blankets, gloves, hats, food, water and any needed medication in your vehicle.
  • If you become snow-bound, stay with your vehicle. It provides temporary shelter and makes it easier for rescuers to locate you. Don’t try to walk in a severe storm. It’s easy to lose sight of your vehicle in blowing snow and become lost.
  • Don’t over exert yourself if you try to push or dig your vehicle out of the snow.
  • Tie a brightly colored cloth to the antenna or place a cloth at the top of a rolled up window to signal distress. At night, keep the dome light on if possible. It only uses a small amount of electricity and will make it easier for rescuers to find you.
  • Make sure the exhaust pipe isn’t clogged with snow, ice or mud. A blocked exhaust could cause deadly carbon monoxide gas to leak into the passenger compartment with the engine running.
  • Use whatever is available to insulate your body from the cold. This could include floor mats, newspapers or paper maps.
  • If possible run the engine and heater just long enough to remove the chill and to conserve gasoline.

Tips for driving in the snow:

  • Accelerate and decelerate slowly. Applying the gas slowly to accelerate is the best method for regaining traction and avoiding skids. Don’t try to get moving in a hurry. And take time to slow down for a stoplight. Remember: It takes longer to slow down on icy roads.
  • Drive slowly. Everything takes longer on snow-covered roads. Accelerating, stopping, turning – nothing happens as quickly as on dry pavement.
  • The normal dry pavement following distance of three to four seconds should be increased to eight to ten seconds. This increased margin of safety will provide the longer distance needed if you have to stop.
  • Know your brakes. Whether you have antilock brakes or not, the best way to stop is threshold breaking. Keep the heel of your foot on the floor and use the ball of your foot to apply firm, steady pressure on the brake pedal.
  • Don’t stop if you can avoid it. There’s a big difference in the amount of inertia it takes to start moving from a full stop versus how much it takes to get moving while still rolling. If you can slow down enough to keep rolling until a traffic light changes, do it.
  • Don’t power up hills. Applying extra gas on snow-covered roads just starts your wheels spinning. Try to get a little inertia going before you reach the hill and let that inertia carry you to the top. As you reach the crest of the hill, reduce your speed and proceed downhill as slowly as possible.
  • Don’t stop going up a hill. There’s nothing worse than trying to get moving up a hill on an icy road. Get some inertia going on a flat roadway before you take on the hill.
  • Stay home. If you really don’t have to go out, don’t. Even if you can drive well in the snow, not everyone else can. Don’t tempt fate: If you don’t have somewhere you have to be, watch the snow from indoors.

5 Winter Tips for Your Home

So another glorious summer is over, and what do we have to look forward to now? Just imagine it: 10-degree temperatures, icy slush to drive on and cold drafty breezes inside our homes. If that excites you, you’re living in the right area and you’re in the right month. If the whole idea sends a chill down your spine, you’re in good company.

While most of us can’t do anything about the icy slush or the outside temps, we do have a good deal of control over how warm our homes can feel. The following list of tips provides some ideas on getting your home winter ready. Surprisingly, a few dollars spent up front not only saves money all winter, but makes us warmer as well. It’s kind of like having your warmth and your wallet, too.

Roofs
Most of us would prefer to ignore our roof and just hope it keeps taking care of us. Shingles can look OK from the ground but can be cracked, curled and wind damaged when you get a closer look. And when there is a problem, you can’t fix it in the winter. That foot of snow that will be on your roof in January? Well, that will pretty much prevent any attempts at stopping the mold momentum that will be growing with each passing January hour.

If you can safely inspect your roof yourself, please feel free. If not, hire a home inspector or roofer that you trust. This is one of those items that meet the $10/$10,000 rule: a few dollars spent now can save you a bundle later this winter.

Rain Gutters
Many of us are quite unaware that rain gutters perform a vital purpose. Their job is to capture all that water coming from the roof and run it well away from the structure — especially the window wells. If your gutters are full of leaves, pine needles, kite string, and tennis balls, then water that doesn’t drain stays right there and freezes leaves you with a problem: an 800 lb. ice cube tray lurking over your head. And it’s just waiting for that perfect moment to fall.

Even worse: when your gutters don’t drain, you get water that drains where it shouldn’t. Now you have water into your window wells and mold in your manor. As an added bonus, wet basements are an awesome way to introduce termites into your living space. To prevent all of the above, make sure your gutters are clean, that they drain toward the down spout, and that there is a drain tube at the end of the spout to run water well away from the foundation.

Seals
Nobody loves that waft of cold air flowing through your home in the middle of winter. Where does it come from? The usual suspects are the doors and windows, but it can come through electrical plugs and other openings on the exterior as well. There are solutions for all of the above, but the easiest and cheapest fix will be the weather stripping and door sweeps at your front and back doors. If you close your door and see daylight around the edges, then you have work to do. Don’t wait until you’re doing this project with the door open in 10-degree weather.

Hose Bibs
Ah, the lowly hose bib. Home inspectors will routinely see where homeowners leave a hose bib attached to something. One thing is pretty much certain: If you leave your hose on the hose bib all winter, you’ll have frozen pipes in the winter and broken pipes in the spring. When that valve is turned next March you’ll find you’re the proud new owner of a swimming pool in your basement. The rot, mold and termites will be soon to follow.

To avoid this, get all attachments off your hose bibs — now. In addition, make sure that your hose bib is securely attached to the structure so you can’t pull the hose out of the house. It only takes two screws to do this right, but the absence of those two screws can mean the $10,000 fix is heading your way.

Heating and Cooling Systems
To be able to safely take care of you, your furnace needs to see some love. Get a good filter, and then make sure it goes where it actually filters the incoming air to your furnace. Take a look at where air comes in and make sure your filter won’t lean, fall or lift improperly when the air flow happens. Next, take a look at your furnace. If it looks like the place where all the dust on earth comes to die, you might have a problem. Get your furnace serviced regularly.

If you have a swamp cooler, you have some tasks to do. First, start saving — central air is better in 1,000 ways. Until then make sure that the pan is drained, the supply line is drained, the supply valve is off and the supply line disconnected. Next, make sure the unit is protected against drafting cold air into your home, the power is off, and for good measure, take out the motor and bring it in. Or just roll the whole thing off the roof.

The Basics of Flood Insurance

Flooding is the most common and costly natural disaster in the United States, causing an average of $50 billion in economic losses each year. Most U.S. natural disasters declared by the President involve flooding.

There is no coverage for flooding in standard homeowners or renters policies or in most commercial property insurance policies. Coverage is available in a separate policy from the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and from a few private insurers. Despite efforts to publicize this, many people exposed to the risk of floods still fail to purchase flood insurance.

And, in light of the recent devastating floods experienced in the South, we thought it would be extremely important to shed some light on what flood insurance covers, how it is purchased, and provide an idea on the associated premiums.

WHAT’S COVERED

Building

  • The insured building and its foundation
  • Electrical and plumbing systems
  • Central air conditioning equipment, furnaces and water heaters
  • Refrigerators, cooking stoves and built-in appliances such as dishwashers
  • Permanently installed carpeting over unfinished flooring

Personal Property

  • Personal belongings, such as clothing, furniture and electronic equipment

WHAT’S NOT COVERED

  • Damage caused by moisture, mildew or mold that could have been avoided by the property owner
  • Currency, precious metals and valuable papers such as stock certificates
  • Property and belongings outside of an insured building such as trees, plants, wells, septic systems, walks, decks, patios, fences, seawalls, hot tubs and swimming pools
  • Living expenses such as temporary housing

FLOOD INSURANCE FOR BASEMENTS AND AREAS BELOW THE LOWEST ELEVATED FLOOR

Coverage is limited in basements regardless of zone or date of construction. It’s also limited in areas below the lowest elevated floor, depending on the flood zone and date of construction. These areas include:

  • Basements
  • Crawl spaces under an elevated building
  • Enclosed areas beneath buildings elevated on full-story foundation walls that are sometimes referred to as “walkout basements”
  • Enclosed areas under other types of elevated buildings

MANDATORY REQUIREMENTS

Homes and businesses with mortgages from federally regulated or insured lenders in high-risk flood areas are required to have flood insurance. While flood insurance is not federally required if you live in a moderate-to-low risk flood area, it is still available and strongly recommended.

RATES

The NFIP, a federal program, offers flood insurance, which can be purchased through most leading insurance companies. Rates are set and do not differ from company to company. These rates depend on several factors, including the date and type of construction of your home, along with your area’s level of risk. Most premiums include a Federal Policy Fee and ICC Premium. If your community participates in the Community Rating System (CRS), you may qualify for an insurance premium discount in some communities of up to 45% if you live in a high-risk area and up to 10% in moderate-to-low risk areas.

30-DAY WAITING PERIOD

Typically, there’s a 30-day waiting period from date of purchase before your policy goes into effect. Here are the only exceptions:

  • If flood insurance is being purchased in connection with the making, increasing, extending or renewing of your loan.
  • If a building has been newly designated in the SFHA and flood insurance is being purchased within the 13-month period following a map revision.
  • If flood insurance is required as a result of a lender determining that a loan that does not have flood insurance coverage should be protected by flood insurance.
  • If an additional amount of insurance is selected as an option on the renewal bill.
  • If a property is affected by flooding on burned Federal land that is a result of, or is exacerbated by, post-wildfire conditions when the policy is purchased within 60 days of the fire containment date.

Tips for Fire Claims

Recently there have been a number of wildfires throughout the country, many of them engulfing homes and destroying other property.   While we certainly hope you never have to deal with heartache and stress with losing your home or business to a fire, we would like to share some tips from the Insurance  Commissioner’s office on how to property deal with a fire claim.

According to the commissioner’s office you should do the following immediately after a fire claim:

  • Once you gain access to your property take pictures of the damage if it looks like the adjuster will be delayed.
  • Make sure your address is visible. You may have to spray paint the address onto a sheet of plywood and put it in view of the road so the adjuster can find it.
  • If you are not going to be at the property, let the adjuster know how to contact you.
  • Do not dispose of property until an insurance adjuster has reviewed it.
  • Save all receipts.
  • Avoid insurance adjusters and contractors that do not have a valid license or use high pressure tactics and require large deposits.

The commissioner’s office recommends you do the following to prepare for any future potential claims:

  • Review your property insurance coverage to make sure you have adequate limits.
  • Record an inventory of your possessions.
  • Make sure you store a copy of your inventory at a separate location.
  • Save all receipts.

If you have any additional questions or would like us to help prepare your company against any future claims, please feel free to contact our office.

Employee Dishonesty Insurance

As the economy continues to sputter, we are constantly hearing stories about employees committing desperate acts against their employer and even customers.

Here are some scenarios that we have seen happen to some of our clients in the past year:

• An employee stole inventory from the company and disappeared.
• An employee used the company credit card for personal purchases like a television, gas, clothes, etc.
• An employee skimmed money from the till for over 12 months amounting to a total loss of about $20,000.

The question we often get is on the possibility of purchasing insurance to cover these types of acts. You can certainly purchase coverage for this, but it must be done by adding Employee Dishonesty coverage to a Crime Policy.

Employee dishonesty insurance is coverage for just that: dishonest or criminal acts committed by employees. It covers losses where an employee steals money, securities or even tangible property. Some policies will even cover theft of clients’ belongings.

What is the typical limit? Like always this depends. Some companies are much more cash heavy than others, and the risk is greater for this type of loss. However, the typical limit we will see is anywhere from $50,000 to $100,000 in coverage.

How much does the coverage cost? Depending upon the limit and type of business, premium starts at a couple hundred dollars a year. Premium is almost always based upon the number of employees within the company.

Any policy exclusions?

• Acts committed by an owner, officer, or director within the company.
• Inventory shortages where the sole proof of loss is an inventory computation.
• Any employee that is discovered to have a history of prior dishonest acts either before or after being employed by the insured.

Trampoline Safety

Did you know that if you own a trampoline that your homeowners insurance will either surcharge you for the increased risk or exclude the claim from coverage? In fact, many insurance companies will refuse to write policies for homeowners with trampolines altogether.

Why are insurance companies so adverse to covering trampoline-related claims? They seem harmless enough, right? In reality, trampolines are actually very dangerous and can put you and your personal assets at risk if someone were to injure themselves on your premises.

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission and American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, trampolines account for over 100,000 emergency room visits every single year at a cost of over $100 million.

Of those injuries 92.7% involve children under the age of 16 and 59.5% resulted in a broken bone. Even worse, an AAP study from 2012 pointed out that current data on netting and other safety equipment indicates no reduction in injury rates.

If you do own a trampoline, please follow the safety items below to help prevent injuries.

Trampoline Safety Measures

The first safety measure with trampolines as recommended by the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, the Canadian Pediatric Society, and the Academy of Sports Medicine is to avoid them altogether.

As one E.R. Doctor recently lamented to the parent of a child injured on a trampoline, “Trampolines are our worst nightmare in terms of the number of accidents they cause.”

If you do own a trampoline, we highly recommend taking these steps to help prevent tragic deaths and serious trampoline injuries, especially paralysis, fractures, sprains and bruises:

  • Allow only one person on the trampoline at a time.
  • Do not attempt or allow somersaults, because landing on the head or neck can cause paralysis.
  • Do not use the trampoline without a full net enclosure and shock-absorbing pads that completely cover its springs, hooks and frame.
  • Place the trampoline away from structures, trees and other play areas.
  • No child under 6 years of age should use a full-size trampoline as they are the most susceptible to bone injuries.
  • Do not use a ladder with the trampoline, because it provides unsupervised access by small children.
  • Always supervise children who use a trampoline. (Though, it is worth noting that over half of all trampoline injuries occur with parental supervision nearby.)