Distractions and Driving Don’t Mix

We’ve all done it. We hear the telltale ping or ring of our cell phone while driving. Surely it will be OK just to sneak a peek at the screen to see who is trying to reach us? Maybe even answer the phone?

 

Unfortunately, all too often it’s not OK. Instead of focusing our full attention on the road, we’re driving distracted.

 

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 3,450 people were killed in 2016 in “distraction-affected” crashes—92 percent of all crash fatalities. In 2015, 391,000 people were injured in crashes involving distracted driving.

 

Using a cell phone while driving increases crash risk, but phones aren’t the only things distracting us on the road. Eating or drinking, interacting with passengers (or pets), adjusting the radio, consulting navigation, and personal grooming (applying makeup, combing hair) all keep our full attention from being on our driving. Distracted driving is driving while doing any activity that takes full attention away from driving, whether it takes our eyes off the road, our hands off the steering wheel, or our minds off our driving. Texting is the worst thing we can do, since it involves all three of those things. Sending or reading a text for even five seconds at 55 miles per hour is like driving the length of a football field with our eyes closed!

 

Many states already ban hand-held cell phone use and texting. The Florida Legislature is currently considering a bill that would prohibit drivers from texting, reading data, or talking on hand-held devices. Texting while driving is now only enforced as a secondary offense when a driver has been stopped for another infraction. 

 

Whether or not the bill passes, for our safety and the safety of others on the road, we should decide to put aside all distractions and keep our full attention on our driving. We also need to share this information with our teens, some of the worst offenders when it comes to phone use while driving.

 

So the next time a call or text comes in while you’re driving, do the right thing and keep your hands on the wheel and your eyes on the road until you get to your destination, or you can pull off the road safely to check your phone. We promise we will, too.

 

Lakewood Financial is an independent insurance agency. We’ve been serving Bradenton, Sarasota, Lakewood Ranch and surrounding areas since 2003. We represent more than 40 quality car insurance companies, and strive to provide our customers with the best coverage at the most competitive rates. If you need help with your car insurance, please give Lakewood Financial a call at 941-747-4600, or request an insurance quote by clicking here. 

Show Your Home Some Love With These Maintenance Tasks

Maintaining your home

Valentine’s Day is quickly approaching and love is in the air! Once you’ve taken care of your significant other, why not show your home some love? Maintaining your home can save you money, hassles—and maybe even a homeowners insurance claim!

You don’t have to do a major remodel to improve your home. Here are a few areas where a little loving attention will do the most good.

First, see your home with fresh eyes. Walk through your entire home, noting areas of wear, safety issues, and so on. Don’t forget your attic, deck, patio, porch, or lanai. Take pen and paper, and jot down any areas that need attention.

For instance, are there signs of leaks, such as discoloration on walls, floors, or ceilings? What about around toilets, tubs, and sinks? Is a faucet dripping or a toilet running? Even minor leaks can do major damaged, and unlike a sudden accident, such as a burst pipe, gradual damage caused by neglected maintenance is not covered under homeowners insurance policies.

Check and replace fire safety items. Change batteries in smoke detectors, and every 10 years, replace the smoke detectors themselves.

Fire extinguishers should be checked monthly. Click here for instructions on how to properly inspect your fire extinguisher. (And remember, only use a fire extinguisher on a small, contained fire. In many cases, it’s more important for everyone to get out of the house and let the fire department handle a fire.) 

Keep drains and pipes clear. If water drains slowly from sinks or tubs, try using vinegar and baking soda, or commercial drain cleaner, to get things moving again. Don’t put things down the kitchen sink unless it’s equipped with a garbage disposal. In the bathroom, use traps in drains to keep hair from clogging the plumbing, and don’t use flushable wipes as these also cause plumbing backups. 

Maintain your HVAC system. Replace air filters on an appropriate schedule, and have the unit cleaned and serviced according to manufacturer’s directions. These tasks improve air quality and help your unit operate more efficiently, as well as lessen the chance of a breakdown when it’s 90 degrees outside!

Inspect and clean large appliances. This includes cleaning the dishwasher, which can become clogged with food particles or soap residue, resulting in dirtier dishes or even a breakdown. If your dishwasher has a filter, take it out and clean it. Run some white vinegar through a wash cycle, or use a commercial dishwasher cleaner.

Check dishwasher and washing machine hoses and replace if they’re cracked or worn.

Clean refrigerator coils.

Empty the dryer lint trap after every load, and periodically clean dryer exhaust vents in order to prevent fire.

Review and update your insurance coverage if necessary. Are you receiving all available discounts? Have you made home improvements that have added value to your home? Did you replace your roof? Notify your Lakewood Financial agent of any changes to your personal situation, such as marriage or divorce.

Please call us at 941-747-4600 if you have a question about how a home improvement project might affect your homeowners insurance, or contact us if you need a quote. Happy Valentine’s Day to you—and your home!

Have a Happy—and Safe—Holiday Season

holiday safety
The holidays are fast approaching, and with them the fun and excitement of getting together with family, traveling, exchanging gifts, and enjoying special holiday traditions. Unfortunately, the holiday season can also be one of increased risks, whether of fire, theft, or accident. Here are some holiday safety reminders from your friends at Lakewood Financial:

Decorate safely

Live trees are beautiful, but they can also be fire hazards. Water your tree regularly so it doesn’t dry out, and keep open flames away from it. Also be sure to check Christmas lights for frayed or exposed wires that could spark and start a fire.

Keep fragile, breakable ornaments securely fastened at the top of the tree and out of reach of children and pets.

If you decorate with candles, snuff them out before you go to bed or leave the house (and turn off flameless candles, too). Don’t leave them burning unattended where children or pets could burn themselves or knock them over.

Be cautious when decorating up high—use a ladder, not a chair or other piece of furniture. You’ll be less likely to fall.

Foil thieves

Don’t give thieves the gift of easy access to your holiday purchases. Help avoid a car break-in by keeping purchases locked in your trunk or where no one can see them. Lock car doors, keep windows rolled up, and park in a well-lighted area.

Be alert when shopping in a crowd. Don’t carry a lot of cash, keep your purse close to your body, or carry your wallet in a front pocket.

If no one is home and you’re expecting delivery of holiday packages, keep them safe from “porch pirates” by seeing if you can have packages delivered to you at work, or by arranging for the post office to hold them.

After the holidays, don’t advertise the new gifts in your home. Dispose of boxes and other packaging discreetly.

(And remember to add your expensive gifts to your home inventory!) 

If you plan to travel, don’t announce your plans beforehand on social media. Stop your mail and newspaper, and set up lights on timers so your home looks occupied. Ask a neighbor to keep an eye on things.

Drive carefully

Holiday traffic can be busier than usual, and drivers may also be more distracted. Be extra careful, and remind your teen driver to do the same. Remember to buckle seat belts, put aside cell phones, and pay full attention to the road. 

If you plan to drink alcohol at a holiday party, designate a driver beforehand, or use a taxi or car service to bring you safely home.

Remember your pets

Holidays can be stressful for pets. Provide a safe, quiet place for them to retreat if the holiday festivities become too much for them. Also avoid bringing toxic plants such as mistletoe, holly, lilies, or amaryllis into your home. Don’t give them “people food,” and make sure any holiday chocolate is kept out of reach—chocolate is toxic to cats and dogs.

With a little thought and preparation, you can avoid potential holiday mishaps. We hope you have a very happy—and safe—holiday season!

And remember, we are here to help with any of your insurance needs. Just give us a call at 941-747-4600.

Hot Tips for Staying Cool—Don’t Let Summer Heat Make You Sick

We all love to play outdoors during the summer—the kids are out of school, we have more time to enjoy our toys and take vacations. But while you’re having fun in the sun, remember to take some common sense heat precautions during summer’s hot, humid days. 

Heat is one of the leading weather-related killers in the U.S., according to the National Weather Service, resulting in hundreds of deaths every year. Here in Florida, we especially need to be mindful of the heat index, a measure of how hot it feels when humidity is considered along with air temperature. It’s not uncommon for us to have “feels like” temperatures over 100 degrees during the summer. And temperatures that high can cause heat-related illness.

summer heat precautions

Anyone can be affected by the heat, but children younger than 2, people over 65, and those suffering from chronic disease or mental illness are most susceptible to heat-related illness. Here are some common-sense reminders to help you and your loved ones stay cooler and avoid heat-related illness this summer:

At home

During times of high heat, stay in air conditioning as much as possible. If you don’t have air conditioning or it’s not working, find air-conditioned places you can go for relief during the hottest hours of the day, such as a library, theater, or mall.

Keep shades or curtains closed on windows that receive direct sun, or install awnings or window tinting. This will help keep your home cooler.

Provide shade and plenty of cool water for pets outside, and check on them frequently to make sure they’re not suffering from the heat. During the hottest times of the day, bring them inside if possible.

Outside

Even though it’s cooler inside, you probably won’t want to stay there all summer long! Here are some tips for staying safe when you venture outside:

Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing.

Schedule most outdoor activity, whether play, exercise, or work, for the cooler morning and evening hours.

Stay in the shade as much as possible, especially during the hottest parts of the day. If no shade is available, limit outdoor activity to 15-20 minutes at a time during times of highest heat and humidity.

Take frequent breaks, and use the buddy system when working or exercising outdoors in high heat.

Stay hydrated. Sip cool water or a sports drink every 20 minutes. Don’t wait until you feel thirsty.

NEVER leave children or pets alone in an enclosed vehicle. It only takes a few minutes for temperatures to reach a dangerous level.

Signs of heat-related illness

Even if you take precautions, you’ll still want to recognize the symptoms of heat-related illness. Signs of heat exhaustion include cool, moist, pale, or flushed skin; headache; nausea; dizziness; and exhaustion. If you or someone you’re with shows these symptoms, move into a cooler environment, remove or loosen as much clothing as possible, and apply cold, wet towels to the skin. Every 15 minutes drink four ounces of a cool sports drink, juice, milk, or water, to replace lost electrolytes. 

Heatstroke is a medical emergency, and occurs when the body is overwhelmed by heat and begins to stop functioning. Symptoms include very high body temperature, red skin which may be either dry or moist; changes in consciousness; rapid, weak pulse; rapid, shallow breathing; confusion; vomiting; and seizures. If you suspect you or someone else has heatstroke, call 9-1-1 immediately. Attempt to cool the body quickly by immersing it up to the neck in cold water if possible. You may also spray the person with cold water, or cover him or her with towels soaked with ice water, changing the towels frequently.

By taking proper heat precautions, you and your family can enjoy all the summer fun the Sarasota/Bradenton and Lakewood Ranch areas have to offer. Remember, Lakewood Financial is here for all your insurance needs. Whether you need to protect your home, car, boat, or business, just give us a call at 941-747-4600 or contact us online.

For more information on heat safety, visit:

The Red Cross 

National Weather Service 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 

No Welcome Mat for Burglars—Try These Simple Home Security Tips

 home security

While you want your home to be welcoming to your family and friends, you also want it to be unattractive to burglars. A few simple home security measures can decrease the chance that your home will be broken into.

Burglars target homes that look like they’ll be easy to get in and out of quickly without being seen. If it takes a thief more than four or five minutes to break in, he’s likely to move on. In fact, “Time, sound, and visibility” are the three main factors you need to keep in mind when securing your home, according to safehome.org.

Time

Make it hard for a burglar to enter your home. Locks, doors, and windows are your first line of defense against intruders. To help keep a thief from kicking in a door, make sure all exterior doors are solid hardwood or metal, and that your locks are grade 1 or grade 2 deadbolts. Security experts also recommend installing a heavy-duty strike plate—the metal plate attached to the doorjamb that the bolt extends into—with three-inch screws that will penetrate to the doorframe stud.

If you have a sliding glass door, place a wooden dowel, stick, or safety bar in the interior track, or add a floor bolt.

Also be sure you close and lock every door and window when you leave home, even if it’s just for a few minutes.

Sound

Burglars don’t want any attention drawn to their presence, so if you have a dog that barks when a stranger is around, you already have one method of deterring intruders. If you don’t have a dog, or the family pet is likely to welcome a burglar as a long-lost friend, you may want to invest in an alarm system. Be sure to display the alarm company’s sign and decals to notify thieves of the presence of an alarm.

(Before you invest in a home security system, call your Lakewood Financial agent at 941-747-4600 about what features your system needs to qualify for a discount on your homeowners insurance.)

Visibility

Trim or remove plants or shrubs that offer a place for a criminal to hide. If you have a two-story home, make sure no tree limbs offer a way for a burglar to break into an upstairs window.

Make sure all entries to your home have good lighting, and consider installing motion-activated lights to illuminate the perimeter of your home.

Don’t leave easily stolen items like bikes or even that expensive grill out in the yard or driveway. And if you’ve recently bought a pricey new item, be discreet about how you dispose of the packaging. If a thief sees the box from a new big screen TV in your trash, he might decide to pay you a visit!

A few more tips

  • Keep your garage door closed unless you’re in the garage or nearby where you can keep an eye on it.
  • Don’t hide a spare house key outside your home. Leave one with a trusted neighbor, or invest in a combination lock box you can put in an out-of-the-way place.
  • If you park on the street or in your driveway, take all valuables inside with you, and lock the doors and roll up the windows. Don’t forget to take your garage door opener inside!
  • Get to know your neighbors. Even if you don’t participate in an official neighborhood watch program, you can still watch out for each other on an informal basis.
  • Walk around the outside of your home looking for possible modes of entry for a thief. Is that window always open a little bit? Does that door look like it could be easily forced? Think like a burglar—then take the home security measures to keep him out!

If you have any questions about your homeowners insurance, be sure to give us a call at  941-747-4600 or contact us via email.

 

 

 

Avoid These Thanksgiving Dangers

thanksgiving dangers

What do you think of when you think of Thanksgiving? Happy times spent with family, a delicious meal, maybe a football game on TV? You probably don’t picture putting out a fire in your kitchen or a trip to the emergency room! Unfortunately, too many people experience those events on Thanksgiving. In fact, Thanksgiving is one of the most dangerous holidays of the year!

 

Since we want all our clients to be happy and healthy through the entire holiday season. Lakewood Financial would like to offer some tips to help you avoid the most common Thanksgiving dangers:

Fire

Thanksgiving is the number one day for home cooking fires, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). We know with family around it’s easy to get distracted, so remember to closely monitor food cooking on the stove, and never leave your house with the turkey in the oven. Move anything flammable, such as kitchen towels or oven mitts, away from the stove, make sure all your smoke alarms are working, and have a fire extinguisher handy. Keep small children out of the kitchen when active cooking is taking place.

 

And don’t even think about deep-frying a turkey! It’s such risky business that the NFPA strongly discourages the practice.

 

Lit candles are another fire hazard to be aware of during the holiday season. Make sure they are at least three feet from anything that could catch fire, and never leave children unattended in a room where candles are burning.

Illness

Improper preparation and storage of your Thanksgiving turkey can result in serious illness, such as Salmonella poisoning or Listeria. Make sure turkey is thawed completely before cooking, and cook until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit on a food thermometer. Remember to refrigerate leftovers promptly after the meal. Click here for more turkey food safety cooking tips from the Centers for Disease Control.

 

And it’s not just the turkey you should be careful with. Raw fruits and vegetables can also make you sick if they’re not washed thoroughly before you eat them.

Car Accident

With many thousands of people going “over the river and through the woods” to their Thanksgiving destinations, chances of car accident are much greater than normal. According to the National Safety Council (NSC), Thanksgiving is the third most dangerous holiday for driving, behind Independence Day and Memorial Day. In 2015, 386 people died in car accidents during the Wednesday-to-Sunday period of the Thanksgiving holiday, and the NSC estimated more than 50,000 additional drivers and passengers were injured. Sadly, many of these accidents are due to driving while under the influence of alcohol. Obviously you should never drink and drive, but we also encourage you to use extra caution to avoid other drivers who might not be so responsible. In addition, make sure everyone in the vehicle wears a seat belt, and put aside your phone or other devices so your attention is fully on your driving.

 

We at Lakewood Financial wish you a happy, healthy and SAFE Thanksgiving! As always, thank you for your business. Please feel free to call us at 941-747-4600, or contact us, if you have any questions about your insurance needs.

Prevent Accidents With Basic Car Maintenance

basic car maintenance

Whether you do it yourself or hire a trusted mechanic, regular basic car maintenance not only keeps your vehicle running well and safely, it also may prevent an accident. Since every vehicle is different, be sure to read your owner’s manual for information specific to your make and model. (If you don’t have an owner’s manual, you may be able to find one online.)

If you’re in the market for car insurance,

be sure to call us at 941-747-4600 for a free,

no obligation auto insurance quote.

 

Here are five car maintenance basics that will help you stay safer on the road:

Where the rubber meets the road

The condition of your tires affects how your car handles and how well it stops. According to one estimate, there are 33,000 tire-related crashes in the U.S. every year. Once a month, before you drive somewhere and your tires are cool, check their air pressure (don’t forget the spare tire). Also examine the condition of your tires, looking for any cuts, bulges, or uneven wear, and checking tread depth.  Rotate your tires about twice a year and have your wheels aligned as needed so your tires will wear evenly.

Brakes

Beware of noise when braking—it could indicate worn brake pads. Worn pads can damage rotors, which can be expensive to repair, and if neglected long enough can lead to brake failure. If you hear grinding, scraping or squeaking sounds, have your brakes inspected as soon as possible.

Keep it clean

When you’re driving, you want to be able to see well and to be seen, so keep your windshield, mirrors and lights clean and free of stuck-on debris such as love bugs. Don’t forget to clean the inside of your windows—they can get grimy, too, making it harder to see.  Clean your wiper blades to remove buildup of dirt, and replace them when they fail to easily sweep your windshield clean.

And speaking of lights…

Make sure all your lights and turn signals work. Are you headlights aligned? If they’re not, you may have trouble seeing the road at night.

Fluids

Fluids like engine oil, transmission fluid, brake fluid, and power steering fluid keep your vehicle running smoothly. Check oil level once a month, and change it regularly (again referring to your owner’s manual for frequency). Flush and replace fluids according to your vehicle manufacturer’s schedule. Watch for telltale puddles beneath your vehicle—you might have a fluid leak.

A well-maintained vehicle is not only a safer vehicle, it will last longer and run better, saving you money in the long run. We hope you’ll never be in a car accident, but if you are, rest assured Lakewood Financial will be here for you. Please call us at 941-747-4600 if you have any questions about your car insurance policy, or if you need a quote. We’re here to serve you.