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Help your employees fight distracted driving

By Mark Rose

distracted-driving-business-employee

Employers can establish training programs to battle behaviors that result in distracted driving.

Every business owner wants to see that employees get safely to the jobsite or that cargo or products are safely delivered to their customers. Every year, distracted driving becomes a bigger barrier in the way of that goal.

The primary task of anyone behind the steering wheel of a car or truck is to safely control that vehicle on and off the highway. All too often we see a news report that starts with something like, “This morning’s fatal auto accident on the inbound expressway was caused when a distracted driver…”

Driver distraction is anything that diverts the driver’s attention away from the driving task onto another activity. In 2014, 10 percent of fatal crashes, 18 percent of injury crashes and 16 percent of all police-reported motor vehicle traffic crashes were reported as distraction-affected crashes according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) figures. That year, 3,179 people were killed in crashes involving a distracted driver and 431,000 people were injured, the agency noted.

Distractions can come from many sources – both inside and outside the vehicle. It used to be that the biggest concern was distractions from outside the vehicle. That is changing. Along with driving the vehicle, drivers are often trying to perform secondary tasks such as texting and talking on cellphones, monitoring GPS systems, tuning the radio to another station, or interacting with passengers. These secondary activities can all take the driver’s eyes off the road and mind away from attentive driving.

Automobile and mobile device manufacturers are continually coming out with new equipment that they say will help reduce these driver distractions. New hands-free and voice recognition devices are hitting the market almost every day.

But studies are now revealing that the hoped-for increase in safety is not being realized. For example, a recent study by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute found that portable hands-free and vehicle-integrated hands-free cell phones still require the driver’s eyes and hands at least half of the time. These visual-manual tasks are associated with a greater crash risk.

Many resources are available for employers who want to reduce distracted driving among their drivers. The National Safety Council offers a number of downloadable materials for employers on its website, including samples for an employer distracted driving policy, promotional campaign and employee communications.

In 2016, the U.S. Department of Transportation issued <a target=_blank …read more

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Preserve your prized jewelry and watches

By Matthew Cluxton

capstone-jewelry-watches

Jewelry can be both sentimental and practical. Take care to preserve your collectible jewelry.

Jewelry and watches have a strong appeal to many people. They can represent sentiment, personal adornment, private assets, family heirlooms and collectible works of art. Because of their unique value, jewelry worn today should be preserved for tomorrow.

Consider the following tips to help protect your jewelry:

  • Store jewelry in a clean, protected location, such as a jewelry box.
  • Place jewelry in separated compartments because some metals and gemstones scratch or chip more easily than others. Some boxes include individually padded slots for rings and provide posts for hanging necklaces and bracelets.
  • Consider installing a secured safe within your home to prevent theft.
  • Keep your most precious items or items you wear infrequently in a bank vault or safe deposit box. In addition to preventing theft or misplacement, you may also save on insurance premiums.
  • Prepare an inventory of your watches and jewelry, just as you would all of your property. Take photos and keep purchase receipts. Store a copy offsite.
  • Take extra steps when traveling:
    • Photograph jewelry you plan to take with you in case an item is lost or stolen.
    • Pack jewelry in your carry-on bag, not in checked luggage.
    • Keep your most expensive items with you at all times.
    • Place unattended jewelry in a locked safe or vault under hotel management supervision rather than in your hotel room safe.
  • Examine the condition of each item on a regular basis. Check for loose settings, weak clasps and worn strings. Have any weaknesses or damage repaired as soon as possible.
  • Visit a professional about every 6 months to have your jewelry professionally cleaned and inspected.
  • Schedule a jewelry re-appraisal on a regular basis, about every 3 to 5 years.

Jewelry and watches have style and beauty we can admire. Contact your local independent insurance agent for more detailed information on how to preserve your collection for generations to come.

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Phones a huge distraction, and it’s killing us

By Michael Harrold

Phones a huge distraction, and it's killing us

Phones are a dangerous distraction, and that’s just part of the story. GPS, radio knobs — anything that lures your eyes off the road is a threat.

The advent of the smart phone has brought with it a deluge of texting and other distractive behavior while driving a vehicle. This is no longer confined to the young and restless – we see people of all ages, genders and backgrounds using phones when they should be driving.

SAFETY THREATS

Some startling figures:

These numbers are most likely higher as drivers involved in accidents may be reluctant to admit to driving distracted.

COMMON DISTRACTIONS

While all of the following are common distractions behind the wheel, text messaging is by far the most alarming. It requires significant visual, manual and cognitive focus from the driver – three key things a driver needs to drive safely.

  • Texting
  • Using a cell phone or smartphone
  • Reaching for something
  • Eating and drinking
  • Talking to passengers
  • Grooming
  • Reading, including maps and navigation system
  • Watching a video
  • Adjusting a radio, CD player or other controls in a vehicle
AWARENESS

As important as it is for us to make an effort not to drive distracted, we also need to be aware that others around us – drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians – may be distracted. While you may be able to quickly discern when pedestrians or cyclists are focused on their phones, some behaviors that may tip you off to a distracted driver include:

  • Drifting around in the lane or not staying within lane lines
  • Changing lanes without signaling
  • Braking abruptly
  • Going slower than surrounding traffic
  • Driving faster, then slower again in an erratic pattern
  • Failing to respond to street directional signs and signal lights
  • Following too closely
DROWSINESS

Finally, distracted driving issues can be compounded by fatigue. More and more our daily demands seem to be impinging on our ability to get required sleep. Sleepiness, without fail, results in cognitive and behavioral changes that can contribute to vehicle crashes, poor work performance, …read more

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You earned it – Now protect it

By Kirsten Faherty

cyber-cafe-protect

Beware of unsecured networks when using your electronic devices.

A few years ago, my husband and I were in Las Vegas for a much-needed vacation. We were shopping and stopped at a café that offered free wireless. I didn’t have my phone with me, but I did have my USB player that is Wi-Fi enabled and wanted to check the headlines and my email. We were in the café for about 10 minutes. Fully caffeinated and caught up on the news, we went on our way.

While still on vacation, I received a courtesy call from our bank wanting to know if I’d recently authorized a purchase to an online music service. “Yes I did, for about $15,” I replied, remembering I’d downloaded some music and videos to watch on my player before we left.

On our way home from the airport, I tried to use my check card at the gas station and it was declined. I was stunned and embarrassed… and then panicked. As our family’s CFO, I know at all times how much money we have available. I knew we had plenty of funds in our checking account, even after our vacation spending. I hurriedly paid with a credit card and went home to call our bank.

After a lot of phone calls and research, I put together what happened. I’d saved my check card as a form of payment on the online music service account – I like to pay cash for just about everything. In those few moments at the café while I was online, a hacker was able to view my account information and pull my check card number. The thieves accessed our checking account tentatively at first, with a $1 preauthorization to what looked like it came from the music service – that’s what generated the courtesy call. Once I told the bank that I believed that charge was legitimate, the floodgates were open: in small increments that would be undetectable to the unobservant, the hacker charged our checking account for hundreds of dollars.

I’ll save you the painful details of what I had to go through to get our account reimbursed, but I’d also like to save you from being in a similar predicament. Individual attacks might seem unlikely; it’s clearly a bigger score for a thief to gain access to thousands of accounts at once through a security breach. But considering my experience, you should be …read more

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Power quality a serious issue for business, industry

By Robert Crouch

business-insurance-power-quality

Momentary power interruptions can be hard on equipment, and repairs can be costly.

The LED display on the kitchen range is blinking again, yet the old battery-operated clock seems to be working just fine. How many times have you had to reset clocks on microwaves, alarms, digital cable boxes and other devices due to a brief moment of power interruption?

We don’t often think about momentary power interruptions or how they affect our everyday lives. In business or production process-related industries, the effects of these interruptions may be particularly disastrous and very costly.

Momentary power problems, sometimes called “dirty power,” can damage sensitive electrical equipment. That damage is a leading cause of lost time for businesses, as equipment is down and under repair. A momentary outage can occur within a thousandth of a second because of storms, lightning, wind and electrical pole line accidents.

Our increased reliance on sophisticated equipment and electronic technology means that harmonic distortion of electrical current, voltage variations from sags or swells, momentary power interruptions, spikes, conditions where three-phase power operates in single phase and other power supply issues can damage electrical equipment.

Equipment breakdown insurance can cover the cost to replace damaged circuit boards, motherboards, drive boards and other sensitive electrical components caused by dirty power. Make sure your agent recommends equipment breakdown coverage for electronic circuitry that does not require proof of physical damage to the board itself. If a suspected damaged board is replaced and the equipment functions as it did prior to the loss, replacement should be sufficient proof of a damaged board.

Business is continuously changing, becoming less mechanical or labor intensive and more technology or electronic driven. Equipment breakdown protection is more valuable than ever before. Computerized production machines such as CNC lathes, commercial printing equipment or any machine using microprocessors are particularly sensitive to dirty power and electrical fluctuations, both of which are leading sources of equipment breakdown.

Speak to your local, independent insurance agent about equipment breakdown coverage to protect your business from dirty power issues. Ask your agent about your insurance company’s loss prevention services. They may recommend voltage suppressors or consultation with engineers or equipment manufacturers for solutions to minimize the damaging effects of dirty power.

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Have a plan: Prepare your family for tornadoes

By Laura Hobbs

Have a plan: Prepare your family for tornadoes

You can’t avoid tornadoes, but planning can help you recover.

While tornadoes can occur throughout the year, spring and early summer are peak months in most of the United States. Prepare to respond to a tornado by stocking your emergency kit, updating your family’s emergency communication plan and checking your insurance coverage.

“Tornado alley” in the southern Plains states has a statistically higher tornado occurrence, but National Climatic Data Center records show tornadoes can happen in any state. While there is nothing you can do to prevent a tornado, there is much you can do to prepare your family for recovery from a tornado.

Think about your home, school, place of worship or other locations where family members are likely to spend time, and discuss a safe location where you might go for shelter in those locations.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) tornado preparedness website advises that you go to a pre-designated shelter area such as a safe room, basement, storm cellar or the lowest building level. If there is no basement, go to the center of an interior room on the lowest level (closet, interior hallway) away from corners, windows, doors and outside walls. Put as many walls as possible between you and the outside. Get under a sturdy table and use your arms to protect your head and neck.

Ready.gov also urges all families to assemble a disaster preparedness kit and to create a family communication plan.

Assemble a disaster supplies kit

FEMA recommends you assemble a supply kit that includes three days of food and water for each member of your household. You can assemble one yourself or purchase pre-assembled kits in storage buckets from your local shopping club. Store the items in your designated household safe location for immediate access in an emergency.

Remember to include:

  • flashlight and fresh batteries
  • emergency radio
  • first aid kit
  • whistle to signal for help
  • wrench or pliers to turn off utilities

Ready.gov offers a complete list of items to include in your emergency kit. And when assembling your kit, remember to plan for your household pets.

Create a family communication plan

Because your family may not be together when disaster strikes, FEMA recommends that you create contact cards for adult family members to keep in your wallet or purse. Put copies in each child’s backpack or book bag, too.

Designate an out-of-town friend or relative to act as a contact point. If your family …read more

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Technology improves efficiency, driving habits

By Mark Rose

driving-technology-telematics

Technology can reduce fuel costs, streamline fleet management and improve driving habits.

Everyone has driven down the highway and has seen that sign on the back of a vehicle that reads, “How’s my driving? Call (a toll-free number)” Those signs have been a part of the driving landscape for many years and are still in use today as part of the burgeoning industry that gathers vehicle use information. The term used today for electronically gathering and reporting vehicle use information is “vehicle telematics.”

The technology employed today has grown far beyond the simple bumper sticker of the past. Anyone wanting to use vehicle telematics has many options to choose from. Equipment can range from simple devices that plug into a motor vehicle’s event data recorder (EDR) – an automotive “black box” – to large units mounted on the vehicle’s roof that send real-time information to the data monitoring company.

What is being done with this information? Depending on the level of information collected, fleet managers using vehicle telematics can realize multiple benefits. With the help of vehicle telematics, a business can:

  • Spot trends in fuel usage to improve efficiency and reduce costs
  • Pinpoint and track vehicle locations
  • View and analyze delivery routes for more efficient routing
  • Identify unsafe driving habits so that you can provide additional driver training; improved driving habits can lead to fewer vehicle accidents and reduced automobile insurance costs

Towers Watson, an international risk and capital management company, asserts that with fleets, crash reductions are well in excess of 50 percent by using telematics. (Source: Towers Watson.)

Those opposed to the use of vehicle telematics see it as another step toward the time when everything we do is monitored and recorded. However, business owners and their employees have an obligation to protect company property and their customers’ property and to research ways to reduce operating costs. Vehicle telematics can be an effective tool to help fulfill these obligations.

Some insurance companies make vehicle telematics programs available to their policyholders. Independent vehicle telematics companies also market their services directly to the public. Do your research. See what is available.

If you are interested in a vehicle telematics program, the first step is to educate yourself about available options. There are many places to look for information; do your own searches on the Internet or speak with others in your industry. And talk to your local, independent insurance agent for coverage recommendations.

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Beyond life insurance: Helpful tips when a loved one dies

By Ann S. Binzer

loved-one

A time of loss can be overwhelming for family and friends left behind.

After the loss of a loved one, you may be faced with the overwhelming responsibility of making funeral arrangements, notifying friends and family and handling the estate. During that time, it is often very hard to think of all the things that need to be done and what questions to ask. Having a clear picture in advance can help alleviate additional stress.

Use this checklist as a starting place, as this is not intended to be an exhaustive list. Consider these some of the essential steps to be taken when a loved one dies.

  • Contact a funeral home to make preparations. Ask the funeral director to help obtain certified copies of the death certificate. Be sure to get multiple copies, as survivors will need these to file for life insurance and other benefits. The funeral director may also be able to assist in writing an obituary.
  • Notify the deceased person’s employer, if applicable. Speak with the Human Resources department about any paperwork to be completed, benefits and pay due to the estate and whether the deceased had life insurance through the employer. Find out the options to continue medical coverage for family members covered under the company’s health plan.
  • Locate important documents, such as a will, birth certificate, Social Security card, bank statements, car titles or property deeds.
  • Check with military, fraternal or religious groups if the deceased was a member. The organization may provide benefits or want to participate in funeral services.
  • Contact Social Security, Veterans Affairs and other applicable agencies, such as pension services, to stop payments and inquire about survivor benefits.
  • Check for any life insurance policies and contact the company about filing a claim. Ask what documents are needed, how long the process takes and what to expect during the process. If you don’t know if your loved one had life insurance, try contacting your state insurance department to find out if it has a resource to search for missing life insurance policies. You may need the person’s name, date of birth, Social Security number and address to conduct the search or request information.
  • Contact an attorney to review the will of the deceased, if applicable. If items need to go through probate, ask how that process works.
  • Open a bank account for the deceased’s estate, if necessary, for refunds, overpayments or benefits to be paid even after the estate is settled. The …read more

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Strengthening relationships with effective communication

By Mike Terrell

business-insurance-communication

Positive conversations can go a long way toward building client trust.

Sometimes, my wife teases me, saying that I’d communicate better if I could read her mind. While I may never become psychic, I do recognize that effective communication goes a long way in both personal and professional relationships.

I regularly provide risk management presentations to local dental societies, conventions and dental schools. One of the topics I cover is the importance of communication. There are lots of benefits to positive interactions, and having conversations with clients makes a difference. Even when you have a full schedule or waiting room, investing a few minutes to talk with each of your patients can improve your business:

  • Clients respond well when you demonstrate genuine, appropriate, personal interest in them. Some patients are uneasy any time they see a doctor. Taking some time to talk with them about their lives, professions, vacations or hobbies may help to relax them. You’ll also improve retention as repeat interactions over time will help to build your relationships.
  • Stronger relationships increase trust. As your clients feel your genuine concern, they’ll be more receptive to your recommendations for treatments and ongoing care. Consider the business relationships you have where you’re the client. Aren’t you more receptive to options when you’re treated with respect and trust the source?

It doesn’t take a crystal ball to see that the future of your business can benefit from increased communication with your clients. Practice these basics in your interactions to ensure that you’re doing your part:

  • Listen carefully without interrupting.
  • Ask questions if you don’t understand something your client has shared.
  • Respond appropriately, verifying requests to eliminate misunderstandings.
  • Be respectful of your clients’ thoughts, beliefs and concerns.

You can find even more tips for more effective interactions from the NOAA Workforce Management Office. Of course, taking the time to build your communication skills won’t make you psychic, but your increased skills will help your clients feel like your practice offers customer service that is out of this world!

To locate an agency representing The Cincinnati Insurance Company, please visit www.cinfin.com.

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What’s the value of your collection? Tips for hiring an appraiser

By Matthew Cluxton

appraiser-capstone-art-collection

Hiring a qualified appraiser is one step in protecting the value of your collection.

Fluctuations in the value of your collection can affect your decisions regarding insurance, estate planning and more. Are values climbing, falling or steady?

Resources available through online auction databases can help you research and track the value of your collection and the current market conditions. But what if you need a more precise valuation?

For this, you must hire an appraiser, and it is a good idea to consider an appraisal every five years or so.

When hiring an appraiser, consider these tips:

  • Seek out a recommendation from a knowledgeable and trusted source, such as your local insurance agent, a museum professional, fine art dealer or another collector.
  • Contact any of the three professional appraisal organizations for access to a certified appraiser:
    • Appraisals Association of America (AAA)
    • American Society of Appraisers (ASA)
    • International Society of Appraisers (ISA)
  • Evaluate your collection and its specific needs, especially if your collection consists of various types of objects. You may require appraisers with differing areas of expertise.
  • Review the level of experience for each appraiser you are considering. You should ask for a professional resume that shows education, qualifications and previous experience.
  • Ask if the appraisal you will receive is compliant with the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP).
  • Request a sample appraisal to review from any appraiser you are using for the first time.
  • Require the appraiser to explain the fee structure.
  • Fees should not be based on commission or directly tied in any other way to the value of the appraised item.

Protect your collection by having it professionally appraised and insured. To make sure your collection is adequately insured, contact your local insurance agent.

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