Holiday mishaps & how to avoid them

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Even the best laid plans can run into snags or unforeseen problems. That’s what insurance is all about for – having financial protection when we encounter one of life’s costly problems. The folks at NAIC have compiled a list of potential holiday mishaps – and what insurance policy would provide coverage. Take a quick look.

Of course, we hope you won’t have any problems. We’ve looked in our archives for some seasonal safety tips to help you minimize risk for common holiday problems.

Don’t lose money on prepaid debit cards!

Holiday alert: Be on guard for identity theft

Take these quizzes to see how safe you are online

Dangerous toy alert

Insurance tips to protect expensive electronic gifts

Burglary prevention when you are traveling

Hiding your valuables

Burglar Secrets: Expert advice on how to protect your home

Terrifying Carbon Monoxide Incidents Should Be a Reminder

Have you watered your Christmas tree today?

Candle and decoration safety

Holiday decorations: fire prevention; keeping kids & pets safe


Have a happy New Year: Plan to party safely

Survey: Most homeowners unaware of holiday liabilities

Remember, if you do suffer a loss, your local independent agent can help. Learn more about the benefits of working with your local independent insurance agent

Get the Santa Tracker App

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For more than 50 years, NORAD and its predecessor, the Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD) have tracked Santa’s flight. They deploy the latest technologies to track Santa, including radar, satellites SantaCams and jet fighters.

You can visit NORAD’s website to download the Santa app to track his progress via a countdown clock, explore Santa’s village in the North Pole, play games and more.

When asked about what route Santa travels, NORAD says, “Santa usually starts at the International Date Line in the Pacific Ocean and travels west. So, historically, Santa visits the South Pacific first, then New Zealand and Australia. After that, he shoots up to Japan, over to Asia, across to Africa, then onto Western Europe, Canada, the United States, Mexico and Central and South America. Keep in mind, Santa’s route can be affected by weather, so it’s really unpredictable. NORAD coordinates with Santa’s Elf Launch Staff to confirm his launch time, but from that point on, Santa calls the shots. We just track him!”

Consumer groups issue dangerous toy alerts

Santa probably already knows these things, but if you have children on your holiday shopping list, you should take a few minutes to review the year’s most dangerous toys, as identified by two consumer watchdog groups.

Trouble in Toyland highlights 24 potentially hazardous toys and includes tips for keeping children safe from the toys you already own. They note that these toys are only examples and that other hazards may exist. This report is issued annually by US PIRG – see the full Trouble in Toyland report.

PIRG

10 toys to avoid this holiday season – The World Against Toys Causing Harm (W.A.T.C.H.) unveiled its 42nd annual list of nominees for the 10 Worst Toys of 2014 for this holiday season (also see video clip below)

Staying Safe – Tips & Resources
U.S. PIRG issues the following safety tips for avoiding dangerous toys

CPCS offer a good Toy Safety Tip Sheet – also in Spanish

Learn more about toy recalls and see recent product recalls

Sign up to get toy and other consumer product recalls

Research the chemical content of toys

Prior related post: Two common household items that are very dangerous to your kids

Distracted driving – 5 seconds is all it takes

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Distracted driving is a major factor in car crashes — many leading to fatalities. And distraction is a matter of seconds – if you are traveling at 55 mph, a mere five seconds will carry you the length of a football field. The public service video spot below shows just how quickly something can go terribly wrong.

Today, the emphasis is all on texting. While texting is indeed a major culprit (it’s involved in 18% of all distraction-related fatalities), there are many other forms of distraction.

Distraction falls in three main categories
Manual – taking your hands off the wheel
Visual – taking your eyes off the road
Cognitive – taking your mind off driving

Here’s a list of common distracting activities:

  • Texting
  • Using a cell phone or smartphone
  • Eating and drinking
  • Lighting a cigarette
  • Talking to passengers
  • Turning to kids in the backseat
  • Grooming
  • Reading, including maps
  • Reaching to the glove compartment
  • Using a navigation system
  • Watching a video
  • Pets that are unsecured in the car
  • Adjusting a radio, CD player, or MP3 player
  • External distractions

Learn more about driver distractions at distraction.gov.

Need an auto insurer? Check with one of our New England Independent Agents.

Candle with Care this holiday season

nfpa-candle-safetyFor many of us, candles are a big part of seasonal celebrations. They’re sometimes used for decorations and sometimes as a part of religious rites. The beautiful glow of candles can make any dinner or event seem festive, nostalgic, and special.

BUT — and there is a very big but — 12% of home candle fires occur in December, 1.5 times the monthly average of 8%, according to the National Fire Prevention Association. Here are some other facts from the NFPA report about candle fires:

  • The top three days for home candle fires were Christmas, New Year’s Day, and Christmas Eve.
  • More than half (56%) of the home candle fires occurred when some form of combustible material was too close to the candle. Keep candles at least 12 inches from anything that can burn.
  • Roughly one-third of home candle fires started in the bedroom. Falling asleep was a factor in 11% percent of the home candle fires and 37% of the associated deaths. Extinguish all candles before going to sleep.
  • Unattended equipment or abandoned materials or products were contributing factors in almost one of every five (18%) home candle fires. Never leave a burning candle unattended. Blow out candles when you leave a room.
  • Four percent were started by people (typically children) playing with the candle. Keep candles up high out of the reach of children. Never leave a child unattended in a room with a candle. A child should not sleep in a room with a lit candle.
  • Two percent started when the candle was bumped into or knocked over. Make sure candles are placed on a stable piece of furniture in sturdy holders that won’t tip over. Place candles away from spots where they could be knocked over by children or pets.
  • An improper container or storage was a factor in another 2% of the fires. Candles should fit in the holders securely and holders should be made from material that can’t burn.

View this short clip about candle safety and download this NFPA candle safety tip sheet to distribute to your loved ones.

Thanksgiving-palooza: Recipes, Safety Tips, Humor & More

We thought that we’d make a Thanksgiving post that is just like the way we like our meal: a little of this, a little of that and topped off with some sweets.

One of the pre-dinner traditions for many is the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Check out this cool gallery of old-time photos from the early days of the parade – there’s also some fascinating historical info:

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade started in 1924, though then it was called the Christmas Parade. In its earliest years, entertainment came in the form of animals borrowed from the Central Park Zoo. The first float, Felix the Cat, appeared three years later in 1927. At that point, after the parade was done, officials would just release the tethers and let the balloons float away; there was a $100 prize awarded to anyone who could find and return one to Macy’s. That event was discontinued in 1933 after a guy crashed his plane trying to secure a runaway balloon.

Image: Macy's Inc.

Image: Macy’s Inc.

For the cooks, Yankee Magazine offers a Turkey FAQ: A Thanksgiving Cheat Sheet, along with a Thanksgiving Timeline – starting 3-days before your dinner right up until serving time. They also offer 25 Thanksgiving tips.

For some unique recipes, The New York Times weighs in with the United States of Thanksgiving, a collection of recipes that evoke each of the 50 states (and D.C. and Puerto Rico).  For a more traditional take, we turn to Yankee’s No-Fuss Thanksgiving Menu – replete with recipes for Roast Turkey with Cornbread-and-Sausage Stuffing, Giblet Gravy, Creamed Onions, Herbed Mashed Potatoes, Maple Walnut Acorn Squash, Easiest Brussels Sprouts and Julie Sahni’s Cranberry Chutney. Or try traditional recipes with a twist. And for the day after, here are some great Thanksgiving Leftover recipes

The one thing you don’t want on the menu is a kitchen fire – Thanksgiving is the leading day for home fires involving cooking – three times the average number. Review some kitchen safety tips from the National Fire Prevention Association. And if you are considering fried turkey, be sure to see our last year’s post of advice from William Shatner.

We advise avoiding the emergency room altogether. It’s a busy place on Thanksgiving – besides burns, frequent injuries are cuts from carving, sports injuries, food contamination, overeating and over-drinking, family disputes that lead to physical altercations. It’s always best to avoid post-Thanksgiving food poisoning.

OK, we’ll leave you with a few Thanksgiving-related amusements. Have a safe & wonderful holiday!

Best times for safe Thanksgiving road travel

If you are planning to hit the road for Thanksgiving, you’ll have plenty of company. Road travel is expected to be very high this year, bolstered by favorable gas prices right now — according to AAA, this week started off with a national average price for a gallon of regular gas of $2.885!

GasBuddy.com is a good source for the best prices — and this year, they conducted a survey on Thanksgiving travel with more than 80,000 people and learned the following:

  • When do we go? 36% say their Thanksgiving travel begins on Thanksgiving Day. 30% said it starts the day before; 18% say they’re hitting the road 2 to 3 days before.
  • What about the return trip home? 25% say they’ll fight the tryptophan malaise and drive home later on Thanksgiving Day; but the majority, 42% say they’ll wait 2 to 3 days and drive home Saturday or Sunday. 22% of us expect to hit the road with a fresh start the next morning.
  • How well prepared are we? 95% of respondents have a smart phone. 52% say they use 2 to 3 travel apps for their Thanksgiving travels; 34% will actively use 4 or more apps.

Google Maps examined the traffic conditions over the last 2 years for 21 cities in the U.S. and translated that data to travel tips for those of you who will be on the road: the best day to travel? That would be Thanksgiving day itself. Google offers tips for days to avoid, the best time to set out, the best times to travel home, and more. See the full list of Google Thanksgiving travel tips here – we’ve excerpted a few infographic-style tips below.
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New report on biking fatalities shows risk groups, problems

More and more bikers are taking to the roads. That’s good for many reasons: it’s an an environment-friendly transportation option, it’s economical and it offers health and cardio benefits to the rider.

There’s a flip side of the coin, though. According to a new report from the Governors’ Highway Safety Association, Spotlight on Highway Safety: Bicyclist Safety. The report notes that, “… yearly bicyclist deaths increased 16 percent between 2010 and 2012, while overall motor vehicle fatalities increased just one percent during the same time period.”

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The report also notes that some groups are at higher risk.

  • In 1975, adults represented only 21% of all fatalities; On 1974, adults repreent 74% of all fatalities.
  • Bicycle fatalities are increasingly an urban phenomenon, accounting for 69 percent of all bicycle fatalities in 2012, compared with 50 percent in 1975.
  • While bicyclists killed in motor vehicle crashes increased in 22 states between 2010 and 2012, six states – California, Florida, Illinois, New York, Michigan and Texas – represented 54 percent of all fatalities.

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In looking at prevention, these rather shocking stats from 2012 are significant:

  • Two-thirds or more of fatally injured bicyclists were not wearing helmets
  • 28% of riders age 16+ had blood alcohol concentrations of .08 percent or higher, compared with 33 percent of fatally injured passenger vehicle drivers.

Click for the full report and other tools

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Resources / Prior Posts
For National Bike Month, here’s the scoop on insurance

Protecting your bicycle from bike thieves

Bike Safety for Kids

Salute to Our Veterans

veteransNovember 11, 1918 marked the end of hostilities in World War I, “the war to end all wars.” Unfortunately it didn’t work out that way – there have been many wars since. And since 1919, on November 11 each year, we honor our veterans. There are approximately 22 million veterans living in the United States, with about 2.6 million from the post-9/11 era and just under 1 million from WWII.

Here are some ways to mark the day:

Veterans Day Ceremonies and Events

2014 Veterans Day Free Meals and Discounts

5 ways to honor veterans beyond Veterans Day

How to Celebrate Veterans Day — If You Aren’t a Veteran

Please support our vets, particularly those who are disabled. Plus, far too many are homeless or  unemployed.

Here are some ways to give back to veterans. Please take care to donate only to legitimate veteran organizations – FTC tells us that there are a lot of scams masquerading as veteran charities and offers tips to ensure that your donation goes to a legitimate source.

Slow down: International TV spots promoting safe driving speeds

It’s interesting to see how some other countries approach the issue of on-the-road safety through public safety announcements (PSAs). It’s not uncommon for spots to be much more graphic or dramatic in content than we would tend to run here in the U.S. We’ve chosen a sampling of PSAs aimed at speeding that are dramatic but not especially graphic. (Alert: they can still be upsetting.)

The first PSA is an experiment from the Victoria Transport Accident Commission that demonstrates the difference that slowing down by only 5 km an hour can make on an impact … that translates to just over 3 miles per hour. How much of a difference could such a small speed reduction possibly make? See for yourself.

The second PSA is a dramatic one from the New Zealand Transport Agency, who says: “No one should pay for a mistake with their life. When we drive, we share the road with others, so the speed we choose to travel at needs to leave room for any potential error.”

“Just Slow Down” is more of a mini-documentary than an ad. It’s from the Winnipeg Police Service. Two young guys tell their experience of surviving a speed-related crash that killed two of their friends. Terribly sad because it is true.

Northern Ireland has a very strong spot that has been under a great deal of protest and controversy. The controversy has caused the spot to go viral on the web. We’ve chosen not to embed it here, but you can read about why it’s creating such a strong reaction and see the spot here: People Are Pretty Angry About This Out-of-Control Safe-Driving Ad From Northern Ireland Too real, or not real enough?