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Bankrate.com article on Holiday driving

Thanks to David at Bankrate.com for allowing us to post their article!

How to identify risks and stay safe on the road during the holidays

LENA BORRELLI

DECEMBER 4, 2019 in CAR INSURANCE

We wait for it every year – the air becomes a little cooler and America’s communities come to life in twinkling lights and festive décor. As exciting as the holidays are, they can also be the most dangerous time for driving. Driving conditions can change in seconds because of inclement weather, road closures, blocked intersections and overcrowded roads.

Drunk driving is not the only danger on the roads during the holidays. Aggressive driving, excessive speeding and reckless driving can all result in severe consequences. These can include fines, penalties, expensive insurance policies and even criminal charges. In the worst cases, dangerous driving can result in severe personal injury and even death.

Without warning, the happiest time of the year can quickly turn into a nightmare if you are not careful. Even if you are careful, there will always be perils on the road in the form of other drivers and vehicles. We will show you how to practice safe driving and identify risks so you and yours can stay safe on the roads this holiday season.

What makes driving during the holidays so dangerous?

Holiday driving is one of the most dangerous times of the year for its increase in accidents and fatalities, but many of these accidents are easily preventable. Distracted driving, impaired driving and stressed driving are all reasons why accidents occur, and these behaviors seem to skyrocket during the holidays. There is so much to do and such little time, leaving a lot of stress and not a lot of patience. We rush that much more and can become careless with our driving.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that someone dies from drunk driving every 48 minutes. In 2017, more than 300,00 injuries were attributed to drunk driving. The U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) reported that drunk drivers are to blame for 40% of all traffic-related deaths. The astounding numbers put a spotlight on the severe risk of holiday driving whether you imbibe or not.

The season brings plenty of celebration and merriment, but it also means more impaired drivers on the road.

Accidents can happen any time for any reason, but there are some dangers specific to the holiday season that threaten our safety during the happiest time of the year.

  • Drunk driving is responsible for its fair share of holiday fatalities each year. Office parties, holiday celebrations and end-of-the-year events all supply plenty of opportunity for indulgence. Sometimes even the most careful driver can throw caution to the wind and get behind the wheel while impaired. Driving under the influence continues to be a problem during the holidays and carries stiff penalties, including loss of your driver’s license.
  • Inclement weather gets the best of us, no matter where you live. Acts of nature like snow, black ice, high winds and hail can all make the holidays a terrifying time to be on the road. Not all drivers are adept at driving in such hazardous conditions, and even veteran drivers fall victim to the elements. Holiday accidents can cause serious damage to your vehicle and your person while significantly impacting your insurance premiums moving forward.
  • Fatigued and stressed driving is especially prevalent during the holidays. Many people trek across the country to visit family and friends. With varying work and school schedules, drivers feel rushed, stressed and tired. Some drivers even fall asleep behind the wheel, significantly endangering both themselves and others. New and young drivers pose a risk, as well, because they do not have the experience and the instincts yet to react to danger quickly.

When is it not a good time to be on the road?

Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day are all reasons to celebrate, but surprisingly, they are not the worst holidays for traffic accidents. Holidays like Memorial Day, Independence Day and Labor Day all experience greater accidents than the winter holidays. There is no doubt that the holiday season brings about greater pressure and stress, and there is an increase in stressed, distracted drivers on the road.

Some holidays are more dangerous than others, so we referred to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to see how the holiday season stacks up against other holidays.

These statistics are based upon data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for the 2011-2017 holiday seasons.

 

Based upon these studies, America’s roadways are most dangerous during the warmer months, with Memorial Day, the 4th of July and Labor Day all experiencing the most drunk driving accidents and the most fatalities.

Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day did not show a significant change from non-holidays, although the percentage of drunk driving accidents were about the same as more dangerous holidays like Memorial Day.

While some car accidents are minor, worse accidents have the potential to have life-altering consequences. An accident can cause fatal or long-term injuries, permanently affecting the lives of those in the accident and perhaps even their family’s lives. The damage caused in the accident could cause a vehicle to lose value or need to be replaced, something that may be even harder to do with holiday expenses coming up.

Insurance rates will often hike up, especially if you’re at fault in the accident. You could also get a ticket or a DUI, which will both influence your insurance rates and how much money you have in your bank account. If the incident is severe enough, you could have to pay fines or go to jail.

These consequences are never desirable, but they’re especially unpleasant around the holidays. An accident could replace happy memories with stressful or heartbreaking ones. These consequences are good reasons to drive safely and cautiously all year round.

How to stay safe on the road this season

Even if you are an experienced and careful driver, you are still susceptible to the many risks on the road. Weather and traffic can wreck even the best-laid plans and other drivers pose a heightened risk when so much celebration is at play.

Travel skyrockets during the holiday season as professional and social obligations pull us away from our homes and out onto the roads. There is family to visit, events to attend and trips to take. Shopping needs to be done, errands need to be run and your kids and pets have needs you must attend to. It’s a seemingly endless whirl of highways, traffic lights and parking lots. Exercise safe driving at all times to avoid incident.

Here are the best ways to protect yourself and your family this holiday season.

Remain alert
Not all drivers will be at their best, so keep your focus on the road and drive with extra care. Always remember when driving that there are many other celebrants on the road with you. Pause for an extra beat at traffic lights and stop signs, and keep an eye on other drivers.

Leave early
Traffic can appear out of nowhere and destroy your carefully planned itinerary in seconds. Give yourself extra time and map out other routes in case traffic, accidents or weather blocks your path. GPS software can help you in a jam, but also have maps in case you lose cell service.

Drive defensively
Take your time and pay attention to the other drivers around you. Give extra space between you and other cars, and allow drivers to merge where appropriate to reduce the risk of an accident.

Drive sober
Most people indulge in alcohol when attending holiday events. If you drink, do not drive impaired. Make alternate travel arrangements with safe, sober transportation before attending those holiday parties.

Plan for the weather
Winter can bring unpredictable weather patterns with snow and ice. Check the weather forecast before you leave and adjust your plans accordingly.

Watch for black ice
Black ice is one of the most treacherous parts of wintertime driving. It can cause severe injury and accidents. Learn how to spot black ice and drive slowly and defensively in poor weather.

Don’t text and drive
In addition to being against the law, handheld cellphone use is also incredibly dangerous. Texting is one of the top reasons for accidents today, and the holidays only heighten its danger. Avoid all distractions while driving, especially your cell phone.

Service your car
The winter months are especially hard on your car because of the salt, ice and glass on the roads. You have seconds to react when there is an accident, and you need your vehicle to be ready to respond. Check your gas, tires and oil before leaving so you can be sure you arrive safely.

Bottom line

There is a risk any time you drive, but driving during the winter can be especially dangerous. The festivities of the season will draw some drivers onto the roads, and not everyone will exercise the utmost caution in their travels. With more drunk drivers on the road, it is especially critical that you drive cautiously and defensively.

No matter where your travels take you, there will be hazards like weather and distracted drivers on the roads. With a little preparation and a lot of focus, you can avoid the travel woes of the holiday season.

Home Improvement

Home improvement – it’s a never-ending process for many people, and for those who aren’t handy, it can be a hassle, too.  But there are plenty of simple maintenance tasks and other improvements you can handle to make your home safer – whether you’re handy or not. And you won’t have to break out the power tools (or any tools at all in some instances) or worry about getting in over your head.

Water Works
You need running water in your home – but even minor leaks can cause major problems, from higher water bills to damage requiring costly repairs (maybe even the kind you can’t tackle yourself). Here are some easy ways to make sure your water stays where it should:

  • Check your appliances. They’re the most common source of water leaks in homes, so it’s worth taking a look at least once a year to check for problems. The hoses that come with your washer and dishwasher can mean big trouble – they break down over time. Look for kinks and cracks, and replace if needed. Consider using reinforced hoses, too; those with steel braiding or mesh won’t hold up forever, but they’re stronger than rubber or plastic.
  • Consider installing water sensors. These can alert you to a leak or other problem soon after it occurs – some can even send messages to your smartphone.

Keep Your Family (and Your Guests) On Their Feet
Millions of Americans – many of them older adults – are injured in falls each year. About 2.5 million were hurt in 2013 alone, according to the National Safety Council and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Do you need to make some of these fixes?

  • Reduce clutter. Everything from small pieces of furniture to area rugs can pose a hazard, so make sure they’re in appropriate places and out of the way if possible.
  • Add stability to stairs. Make sure stairways have sturdy railings, and maybe even non-slip strips, particularly outdoors.
  • Let there be light. It’s hard to walk safely when you can’t see obstacles or potential trouble spots. Make sure your home is well-lit, and don’t forget night lights, too.

Give Everyone Some Air
Pollution isn’t just an outside thing – the air in your home can be unhealthy, too. Helping people breathe a little easier isn’t hard when you follow these steps:

  • Test the air (and your detectors). Make sure you have working carbon-monoxide and smoke detectors and test them regularly. Also, consider testing your home for radon, a naturally occurring radioactive gas that can be dangerous over time.
  • Check your filters and ducts. Keeping your furnace filter and air ducts clean will keep your air cleaner as well. Consider adding some of nature’s air filters: plants.
  • Keep your home clean. Dust doesn’t just build up on the furniture – it ends up in the air as well. Regular cleaning means cleaner air (just be sure to use safe products).

Home improvement doesn’t have to mean a kitchen remodel or finishing the basement. Making your home safer, in fact, just might be the best improvement of all.

Reposted with permission from the original author, Safeco Insurance®.

When Water Goes Where It Shouldn’t

Even a small leak can become a major problem.  The below tips should help uncover some potential water problems down the road and help keep your property dry.

Check appliance hoses.  Replace rubber hoses with steel-braided hoses. This is a low cost fix that can save thousands in water damage.

Broken tiles in the shower can allow water to leak into the walls or on the floor. Replace cracked tiles and re-grout/re-caulk when needed.

Run the dishwasher and washing machine only when you are home.  If a leak occurs, you can turn the appliance off right away.

When on vacation, turn off the main water supply to your house.

Keep storm drains near your house clear of leaves.

Install a gutter guard.  This can prevent a drain clog and helps water to be carried away from the house.

These are just a few tips to help water stay where it should be!

Firework Safety

When Things go BOOM in the Night

 The Fourth of July is about having fun and creating memories with family and friends – whether at home in the Milwaukee area or away at a cabin on a lake.

Unfortunately, for some families the holiday is a nightmare. Homes each year in Wisconsin are damaged by wayward fireworks and thousands of people are injured in firework accidents.

At the Insurance Center of Milwaukee, we want your holiday to be happy, but also safe. So here are some tips to help you protect yourself and your property on the Fourth.

Protecting yourself (and others)

  • To minimize the risk of injury, don’t use consumer fireworks. Attend a public display conducted by professionals at the Milwaukee lakefront or a neighboring community.
  • If using consumer fireworks, always follow instructions. Do not attempt to re-light “duds” or create homemade fireworks.
  • Never let children handle or light fireworks. Even sparklers, which burn at more than 1,000 degrees, can cause third-degree burns
  • A responsible adult should always be present when children – even teenagers – are around fireworks. More than half of fireworks injuries happen to those younger than 20 years old.

Protecting your home

  • According to the National Fire Protection Association, the best way to protect your home is to not use fireworks at home.
  • Remember, fireworks can cause grass fires and other types of blazes as well. Make sure you light fireworks in a safe area, away from homes and buildings, as well as other combustible material. Keep a fire extinguisher nearby in case of emergency.
  • Look out for tree limbs or bushes that could catch fire. Trimming vegetation to keep it away from your home is a good idea anyway, but it could save you from a catastrophic fire on the Fourth of July.
  • If your gutters have accumulated leaves, pine needles or other flammable material, clean them before using fireworks near your home.
  • Finally, if you won’t be home on the holiday, ask a neighbor to keep an eye on your house if others in your neighborhood will be using fireworks.

With some common sense and planning, the Fourth of July can be both safe and enjoyable for everyone. Whether you’re staying at home or heading to Milwaukee’s lakefront, we hope you have a wonderful time celebrating Independence Day!

Prom and Graduation Driving Safety

Teen driving tips to keep prom and graduation safe

 High school is full of defining moments for Milwaukee area teens and two of the highlights for most are prom and graduation.

At the Insurance Center of Milwaukee, we want to help make this season one to celebrate for you and your teen. So, with the help of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, here are some tips that can keep your teen safe.

First, encourage your teen to follow these general safe-driving rules:

Absolutely no alcohol or drugs

Always use seat belts

No cell phone use (especially texting) while driving

Special circumstances

Special events present special circumstances. There may be dinner with dates before the dance and parties before or after an event. It’s a good idea to discuss your expectations well before each event, establishing guidelines before your teen heads out for the night.

Here are some ideas:

  1. Know the itinerary of the evening, as well as who else will be with your teen.
  2. Have a way to contact your teen.
  3. Set a curfew.
  4. Discuss with your teen how to handle difficult situations, such as facing pressure to drink or accepting a ride with someone who shouldn’t be driving.
  5. Offer a “no-questions-asked” ride home should they need one during the evening.
  6. If you’re worried about your teen driving, consider alternate transportation

Prom and graduation in southeastern Wisconsin are special times in a teen’s life. And just a little common sense will go a long way toward making sure your young adult is around to enjoy the other milestones that are sure to come.

Winter Tire Tips

Do You Need Winter Tires?

 Snow and slush. Freezing rain. Black ice. Are your tires ready for all of that?

When driving in Milwaukee in the wintertime, your tires just might be the most important safety feature on your car. The right ones can get you to your destination safely. The wrong ones? Well, just look over in the ditch during the next storm.

So how do you figure out what’s best for your vehicle? Here are a few things to know about winter tires:

1.      Winter tires really are different than regular tires. Winter tires have deeper tread, along with siping (slits in the tread blocks). This increases the number of edges that touch the road, resulting in better traction and handling. They also stay softer than other tires do in cold weather, thanks to special rubber compounds designed specifically for winter use.

2.      All season or dedicated winter tires?  Winter tires are better in deep snow than all-season tires, however, sometimes you can find an all-season tire that does well in light snow.

3.      You still need to check the pressure — once a week.  Once a week? Yes, once a week! If your tires are underinflated, they are at risk of failing. In winter, if they’re overinflated, your traction will be significantly reduced.

4.      You still need to check the tread, too. An inexpensive tool found at auto-parts stores can be used for this, or you can use a penny. Stick the coin into the groove of the tire, with Lincoln’s head down. Is some of his hair hidden? Good. Can you see all of Abe’s hair? It’s time for new tires. Right now.

At the Insurance Center of Milwaukee we know that nobody wants to spend too much time thinking about tires. The good news is you don’t have to. Just a little bit of preparation, along with some routine maintenance, will keep you driving through Bay View, Milwaukee, Greenfield, etc. all winter long.

Over the river and through the woods in Milwaukee…

Millions of Americans will do some traveling this holiday season – the majority of it by car. Winter weather creates a unique set of challenges on the roadways, whether you’re simply driving around Oak Creek or headed to New Berlin.

At the Insurance Center of Milwaukee, we’d like to help you not only enjoy your holiday season, but help ensure you’ll be around for future holidays, too! So please take these winter-travel safety tips to heart.

Prepare your car for winter

Before leaving on your trip in SE Wisconsin, give your car a thorough check-up. Do wipers need to be replaced? Are your fluid levels where they should be? Tires in good shape? And – we know you’ve heard this before, but bear with us – your car should have an emergency kit. Pack it with jumper cables, blankets, a first-aid kit, flares, water, a flashlight, etc. A shovel and sand are good ideas as well.

Before you leave

Know where you’re going and check weather conditions along your planned route. Let someone know your itinerary. If your car has snow or ice on it, make sure it is completely cleared off before you depart. Don’t forget to clear your headlights and other lights, along with the roof – ice and snow blowing from your car could create a hazard for other drivers.

When you’re on the road

Are roads snowy or icy? Take it slow. Give yourself extra time to get to your destination, and make sure you leave extra room between your vehicle and others on the road. Watch for ice patches on bridges, overpasses, and shady spots. Remember, having four-wheel or all-wheel drive does not mean your car will stop or steer better on ice.

Of course, sometimes it’s best not to drive in snow and ice at all – stay home if you can.

If your vehicle becomes disabled

Nobody wants to think about being stranded on the side of the road in a storm, but it happens to thousands of people every year. If your vehicle is disabled, be sure to stay with it. Run your engine and heater for short intervals, and open one of your windows slightly to prevent carbon monoxide build-up. Light two flares (remember that vehicle emergency kit? Now’s the time to use it) and place one a safe distance from both the front and rear of your vehicle. Note your location with mileposts, exit numbers or cross-streets, and call the authorities or a tow truck.

We hope you enjoy your holidays with friends and family, and we look forward to serving you in the New Year!

Boat Winterization

Tucking your boat in for the winter?

 For boat enthusiasts everywhere, the end of boating season can be disappointing because on-the-water adventures are ending and the task of winterization is beginning.

Taking the time to protect your watercraft through the winter requires an investment of time, labor, and money. While winterization is an absolute imperative that can help prevent damage, think of the process not as a chore, but a chance to dream about next spring when you’ll be ready to go boating on Little Muskego, Pewaukee Lake, etc.

To help you get started, we at the Insurance Center of Milwaukee have compiled two essential steps to follow.

1. Find the best storage place indoors or outdoors

  • If possible, find a place to have your boat spend the winter out of water and well out of the way of inclement weather.
  • If you are storing your boat outdoors, check on the level of security. For example: Is it a locked facility? Are there cameras?

2. Be thorough in winterizing or find a pro

If you’re a do-it-yourselfer, the steps to winterizing your boat can be easily found via many online resources. Your boat’s owner’s manual also could be a great help, as most will include detailed winterization instructions.

Regardless where you get the details, you will ensure a better start next boating season if you follow a comprehensive checklist to get your boat ready for winter.

If you’re opting out of the do-it-yourself category and instead trusting the pros, you’ll want to find a shop that specializes in winterization. Get an appointment well in advance of the assault of inclement weather. To find the best option, consider getting a reference from a fellow boating enthusiast.

However you choose to prepare your prized watercraft for the frigid days of winter, we at the Insurance Center of Milwaukee hope you enjoy the cooler season as you await the return of spring!

Heading to Sturgis?

Motorcycle trips

Whether you’re taking your Harley and heading across country, or just hitting the Wisconsin back roads, we want you to be safe this summer. Here are a few top tips:

No one’s too old to wear a helmet

The bottom line, a motorcycle rider not wearing a helmet is 40% more likely to sustain a fatal head injury in a crash than a rider with a helmet.* Wear other protective gear as well: heavy leather or synthetic gloves, long pants and jacket, and over-the-ankle leather boots.

In a crash, the SUV wins

When cars and motorcycles collide, it’s usually because the driver of the car failed to see the cyclist. With more SUVs on the road, it’s even more critical to take extra steps to become more visible. Use your headlamps—both night and day—and wear yellow, red, or orange jackets to make yourself easy to see. Make a point of positioning yourself in your lane for visibility.

New Gear? Update your policy

Some companies (Safeco for instance) offer special coverage for custom parts and equipment—but you have to make sure each piece of equipment is listed on your policy and/or that you have receipts. Any time you buy new leathers or customize your bike, call the Insurance Center of Milwaukee at 414-744-6614 or email info@insurancecentermilwaukee.com before you head out on the highway.

Teen Driving Safety

Talking to Your Teen About Safe Driving

When teens begin to drive, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the National Safety Council, the sobering statistics start to pile up:

• Car crashes are the leading cause of death for U.S. teens ages 14 through 18.
• A teen’s crash risk is three times that of more experienced drivers.
• Being in a car with three or more teen passengers quadruples a teen driver’s crash risk.
• More than half of teens killed in crashes were not wearing a seat belt.

You can help your young driver make better decisions behind the wheel. Set a good example yourself. Have a serious discussion about the following issues, all of which have a large impact on the safety of teen drivers:

• Speed: According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, speeding continues to grow as a factor in fatal crashes involving teen drivers. Thirty-three percent of such accidents in 2011 involved excessive speed. While a lot of emphasis is rightfully placed on the risks of driving under the influence or while distracted, the danger of speeding is just as important.

• Alcohol: If drivers are under 21, driving with any amount of alcohol in their system is illegal. It’s as simple as that.

• Seat belts: Teens don’t use their seat belts as frequently as adults, so it’s important to set a good example and always have yours on. Seat belts are the simplest way to be protected in a crash.

• Phones: Distracted driving is dangerous driving, especially for an inexperienced teen. That means no calls or texting when behind the wheel — no exceptions.

• Passengers: The risk of a fatal crash goes up as the number of passengers in a teen driver’s car increases, according to the NHTSA.

Of course, any driver needs to have a good grasp on the laws and rules of the road and, because teens don’t have much experience, it’s important to have regular conversations about safe driving. How teens drive doesn’t just depend on them. It depends on you, too!