Sudden acceleration: what to do if it happens to you

Millions of popular Toyotas are being recalled to fix a sudden acceleration problem. While the scope of this recall is huge, the problem is not necessarily limited to Toyotas. According to Consumer Reports, in an analysis of National Highways Safety Institute complaints for sudden acceleration by auto make through August 2009, Toyotas represented only about 41% of the overall complaints. Obviously, these numbers will change, but the point is that it’s a safety issue and it could happen for any driver. Would you know what to do? Consumer Reports also offers a useful video about how to safely stop your car if it accelerates suddenly:

For additional information, the Los Angeles Times offers a good article with more information on the Toyota Recall Q&A and what to do if you car suddenly accelerates.

Helping senior drivers to make a tough decision: hanging up the keys

Good Morning America has been airing a series on aging and one of the difficult topics they are tackling is the issue of senior driving. In Mom & Dad, we need to talk, they explore the ways that adult children can help their parents make the difficult and often painful decision to hang up the car keys.
It’s not an issue that should be put off because, at some point, it’s a matter of safety – both for the elderly drivers and for the general public. GMA cites some grim statistics:

“Although most senior citizens are careful behind the wheel, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, drivers older than 70 have a higher fatality rate per mile than any other group, except people under 25. And most of those fatalities happened at some kind of crossroads.
A 2007 study released by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that 40 percent of serious crashes at intersections involved people older than 70. Add to this the fact that the number of elderly drivers is projected to double to 70 million by the year 2030 and you have the makings of a potentially dangerous problem.”

They also publicize AARP’s 10 warning signs for when to limit or stop driving.

  1. Almost crashing, with frequent “close calls”
  2. Finding dents and scrapes on the car, on fences, mailboxes, garage doors, curbs, or the like
  3. Getting lost
  4. Having trouble seeing or following traffic signals, road signs, and pavement markings
  5. Responding more slowly to unexpected situations, or having trouble moving your foot from the gas to the brake pedal; confusing the two pedals
  6. Misjudging gaps in traffic at intersections and on highway entrance and exit ramps
  7. Experiencing road rage or having other drivers frequently honk at you
  8. Easily becoming distracted or having difficulty concentrating while driving
  9. Having a hard time turning around to check over your shoulder while backing up or changing lanes
  10. Receiving traffic tickets or “warnings” from traffic or law enforcement officers in the last year or two

What’s so funny about risk?

These two insurance ads from Travelers are ones from the archives, but they both do a good tackling the topic of risk in a whimsical but enlightening way:

And Seinfeld’s George Costanza also tackles the topic of risk management – somewhat less successfully so!

Dealing with ice dams and other winter weather hazards

For homeowners in snow-prone areas of the country, roof damage or leaks from snow and ice dams are common winter threats to your home. How do you know if you have ice dams? Wikipedia has a good photo of an ice dam forming on a slate roof. Essentially, if you have large icicles hanging from your roof, you probably have an ice dam problem. The icicles are the symptom, not the underlying problem, which is generally one of insulation. How Stuff Works offers a pretty good non-technical explanation of what ice dams are and why they occur.
If you have ice dams on your house, you need to address them with a two-fold strategy:
First, you need to get rid of the ice dams and minimize the immediate damage.
Your best bet is to hire an experienced professional to do this – it can be a risky task. Some folks want to go out and chop away at icicles, but it’s not a good idea to be climbing on snow- and ice-covered roofs or using ladders on slippery ground. Plus, using the wrong tools to remove snow or chunks of ice from your roof may cause further damage to your shingles or your gutters. Not to mention damage to you: flying ice chunks can be very heavy and sharp. Many people also use salts or other chemical concoctions to deal with ice dams, a less-than-ideal “fix” because chemicals can damage or discolor your roof and can leach into the ground, damaging plants and greenery. If you have a low roof, one of the most common ways that people deal with ice dams is by purchasing a specially-designed roof rake and removing snow from directly above the ice dam. Again, this can pose risks to both you and your roof.
Second, you need to diagnose the underlying problem and take steps to prevent ice dams from forming.
While ice dams can sometimes occur as a result of freezing rain, more often than not they are a symptom of an insulation problem which should be addressed because there are other problems besides ice dams that can occur, such as a build-up of moisture that could lead to rot, mildew or mold. Not to mention that with poor insulation, heating costs are almost literally going through the roof. While there are a number of products that can treat the symptoms and prevent ice dams, the best way to protect the value of your house would be to enlist the expertise of a weatherization, insulation, or energy conservation contractor to diagnose the and remedy the root problem. Builder and consultant Paul Frisette offers his thoughts on why ice dams form and how to prevent ice dams by treating the root cause, not just the symptoms.
Ice dams and homeowners and rental insurance
The Insurance Information Institute discusses what’s covered and what’s not in terms of water damage: “Standard homeowners and renters insurance provides coverage for burst pipes, wind driven rain and damage resulting from ice dams on your roof.” III also offers this helpful rule of thumb: “Generally speaking, water that comes from the top down, such as rainfall, is covered by a standard homeowners insurance policy, while water that comes from the bottom up, such as an overflowing river, is covered by a separate flood insurance policy.” When in doubt about your coverage, call your agent – that’s what we’re here for!
Snow overload and other perils for public and commercial buildings
Commercial and public buildings with flat roofs are susceptible to other winter woes. In addition to the risk of ice dams, flat-roofed buildings can also suffer damage or collapse from an accumulation of deep snow. Deep snow followed by heavy rain can be particularly perilous, especially for older buildings. One of our insurance partners, Utica National, has issued a handy risk management advisory about severe winter weather and roofs. The advisory includes general guidelines to help estimate the weight of snow.

Children’s auto booster seat ratings; child restraint laws

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has issued new ratings for children’s auto booster seats. They’ve examined 60 models covering almost all models sold in the U.S. right now, and they’ve issue 9 “best bet” recommendations and 4 “good bet” recommendations. In addition, they’ve indicated 11 products which aren’t aren’t recommended due to poor fit.
IIHS states that more than 1,000 children 12 and younger in passenger vehicles die in crashes every year, and more than 100,000 are injured. Parents can reduce the risk to their kids by properly securing them in the back seat of their vehicle.

“Parents can’t tell a good booster from a bad one just by comparing design features and price,” says Anne McCartt, Institute senior vice president for research. “What really matters is if the booster you’re considering correctly positions the safety belt on your 4-8 year-old in your vehicle. Our ratings make it easier to pick a safer booster for kids who have outgrown child restraints.”