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We just celebrated the first day of autumn! Whether it’s still 90 degrees where you are, or the leaves are already crunching underfoot, it’s important to remember that winter will be here sooner than we expect it to be. And while some of us look forward to the cold and others dread it, we all have something in common as long as we own a home and belongings: our insurance policies need to be in order before the cold weather hits.

Insure New Home Renovations

If the warm summer weather made you want to roll up your sleeves and make improvements to your house, then you’ll want to reexamine your insurance policy before the winter hits. Depending on what kind of improvement you made, the addition to your home may not be covered under your existing policy. Before the renovation has to stand up against its first winter, check with your agent and make sure your costly project is protected with the right coverage.

Double Check Your Automobile Policy

With an uptick in holiday travel, dreary weather, freezing temperatures, and earlier nightfall, it’s no surprise that car accidents are more likely to occur in the winter. Before the weather takes a turn for the worse, check in on your auto policy and make sure your coverage is ready to handle claims for liability and collision.

While you’re checking up on your automobile coverage, consider checking in on the boat or RV insurance policies, too. If you usually discontinue or downgrade your summer fun policies in the winter, make sure these vehicles are secured from theft and fire as much as possible. Talk to your agent about where you store your boat or RV for the summer, and see what your biggest risk factors are.

Account For an Increase in Personal Property

Summer vacations are a great opportunity to load up on keepsakes, souvenirs, and decor. If your trip this year included purchases like exotic artwork, antiques, jewelry, or something else, you’ll want to use this fall season to check your personal property policy and make sure it has enough coverage to protect these new, one-of-a-kind items.

Independent Insurance Agents Here to Serve You

Having a lot of property to protect is quite a responsibility, but it is always worth it when something goes wrong. We’re here to help take the stress out of that responsibility, and ensure you’re properly covered all year round. Give us a call to go over your policies this fall, so you can cozy up stress-free when winter rolls around.

Starting to drive is one of the most exciting experiences for teenagers, but it can also be one of the most dangerous. According to the CDC, teenagers are the most likely age group to get into a traffic accident. Teens are more likely to speed and less likely to wear seatbelts than older drivers. They are also much more likely to become distracted while driving, resulting in a much higher potential for injury-causing or even fatal accidents. What are the most common distractions facing teen drivers, and what can be done?

Cell Phone Usage

Perhaps the most obvious cause of teen distracted driving is the use of cell phones while on the road. Cell phone use while driving is illegal in some states, but many people–especially teenagers–still engage in it. Both talking on the phone and texting are dangerous for the teen driver, and many teens will even open and use social media apps while driving. Distracted driving causes 15% of all injury-causing accidents, so as the most susceptible to distracted driving, teens should be made highly aware of the potential consequences of their actions.  

Talking on the phone can cause mental distraction and manual distraction, and even hands-free conversation methods can cause distraction. Texting while driving is much more dangerous, as it causes mental, manual, and visual distraction. Taking your mind off the road is never good, but focusing your mind, hands, and eyes elsewhere is an incredibly dangerous combination. When you are distracted in these ways, reactions to potential dangers are much slower or may be completely missed.

Other Distractions

Cell phones are a serious distraction for teen drivers, but they are not the only source. Anything that takes your hands off of the wheel and mind or eyes off of the road can cause an accident. This includes activities such as eating, changing the music, applying makeup, and interacting with passengers. This last is perhaps the most dangerous of all. Studies have found that teenagers’ chances of a crash increase significantly with each additional passenger in the vehicle. This is especially true if the fellow passengers are teen peers.

Solutions

It is important for parents to share the dangers of distracted driving with their teenage children, but it is even more important for adults to model responsible driving behavior. Teens will not heed warnings against phone usage or other risky activities if they regularly see their parents engaging in these behaviors.

There are also some mobile apps that will prevent cell phone usage while a car is in motion or when manually enabled before driving. These apps can be a good way to help teens become accustomed to leaving their phone alone while driving, so that in the future they can practice self control on their own.

Be Prepared

Educating teens about distracted driving and helping them find ways to combat these dangers can greatly help reduce teenage traffic accidents. However, we cannot control everyone on the road, and even the safest drivers can experience a collision. Make sure you and your family is covered in the event of a car accident with the right auto insurance.

Brake failure is easily one of the most dangerous malfunctions that can occur in your vehicle. There are many reasons why brakes fail, but even if you aren’t a mechanic, you should know the signs of brake failure so you can get your car serviced as soon as you start noticing them! Here are six ways to know if your brakes are starting to malfunction.

YOUR BRAKE PEDAL HAS FALLEN

A falling brake pedal is one of the classic signs of brake failure. When your brakes are in good condition, your pedal will stay in the same position every day. If it falls toward the floor, it will be impossible not to notice. This means that your brakes are likely out of adjustment, and it could mean that there is a mechanical failure or air in your vehicle’s system.

YOUR BRAKES ARE SQUEALING OR GRINDING

Brakes that squeal or grind aren’t just nuisances. They’re actually a pretty serious problem, because these noises can indicate that your brake pads are wearing thin and/or that the brake is worn all the way down to the rotors.

YOUR BRAKE PEDAL IS VIBRATING

When we say vibrating, we don’t just mean the slight shudder caused by your anti-lock brake system (ABS)  when you slam on the brakes really hard. We mean a shudder that happens when you hit your brake normally, often accompanied by a chattering noise and a hard-to-control steering wheel. The chattering sound is usually produced by warped rotors, which the brakes can’t clamp onto as easily to stop the vehicle.

YOU THINK YOUR ALIGNMENT IS OFF

If your car is pulling to one side or the other when you brake, don’t automatically mistake it for a slight misalignment! If you notice the pulling only when you apply pressure to your brakes, it could mean that one of the car’s wheel cylinders or calipers is seized or frozen. It could also mean that you have fluid leaking on the brake pads or shoes.

YOU HAVE TO HIT THE BRAKES HARDER

If you begin noticing that you have to press your brakes harder than usual to slow down or stop, it could mean that one of your brakes or an axle isn’t performing the way it should. Don’t let this continue for awhile; call your mechanic and bring your car in for a checkup as soon as possible.

WHAT TO DO

If you think your brakes are failing, it is imperative that you get your vehicle checked out as soon as you can. Properly functioning brakes can do more than save you from a fender-bender and an insurance headache – they can save your life.

Parking lots are considered one of the most dangerous places to drive for a reason. With limited visibility, crowded spaces, and mediocre signage, parking lots are hot spots for fender benders on a daily basis. When an accident happens in a parking lot, there are typically three characters who have an important role to play in resolving the wreck quickly and calmly: the driver, the victim, and the witness. Here, we break down what you should do in this situation according to your role:

If You Are the Driver

As the offending driver, there are several scenarios you can find yourself in here. The number one thing to remember is, no matter what, don’t drive off! You may be panicking and thinking you can get away with it, but hit-and-runs are pretty serious offenses in most states, and parking lot surveillance cameras are more common than you’d think.

If the car was parked, go inside the establishment and try to track down the driver. The best way to do this is to get a customer service representative to describe the victim’s car and make an announcement over the intercom. If the driver doesn’t appear, it’s time to take all the matters into your own hands. If the damage to the car is as minor as a scratch or small dent, write a note that includes your name, number, and explanation of the accident and secure it onto the other driver’s car. If the damage is more extensive, call the police to come document the accident in the parking lot. This professional documentation helps police track down the other driver, and it can protect you in the long run when it’s time to file an insurance claim.

If You’re the Victim

If your car is the one that got hit, it is important to contact your auto insurance agent as soon as you can. The faster an accident is reported, the more accurate the claim will be. If the other driver is still at the scene, make sure you write down their name, phone number, driver’s license number, address, and insurance company.

Whether the other driver is still there or not, record evidence of the accident. Take pictures of the damage and look for witnesses in the parking lot. Before you leave, go into the store and ask the manager if he or she has any security camera footage you can check. If the other driver left, this last step can help you and the police track them down!

If You’re a Witness

As a witness, you may feel like you aren’t involved in the accident, but you actually play a very important role here. If you see a parking lot accident happen, you should provide assistance to the victim and driver. If the offending driver drove away, then help the other driver document the damage. Also provide them with your contact information so the police or insurance company can contact you later if needed. Having a witness on hand can really help the victim later on. It isn’t against the law to turn your head and not help out, but it is the right thing to do and a generally accepted social rule to stop and help if you witness an accident.

Every driver’s safety hinges upon their skill behind the wheel. If it is your first time training a teenager on how to drive in the rain, it’s a good idea to teach them everything they need to be aware of both before and during the driving session. Many of these are things that experienced drivers do on autopilot every time it rains, so it may be easy to forget to teach a young driver.

We’ve put together some important points for you to include in your training, so your teen doesn’t have any unpleasant surprises when he or she hits the road in the rain.

Before Hitting the Road: Know What to Check For

How Are the Tires?

  • The car you have your teen driving probably has tires that are in good condition, but teach them how to measure a tire’s tread using a gauge anyway. When they’re out on their own, they need to know that a worn down tire doesn’t have enough tread depth to evacuate standing water from between the road surface and the tire. They should know how to tell when it’s time for a replacement.
  • Also teach them how to check the pressure. Tires that have too much or too little pressure can lead to reduced traction, early tread wear, or tire failure.

How is Your Visibility?

  • Show your teen how to check the quality of their windshield wipers. If they leave streaks across the windshield, they are probably old and worn down. Good windshield wipers are critical for being able to see clearly in heavy rain.
  • Make sure your teen understands how important it is to run their headlights in the rain. Many experienced drivers still don’t abide by this rule of the road! Being seen by other cars is arguably one of the most important parts of driving in the rain. Show your teen how the daytime running lights, while useful, don’t activate the rear tail lights. Without rear tail lights, it can be difficult for other drivers to see your teen’s car in heavy rain, and their chances of getting struck from behind are increased.

On the Road: Things to Always Keep in Mind

  • Slow down! Driving slower in the rain is crucial, especially when it hasn’t been raining for very long and the fresh water is mixing with slippery “road sludge.” A wet, slick road surface offers less grip compared to a dry surface, and braking distances can double.
  • Teach your teen to use the air conditioner to keep their windshield from fogging up. The A/C dehumidifies the car and keeps the windows clear. If the A/C doesn’t work, tell them to crack the back windows to allow air to circulate.
  • Make sure your teen understands how longer braking distances can really put them in danger driving in town or on the interstate. They should know to keep a further distance from the vehicle in front of them, so they have plenty of time to stop if traffic suddenly slows down.
  • Teenagers can be nervous and use jerky movements while driving. This will improve over time, but make sure your teen knows that smooth steering inputs are paramount, especially in the rain. Jerky or rushed steering can cause loss of control on a slick road. Show them how important it is to always look far ahead and anticipate every action they’ll take on their journey.

Everyone was a new driver once, but it is evident by the amount of needless accidents that not everyone was properly taught. Rainy weather is one of the most dangerous conditions to drive in, but making sure that your teen is prepared and confident will give you both peace of mind and decrease their likelihood of getting in an accident. If your teen hasn’t started driving yet, make sure they’re prepared to legally hit the road with car insurance!

Giving your teenagers spending money already hurts your wallet, but just wait until they start driving and you have to pay for insurance every month. New drivers are the most accident-prone demographic in terms of driving, and insurers know that. Since teenagers are four times as likely to crash as an adult driver, their rates are incredibly high. Even with a clean record, it will cost several hundred dollars at the least to insure a teenager. Adding them your own insurance policy is certainly more cost effective, but even then, teenagers can still cost you thousands of dollars annually just to drive. Thankfully, there are several discounts available for teenagers that can make premiums more affordable.

Good Student Discounts

If you have a kid in middle school, encourage them to strive for the Honor Roll now. Most insurance agencies will offer a significant discount if your teenager has received good grades in recent years. Typically, as long as your teenager has maintained a B average or better, you can get an academic discount. Some agencies will even allow this discount to continue through college or until they turn 25. It may be up to your teenager to secure this cash saver, but in some cases, their premiums can drop by 25%!

Defensive Driving Courses

If you remember being 16, then you probably remember thinking that you were invincible or a safe enough driver. Unfortunately, it sometimes takes something as extreme as an accident to make new drivers realize the dangers they face on the road. Rather than waiting for a fender bender or worse, enroll your teenager in a safe driving course. Not only can you receive a discount on the insurance, but it may be intense enough to make your teenager reconsider texting while driving.

Safe Vehicles

Unless your teenager really deserves a treat, odds are that their first car will not be a new car. Used cars are cheaper and cost less to insure, but if it’s too old, there may be an issue. It can vary by insurer, but cars made after 1994 or so are generally considered safer, which means that the amount you pay monthly is less. There is, however, a balance in choosing cars. Since newer cars feature cameras for backing up and automatic brakes, they are safer than older cars which means you can possibly get more discounts. It comes down to whether or not you trust your teenager more with a 2003 Camry or a brand new Volkswagen.

As insurance experts, we can help you choose what the best course of action is and what discounts your teen may be able to receive. Contact us today and see how much you can save!