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Giving Your Kids The Keys

Posted by on Jan 7, 2015 in Drivers | Comments Off on Giving Your Kids The Keys

business man handing giving car remote keys to a casual senior man, isolated on white. clipping pathIs driver’s education enough? According to the CDC,teenage drivers are three times more likely than older drivers to be involved in a fatal car accident, so it’s no wonder that kids getting driver’s licenses is a rite of passage most parents are not entirely excited about. Aside from the added costs associated with having a young driver, there is also increased anxiety as parents are eventually left behind to wonder what kind of driver their teenager is without them in the passenger seat. Is she distracted by the phone or the radio? Is he going too fast? Teen drivers today face more and different challenges than their parents did. With increased temptations by technology, both hand-held and in the car, frequency of road rage and more congested streets and intersections, it’s more important than ever for kids to be prepared when they hit the streets alone.

But how can you ensure your kids are road ready before you turn them loose? The driver education they receive is key. Texas allows parents to choose between parent-taught driver’s ed or outside driving schools, and both types must adhere to state-mandated regulations that usually involve a required amount of study before taking a state permitting test, additional safety education and a required number of behind-the-wheel hours under the supervision of a licensed adult. But the way the material is taught and the amount of additional practice time above and beyond the minimum requirements can vary greatly, and this is perhaps what makes the difference in a confident young driver and one who is a potential danger to themselves and others.

Whether you choose a parent-taught program for your child’s driver’s education or a driving school, the parent must take a proactive role in preparing and educating their new driver.Even though they are online, parent-taught home programs are called parent taught (vs. computer taught) for a reason. The intention is not to turn teens loose with a computer and allow them to quickly skim timed lessons counting down the seconds until they can move on to the next section. Make sure they understand what they’re reading, and point out real life examples of topics discussed when you’re driving and why they’re important.

If you choose a driving school, put it to the test in the same way you would a sports gym or music teacher you’re thinking about entrusting your child’s training to. Check for an approved curriculum and make sure limited drive time with the instructor takes place in a variety of weather and road conditions, and is not restricted to the route the student will test on. The goal is not just to pass the test; it is to create a safe driver. When they are with you, allow them to drive as much as possible at different times of day and in different situations. Remember that while learning to drive, passenger time is valuable time as well. Teens follow adults’ examples concerning seat-belt use, texting/cell phone use, road rage and obeying traffic laws, so the years leading up to a teen learning to drive are an excellent time for parents to review their own driving habits. Whether behind the wheel or riding shotgun, the time teens spend in the car with a parent creates the most valuable teaching moments for ensuring safe young drivers.

For information on helping create a safe driver in your teen, visit www.cdc.gov and click on the “teen driver” tab.

General Home Safety Guidelines

Posted by on Jan 5, 2015 in Homeowners | Comments Off on General Home Safety Guidelines

When you leave your home, whether it is for work or for vacation, you trust that your home and your valuables are safe and protected. These guidelines may seem like common knowledge but they’re often forgotten. Try taking these precautions to help fortify your home and keep your possessions secure while you’re away.

  • Deadbolts — If you don’t have deadbolts on every door, add them and be sure to lock everything when you leave. It sounds obvious, but sometimes the simple careless mistakes are the worst. Deadbolts make it much more difficult for intruders to enter your home.
  • Garage Door — With modern technology, electric garage doors have become easy to hack. Make sure you lock your entry door from your garage into your home to add another barrier of security.
    hands holding paper house with lock
  • Secure Vault — While keeping your valuables in a safe is a great protective measure, there is nothing stopping a thief from just taking the vault and dealing with the lock later. Make sure your vault is secure to the ground so that intruders are unable to take the safe with them. They are less likely to exert the extra energy it takes to remove a vault that is secured to the ground.
  • Hide Valuables — This is a last-resort guideline. If you have something truly irreplaceable, don’t keep it in an obvious place. Hide it someplace no one would ever look such as a false container in a kitchen cupboard or hidden inside a pair of shoes.
  • Home Security System — If you have it, use it. It can sometimes be a nuisance to have to remember to set but it is an added precaution that can deter most intruders. You can even have alerts sent to your phone if there is a breach of security.

Austin Cell Phone Law

Posted by on Dec 30, 2014 in Drivers | Comments Off on Austin Cell Phone Law

Beginning Jan. 1, Austin gets tougher of cell phone use while driving. According to the National Safety Council, cell phone use contributed to more than 1000 Texas automobile crashes in 2013, enough to prove that cell phone use is a major cause of driver distraction. The NSC further says that “talking on a cell phone while driving makes you four times more likely to crash, and texting while driving increases
your chances of a crash by up to 8 to 23 times.”

Because driver distraction from cell phone use, is a growing problem, Texas has several laws with provisions regulating cell phone use for new drivers, bus drivers, and any driver moving through a school zone. However, in spite of repeated attempts by some in the legislature to pass bills totally outlawing texting while driving, Texas does not have a law that forbids the use of hand-held devices while driving outside of a school zone. However, around two dozen Texas cities, including Austin, do, and as of January 1, many of these local laws will expand.

Attractive Blonde Woman Text Messaging on Her Cell Phone While Driving.Austin already prohibits texting while driving, but at the start of the year, those laws expand to include the prohibition of all hand-held devices in use by adult drivers in a moving vehicle within the city limits. The state law still covers underage drivers. The ban, which also applies to cyclists, includes the use of cell phones, computers, GPS devices, and games and includes talking, texting, reading and programming on these devices while the car is in motion. Once the vehicle is at a complete stop, drivers may access their hand held devices. The new restriction does not pertain to
9-1-1 emergency calls, businesses using two way radios or the devices when in hands-free mode, however, to be used when the vehicle is moving, a GPS navigation system must be permanently affixed to the car or bicycle.

These tighter restrictions go into effect at the start of the New Year. To help prepare Austin residents for the change, the city has tried to raise awareness through road signage and mailers, and will allow a 30-day grace period during which drivers stopped for the new infractions will only be given warnings. Tickets will be handed out beginning February 1.

Because the state has left it up to local government to regulate laws regarding the use of cell phones by driving adults, regulations can change from one city to the next. If the statistics of automobile crashes related to distracted driving aren’t enough to curb your cell phone use, the risk of getting a ticket in a city with cell phone laws different from yours might be. It can wait.

Tips for Creating the Perfect Guestroom for your Holiday Guests

Posted by on Dec 22, 2014 in Homeowners | Comments Off on Tips for Creating the Perfect Guestroom for your Holiday Guests

The holidays often mean full hearts and full guest rooms as family and friends arrive to spend this special time of year with you and yours.  The trick to making guests feel at home in your home is to anticipate their needs and accommodate them in advance. It’s what the best hotels do, and you can do it too.

  • Nothing is more inviting in a guest room than a cozily made bed and warm lighting.  Plush linens, fluffy accent pillows and throws, and the glow of a bedside lamp offer an intimate welcome.  Clutter-free tabletops give guests room to place jewelry and other items. Personal touches like a stack of favorite books, framed photos, scented candles or fresh flowers add charm.
  • hotel interiorA good night’s sleep can be key to a pleasant visit, so don’t skimp on the bedding.  You wouldn’t want to sleep on a springy mattress, lumpy pillows or scratchy sheets and your guests don’t either.  Consider these things an investment. Buy the best you can afford.
  • In bathrooms, large, soft, fluffy towels and well-appointed toiletries are a treat.  It’s also nice for visitors to not have to ask for a hair dryer, extra TP, or a night light, so stocking the cabinets with these and other essentials is always appreciated.
  • A great way to determine the comfort of the room is to spend the night in it yourself. Does it have everything you need? A place to sit (besides the bed,) somewhere for luggage and hanging clothes, a clock, extra blankets and pillows, a reading light?  Do you see dusty fan blades or corner cobwebs when the sun comes through the curtains? And how early does the sun shine through? Should you add a liner or shade?
  • A few finishing touches make guests feel extra special.  Prepare a basket with bottled waters and easy-to-eat snacks, so guests don’t have to sneak downstairs in the middle of the night and rummage through the fridge.  Share codes for wifi access and security systems (just in case,) as well as how to operate the dreaded remote control, which seems to be different in everyone’s house.

Knowing you’ve anticipated their every need will help your holiday guests feel truly at home.

Farmers Insurance Nancy Kuznieski Agency wish you a very Happy Holidays!

Auto Liability Insurance

Posted by on Dec 12, 2014 in Liability | Comments Off on Auto Liability Insurance

Car insuranceAuto liability insurance is mandatory in the state of Texas, but insurance companies offer a full range of optional coverage that protects you and your family in the event of a collisions.  Some people will tell me they have “full coverage”, but there is no set definition for “full coverage”.   On average 25% of drivers have no insurance and another 30% do not have enough insurance.  To better understand your coverage, open to the first page of your insurance policy called the “Declarations Page”.  This is an overview of your coverage and how much coverage you have within each option or you can call your insurance agent.

As with most states, in order to register and drive your car in Texas, the state requires that you have a minimum level of certain types of auto insurance coverage. These include:

  1. Bodily Injury to Others: $30,000 per person / $60,000 per accident
  2. Property Damage Liability: $25,000 per accident
  3. Personal Injury Protection (PIP): $2,500 (unless waived by signature)

 

Liability coverage is the part the insurance company will pay to other people or property when you are negligently at fault in causing an accident.

Let’s look at what this really means that if you are negligible in an auto accident.  Insurance will cover up to $60,000/accident in medical bills to the other car(s), so if their medical bills are higher than $60,000 then you personally could be paying the additional expense.  The same is true for the property damage where the insurance pay $25,000 at most and you are liable for the additional expense.  Most people have more than this minimum coverage.

If your car is hit by a negligent driver, then your liability coverage does not pay you any money at all.  It only pays other people when you are liable for causing the accident, up to your policy limits.  If the negligent driver has no coverage, and you do not have uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, then you may be out of luck. (There are a few things you can try, but they are long shots.  Call me and I can give you some advice.)

PIP is coverage that will pay medical bills and 80% of lost wages.  PIP pays if you are injured in any way dealing with your car of someone else’s car.  An example would be you open the door, trip out of your car, and break your leg.

It is always best to discuss with your insurance agent whether your coverage is enough and what they recommend for the area you live in.  We also recommend talking with your insurance agent once a year to determine whether your policy needs updating.

Holiday Lights & Safety

Posted by on Nov 28, 2014 in Homeowners | Comments Off on Holiday Lights & Safety

The winter holiday season should be a joyous time of year. However, certain types of fires and injuries associated with holiday decorating are much more common during this season.  According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA),
 
Christmas tree fires
U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated annual average of 230 home structure fires that began with Christmas trees. Home Christmas tree fires caused an average of six civilian deaths, 22 civilian injuries, and $18.3 million in direct property damage per year.

Although these fires are not common, when they do occur, they are unusually likely to be serious. On average, one of every 40 reported home structure Christmas tree fires resulted in a death compared to an average of one death per 142 total reported home structure fires.

Similar shares of home Christmas tree structure fires were in December (43%) and January (39%). Christmas tree fires are more likely after Christmas than before. For example, none of the ten dates with the largest shares of home Christmas tree structure fires were before Christmas.

Electrical failures or malfunctions were involved in one-third (32%) of the home Christmas tree structure fires. One in six (17%) occurred because some type of heat source was too close to the tree. Decorative lights on line voltage were involved in 12% of these incidents. Seven percent of home Christmas tree fires were started by candles.

Twenty percent of home Christmas tree structure fires were intentionally set. Half of the intentional Christmas tree fires occurred in the 20 days after Christmas.

The risk of fire is higher with natural trees than artificial ones. Researchers found that dry natural trees burned easily but trees that had been kept moist are unlikely to catch fire unintentionally.

Fires involving holiday lights or other decorative lighting with line voltage
Holiday lights and other decorative lighting with line voltage were involved in an estimated average of 150 home structure fires per year in this same period. These fires caused an average of nine civilian deaths, 16 civilian injuries, and $8.4 million in direct property damage per year. Two out of five (40%) occurred in December and 12% were in January. Fifteen percent of these fires began with Christmas trees. Electrical failures or malfunctions were factors in nearly two-thirds (64%) of the fires involving holiday or decorative lights.

Falls related to holiday decorating
In a study of fall-related injuries during the holiday season, Stevens and Vajani estimated that an annual average of roughly 5,800 fall injuries related to holiday decorating were treated at hospital emergency rooms between November 1 and January 31 in 2000-2001, 2001-2002, and 2002-2003. Sixty-two percent of those injured were between 20 and 49 years of age, compared to 43% of the population in this age group. With 43% of the injuries resulting from falls from ladders and 13% caused by falls from the roof, it appears that the majority of these falls occurred during outdoor decorating. Falls from furniture, typically inside the structure, accounted for 11% of the injuries. Some falls occurred when people tripped over or slipped on tree skirts or other decorations.

Entire article can be found at http://www.nfpa.org/research/reports-and-statistics/fire-causes/holiday/christmas-tree-and-holiday-lights.

Taking A Home Inventory

Posted by on Nov 21, 2014 in Homeowners | Comments Off on Taking A Home Inventory

Guest Blogger: Hensley Law Firm

The time to take a home inventory is before you need it.  As much as we may not like to consider the many reasons for maintaining an up-to-date inventory of the contents of our homes, they are undeniable.  Weather disasters, fires and burglaries can result in catastrophic losses that leave victims in no frame of mind to account for all of their lost belongings after the fact.

Having this record in place prior to disaster makes verifying losses much easier, much less stressful, and may even help you get your insurance claims settled faster.  While this all makes sense, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), more than half of Americans don’t have an accurate record of property. Of those that do, 59 percent haven’t updated it in more than a year, meaning new purchases and gifts may not be included.

So how do you begin? There are lots of ways.  Read more at http://www.hensleylawfirm.com/taking-a-home-inventory/

Winter Storm Season in Texas

Posted by on Nov 5, 2014 in Homeowners | Comments Off on Winter Storm Season in Texas

A Good Time to Give Your Coverage a Check Up!

Storms are a fact of life in Texas, and after a relatively quiet Atlantic hurricane season, we may think we are out of the proverbial woods. Not so, according to meteorologists at accuweather.com. The onset of El Niño this fall could supply enough moisture for some communities in Texas to experience four to five months in a row of higher than average rainfall.

While this would provide some much needed relief for drought stricken areas of the state, all that rain falling over parched hill country ground offers problems of its own. Plus, with this wet weather prediction extending well into the winter season, the potential for icy conditions exist.

It’s a good time to review your homeowner’s policy to be familiar with your coverage and any exclusions, and determine if you think it needs updating or supplementing. Most policies cover general storm damage from things like hail, tornado, high winds and ice dams, however, earthquakes (which aren’t really a problem here) and flooding (which can be) usually require separate riders.

Hailstones the size of a penny are large enough to cause major damage to property. While indentations in a car or damage to siding and windows can be easy to spot, hail damage to the roof is not always visible. Because there are usually strict time limits for filing storm claims, it’s a good idea to have a property damage inspection performed immediately following a major hail storm to cover your bases. Damage done to shingles or window seals may allow water to seep through later, causing additional damage to the roof structure and interior walls that may not be apparent for years to come. Don’t forget to check AC units and pool pumps for damage as well.

Most wind damage is caused by objects flying through the air, so a little pre-storm prep goes a long way. Bring in or secure even heavy items like outdoor furniture, and place
all gardening tools, kids toys, etc. safely in the garage or other enclosed structure. Trim tree branches as needed, and make sure all siding and fence boards are firmly in place.

Even if you trim regularly, falling limbs and trees often result from high winds and heavy ice and most policies, but not all, cover the cost of tree removal after a storm.

It is important to know the difference in water damage and flood damage as water damage coverage varies greatly from policy to policy, and flood damage requires totally separate coverage. Water in the house from busted appliances or pipes, even if it’s due to freezing, is usually covered, as is water from a direct storm hit (storm damage to the roof causing immediate leaking, windows broken during the storm, etc.) although you should check with your agent to verify your policy specifics. Water that touches the ground before entering your house is generally considered flood damage and is not covered. This includes water from the creek behind your house rising and cominginside, a sewer main break or swimming pool overflowing its capacity. It also includes flash flooding when the ground cannot absorb the rainfall or redirect it toward detention ponds at a fast enough pace.

While not a huge issue for most parts of Texas, ice dams do cause storm damage and coverage of it tends to vary a great deal. An ice dam is frozen water or snow on the roof just above the gutter. It can cause roof damage, especially if it remains in place an extended period of time, but whether or not you are covered can depend on the condition of your roof prior to the ice or snow storm. Often, you must be able to prove the roof was previously in good condition, and the damage is strictly from the ice dam and not improper roof maintenance.

Again, each homeowner’s policy is different so it’s important to know what your coverage is. This will prevent any surprises when a major winter storm leaves you with costly repairs.

Keep Halloween Liability from Spoiling Your Fun

Posted by on Oct 28, 2014 in Liability | Comments Off on Keep Halloween Liability from Spoiling Your Fun

I can hear it now: “Trick or Treat!”

Yep, it’s the time of year when cleverly clad creatures of varying degrees of scary descend on your Halloween doorstep in search of sweet treats and often, a good fright. It’s also a very popular night for revelers to get together for some costumed fun at parties and neighborhood haunted houses.  But having a lot of people on your property, including many you may not know, opens you up to certain liability issues of which you may not be aware.  That makes Halloween a good time to make sure everything is in spooktacular shape for visitors.

Decor at the Door

For starters, Halloween decorations are fun and festive, but they can present some dangers if not arranged properly. Make sure sidewalks and porches are free and clear of debris or too much decor that can pose tripping hazards for trick or treaters or party guests. In addition, make sure the area is well lit, but watch using actual flames. Jack O’lanterns can be knocked over or brushed by little costumes, which can catch fire. Certain materials such as hay or straw used in popular holiday decor is also extremely flammable.

Know what You’re Serving

shutterstock_223157509Many parties are centered around the food table and themed holiday snacks provide a nice touch to any gathering. Make sure edibles are served in such a way as to maintain proper temperatures and avoid bacteria growth that can make people sick later. Label anything with the potential for an allergic reaction and keep it separate from other dishes. (This goes for distributing Halloween candy as well. Avoid handing out items that present choking hazards or to which many people are allergic.)

Party food is also a great idea if you’ll be serving alcohol, because it decreases its effect on the body, but you’ll still need to monitor consumption. Don’t let anyone leave your party intoxicated, especially if they’re driving. If they get in an accident, they may not pursue legal action, but the people they hit might. And do not serve alcohol to minors. This is not just unwise, it is flat out illegal.

Drive Safely

Even if you haven’t been imbibing, driving through residential areas on Halloween night requires extra caution. While staying sober is an excellent idea, slowing down is a good one too. This is one of the deadliest nights of the year for pedestrians, and drivers should fully expect dark costumed creatures to hurriedly veer from sidewalk into streets in search of their next treat. In spite of safely recommendations, these little ones are often not wearing reflective gear and will be hard to see until it’s too late if you’re going too fast.

 

 

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