6 Tips to Help Prevent Distracted Driving Accidents

Each year in the U.S., nearly a half million people are injured in car crashes caused by distracted driving and several thousand are killed, according to data from the U.S. Department of Transportation. Yet, even though the problems of distracted driving have been widely publicized, millions of drivers – many of them young and inexperienced – still persist in habits like texting and posting on social media while they’re behind the wheel. Other activities like applying makeup and eating while driving can also cause distraction-related accidents, resulting in major property damage, serious injuries and even death. In fact, national statistics show that at any time during the day, nearly a million vehicles are being driven by someone who’s using a handheld cellphone.

shutterstock_311543942 (1).jpg

Maryland has enacted some laws and penalties from distracted drivers, ranging from a $40 fine for use of a cellphone while driving to up to a $500 fine for drivers who text while driving – penalties which some have criticized as being too lenient. In fact, while the texting offense is considered a misdemeanor crime, cellphone usage is a secondary offense, which means a driver can only be penalized if they’re pulled over for another issue, like failing to stop at a stop sign or driving over the center line – and by that time, an accident may have already occurred.

It’s up to the legislators to hash out the laws and penalties surrounding distracted driving in Maryland, but for drivers, the best way to stay protected is to avoid driving while texting or performing other activities. The Maryland Department of Transportation offers these additional tips to help drivers stay focused behind the wheel so distracted driving accidents may be prevented:

  • If you must make a call or check your texts, pull off the road into a safe area to do so.
  • Avoid emotional or stressful conversations when driving.
  • Eat before your drive to ensure both hands remain on the wheel and prevent spills, which can cause distractions on their own. Likewise, perform personal grooming including hair care and makeup application before you hit the road.
  • If children become unruly, pull off the road into a safe area to care for them – don’t turn around or reach behind you, both of which can result in distraction and accidents.
  • Don’t let pets (or kids) sit in your lap while you’re driving.
  • Review directions and maps before heading out.

Another important way to minimize damage if an accident does occur: Make sure you have ample insurance coverage. At Old Bay Insurance Agency, we make it simple for drivers to ensure they have the right amount of coverage. All it takes is a simple phone call to review your policy so you can feel confident you have the coverage you need for yourself and your loved ones. Call us today at 410-777-5390 and let us review your needs.

6 Simple Steps to Reduce Business Liability Risks from Slip-and-Fall Accidents

About a million people are injured every year in the U.S. as a result of slip-and-fall accidents according to the CDC, with injuries ranging from relatively mild bruising to more serious injuries like broken bones, joint dislocations and neck, spine and head injuries. Even a minor slip-and-fall accident can result in significant medical bills, and more extensive injuries can involve years of costly medical treatments and therapy. Of course, it’s important to take steps to prevent slip-and-fall accidents all year long, but because winter’s ice and snow can make injuries far more likely, taking steps now to improve safety and decrease liability can significantly reduce your risk exposure.

shutterstock_520621303

Here’s what you can – and should – do now to reduce liability and improve safety at your business:

  • Make sure sidewalks and parking lots are well maintained. Repair cracks and uneven surfaces right away. Fill in any potholes as soon as they appear.
  • Clear ice and snow cleared, and when snow is falling, shovel snow and remove ice on a regular basis throughout business hours.
  • Make sure interior (and exterior) walkways are clear of obstacles like boxes, electrical cords and furniture. Keep throw rugs out of the work area and opt instead for carpet with a very low pile or non-slip flooring products. Repair any thin spots or holes in carpeting.
  • Perform a daily “walk-through” evaluation of your premises to determine any hazards that exist and eliminate them prior to opening for business when possible. When repairs need to be delayed, use signage or block off areas until the repairs or maintenance can be performed.
  • Use incident reports to keep a written log of any accident that occurs at your business. Written reports are important for insurance claims or subsequent lawsuits because they can show you performed your duty of care as a business owner, and they can also help you identify safety issues that need to be addressed.
  • Keep updated maintenance records showing all upgrades and repairs, the dates they were made and who performed the repairs or maintenance. Be sure to remain compliant with any local, state or national codes.

Finally, make sure your business insurance policy is up to date and offers ample coverage for your business. Insurance is an affordable way to limit your losses. Never skimp on insurance; instead, schedule a regular review – at least annually, and any time an incident occurs or new equipment is added – to make sure your coverage evolves with your needs. Call Old Bay Insurance today at (410) 777-5390 to schedule a policy review so you can feel confident your business, your employees and your customers are adequately protected.

9 Winter Driving Safety Tips You Should Know

Winter driving has its own set of hazards, and knowing how to drive safely is the best way to avoid accidents and injuries.

winterdriving3

Here’s a quick list of tips to help you stay safe and sound when you’re on the roads this winter:

  • If you’re traveling a long distance, be sure to know what the weather’s like along your route. That way, you can plan for delays and avoid rushing and be prepared for whatever road conditions you might encounter.
  • Have your car serviced for cold weather. That includes making sure the tires have good treads, checking the battery and fluids, and making sure you have plenty of anti-freeze. Don’t forget to keep the windshield washer reservoir full to keep ice off the windshields.
  • Keep a winter survival kit in your trunk. Include a collapsible shovel, some kitty litter from traction, an emergency blanket, flares and reflectors, flashlight and fresh batteries, extra cell phone charger, booster cables and, of course, a couple of ice scrapers. Having some extra hats, gloves and scarves in your kit doesn’t hurt either.
  • Clear snow and ice from your car’s trunk, hood and roof before heading out. Make sure to clear off lights and mirrors too.
  • Keep your headlights on when driving through a snowstorm and be sure to keep all lights clear of snow so you can see others and they can see you.
  • Never use cruise control when the road is snowy or icy, and know how to brake when traveling on slick roadways. Your vehicle’s manual should have specific instructions depending on the type of braking system you have.
  • Remember – speed limits are meant for ideal road conditions. For winter driving, adjust your speed down to stay safe, especially on bridges and overpasses that can turn icy even when the rest of the road remains clear.
  • Keep the gas tank full during cold weather just in case the car breaks down so you can run the heater to stay warm. If that happens, run the heater every 10 minutes or so every hour. One more safety tip: Be sure the exhaust pipe is free of snow and ice and keep the windows cracked a bit to prevent carbon monoxide from building up.
  • Of course, when weather conditions are harsh, the best tip is to avoid winter driving whenever possible. But if you must go out, make sure a friend knows where you’re going and when you’re supposed to arrive at your destination so they can alert emergency personnel if you’re delayed. Keep your phone turned off when driving to avoid becoming distracted.

The New Year is a great time for reviewing your auto insurance policy to ensure you have all the coverage you need – and to make sure you’re getting all the discounts you qualify for. A policy review is quick and it can save you a bundle in the event of an accident. Call Old Bay Insurance Agency today at 410-714-4689 and find out how we can help you make both safety and savings your priorities in the New Year.

Make Holidays More Fun With These Kitchen Safety Tips

The Thanksgiving holiday is a time for gathering family and friends together to enjoy great food – turkey, stuffing, pumpkin pie and all the trimmings. All that food needs lots of preparation and cooking, and sometimes, that means accidents.

shutterstock_328441628

Fortunately, there are a few simple safety steps you can take to make sure your holiday is delicious, fun and safe:

  • First, use a timer any time food is in the oven to avoid overcooking and oven fires. If you’re cooking more than one item with different cooking times, keep a note next to the timer so you can reset it when the first item is done.
  • Make sure your fire extinguisher is charged, and make sure you know how to use it. Remember: Grease fires should never be put out with water, which can cause the fire to spread.
  • Keep your hair pulled back and don’t wear clothes or jewelry that hangs loose or dangles over or near the stove.
  • If you’re using a turkey fryer, keep it on a stable surface well away from your home or other structures, and keep kids and pets far away from the area.
  • If you’re using candles to provide a little holiday ambiance, keep them on stable surfaces out of the reach of kids and pets. Keep them in visible areas so you don’t forget to blow them out once the festivities have ended.

Don’t forget about food safety:

  • Make sure your turkey is cooked through. The USDA says whole turkeys must be cooked to an internal temperature of 165° to avoid bacterial poisoning. Place the thermometer in the thickest part of the thigh or breast and make sure it’s not touching the bone. If your turkey is stuffed, the stuffing must also reach a temperature of 165° in the center.
  • Don’t buy a turkey that’s already stuffed; the risk of food poisoning is much higher. Don’t thaw a frozen turkey too early. The USDA offers a handy table here for when and how to thaw a turkey so it’s ready for cooking.
  • Refrigerate leftovers promptly, at least within two hours of serving. Ideally, leftovers should be eaten within three days or frozen on Thanksgiving for eating later.
  • If you’re serving a buffet, use chafing dishes or hot plates to keep hot food at the proper temperature.

Being mindful of safety concerns may not seem terribly festive. But by following these simple tips, you and your loved ones can spend more time creating happy holiday memories.

Make Halloween Trick-or-Treating More Fun With These Six Safety Tips

Halloween is an exciting time for kids looking to dress outlandishly and score some free goodies, but for parents, as enjoyable as the holiday can be, it can also be a little worrisome. And based on news reports of past years, there are some legitimate dangers associated with the holiday that go beyond the razor-blades-in-candy stories.

shutterstock_210749683

Here are a few basic, common-sense safety tips that can help you can focus more on the fun and not so much on the worry:

  • Stick to neighborhoods you know. Whether you go out with your child or not, it’s important not to stray into unfamiliar neighborhoods.
  • Carry goodies so your kids won’t be tempted to snack on treats before they get home. Inspecting treats before your kids eat them is almost as much of a Halloween tradition as carving pumpkins. Having a few special goodies on hand can prevent kids from munching on treats before you have a chance to look them over.
  • Use reflective tape or bright white elements and avoid the all-dark costumes that can reduce visibility. There are plenty of cars on the road on Halloween, and since most trick-or-treating takes place after dark, it’s important to do all you can to make sure your kids can be seen by drivers. Adding reflective tape to the front and back shoulders and elsewhere on the costume will help drivers see your kids even if your kids are too distracted to see the cars.
  • Make sure masks don’t obstruct vision. Your child needs to be able to see traffic, curbs, steps and other obstacles to avoid accidents. Be sure their mask allows for clear vision straight ahead and, if possible, to the sides as well. Also avoid putting makeup right around the eyes – perspiration can cause greasepaint to run, resulting in irritation and tearing.
  • Keep bottom hems well above the ground. What small child doesn’t love a flowy princess or Dracula costume? Just be sure to keep the bottoms of the garments above your child’s feet to avoid tripping hazards.
  • Make sure your child goes trick-or-treating in a group. Unless you’re taking your child trick-or-treating yourself, make sure your child goes with a group of friends you know and trust, and be sure to know which route they’re taking. Also be sure your child’s cellphone is charged and turned on at all times.

It’s easy for kids to get caught up in the fun of Halloween – after all, getting dressed up in crazy costumes, hanging out with your friends and getting free candy is what it’s all about. Following a few simple safety tips can help you feel more at ease about your child’s activity without interfering too much in their own sense of adventure.

With Fall Around the Corner, Now’s The Time to Prep Your Car and Home for Winter

Yes, we just got through a heatwave, but before you know it, autumn will be here and with it, the cold, frosty weather. That means now is the time to start thinking about steps you should take to ensure your home and car are in top shape to handle everything Mother Nature throws at it this winter.

shutterstock_225268627

  • First, have your furnace serviced. Yes, you can do some things like change the filters yourself, but having your unit professionally serviced ensures your furnace will be ready for action. Plus, many maintenance services come with warranties for peace of mind that lasts the whole season. Have the chimney checked too (that’s especially important if you have a fireplace or wood-burning or pellet stove).
  • Grab some caulk and seal those windows. Hot summer sun can cause caulk to warp, shrink and crack. Replacing worn caulk stops air leakage both ways. All it takes is a few tubes to save a bundle on your heating bills. Buy a can or two of spray foam and seal around pipes or cable wires where they enter your house.
  • Insulate pipes in your basement and in any unheated areas to prevent freezing and to maintain hot water temperature to help keep fuel bills low.
  • Make sure your gutters are clean. Do it now before heavy fall rains arrive to ensure proper drainage, then again once the leaves fall to prevent ice from damming up this winter.
  • Clear any brush from around your house to eliminate cover for rodents that may want to hunker down in your basement or crawlspace.
  • Have your car serviced and make sure the battery is in good shape and the anti-freeze levels are appropriate for your vehicle. While you’re at it, have the cabin filter changed if you haven’t done so recently. A new filter means you’ll be breathing cleaner air while driving with the windows up.
  • Make sure your car’s heater and defroster are working, and grab some extra windshield wiper blades and windshield deicer to keep in your trunk. While you’re at it, put together a winter car emergency kit with a shovel, some kitty litter (to provide traction on icy spots), some flares and an emergency blanket.
  • Check your tires for worn treads and invest in a new set now to ensure they have optimal traction for icy roads.

Fall is a great time to review your insurance policy to make sure you have enough coverage just in case fall or winter storms cause damage to your home or car. Call Old Bay today at (410) 777-5390 to review your policy.

4 Mistakes Businesses Make When Filing Insurance Claims

When it comes to business insurance losses, most business owners think in abstract terms and not in terms of how a disaster might affect their own business – or what to do if a disaster occurs. But that kind of detached approach to business insurance can lead to a lot of problems when it does come time to file a claim.

shutterstock_280583285

Understanding the most common mistakes business owners make when filing claims can help ensure you know what to do if the unthinkable happens to your business:

  1. Not contacting your agent right away. You have insurance specifically to protect your business from losses, so when you do have a loss, it’s vitally important to contact your insurance agent immediately to determine what to do next and to get the claims process started. Insurance companies have trained adjusters ready to come out right away and assess damage to prevent interruptions that can affect your bottom line.
  2. Failing to take photographs or video of the damage. When your business premises or equipment is damaged, it makes sense you want to start repairs as soon as possible to avoid interruptions in your business activities – especially if that interruption can have an impact on your customers or your bottom line. But once repairs are made, it can be difficult to prove a claim. That means it’s imperative to take photos and videos and to ensure those images are as clear and comprehensive as possible. Use plenty of light, but not so much that glare obscures some of the damage. Make sure the camera you use produce high-resolution images. It’s also important not to throw away equipment that’s been damaged since it can serve as important evidence to support your claim.
  3. Failing to review and upgrade insurance coverage on a regular basis. Business’ insurance needs change on a regular basis, especially if the business is new or growing. Scheduling an annual review is a good way to make sure your coverage evolves along with your business so you’re not left with big risk exposures. It’s also a good idea to have your policy in an easy-to-access location and to program your insurance company’s phone number into your cellphone.
  4. Not having an emergency response plan. As the saying goes, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” Having a plan – ideally in writing – of what to do in case of a disaster or loss ensures you know what steps to take to protect your business, your property and your assets.

If you’d like to learn more about business insurance, Old Bay Insurance Agency can help. As a leading provider of insurance policies for businesses in and around Annapolis, MD, Old Bay understands the risks business owners face, offering personalized assistance to ensure the best coverage for greater peace of mind and smoother operations. Call Old Bay today at 410.713.4689 and learn how we can help your business stay protected and profitable.