How to Take Control Behind the Wheel

What did we do before we had backup cameras?

The driver-assist features found in newer cars and trucks often make driving safer, and most of us rely on them every day. But it’s worth remembering: Technology can’t always perform better than your own quick reflexes.

Find out how to make the most of your vehicle’s safety features without letting them lull you into a false sense of security.

Benefits and Limitations

Here are a few features you may be familiar with (along with their limitations):

  • Lane departure and change sensors can help you avoid a collision, but they won’t necessarily alert you to ice on the road or a sharp curve ahead.
  • Adaptive cruise control helps you maintain a safe following distance, but it may not be able to change your speed quickly enough if someone cuts you off.
  • Safety cameras give you more information while driving, backing up and parking — but you should still keep your eyes on your surroundings.

Smart Habits 

Regardless of how smart your car seems to be, don’t let go of these essential habits:

  • Check your mirrors before backing up
  • Check your blind spot before changing lanes
  • Stay aware of weather conditions
  • Always drive defensively (watch out for other drivers who may not be paying attention)

Common Distractions

While texting may get the most attention, it’s not the only dangerous distraction on the road. Here are other behaviors to avoid:

  • Checking or posting to social media
  • Scrolling through your phone to find a song or podcast
  • Tending to children and other passengers
  • Eating or grooming

Check Safety Ratings

When car shopping, search for the year, make and model you’re interested in to review safety ratings. You can use the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s 5-Star Safety Ratings or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s vehicle ratings.

Have questions about your coverage? Reach out to a Vick Insurance team member and we’ll be happy to help.

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How to Create More Space at Home

What’s your biggest challenge at home? For many of us, it’s a lack of space.

So how can you carve out an extra bedroom, a home office or a study nook for a school-age child? The answer may not be as out-of-reach as you think.

Here are four solutions for a range of spaces and budgets.

1. Transform the Garage

Are you wishing for a home gym, an artist’s cottage, an office, a family room, an in-law suite or a rental apartment? Your garage may be the answer.

Both attached and unattached garages can be converted into an extra room. To get started, research local building codes and zoning ordinances. If you belong to an HOA, you’ll need to check their rules, too. If you’re doing more than small cosmetic changes, it’s also a good idea to consult with a professional architect, engineer and contractor.

2. Consider a Prefab Shed

Modern and inviting, a prefab shed is an easy way to add a room if you don’t have a garage to work with. And unlike with a garage remodel, you may not need a permit for installation.

3. Convert the Attic or Basement

As with a garage, an attic or basement could be remodeled into an inviting living space for a variety of uses. Consider adding a half-bath and/or kitchenette if you have the budget and want to create an in-law suite or apartment.

4. The “No-Remodel” Option

Finally, there are less expensive and invasive ways to create more space in your home. With more people working remotely, closet offices have become popular. Scan your space for any closets and corners where clutter has accumulated. How could these nooks be put to better use?

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How to Choose a Reliable Mechanic

Have you ever looked over a vehicle repair estimate and felt a sinking feeling in your stomach?

Maybe you have reason to believe that something isn’t right, but due to a lack of knowledge, there’s not much you can do about it.

Is it possible to avoid this moment altogether?

There are lots of trustworthy mechanics out there, so you just have to find one. Here are a few tips for connecting with someone reliable.

Ask for Recommendations

While online reviews can be helpful to your decision-making process, they shouldn’t be the only factor. Ask friends, family, co-workers and neighbors if they’re happy with their current mechanic.

Check for Certifications

Many reputable mechanics have been certified by particular vehicle manufacturers or the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE). Ask the shop if they have any certified mechanics on staff and check the website or waiting area for any other licenses or certifications.

Be an Active Participant

Show up informed about the recommended maintenance schedule for your vehicle as well as any major repairs you’ve already completed. This will help your mechanic be the best possible partner to you. It will also alert you to any red flags, such as a recommendation for a repair that you just had done.

Review Everything

You also want a mechanic who is willing to answer your questions and explain why a repair is needed. The best technicians can also tell you when the repair isn’t urgent but should be completed within a specific timeframe.

Have questions about your insurance coverage? Reach out anytime to one of team members here at Vick Insurance Group.

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5 Simple Steps to a Safer Home

Keeping your family safe and your home in good condition are top priorities for any homeowner.

What’s one way to help achieve these goals? You can conduct a home safety audit each year.

This simply means inspecting a few things and reviewing emergency plans with everyone in your household. These easy safety checks can make all the difference. Here’s where to start.

Locate and test smoke alarms. Do you have enough smoke alarms, and are they working? You want one on each floor, including one inside and outside each sleeping area. Test each alarm, replace expired batteries and replace alarms older than 10 years.

Practice getting out and meeting up. It’s important to have a well-understood evacuation plan in case of a fire or other emergency. Go over the details (like how to exit safely and how to gather up your pets) and practice them together. Settle on a meeting place outside.

Check fire extinguishers. Do you have one in the garage and one in the kitchen? Make sure the dial shows the extinguisher is still pressurized. Review the instructions for using it (and know when to use it and when to evacuate).

Look for kitchen hazards. Has grease built up around the stove or on your range hood filter? It could start a cooking fire. Also, make sure cleaning products are locked away from young children and pets.

Check carbon monoxide detectors. Make sure they’re still working and have fresh backup batteries. Some are integrated with smoke alarms, but plug-in ones at knee level may provide better detection.

Do you have questions about keeping your home safe or about your coverage? Reach out anytime for assistance.

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4 Driving Emergencies You Can Prepare For

Would you know how to quickly and safely react if your tire suddenly blew out? What if your gas pedal got stuck?

These aren’t everyday incidents, but they’re not unheard of, either. And they can be extra stressful if you have no idea how to handle them.

Do yourself a favor: Take a look at a few ways to help keep yourself safe just in case the unexpected happens while you’re out on the road.

4 Driving Emergencies (and How to React)

Your tire blows out.

What to do: Grip the steering wheel tightly with both hands so your car doesn’t swerve as the air leaves your tire. Don’t slam your brakes; accelerate carefully to maintain your speed. Then, take your foot off the gas, let the car slow naturally, turn on your hazard lights and pull over. It’s safe to gently brake once you’ve slowed to 25 mph.

You start to hydroplane.

What to do: Resist the urge to hit the brakes. Instead, take your foot off the accelerator. Look and steer in the direction you want to go. If you’re still skidding, gently tap the brakes.

Your accelerator sticks.

What to do: Jiggle or stomp the gas pedal if an object has lodged underneath. If that doesn’t work or you need a faster response, put your car in neutral, tap your brakes repeatedly to alert other drivers, and pull over.

Your brakes stop working.

What to do: First, try pumping the brake pedal. If your car still won’t slow down, shift into neutral or a lower gear. For a faster response, gently engage your parking brake. Another option is to nudge your car against an object like a guardrail or curb; its friction will slow you down. Your car will get damaged, but you may avoid a crash.

Your insurance can take care of vehicle damage, so always put your life and your safety first. Not sure if you have the right coverage? Get in touch with one of our team members at Vick Insurance Group. You can also find us on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

As always stay safe!!

6 Helpful Home Features to Look Forward To

If you could redesign your home today, what would it look like?

Experiencing a pandemic has changed how many of us think about our living spaces. What used to make sense may now seem impractical, and lots of homeowners are wishing for different features and layouts altogether.

How will home design change in the future? Here are a few comfort-focused innovations we might start to see.

Cleanliness and Safety

Looking to the future, you can likely expect to see more voice- and motion-activated technology and stronger barriers between the outside and inside world.

  • Entry areas and mudrooms may become a “must” rather than a “nice to have” feature. Many will be equipped with a place to wash hands, store shoes and clothes, and might even have a washer and dryer.
  • Smart home technology will likely be more focused on monitoring air and water quality. Voice- and motion-recognition features can help minimize contact with surfaces.

Streamlined Storage

Have you felt overwhelmed by clutter lately? Future homes will likely adapt to a more streamlined and storage-friendly mindset.

  • Redesigned kitchens will emphasize storage space with larger pantries and multipurpose islands and counters.
  • Creative solutions will be needed for smaller spaces, and this may include fold-down desks, under-the-stairs storage and making the most of vertical space.

Structural Boundaries

Need some peace and quiet? Want to accommodate multiple roommates or your multi-generational family with ease? Designers and architects can help.

  • Walls will be in demand. Individual rooms (rather than open floor plans) can give residents the privacy they need.
  • Flexible and outdoor spaces that can provide areas for work, exercise, relaxation and recreation will become more appealing than ever.

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5 Ways to Help Teen Drivers Succeed

Learning to drive is a summer rite of passage for many teenagers. It’s also a chance for parents to truly make a difference in their child’s life. By instilling smart habits from the beginning, you’ll be helping to keep them (and everyone on the road) safer overall.

Are you getting ready to help your teenager become the best driver they can be?

Here are four key things to keep in mind (and one thing we should all remember):

Take It Slow

Just because a teenager is old enough to get their permit or license doesn’t make them automatically ready to get behind the wheel. Before they start their lessons, take the time to discuss expectations, quiz them on driving laws and then move forward at the right pace for everyone.

Explain the Insurance Fundamentals

Learning to drive also means learning about adult responsibilities like insurance. Go over the essentials and walk through a few scenarios they may encounter. What’s a premium? What should they do if they get into a fender bender? How much is the deductible on the car they’ll be driving?

Discuss Other Costs

Will your teen be expected to cover gas for themselves? What about maintenance? Whether they’re borrowing your car a few times a week or taking over your hand-me-down, be clear about who will be paying for what.

Keep Talking

Most importantly, make sure you continue to have honest conversations about boundaries, curfews, peer pressure and responsibility. Emotions can run high around these issues, but helping your kids stay safe is what’s most important.

Set a Good Example

Finally, here’s something we should all keep in mind: Are you demonstrating solid driving habits yourself? Follow the speed limit, use turn signals and don’t text and drive. If you’re not following rules and prioritizing safety, you’re putting everyone on the road in danger.

Do you have questions about adding a driver to your policy or anything else? Reach out today to one of our team members at Vick Insurance Group. You can also find us online via Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

FAQs About Pets and Home Insurance

Your dog just took down the neighbor’s fence while chasing a squirrel (and your neighbor isn’t happy). Will your homeowners insurance cover the damage? The short answer is, “it depends.”

Policy coverage and exclusions can vary, and when important factors like pets are involved, the fine print matters.

Want to know more? Here are a few common questions about pets and home insurance.

Does your policy cover damage caused by pets?

Many home insurance policies do not cover damage your pets cause to your own property — like a torn sofa or broken TV. However, liability insurance may cover damage your pet does to other people’s property.

What if your dog bites someone on your property?

Most home liability policies offer coverage for damage a person may suffer on your property, including dog bites (up to a certain limit and provided you’ve disclosed you have a dog). Note that after the first dog bite, you may face additional exclusions.

Are different breeds treated differently?

Some insurance policies may offer limitations on coverage if you have what is considered a high-risk breed. When you share what kind of pet you have we can let you know what to expect.

Are backyard animals covered?

Home insurance policies don’t provide coverage for damage your pets, including backyard animals like goats or chickens, cause to your property. However, liability coverage may still apply (with some limitations).

Will your home insurance pay your pet’s medical bills?

Unfortunately, you’re likely on your own for your pet’s medical bills even if they are hurt during a covered incident (like breaking through your neighbor’s fence).

Have questions about your coverage? Reach out anytime to one of our team members at Vick Insurance Group.

5 Ways to Help Prevent Water Damage

Water damage doesn’t always reveal itself right away. But over time, a small hole in your roof or a slowly leaking pipe can easily lead to big problems and expensive repairs.

With smart habits and a few check-ins a year, however, you can limit the chances of costly damage and annoying cleanup.

Want to keep your home in good shape? Here are five simple steps to minimize the risk of water damage.

1. Care for Your Roof and Gutters

An annual roof inspection is a must. It’s also important to patch holes, replace missing shingles and keep gutters debris-free to direct rain and ice away from your home. Keep downspouts far enough away from the house to ensure good drainage.

2. Keep Your Pipes in Good Shape

Insulate your pipes and check on them regularly to keep tabs on signs of weakness or leaks. Have a plumber inspect your water lines every few years. Also avoid using hard drain cleaners, which damage pipe interiors and make them more susceptible to cracks and breaks.

3. Watch Those Windowsills

Is the caulk around your windows discolored? Is condensation appearing on the inside of the windows or along the frames? Maintaining these areas helps keep moisture out and can also boost your home’s energy efficiency.

4. Install Flood and Moisture Sensors

Smart homes can include simple sensors that alert you to moisture buildup and flooding in high-risk areas like the basement, laundry area and kitchen.

5. Test the Sump Pump

If you have a sump pump that pushes water away from your home, inspect it annually to make sure it’s working properly. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations.

Have questions about water damage or anything else? Reach out to one of our agents at Vick Insurance Group to discuss your policy.

4 Driving Mistakes to Watch Out For

You’re driving to work when your favorite podcast suddenly stops playing. You know you shouldn’t look at your phone, but you hate sitting in silence during your commute. What do you do?

Do you glance around for cops, then tap around on your phone until the story starts up again? A lot of us do this — but it isn’t the safest choice.

Beyond breaking the bad habit of distracted driving, here are four more behind-the-wheel behaviors to leave behind.

1. Don’t rely too much on fancy technology. If we let ourselves become less engaged drivers because we’re expecting blind-spot notifications and attention assist to save us when we’re tired or preoccupied, we aren’t really any safer. Continue your same careful driving habits and let these innovations give you an extra boost.

2. Don’t assume other drivers are paying attention, well rested or sober. Learn to spot the signs of impairment: wandering out of their lane, swerving, erratic braking, inconsistent speed and getting too close to other cars or objects. Keep a safe distance from these potentially dangerous drivers.

3. Don’t let your insurance make you complacent. Even if your collision deductible is low, don’t let your guard down. Dealing with car repairs and the other driver after an accident — not to mention the injury risk — probably isn’t worth it.

4. Don’t neglect routine maintenance. Overheating, breaking down or blowing a tire can be terrifying and dangerous. Fortunately, these problems can often be prevented with regular maintenance. Check your tire pressure and fluids monthly and have a trusted mechanic inspect your car thoroughly once or twice a year.

Have questions about your auto coverage? Reach out today to discuss your policy with one of our team members.

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