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Rain and Gusting and Ice: How to Drive in Bad Weather

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Picture the ideal day for driving. It’s probably mild and bright without a cloud in the sky. Unfortunately, the weather rarely complies with our driving wants and needs. Most peoples’ first choice would be to stay off the road during inclement weather, but sometimes life beckons. Whether you’re commuting to work or embarking on a road trip when a storm hits, how can you prepare for bouts of bad weather and keep yourself–as well everyone else on the road–safer?

Plan Well Ahead of Time

You can’t control the weather, but you can certainly control your preparedness for any situation you encounter on the road. Before you leave the house, check the weather. Sunny skies could turn to thunderous clouds over the course of a few hours. Look into all possible routes to see if you can avoid the worst of the storm, and leave early so you have enough time to reach your destination without rushing.

Bad weather is not the time to discover that you have a vehicle malfunction. J.D. Power recommends having your vehicle checked more frequently during seasons of bad weather like winter, and making sure that your windshield wipers, headlights, and mirrors are in working order before you pull out of the driveway.

If you live in a cold climate, pack a winter survival kit in case your vehicle gets stuck or disabled in the snow. The basics include, but are not limited to:

  • Windshield scraper and small broom
  • Flashlight and batteries
  • Energy-rich snack foods
  • Warm clothing and blankets
  • Grainy material for traction
  • First aid kit and pocket knife

It’s Raining, It’s Pouring

A little rain never hurt anyone, right? When it comes to driving, wet roads and impaired vision actually increase the likelihood of an accident. Almost everywhere in the U.S. experiences rain at least once a year, and some states can expect steady annual downfall. One of the best preventative measures you can take is increasing the space between you and the vehicle in front of you. Edmunds suggests aiming for a six-second gap to be on the safe side. If wet and humid conditions create fog, use your low beams to maximize visibility.

Hold onto Your Hat

It’s not just obvious tornado and hurricane-induced winds that drivers need to consider. Hurricane winds are considered 74 mph or faster, but the weather service puts out advisories for much lower speeds. In wind-prone states like Florida, the advisory covers sustained winds between 25-39 mph, or gusts at 57 mph. Robert Molleda of the National Weather Service explains some associated risks: “If winds are above 30-35 mph for extended periods of time, it can be an issue for high-profile vehicles on bridges and overpasses. Also, tall objects such as construction cranes can be hazardous in those winds.”

Sounds like a recipe for potential damages, doesn’t it? As for driving in gusty conditions, The Telegraph suggests that drivers should ease off the gas, brake steadily, and hold the steering wheel firmly to maintain control against the onslaught. It goes without saying that windy occasions are not the time to speed or tailgate. Even so, drivers can’t always react in time to others on the road or blowing debris. Drivers need to protect their vehicles and themselves against these weather-associated risks by having adequate insurance coverage, not just the minimum required by law. For example, if you’re in the Sunshine state, legal Florida auto insurance only equates to PIP, or personal injury protection coverage. However, chances are you’d need more coverage than that if you were involved in a weather-related accident.

Ice, Ice Baby

Snow and ice are beautiful from the vantage point of a warm house, but the story is much different from inside a car. Follow these guidelines from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) whenever possible to reduce risk when your tires are on ice or snow:

  • Steer into a skid
  • Stomp on antilock brakes and pump non-antilock brakes
  • Give yourself longer stopping distances
  • Rehearse maneuvers during the daylight in an empty lot
  • Avoid fatigue and rotate drivers when possible

With proper preparation, the right protective measures, and practiced defensive driving skills, you’ll be more ready to take on the elements in your vehicle. It’s preferable to stay home, but if you absolutely have to be out and about, stay safe and slow down.


Fulfilling Charitable Resolutions Without Breaking the Bank

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how to keep your charitable resoltions

By Holly Tomlinson

Giving back more is one of the most popular resolutions made each year, but as we round out the first month of 2016, I find myself having done nothing towards my goal. If you’ve also made a commitment to improving the world around you, you might be wondering how you can do so on a tight budget when you find yourself often having less than you need. I always try to remind myself that there is always something worse off who could use a helping hand, and I’ve come up with a list of ways you can fulfill your charitable resolutions without breaking the bank.

Spring Cleaning

The phrase “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” couldn’t be truer. Consider donating used goods that you don’t get much utility from anymore. Clean out your closets, including those of your kids, and put any things that you’ve outgrown or haven’t seen in at least six months into a bag. You can also go through recreational items, like hockey sticks from an abandoned hobby, old golf clubs, baby toys, and other things you can bear to part with. Take them to a local church, homeless shelter, or Goodwill and make a difference in someone’s life.

The Tax Breaks

While altruism should be the main reason behind your urge to give back, you can’t deny that tax breaks do give incentive to charitable contributions. A gift to an IRS-approved charitable organization may entitle you to a tax deduction if you itemize deductions on your tax returns. Most charities qualify for this deduction but make sure you do your research before banking on a tax break. You’ll also need to ensure you get receipts from your donations, as no deduction is allowed for anything over $250 if you don’t have documentation of it.

Unused Gift Cards

If you’ve got gift cards with small balances that you’re never going to use, consider giving them to charity or a homeless shelter. More often than not we let them hang out at the bottom of our purses or tucked behind credit cards in our wallet, and according to a MarketWatch estimate, almost $750 million worth of gift cards went unspent in 2014. Don’t hang onto it on the off chance that you might use it, and give it to people who could actually benefit from it.

For Online Shoppers

If you’ve got a mean online shopping addiction, use your purchases to donate money to charities that could use your donations greatly. Websites like iGive.com allow you to choose a cause to support initially. After you’re set up, all you need to do is shop on iGive-approved websites — they’ve got upwards of 1,700 online shopping sources to peruse. Everything from car rental websites to upscale clothing stores are on the list, meaning your every need can be met with the added bonus of donating to a charity that’s close to your heart.

Use Social Media

If you’re looking for ways to get involved, stay active on social media and follow different charities. Often local organizations will post about upcoming events, giving you the opportunity to participate and make a difference. Another handy part of the process? You’ll be able to share great things that come up and spread the news to your friends and family — you never know who’s looking for a way to get involved. Social media outlets like Facebook often have pages where likeminded volunteers can come together in their community and plan ways to get involved, so do a simple search and press join–you’ll be glad you did, I guarantee it.

The Ripple Effect

Even the smallest gesture can create a ripple effect of altruism within your community. Small generous efforts can mean big results, and you don’t have to spend a ton to get them done. If you’re a Starbucks addict, pay for the coffee of the person in line behind you — they might be so thankful that they’re inspired to pay it forward. If you know of a family friend going through a hard time, pick up a gift and drop it off at their home unannounced. Even something as simple as dropping off cookies at a children’s hospital will change someone’s day. Fulfilling your charitable resolutions is easier than you might think, and changing the world starts one person at a time. Consider what you can do to improve your community, and watch the karma dividends come back to you.

(Photo courtesy of Randy Heinitz)