7 Driving Habits That Are Bad for Your Car

Help Minimize the Need for Costly Auto Repairs Simply By the way You Drive  

No matter how safe you are behind the wheel, you’ve probably done things like:

  • Shift into drive while the car is still rolling backward.
  • Ride the brakes on steep hills.
  • Roll into the gas station on empty.

Guilty? If so, you may not have even realized you were doing anything wrong. After all, most everybody has a bad driving habit or two. But, most everybody doesn’t have to pay for your auto repairs. You do.

So, take a look at these seven driving habits that are bad for your car and learn why you should avoid them. It may be time to change the way you drive!

  1. Running on empty. You might enjoy living on the edge, but driving around without much gas can put your car’s fuel pump on edge, too. That won’t necessarily ruin your car, but having to replace your fuel pump probably will hurt your checkbook. Keep your tank at least a quarter full.
  2. Shifting too soon. If you have an automatic transmission, it’s easy to pop the car into drive while it’s still rolling in reverse. Don’t! Unless you want to put additional stress on your transmission, that is. Come to a stop, then shift.
  3. Braking too much. Following other cars too closely can wear your brakes and rotors out more quickly, because you’ll probably have to use them more than other drivers. (Of course, you should maintain an adequate following distance for safety reasons, too.) But, even in situations where braking seems unavoidable, such as going down a steep hill, you have another option: Shifting into a lower gear will slow you down without riding the brakes.
  4. Gunning it. Maybe you drive a fast car. Or, maybe you want to feel like you drive a fast car. Whatever kind of car you have, punching the gas from a stop can be hard on it, even more so if the car is cold and the oil hasn’t fully dispersed throughout the engine. Those fast starts can mean faster wear on your tires, too.
  5. Forgetting the parking brake. Do you know what holds your car in park? One small piece of metal in the transmission. Not using the parking brake puts more stress on that bit of metal. So, use it.
  6. Packing on the pounds. Just like with your body, extra weight puts stress on several different areas of your car. So, clean out that trunk and remove unnecessary items from the interior. Your suspension, brakes and transmission will thank you. Thanks to better gas mileage, your bank account will, too.
  7. Holding down the clutch. Have a manual transmission? Keep the car in neutral at intersections so you don’t need to press the clutch until you’re ready to roll. Riding the clutch is a great way to burn it out eventually.

Even if you don’t do anything on this list, you’re still not out of the woods. (But you’re probably closer than most of us.) Keep your ears and eyes open for strange noises, warning lights or anything out of the ordinary — and don’t ignore them. Inspect the issue, or get your car to a mechanic, before it becomes a bigger problem.

 

Make Car Insurance One of Your Good Driving Habits

Now, time for a good habit: Driving with auto insurance. Be sure you have enough to meet your state’s minimum requirements, and then adjust your coverage levels and add options, such as roadside assistance, as you see fit. Working with an independent insurance agent is a great way to compare your options and select what works for you. Or, start with a free online car insurance quote from Safeco before speaking to an independent agent near you.

Topics: Driving and Car Safety

 


Dangers of Distracted Driving

Distracted driving is any activity that could divert your attention away from the main task of driving.1 It is something that is both dangerous and disturbingly common. In fact, drivers spend more than half of their time focused on things other than driving.2 You may be surprised to learn that cell phones and texting are just part of the problem when it comes to distracted driving. While stowing your phone while you drive is an important safety step, other behaviors behind the wheel, from drinking coffee to using a navigation system, may also be putting you at risk.

“The fact is, everything that occupies your mind or your vision can contribute to distraction behind the wheel,” explains Chris Hayes, Safety Professional from Travelers. “While many distracted driving studies focus on cell phones, any type of multi-tasking activity and driving simply do not mix.”

A list of driving distractions may include:

  • Dialing or using a smartphone;
  • Texting;
  • Eating or drinking;
  • Talking to passengers;
  • Grooming;
  • Reading;
  • Programming a GPS or navigation system;
  • Adjusting a radio or MP3 player.

Cognitive Distraction

It may not be surprising to learn that your brain is only capable of processing a certain amount of information at any given time.

When we attempt to perform multiple tasks at the same time, like driving while talking on the phone or eating, we can encounter performance problems. Multiple tasks tend to compete for our brain’s attention.

Visual Distraction

It may sound like an assumed fact, but you have to look where you are going when driving. Regardless, we see people driving without looking where they are going every day. Driving while visually distracted can be as dangerous as driving with your eyes closed. You would not make a turn or change lanes with your eyes closed, yet, distracted drivers are, in effect, doing just that.

Imagine driving the length of a football field with your eyes closed. That is the equivalent of texting while driving at 55 mph. Because texting takes our attention away for an average of 4.6 seconds3, we are 23 times more likely to be involved in a crash.

Some other common distractions most of us are very familiar with include eating, adjusting music or GPS devices, applying makeup, reading, and reaching for moving objects. Each of these tasks can dramatically increase your odds of getting into an accident.

Texting while driving is particularly dangerous because it requires manual, visual and cognitive distraction at the same time, according to distraction.gov, the U.S. government’s official website on distracted driving.

Cognitive, Visual or Both?

Distraction can keep you from driving safely in multiple ways. Any distraction, regardless of how quick or harmless it may seem, should be avoided when you are behind the wheel. Remember to keep your eyes and brain focused on the road at all times.

Setting a Good Example

Avoiding sending text messages or calling someone you know is on the road can help prevent them from distraction. Parents can set a good example for children by modeling attentive driving, including putting away the phone and not eating or grooming behind the wheel. Learn more about talking to your teen driver.

Sources: 1 U.S. Department of Transportation, http://www.distraction.gov/stats-research-laws/facts-and-statistics.html. 2 AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, https://www.aaafoundation.org/sites/default/files/DistractedDrivingBrochure.pdf. 3 Driver Distraction in Commercial Vehicle Operations, FMCSA, 2009.


5 Ways to Help Protect Your Company’s Data

A data breach could turn into a catastrophic event for any company, especially for small businesses that may not be prepared for this emerging threat. The 2015 Symantec Internet Security Threat Report found that 60% of all targeted attacks struck small- to mid-sized companies.1 As a business owner or an employee, there are a number of preventive steps you can take to help keep your company’s data secure. The most important place to start is to know the common causes of data breaches and how to avoid them before the damage is done.

You may think data breaches are mainly caused by outsiders hacking into the system. While that scenario is the one that makes headlines in the media, the fact is that employee error, such as a lost or stolen computer or mobile device, or downloading malicious software, can also lead to data loss or a data breach incident. Train your employees to better understand these risks to help protect your company’s data.

Following are some safety steps, including how to help protect your work space, stay safer when receiving email and create strong passwords.

  1. Protect Data at Your Work Space

If you step away from your desk while you are in the middle of a project that includes sensitive business information, take some precautions to protect company data from visitors or others who are not authorized to see that information. Remember these simple tips for keeping your work spaces secure:

  • When you step away from your computer, lock it up. You can also change your preferences to require your user account password when unlocking or waking up your computer.
  • After a meeting, clean up your materials.
  • After printing, copying or faxing, pick up your documents right away.
  • Keep sensitive documents in secure locations.
  • Always stay aware of your surroundings.
  1. Be Aware of Phishing Schemes

Phishing emails are fake email messages that can be used by criminals and hackers to target your credit and identity, gain control of your computer and network or steal your password and access company information. They often appear as if coming from a trusted source, such as your credit card company or another vendor, and can often include links or attachments that they ask you to download. You should delete suspicious emails without opening them.

Before you open an email or respond to any requests to download files or click on links, confirm that it:

  • Comes from someone you know.
  • Comes from someone who has sent you an email before.
  • Is something you were expecting.
  • Does not look odd, with unusual spelling or characters.
  1. Passwords: Longer is Stronger

Using strong passwords and changing them regularly makes it harder for thieves to access information. Never share your password with anyone. Choose something cryptic so it is difficult to guess, but it should also be memorable so you can avoid writing it down. If you do write it down, keep it in a locked cabinet or drawer.

Best practices for strong passwords include the following:

  • Passwords should not contain all or part of your name or ID.
  • Passwords should be at least seven characters long.
  • Passwords should contain characters from at least two of the following four categories: upper case letters, lower case letters, numbers and symbols (e.g., &, %, $, #).
  1. Stay On Guard While Traveling

Portable devices, including laptops, tablets and smartphones, can be easier to lose and a target for thieves. Be aware when logging in to secure systems in public places so others cannot see your username and password.

  • Keep your mobile device with you at all times while at the airport, on public transportation or in any public space, and never check it with your baggage.
  • When you travel by car with your laptop, put it in the trunk of the vehicle. Take it with you when you arrive at your final destination.
  • Never store your password or backups with your mobile devices.
  • When away from the office, keep your company laptop, mobile device and portable storage devices, such as flash drives, secure, either locked up or in your personal possession.
  1. Recognize Social Engineering

Much like piecing together a puzzle, social engineers get what they need by gathering pieces of information from many different sources, including your social profiles and other information about your organization. Since people may not be who they claim to be, always verify before providing any kind of information.

If someone you do not know claims to be a fellow employee, you can:

  • Try calling the person back at their work phone number.
  • Send a code word or number to his or her company email address and ask the person to call back with it.

Share these tips with others in your organization to help keep your company’s data safe. Learn more about cyber risks and how to create cyber security training for employees.

Sources: 1 Symantec Internet Security Threat Report, April 2015, Volume 20: https://www4.symantec.com/mktginfo/whitepaper/ISTR/21347932_GA-internet-security-threat-report-volume-20-2015-social_v2.pdf

 

 

 


Time to Do a Home Inventory

Posted by Andrea Chatwood January 6, 2014

How to Take Stock of Your Stuff

home inventory

Spending the holidays with friends and family is a great time to appreciate the aspects of life that come without a price tag. But now as we enter the New Year, it might just be the perfect time to take stock of your material possessions. Did you get a great gift for the holidays? Maybe a diamond ring, a new musical instrument, or a beautiful watch? All of these items should be insured, and just as importantly, added to your home inventory list.

What is a home inventory list, you ask? Once created, it will be the most valuable item in your house.

The first step is to write down every item in your house that you would want and expect to be covered by your insurance. This list should include your computers, TVs, jewelry, antiques, china, art, furniture, gardening equipment, tools and many other things. Include serial numbers if you have them, and take pictures of each item. Mark down the item’s condition, and how much you paid for it (including a receipt image would be ideal).

Another way to approach the home inventory list is to create a home inventory video. Videotape all of the valuable items in your home, making sure to zoom in on the smaller items. You should still document, whether by video or in an accompanying report, their serial numbers and other identifying markers.

The more specificity you include, the more likely you’ll be able to get a claim filed quickly, and at the right amount, should anything ever happen to your stuff.

In addition, there are several Home Inventory software programs available. However you choose to make your list, it’s important to back-up this information and store it in a secure offsite storage facility, just in case your home is severely damaged.

This is an opportunity to learn the real value of your items, especially art and jewelry, and serves as a reminder to get them appraised often. The value of these types of items can go up over time, so you should also make sure they are insured for the right amount. Be sure to check with your agent that your policy covers all your belongings, even the most personal and valuable items.

 


Sage Advice for First-Time Renters

Posted by Haiyen Truong July 29, 2013

What You Should Know About Renters Insurance

renters

After a long search and a mountain of paperwork, you’ve finally moved in to your first apartment. You’ve properly furnished your new home with everyday essentials and are eager to begin living on your own for the very first time. But hold the phone! As a college intern at Safeco Insurance® this summer, I’ve learned that you should consider buying renters insurance before getting too comfortable in your new place.

Renters insurance can help protect you from fire, smoke, vandalism, and theft-related losses. It also provides liability protection in the case that you are sued for bodily injury or property damage. There are two types of renters insurance: actual cash value and replacement cost. Although replacement cost policies are a bit more expensive than actual cash policies, they help reimburse you for the full cost of replacing your belongings — that is, the policy does not take depreciation into account.

According to the Insurance Information Institute (III), only 31% of renters have renters insurance. This low percentage is likely caused by the common misconception that landlord’s insurance covers damage to personal possessions. The truth is, your landlord’s policy probably covers only damage to the building.

Renters insurance is a smart idea if you’re a college student living away from home or a recent graduate, as you may not be fully covered by your parents’ homeowners policy. This not only differs by policy, but also by carrier. To be on the safe side, double-check with your agent about specific policy details.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind as you look into renters insurance:

  • Make sure to keep a record of items that may need to be replaced, such as a video or photo inventory. Make sure to store this in a safe place separate from your apartment.
  • If you are living with a nonrelative, your roommate may not be covered by your policy. Be sure to check with your agent.
  • Lastly, take the extra step and personalize your policy with additional coverage options that suit your lifestyle.

While this may seem obvious, renters insurance policies often differ by insurance carriers. Did you know that you can be reimbursed under some Safeco policies if you become a victim of identity theft? Or that you may qualify for a policy discount if your rental property has a burglar alarm? Your local agent is a great resource for coverage options and potential discounts under Safeco’s policies.

Once you find a policy that fits your needs, you’ll finally be ready to begin living in your new apartment — with a lot more peace of mind. Best of luck!

Check out Safeco’s renters insurance features and options.

 


Preventing Identity Theft

Your Identity Belongs to You. Protect It, Too.

The best way to protect yourself against identity theft is to prevent it. If your identity is stolen, you’ll be able to lessen problems by being prepared to act quickly.

Start with Good Preventive Habits

  • Leave your Social Security card at home in a safe place.
  • Shred papers with personal information.
  • Reduce your credit card accounts, and carry only the cards you need.
  • Photocopy both sides of your credit cards and store safely.

Watch Your Accounts Closely

  • Review balances and transactions often by phone or online.
  • Make sure every transaction on your credit card statements is accurate.
  • Sign up with ExperianTransunion and Equifax. Stagger your requests to get a free credit report every four months or sign up for credit watch service that will report directly to you.

If Identity Theft Happens to You

  • Report to the police immediately and make several copies of police report.
  • Call your credit card companies and ask where to send a copy of the police report.
  • File a Federal Trade Commission ID Theft Complaint and Identity Theft Affidavit.
  • Have your bank place an alert on your driver’s license number and Social Security number, and freeze your account.
  • Call fraud units of the credit report agencies ExperianEquifax and Transunion.

Tools and Resources

Federal Trade Commission identity theft line and websites

Social Security fraud line

  • 1-800-269-0271

Credit reporting agencies

 


Do You Need Umbrella Insurance?

Posted by Safeco October 20, 2014

Umbrella Coverage Explained

umbrella

One of the most certain things in life is, certainly, uncertainty. Your dog could bite the neighbor’s kid. Yourteen driver could hit a cyclist. A guest could fall down your stairs. A rainy morning commute on worn-out tires could result in a multi-car accident. And you could be held liable to others for the cost of damages – injuries, property destruction, emotional distress, lost wages and more.

Good thing you have insurance. But, wait, your policy covers $300,000 of liability, and, in a lawsuit, you’re judged liable for $1 million. That leaves $700,000 left to pay. How will you cover it?

If you have umbrella insurance and your policy covers the incident, the additional $700,000 will come from your policy. If not, it will come from the assets you have now, such as your home and savings, and from future assets, such as your wages or inheritance.

The fact is, it only takes one serious accident and a resulting lawsuit to put everything you own – and will own – at risk. And it only takes one umbrella policy to help protect it all.

Here are a few things you should know about umbrella insurance:

  • Personal umbrella policies typically offer $1, $2, $3, $4 or $5 million of liability coverage. Consider your net worth when choosing your coverage –you could be sued for everything you have.
  • An umbrella policy is not a stand-alone policy. Your insurance carrier will typically require you to meet certain qualifications, such as having an auto policy with a certain level of liability coverage, in order to purchase umbrella insurance.
  • Even when you have umbrella insurance, your car or home insurance is your first line of defense. For example, if you are liable for $2 million in a car accident and your auto insurance covers $500,000 of liability, your auto policy covers the first $500,000. Your umbrella policy covers the remaining $1.5 million, assuming your policy covers the incident and that you purchased that much coverage. If you are liable for $250,000 in an accident on your property and your homeowners insurance covers $300,000, your umbrella policy won’t be needed.
  • If you insure a motorcycle, ATV, golf cart, snowmobile, motorhome or watercraft, your umbrella policy may provide additional liability coverage on top of those policies as well. Be sure to check with your carrier to confirm your coverage on these types of vehicles.
  • A single umbrella policy typically covers all of your family members who are residents of your household.

Essentially, an umbrella policy gives you excess liability coverage on top of what your other policies provide. If you’re at fault for a serious accident, you’ll need it.

Umbrella insurance also gives you liability coverage in instances where other policies don’t. Examples include driving in a foreign country or renting a boat.

 


6 Questions for Your Annual Insurance Review

Posted by Shaun Murphy, Pablo Beach Insurance June 18, 2015

Assess Whether Your Current Insurance Fits Your Current Life

Annual_Insurance_Review

Everyone gets busy with daily life – family, jobs, kids, school, travel, and the list goes on. Before you know it, a year or more has slipped by without you giving your insurance coverage a second thought.

You pay your premiums and phone your carrier when an accident or other need arises. Otherwise, you assume all is well with your policies. But, what if it’s not?

There are a number of life changes and events that should prompt you to pick up your phone and call your insurance agent. You may need more homeowners coverage, for example, or you may need to remove a driver from your auto policy.

Even if you adjust your coverage as some of these changes occur, you’ll likely only catch others if you catch up with your insurance agent once a year – or more often. When you do, here are six questions you should be prepared to address:

  1. What Have I Added or Updated Around My Home?
    Did you add an addition to make room for baby? Did you remodel after the youngest left the nest? How about adding a pool or finishing your basement? All of these examples and more increase the value of your home and how much it would cost to rebuild it. You should update your insurance coverage to reflect not only the new home value but also any new risks.
  2. What Has Changed With My Vehicles or Drivers?
    Are you driving a longer distance to work? Is the vehicle you previously used for commuting now sitting in your garage more often than not? It’s a good idea to reexamine your auto insurance coverage at least once a year to ensure you have the exact coverage you want – not too little, and not too much.
  3. What Significant Purchases Have I Made?
    Did you invest in a home automation system or a high-end leather couch? What about that piece of fine jewelry you picked up on the cruise ship? If the value of your personal belongings has increased significantly, you’ll want to check whether your homeowners or renters insurance still provides enough coverage. If not, you can likely purchase additional coverage for specific items or possibly groups of items. Otherwise, if a costly item is lost, damaged or stolen, you may find yourself needing to replace it with a lower-cost version.
  4. What Is New With My Family?
    Did someone leave for college? Are more people now driving your motorcycle? These are things to discuss with your independent insurance agent, too.
  5. Are There Any Discounts for Which I Now Qualify?
    Doing things such as adding a burglar alarm to your home or driving your car less may help you gain discounts you didn’t qualify for when you first purchased your policy. So, if you like to save money on your insurance as much as the rest of us, an in-depth annual discussion of recent changes in your life and around your home is a must.
  6. Should I Consider Any Coverage Options?
    More than likely, your carrier offers some coverage options that might just be a good fit for you now, even if they weren’t when you first purchased your policies. Examples can include roadside assistance for cars, motorcycles, scooters, RVs and other vehicles. You may want to add stereo coverage for the new system you put in your car or appliance coverage following a kitchen remodel. Your agent, of course, can help you explore these options and select what fits.

Some other questions you might consider before your annual insurance review include:

  • Do I need any specialized disaster coverage, such as flood insurance or earthquake insurance, that I don’t already have?
  • Is my home inventory current?
  • Can I afford to raise my deductibles, and would it lower my insurance costs?
  • Am I carrying high enough liability limits to protect myself?
  • Is an umbrella policy right for me?

Just like filing your taxes, an insurance check-up is an annual item on your to-do list that can’t be skipped. After all, there’s nothing like the headache and heartache of thinking that you’re fully covered and then finding out you’re not when a claim occurs.

Remember, your insurance policies should reflect the life you have now – not the life you had when you first signed up with your carrier. So, keep your insurance policies up to date and keep your annual appointment with your insurance agent.