Tuesday, August 22, 2017
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Avoid Road Rage: Don’t React to Aggressive Driving


Driving on roads throughout the United States can often be a pleasant, reasonably uneventful experience. Going from point A to point B is usually a fairly mundane task. But sometimes, the actions of other drivers or some situations outside of your control can be frustrating make you angry. This is typically called “road rage,” and it’s a condition that has increasingly shown up in the headlines of national and local news outlets in recent years.

But what exactly is road rage and are there simple steps to take to avoid it?

Aggressive Driving

While the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) doesn’t identify road rage, per se, it does address aggressive driving, which may be seen as a similar action. According to the NHTSA, aggressive driving is when “an individual commits a combination of moving traffic offenses so as to endanger other persons or property.”

While you may not to be able to pinpoint specific actions that are tied directly to road rage, the Insurance Information Institute (III) identified a few behaviors (based on the NHTSA’s Fatal Accident Report System) that may contribute to aggressive driving:

  • Following improperly
  • Improper or erratic lane changing
  • Illegal driving on road shoulder, in ditch, or on sidewalk or median
  • Passing where prohibited
  • Operating the vehicle in an erratic, reckless, careless, or negligent manner or suddenly changing speeds
  • Failure to yield right of way
  • Failure to obey traffic signs, traffic control devices, or traffic officers, failure to observe safety zone traffic laws
  • Failure to observe warnings or instructions on vehicle displaying them
  • Failure to signal
  • Driving too fast for conditions or in excess of posted speed limit
  • Racing
  • Making an improper turn

The Washington Post reports on a 2013 study by Christine Wickens of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health about driver anger, that weaving between lanes and cutting people off are the actions that infuriate them most. The study analyzed 5,624 complaints posted to the website roadragers.com between 1999 and 2007. The next three most-common complaints were speeding, hostile displays and tailgating. But what can you do to prevent angry reactions to these behaviors?

Prevent Road Rage

If you drive long enough, eventually you’ll likely encounter some of the behaviors and situations listed above that can frustrate even the calmest drivers. It can be difficult to proactively prevent anger, but some basic stress-reducing tips provided by Edmunds may be able to help you handle your road reactions. Edmunds suggests:

  • Get enough sleep
  • Plan ahead
  • Don’t use your car to blow off steam
  • Listen to relaxing music
  • Loosen up your driving posture
  • Don’t take things so personally
  • Respond with a laugh or a shrug
  • Respond as though you’re in a restaurant
  • Analyze your own driving
  • Remember the simple courtesies

Road rage can be a dangerous behavior that can lead to accidents and injuries. If you remain calm behind the wheel and don’t antagonize other drivers it may help improve your driving experience and reduce your stress.

Follow me on Twitter @B_ONeill73 and Google+ (B. ONeill)






Motorcycle Riders: Pick the Proper Protective Gear


Safety on the road is often among the most important concerns of drivers and motorcycle riders alike. After driver education, protection for car and truck drivers can take the form of safety features like airbags and seat belts. Motorcycles typically don’t have either of those items, and also lack additional safety features like crumple zones, roll cages and a structural frame to protect the rider.

Motorcycle riders must choose their own safety gear to wear in an effort to help reduce their potential for injury should an accident occur while on the road. But choosing the right gear requires a bit more than simply wearing what looks cool.

Discover More About Motorcycle Insurance

As tempting as it might be to wear minimal or no gear at all while out on a motorcycle — especially in warmer weather — it’s a bad idea. Motorcyclists are exposed to all kinds of road debris that can get kicked up by passing vehicles and may be dangerous for motorcyclists. Protective gear serves two purposes: protection and comfort, according to the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF).


Weather conditions can dictate — to some degree — what type of gear a rider wears, but comfort is key, because uncomfortable gear can be distracting. Consider these tips to stay both comfortable and safe in all sorts of weather:

  • Hot Temperatures: Dress in layers and consider a moisture-wicking material. According to Motorcycle Cruiser magazine, you may experience a wind-chill effect, so you don’t want to dress too lightly. Covering up can help retain the moisture that helps your body cool itself, and can limit dehydrating, fatiguing effects of direct sun and wind. Mesh jackets and gloves, as well as cooling vests that can be soacked in water and work under vented gear
  • Rain: You should try to avoid riding your motorcycle in the rain because roads can become very slick. But if you must ride through the rain, choose rain gear that is breathable, waterproof or water-resistant, says CycleWorld.com. Your rain gear should fit properly, gives you the option of adding layers for warmth and sheds water, according to Rider Magazine.
  • Frigid Temperatures: Snow, ice and cold temperatures generally don’t make for great motorcycle riding conditions and require some warm gear. MotorBikeWriter.com says underneath protective gear, wearing base layers like thermal underwear, glove liners and balaclavas can help. Extremities like fingers and toes can be susceptible to cold temperatures, so consider using chemical heat packs inside gloves and boots.


Properly fitting protective gear may help keep you safe and comfortable in many driving conditions, and is designed to help reduce or prevent injuries in the event of a crash.

  • Head: While you aren’t required to wear a helmet in every state, if you choose to wear a helmet, the MSF suggests choosing a helmet that meets U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) standards. The DOT standards define minimum levels of performance that helmets must meet to protect the head and brain in the event of a crash, according to the National Highway and Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA).
  • Hands and Feet: Look for boots that go over your ankle and features oil-resistant, rubber-based composite soles, says the MSF. For your hands, consider full-fingered gloves that fit properly, as they may help improve your grip on the handlebars and help prevent cuts, bruises and abrasions in a crash.
  • Torso/Arms: The MSF suggests riders wear abrasive-resistant fabrics or leather to help protect against injury in the event of a crash. Riding jackets typically run longer in the sleeves and wider across the shoulders to account for the riding position, and should fit comfortably without binding.
  • Legs: A rider’s legs should be covered and protecting in a similar way to the upper body, made of the same types of materials. In addition to leather modern fabrics like Cordura, Kevlar and ballistic nylon can boast abrasion- or wind-resistance, are waterproof and may have high-visibility properties. Oftentimes, riding gear comes with body armor — thick pads sewn into the elbows, shoulders, kidney area, spine, knees, and in some cases, hips.

Proper motorcycle safety gear is there as a buffer between you and the environment in which you ride. Pick up some quality gear and ride easy knowing that you’re protected.

Follow me on Twitter @B_ONeill73 and Google+ (B. ONeill)






Power Surges, Dirty Lint Traps and Other Hidden Home Dangers


Being a homeowner and a mother, I work hard to keep my house and family safe. But homes face all types of threats — some less obvious than others. Here’s a list I put together of possible dangers hiding in or around your home (a follow-up to my earlier post about hidden home dangers):

Power Surges

My family is constantly plugged in, so I like to make sure our electronics aren’t overloading our outlets. If lightning strikes, a power surge can damage appliances, electronics and, in worst cases, spark a house fire. To help prevent damage from surges, I suggest using a surge protector and unplugging appliances and electronics during severe storms.

Dirty Lint Traps

As a mother of three boys, I do a lot of laundry. I know it’s easy to disregard the lint trap, but lint buildup can cause the dryer to overheat or start a fire. Take time to clean out the lint trap before and after using the dryer. Also, dryer vents should be cleaned every year, according to the National Fire Protection Association; more often, if you notice it’s taking longer to dry your clothes. Cleaning out your vent may help prevent a possible dryer-induced house fire and keep your machine running more efficiently.

Trip Hazards

If your house is like mine, the entryway and stairwell become a landing zone for backpacks, shoes, coats and anything else the kids bring home. While these everyday items seem harmless, the excess clutter could cause serious injuries if someone were to trip and fall. Keep your home safe and clean by investing in storage bins and organizational units — and using them.

Carbon Monoxide Leaks

There’s a reason why carbon monoxide (CO) is nicknamed the “silent killer.” According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), this odorless, colorless gas is the leading cause of accidental poisonings for Americans. Fuel-burning appliances are often the source of CO leaks, which can create a deadly buildup in the home. It is recommended to install CO alarms on every level of the home, including the basement, and outside each sleeping area. Even though alarm lifespans vary by model and manufacturer, the CDC recommends replacing most every five to seven years. If you don’t remember when your CO alarm was installed, it’s a good idea to replace it. Some models feature end-of-life warnings to alert you when a replacement is needed.

Unlocked Windows, Doors

An open garage door or unlocked doors and windows are an open invitation to intruders. Be sure to lock up your house every time you leave. Installing security cameras can help deter intruders, too, and give you peace of mind while you’re out of the house.

Have you encountered any type of hidden home dangers? What do you do throughout the year to keep your family safe?

Guest blogger Debbie Hanson is director of external affairs for First Alert, a trusted brand in home safety products.






Prepare Your Tires for Winter Weather


Last winter, my car really took a beating. Having just moved back to Chicago, I’d forgotten the total havoc months of ice, sleet and snow can wreak on metal and rubber. But the next blizzard won’t catch me off guard. I started winterizing my car with the tires, and found some helpful tips to improve the grip on the road in the cold, wet winter weather.

Test Your Tire Tread

One of the first ways to tell if your tires are ready for winter roads is to examine the wear on their tread. If your wheels are properly aligned and you’ve rotated your tires regularly, the tire tread should be worn evenly on both sides. If yours isn’t, this could be a sign that your wheels are out of alignment and need adjusting before the big freeze hits. Uneven or excessive tread wearing can cause problems during the winter months, as roads get slicker and your tires may require more grip to brake and accelerate.

Take the “penny test:” Take a Lincoln penny, hold it between your thumb and forefinger so that Lincoln’s head is showing. Place the top of Lincoln’s head into one of the grooves of the tire’s tread. If any part of Lincoln’s head is obscured by the tread, you have a safe amount of tread, according to Bridgestonetire.com. If you can see above Lincoln’s head, then you need a new tire.

Become a Tire Pressure Aficionado

One cause of uneven tire wear is under-inflation. Tires lose about 1 pound per square inch of pressure for every 10 degrees the temperature drops, according to Goodyear. While this might not sound like much, it can be, considering that a small drop in tire pressure may alter a car’s safety. Plus, keeping your tires properly inflated can help them last longer—and might even save you a few dollars at the pump.

Consider Buying Snow Tires

You might think snow tires are only for mountain men who live in the tundra. But the truth is that all-purpose tires just don’t perform as well during the winter as they do the rest of the year, according to Edmunds. In fact, colder temperatures may cause standard tires to become too hard and lose their normal traction, even when there’s no snow on the ground.

The service department at your local car dealership can help you decide whether snow tires make sense for your area’s weather, and can also recommend the best tires for your make and model. I opted to put snow tires on my SUV this year, and I don’t think I’ll ever look back. Snow tires boast a more aggressive tread pattern that increases traction on snow and ice, says Cars.com.

While preparing your car for the winter whiteout takes a little extra work, it can be worth it in the long run. Better tires may mean fewer breakdowns—so you can spend less time at the side of the road and more time hibernating in your man cave.






Basement Maintenance 101: 5 Tips for Maintaining Your Basement [VIDEO]


Does your home have a basement? If so, you may know there are regular checks you can perform to help monitor it for potential issues.

This video walks you through some of the basics. But remember: If you suspect there’s a problem, or don’t feel comfortable performing a self-assessment, consider hiring a professional.

00:02 Like the rest of your home, basements require maintenance. And while you may need to call in a professional to fix any potential issues, these five tips can help you know what to look out for.

00:11 Basement maintenance starts outside. Inspect your gutters and downspouts for clogs, leaks and breaks. The Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, says to make sure your drainpipe carries water at least five feet away from the house.

00:28 Malfunctioning downspouts and gutters can dump water along your house. That moisture may seep into your basement or may cause the soil around your basement to swell and push the walls inward, leading to potential cracking, says Jim Hise, owner of Expert Basement Repair in Chagrin Falls, Ohio.

00:42 Grading refers to how level the ground is around your house. Positive grading means water flows away from your house — which is what you want, according to the EPA. Negative grading means the water runs toward your house.

00:54 One way to check the grade, Hise says, is by inspecting the ground after a rainfall to see if the water is puddling around the house.

01:02 Window wells are another area where water may collect and cause potential problems, according to Hise. To help keep your wells clear, make sure the drain hasn’t been clogged with debris.

01:14 You can also cover the well with a contoured clear panel that can help keep rain out but still let natural light in. This may be available at your local hardware store.

01:23 Cracks in your basement walls may indicate possible moisture and structural problems, Hise says. Your best bet when it comes to cracks can be to seek expert input.

01:32 According to the Sump and Sewage Pump Manufacturers Association, or SSPMA, regular maintenance is necessary to help keep your sump pump in proper working order.

01:42 Start by consulting your sump pump manual. The SSPMA recommends cleaning the screen or inlet opening on your pump every three months. You may need to do this more often if the pump is connected to an automatic washing machine.

01:55 The SSPMA also recommends testing the pump every three to four months by pouring water into it to get its cycle started.

02:02 According to the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors, also known as InterNACHI, if it doesn’t activate, you should call in a professional.

02:12 On a yearly basis, the SSPMA recommends that you remove and clean the pump and sump pit.

02:18 InterNACHI also recommends annual sump pump maintenance. You may need to hire a professional for these services.

02:27 Want more tips and resources for maintaining your home? Visit allstate.com/blog.

Digital Content Project Manager

Jen produces home, renters, condo and financial content for The Allstate Blog.






Fluids: The Lifeblood of Your Ride


Your vehicle has a lot of different fluids running through it to keep it working properly. Keeping an eye on these vital fluids and maintaining them at healthy levels will increase driving performance and help to reduce maintenance costs.

While many car repairs require a skilled professional, maintaining the levels of essential car fluids is easy and possible for even the most automotive repair-challenged drivers. Knowing which fluids you can easily maintain yourself may help you save you a lot of money and headaches in the long run, so consider the following six important car fluids that should be maintained as recommended:

1. Engine Oil

Checking and changing oil is critical to keep your engine running properly and efficiently. Check the oil level with the engine off and the car parked on a level surface. After opening the hood, remove the dipstick and wipe it clean with a rag or cloth. Then, return it to the oil reservoir. Take it out again and see if the level is within the acceptable range marked on the dipstick. If you’re adding oil, be sure to not overfill, as this can damage the engine.

Most car manufacturers provide guidelines for changing the vehicle’s oil – typically, every 3,000 miles or three to six months.

2. Transmission Fluid

Checking the automatic transmission fluid is another vital item on the car maintenance checklist. Find the transmission fluid dipstick and follow the same steps as monitoring the engine oil, but this time while the engine is running. If the fluid appears brown or has a burnt smell, have it checked immediately by a professional mechanic.

Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for changing transmission fluid, typically about every 30,000 miles.

3. Power Steering Fluid

If you have a power steering fluid reservoir, open the cap and check the level visually; otherwise, follow the dipstick method. The fluid should stay level, so if you need to add fluid, have it checked as soon as possible for a leak.

Power steering fluid should typically be changed every three years or 50,000 miles.

4. Brake Fluid

Most, if not all, vehicles on the road today have a translucent brake fluid reservoir that allows you to see through it so you can check the fluid level without opening the cap. Once you locate the brake fluid reservoir, you will see markings on the side that tell you if you need to add any brake fluid. If your brake pads are starting to wear, the brake fluid level will drop. If the fluid drops below two-thirds full, you may want to have it checked.

5. Coolant

When you check the engine’s coolant, make sure your car has been turned off and had time to cool down. Locate the coolant reservoir (usually a translucent plastic tank) and eyeball the level of the coolant against the full and low indicators. The engine can be damaged from overheating, so make sure that the reserve tank contains adequate coolant and never allow the temperature of your car’s engine to redline.

Replace most engine coolant or antifreeze every 30,000 miles – or every two to three years. Newer formulas, however, may last up to 50,000 miles, so check the recommendations on the coolant bottle.

6. Windshield Washer Fluid

You can check the windshield washer fluid level by looking at the marker on the opaque chamber or by looking into the reservoir. Depending on usage, consider checking the wiper fluid reservoir every week or so and keep it full.

By taking the time to periodically check these fluids, a car will enjoy a healthy and safe level of operation.

Joe Campanella is the EVP of business development at CARCHEX. Headquartered in Hunt Valley, Md.,CARCHEX is the premier provider of Extended Auto Warranties and Mobile Vehicle Inspections. CARCHEX is the preferred partner to the most trusted names in the automotive industry, including Pat Goss of TV’s MotorWeek, Carfax and Kelley Blue Book. You can read their automotive blog here.






Best Drivers Report 2016: The Safest Driving Cities [INFOGRAPHIC]


Wherever cars and trucks are driven, it seems that you will find both good drivers and bad drivers. But what metropolitan area boasts the best drivers? Allstate’s 12th annual America’s Best Drivers Report ranks America’s 200 largest cities in terms of car collision frequency to help identify which cities have the safest drivers.

Heading into the July Fourth holiday can be a great time for drivers to consider their own safe driving habits as well as the habits of those around them. An average driver in the No. 1 city in this year’s report, Brownsville, Texas, experiences an auto collision every 14.6 years, which is 31.4 percent less often than the national average.

The infographic below provides a quick glimpse at the report’s conclusions, and check out our interactive page to find out where your city ranks both by year and by two major statistical categories, by population density and weather.

Another helpful auto tip:

With Allstate, safe drivers can save 45% or more.

Follow me on Twitter @B_ONeill73 and Google+ (B. ONeill)






Poll: What’s Your Must-Do Fall Activity?


It’s fall — that means cooler weather, approaching holidays, and tons of opportunities for family fun. Below, we’ve compiled some ideas for fall activities the whole family can enjoy.

But we’re also interested in hearing your perspective. What’s your must-do fall activity? Let us know in the poll following the article.

Pumpkin Patches and Corn Mazes

The richness of fall colors and seasonal cheer are on display at your local pumpkin patch, where your family can gather to enjoy picking the ripest gourds. Pumpkin patches are prevalent around most of the country this time of year so consult a directory such as Funtober.com to help locate one near you.

But the fun’s not over when you’re done picking your pumpkins. Some pumpkin patch farms also offer another beloved seasonal attraction — corn mazes. If your family is ready for a double dose of fall fun, consider visiting a local farm featuring both attractions. Many pumpkin patches, such as Flint Farm near Boston and Dewberry Farm near Houston, also offer other fun seasonal activities, including corn mazes and hayrides.

National Park Fall Foliage

The splendor of fall is on full display at many of the U.S. National Parks, where the changing seasons brings a dramatic display of fall foliage. Fall foliage varies by region, but many parks, such as Shenandoah National Park offer color updates, enabling you to time your visit according to the peak of color.

Others, such as Great Smoky Mountains National Park, offer suggested fall drives and hikes designed to help your family make the most of the vibrant colors. Wondering which national parks near you are prime for enjoying the seasonal changes? Wilderness.org offers a compilation of their top recommended parks for fall foliage.

Oktoberfest and Fall Festivals

The crisp autumn air and approaching holidays are cause enough for a party, but in many locations, fall festivals and other celebrations, such as the popular German-themed Oktoberfest, can add some extra spice to your autumn. Funtober.com also provides national Oktoberfest and fall festival listings designed to help you locate a nearby celebration.

Haunted Houses

Nothing says fall like Halloween’s skeletons, witches, and ghouls — but the fun of this holiday isn’t limited to Oct. 31. In many areas, haunted houses are open to the public from late September to early November, creating ample opportunities for fall family fun. National directories such as Hauntedhouse.com can help you locate a nearby attraction for your family.

Keep in mind, however, to select a haunted house that’s appropriate for your family, since some may not be appropriate for all ages. Consult your selected attraction’s website or call to determine age-appropriateness.

Digital Content Project Manager

Jen produces home, renters, condo and financial content for The Allstate Blog.






Here’s to Firsts: First No-Summer-Break Summer


Starting your new career after graduation can be quite exciting. You get the chance to meet new people, work on interesting projects and hone the skills you developed in school. This new chapter in your life can be exciting: You can be as independent as you want to be.

Then, you realize summer is right around the corner and you might never get another summer break (unless you’re a teacher, of course). It might be a little tough to think about not having a couple months to relax by the pool or travel the world, but don’t panic. We’ve included a guide on how to still have fun this summer, even if you’re working.


kaboobs on the grillGreen Tips For A Better Barbecue: Creating An Eco-Friendly Oasis [VIDEOS]
Planning a summer soiree? With a little creativity, you can transform your yard into a green paradise with these quick tips.

group of adults attending a backyard partyEnd the Summer in Style with a Block Party
Throw the ultimate summer block party and celebrate with your neighbors.

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Summer’s here, and for many, that means it’s grilling season. Plan a get together, and take your outdoor cooking skills to the next level with these grilling ideas.

Relax and Get Away

friends sunbathing in the backyardPlan a Great, Green Staycation
Imagine the fun you can still have if you plan a staycation instead.

7 baseballs on the fieldTake in a Ballgame
Consider attending a baseball game on the weekend. Here are some safety tips to remember before you head out to cheer on your favorite team.

family making sPack Your Bags for These Last-Minute Summer Vacations
Before summer is over, enjoy one of the following mini vacation ideas.

Digital Content Project Manager

Jen produces home, renters, condo and financial content for The Allstate Blog.






Here’s to Firsts: First Home Checklist


Buying your first home can be both an exciting and intimidating time in your life. To help make sure your transition into your new abode goes as smoothly as possible, here are a few things to think about along the way.

Beginner’s Maintenance Guide

cleaning_countertop.jpg5 Chores to Do in Your New Home
Before you start unpacking, you may want to consider tackling these chores first.

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From changing locks to cleaning air ducts, here are seven items to check when you move in.

october-place-image-article-3.jpgTips for Home Window Safety
With a little care, learn how you and your family can enjoy the windows in your new home safely.

man testing smoke detectorHow to Test Your Smoke Detectors and Fire Alarms
Don’t assume the smoke detectors in your new home are already working. It’s important to take the time to test them. Here’s how.

couple trimming a treeTree Trimming 101: When, Why and How to Stay Safe
You may have finished all of the maintenance tasks inside your home, but what about the outside? Here are some tree-trimming tips to help you spruce up your yard.

Beginner’s Guide to Home Insurance

movingMoving and Homeowners Insurance FAQs
Before you move, consider how homeowners insurance may help protect your new house and your belongings.

Homeowners insurance infographicHomeowners Insurance at a Glance
Is this your first time purchasing homeowners insurance? Learn about the four main kinds of coverages.

A woman comparing Home Insurances.How to Compare Homeowners Insurance Quotes
Shopping around for homeowners insurance quotes? Here are a few things to think about when comparing prices.

Man using calculator.How Can I Get Homeowners Insurance Discounts?
Learn a couple ways you may be able to save money on your homeowners insurance premiums.

Digital Content Project Manager

Jen produces home, renters, condo and financial content for The Allstate Blog.