New Year’s Home Safety Checklist

The start of a new year is an ideal time to tackle goals and projects that you may have been putting off for a while. In addition to setting new career goals and working on your health and fitness, you should consider reevaluating your home safety. From fire hazards to energy savers, your home may need more updates than you realize. We’ve put together a list to help you get started on assessing your home’s safety.

Health

  • Test smoke detectors and carbon monoxide alarms and replace as needed.
  • Verify that all fire extinguishers are operational.
  • If you don’t already, form a fire escape route and educate the entire family.
  • Install light switches at both ends of staircases to reduce the chance of a fall.
  • Dust all surfaces as well as ceiling fans and vents.
  • Change HVAC filters.
  • Replace water purifier filters.
  • Check wires and plugs for frays.
  • Deep clean areas of your home that experience the most traffic.
  • Clean out expired or unused items from your refrigerator and pantry.
  • Clean oven, range, and range hood filters.

Maintenance

  • Replace furnace filters and schedule a furnace inspection.
  • Inspect gutters and roof or schedule a professional inspection.
  • Evaluate efficiency of weather stripping and replace as needed.
  • Clean our clothes dryer vent and pipes.
  • Clean refrigerator coils.
  • Check window screens and replace as needed.
  • Test locks, handles and doorknobs for proper operation.
  • Inspect and flush water heater.
  • Update or install home security system if necessary.
  • Schedule any needed maintenance calls or inspections.
  • Mark a calendar with recommended maintenance dates for appliances and systems.
  • Take an inventory of your valuable possessions, to be used in the event of an insurance claim.

Following this list to evaluate your home’s safety is a wonderful way to begin the new year. You should also visit your insurance agent to discuss and determine if any coverages need to be added, dropped, or changed. Working with an independent insurance agency is the ideal way to determine your insurance needs, since independent agents are on your side – not the side of the big companies. Reach out to us today if you would like to speak with an experienced agent.

Teens and Distracted Driving

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.

6 Ways to Know if Your Brakes are Failing

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.