How to Handle a Windshield Repair

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Ever been carefully driving along when—whack!—a rock hits your windshield? Your eyes scan for damage as you wonder whether you need a windshield repair or a complete windshield replacement.

The good news is that a chip or crack doesn’t necessarily mean you need a replacement. Certified repair specialists, such as those at Safelite AutoGlass®, can usually repair windshield chips, nicks and cracks up to six inches long. No matter what your situation is, it’s best to go to a windshield repair specialist right away. Here are two reasons why.

WHY REPAIR WINDSHIELD CHIPS?

  • The longer you leave a windshield chip, the more likely it will get worse. Weather changes or simply driving over a pothole, speed bump or uneven terrain puts additional pressure on the edges of a chip, which can lead quickly to a crack. Repairing a chip is also less expensive than windshield replacement. In some cases, repairs can be completed in just 30 minutes.

  • A damaged windshield may compromise you and your passengers’ safety. A chip reduces the strength of a windshield, and damaged glass is much more likely to crack, according to repair experts Safelite AutoGlass®. If you’re in a rollover accident, you rely on your windshield to help stop your vehicle’s roof from collapsing. Your vehicle glass also helps airbags deploy safely and effectively.

Do-it-yourself windshield repair kits are available, but they may be more trouble than they’re worth if you aren’t a trained professional. It can be challenging to fill in all the miniscule cracks completely with resin. What’s more, if something goes wrong with a self-repair, you may not be able to start over or fix it properly. Ask your agent or take a look at your policy for detailed information on exclusions that can apply to faulty workmanship.

At Erie Insurance, we partner with Safelite® Solutions to connect customers to more than 8,000 trusted auto repair and glass replacement shops through our our ERIEGlassSM program. (You always have the option to choose your own repair specialist, too.)

BE WARY OF WINDSHIELD SCAMS

You should be skeptical of strangers who offer to help with a windshield repair when you didn’t ask for one. Windshield repair harvesters position themselves at gas stations, convenience stores, car washes and even county fairs, and try to convince drivers to replace perfectly good windshields. They even offer cash rebates or other inducements like free movie tickets or car washes. Do not give your car insurance information to anyone until you’re ready to file a claim with your insurer. Learn how to spot windshield scammers in this blog post.

THREE QUESTIONS TO ASK A VEHICLE GLASS SHOP

Want to schedule a repair? Here are three questions to ask the windshield repair shop before you proceed with the work:

  1. Are your auto glass installation technicians certified? Certification helps ensure the tech is trained thoroughly on the proper procedures for repairing, removing and installing auto glass.

  2. How soon after my glass is replaced or repaired will I be able to use my vehicle? Usually, a windshield repair takes about 30 minutes or less and the vehicle is safe to drive immediately. With a windshield replacement, it’s important to have your technician accurately advise you of the safe drive away time, which can vary greatly depending on weather conditions and the type of installation materials used.

  3. What kind of warranty will be provided on the auto glass materials and the repair work? A warranty could vary depending on the type of repair, but one should be available to you. For example, Safelite® repairs and replacements are covered by a nationwide lifetime warranty for as long as you own or lease your vehicle.

DOES MY AUTO INSURANCE COVER WINDSHIELD CHIPS OR CRACKS?

Erie Insurance has your back when it comes to windshield questions. Talk to your local agent about what your specific policy can cover. Generally speaking, here’s how your auto insurance can kick in:

  • Windshield repair: In most states where ERIE does business*, comprehensive coverage from ERIE will cover the cost to repair a cracked or chipped windshield without charging the deductible. (Nice!)

  • Windshield replacement: In most states where ERIE does business*, standard comprehensive coverage includes Glass Repair Coverage, which can cover the cost of a replacement windshield – but you’ll have to pay your deductible. Here’s a little something extra to brighten a bad day: If you need a windshield replacement, we’ll throw in a pair of new wiper blades at no additional cost.

For an affordable cost, you can add the Zero Dollar Glass Deductible option to your ERIE auto policy. With it, you pay no deductible for a windshield replacement. Because coverage varies by state*, it's best to review your coverage details with a licensed insurance agent.

Weird Life Insurance Questions You Were Too Afraid to Ask

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Life insurance, by its very nature, is deeply personal. It transforms the vulnerable into the secure.

It can also leave you wondering – how does that all work, anyway?

Keep reading for answers to a few curious questions you’ve probably wondered about life insurance… but were too afraid to ask.

Q: I HAVE A DANGEROUS HOBBY. CAN I STILL GET LIFE INSURANCE?

A: In many cases, yes – but expect to answer some questions and (probably) pay a little extra to account for the additional risk. 

Before giving you a quote, your local insurance agent may ask you to fill out a written questionnaire to understand more about your hobby.  At ERIE, that includes hobbies such as: 

  • Rock climbing

  • Vehicle racing (stock cars, drag racing, motorcycles, etc.)

  • Aviation

  • Sky diving

  • Scuba diving

The questionnaire will ask you some basic information to understand your hobby. This could include:

  • How long you’ve been doing this hobby

  • How frequently you participate

  • Any training, education or certifications you’ve received

  • If you ever get paid or hired for your hobby (as opposed to just doing it for fun)

  • Future goals or plans for your hobby

It’s important to be honest when filling out your questionnaire. If you fudge the details in an attempt to seem less risky… that could be grounds for denying a claim later on. Your completed questionnaire is sent to the life insurance underwriter, who determines the scope of the risk – and ultimately helps calculate the rate you’ll pay. 

For example: Let’s say you’re into rock climbing. Does that mean you climb indoors with friends once in a while at the local gym? Or are you planning a trip to the Himalayas to go ice climbing alone? Similarly, if you have a private pilot license – are you taking occasional short trips for business? Or are you regularly stunt flying in air shows on the weekends? 

You get the idea… it’s all about calculating that risk. 

Q: IF I QUIT SMOKING, CAN I GET RE-RATED TO SAVE MONEY ON LIFE INSURANCE? 

A: First things first: Good for you!

As for your life insurance: Generally speaking, yes – you can ask your local agent to get your existing policy re-rated.  Before you do, though, you’ll likely have to show some stability in those lifestyle changes for a year or two to prove that you’re in this for the long haul. 

What happens next may differ, depending on the circumstances. (Your agent can explain the specifics as they pertain to you.) 

If you quit smoking because you’re just ready to live a healthier lifestyle – great! With no complications, you could get bumped from the “smoker “to the “nonsmoker” rate classification (and likely save some money in the process). 

But, if you quit for a medical reason – such as a diagnosis of COPD or lung cancer – that’s a health concern that could impact the cost savings you’d otherwise see from quitting smoking. Your agent will ask you to fill out a questionnaire to get the specifics on why and how you quit. 

Q: WHAT IF I LOSE 50 POUNDS? COULD I GET RE-RATED THEN? 

Similar to the smoking example above, expect some follow-up questions about your weight loss. For example: “How and why did you lose the weight?” There are risks that come with weight loss surgeries, such as gastric bypass or lap band surgeries. Similarly, if you dropped a bunch of weight without even trying to… that could be the sign of a worrisome chronic illness or depression. If you start or stop taking certain medications because of your weight loss, that could also affect your rate. 

If your weight loss is the product of good ol’ fashioned discipline, diet and exercise: Once you show you can keep it off (and provide any necessary test results and information), you could get bumped to a more favorable rate class. 

Remember, insurance rates are all about data and probability. When it comes to weight loss, most carriers will add at least 50% of the weight back when they calculate your new rate. Why? Statistically speaking, if you drop a bunch of weight, studies show you’re likely to gain at least some of it back

Ask your ERIE agent about re-rating your policy if or when your circumstances change. 

TALK TO A LOCAL ERIE AGENT FOR A LIFE INSURANCE QUOTE

Have a weird or embarrassing insurance question? Don’t be shy: Our local agents are licensed professionals – they’re not here to judge.

Weird Life Insurance Questions You Were Too Afraid to Ask

Life insurance, by its very nature, is deeply personal. It transforms the vulnerable into the secure.

It can also leave you wondering – how does that all work, anyway?

Keep reading for answers to a few curious questions you’ve probably wondered about life insurance… but were too afraid to ask.

Q: I HAVE A DANGEROUS HOBBY. CAN I STILL GET LIFE INSURANCE?

A: In many cases, yes – but expect to answer some questions and (probably) pay a little extra to account for the additional risk. 

Before giving you a quote, your local insurance agent may ask you to fill out a written questionnaire to understand more about your hobby.  At ERIE, that includes hobbies such as: 

  • Rock climbing

  • Vehicle racing (stock cars, drag racing, motorcycles, etc.)

  • Aviation

  • Sky diving

  • Scuba diving

The questionnaire will ask you some basic information to understand your hobby. This could include:

  • How long you’ve been doing this hobby

  • How frequently you participate

  • Any training, education or certifications you’ve received

  • If you ever get paid or hired for your hobby (as opposed to just doing it for fun)

  • Future goals or plans for your hobby

It’s important to be honest when filling out your questionnaire. If you fudge the details in an attempt to seem less risky… that could be grounds for denying a claim later on. Your completed questionnaire is sent to the life insurance underwriter, who determines the scope of the risk – and ultimately helps calculate the rate you’ll pay. 

For example: Let’s say you’re into rock climbing. Does that mean you climb indoors with friends once in a while at the local gym? Or are you planning a trip to the Himalayas to go ice climbing alone? Similarly, if you have a private pilot license – are you taking occasional short trips for business? Or are you regularly stunt flying in air shows on the weekends? 

You get the idea… it’s all about calculating that risk. 

Q: IF I QUIT SMOKING, CAN I GET RE-RATED TO SAVE MONEY ON LIFE INSURANCE? 

A: First things first: Good for you!

As for your life insurance: Generally speaking, yes – you can ask your local agent to get your existing policy re-rated.  Before you do, though, you’ll likely have to show some stability in those lifestyle changes for a year or two to prove that you’re in this for the long haul. 

What happens next may differ, depending on the circumstances. (Your agent can explain the specifics as they pertain to you.) 

If you quit smoking because you’re just ready to live a healthier lifestyle – great! With no complications, you could get bumped from the “smoker “to the “nonsmoker” rate classification (and likely save some money in the process). 

But, if you quit for a medical reason – such as a diagnosis of COPD or lung cancer – that’s a health concern that could impact the cost savings you’d otherwise see from quitting smoking. Your agent will ask you to fill out a questionnaire to get the specifics on why and how you quit. 

Q: WHAT IF I LOSE 50 POUNDS? COULD I GET RE-RATED THEN? 

Similar to the smoking example above, expect some follow-up questions about your weight loss. For example: “How and why did you lose the weight?” There are risks that come with weight loss surgeries, such as gastric bypass or lap band surgeries. Similarly, if you dropped a bunch of weight without even trying to… that could be the sign of a worrisome chronic illness or depression. If you start or stop taking certain medications because of your weight loss, that could also affect your rate. 

If your weight loss is the product of good ol’ fashioned discipline, diet and exercise: Once you show you can keep it off (and provide any necessary test results and information), you could get bumped to a more favorable rate class. 

Remember, insurance rates are all about data and probability. When it comes to weight loss, most carriers will add at least 50% of the weight back when they calculate your new rate. Why? Statistically speaking, if you drop a bunch of weight, studies show you’re likely to gain at least some of it back

Ask your ERIE agent about re-rating your policy if or when your circumstances change. 

TALK TO A LOCAL ERIE AGENT FOR A LIFE INSURANCE QUOTE

Have a weird or embarrassing insurance question? Don’t be shy: Our local agents are licensed professionals – they’re not here to judge.

Top 4 Fall Driving Hazards (And How to Handle Them)

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The start of fall brings a lot of welcome things: a new school year, cooler temps and changing leaves. 

You may not notice it right away, but your daily commute is affected by the shorter days and changing weather, too. (For example: Did you know wet leaves can be as slippery as ice?) 

Stay alert this fall. Here are the top things to look out for when you’re on the road:
 

1. Rain and wet leaves
As the weather cools down, the rain picks up. Combine that with lower temperatures and you’ll find your tires may have less grip than they did in the summer months.

To start, always drive cautiously in wet conditions – that includes driving slower than you would on a dry road. And be on the lookout for wet leaves, which can be as slick as ice.

It’s also important to check your tires to ensure they have enough tread. Insert a penny into your tread with Abraham Lincoln’s head upside down and facing you. If you insert the penny all the way and all of Lincoln’s head is still showing, that means your tread has worn down and it’s time for new tires.

Driving too fast for the conditions or cruising on worn tires can lead to hydroplaning. So it’s important to know what to do if you start hydroplaning: take your foot off the gas, firmly grip the steering wheel and calmly make steering adjustments. 

2. Deer collisions
Deer are most active from October to January, especially during the dusk and dawn hours. If you’ve ever seen the aftermath of a deer collision, you know it can do severe damage to your vehicle.

Avoid deer on the roadways by slowing down during peak hours, paying attention to road signs and using your high beams to increase visibility when possible. Learn more about how to avoid hitting a deer…and what to do if you hit one.

3. Earlier sunsets
The days get shorter in the fall, so you’ll find yourself driving in the dark more often. This is another peak time for accidents.

Make sure you’re staying alert during nighttime hours. Be on the lookout for pedestrians and turn your headlights on during dawn or dusk hours. Keep a safe distance from other vehicles and know when to swerve if there’s an object in the road.

4. School children
The kids are back to school. The house is quieter. But if you drive just before the school day starts or after it ends…you’re in for lots of crosswalks and bus stops. Welcome to back-to-school driving.

Since more kids are walking and biking to school, you’ll need to stay alert around schools and neighborhoods. Be aware of bus safety and school drop-off procedures as well. And if you’d like to avoid the risk altogether, consider finding a new route to avoid these high-traffic areas.

It’s always important to be prepared. But even the most cautious drivers can find themselves face-to-face with something unexpected. That’s why it’s important to have the right auto insurance.

Contact a local ERIE agent for a personal, fair and affordable insurance experience. They’ll help you review your current coverage and prepare for the road ahead, no

matter the season.

How Named Storms Affect Your Insurance Coverage

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Ready or not… when a hurricane is on the way, you have to act fast.

While you’re making an evacuation plan or stocking up on bottled water, the last thing you want to be thinking is, “Will my insurance cover what happens after this?”

Yes, hurricanes can be devastating – personally and financially. But anxiety can keep you from being present to what matters most. At Erie Insurance, we want you to feel confident that your insurance can go the distance when disaster strikes.

For coverage questions about your specific policy, contact your Erie Insurance agent.

HURRICANES AND INSURANCE: 4 COMMON COVERAGE QUESTIONS

Q: A hurricane is on the way. Can I buy a new policy or make a last-minute change?
A:
 Typically, a hurricane watch is called about 48 hours ahead of tropical storm force winds, according to the National Hurricane Center. Once that happens, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to get a new policy or make a policy change at the last minute. 

It varies by state, but in most places, state regulations prohibit anyone from purchasing insurance coverage (or changing their current coverage) once an official hurricane watch or warning is called.

Flood insurance, which is purchased as a separate policy, has a mandatory 30-day waiting period before it goes into effect. That’s because flood insurance is federally regulated through the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s National Flood Insurance Program.

Q: Does my homeowners insurance cover damage from hurricanes?
A:
 Always check your specific policy (or check with your agent) to know what it does and doesn’t include. The big thing to remember is that coverage for flood and water is typically purchased separately.

Wind damage: Generally speaking, wind damage – including wind from hurricanes – is already included under a standard homeowners policy, since it’s considered a covered peril. (Learn more about homeowners insurance.)

Water damage: Damage from flooding or water is excluded in your homeowners policy. Water-related damage, like flooding or storm surges, has to be purchased separately – and there’s a 30-day waiting period before your policy will go into effect. ERIE offers flood coverage through a partnership with American Bankers Insurance Company, a federally funded flood carrier. (Learn more about flood insurance.)

Q: Does my auto insurance cover damages from hurricanes?
A:
 In most cases, your auto policy can cover hurricane-related damages to your vehicle if you have collision and comprehensive coverage.

Collision can pay for damage to your car when it’s on the road or in motion – for example, if you collide with another car, or a fixed object like a guard rail or telephone pole. It can also cover damage that results from your car flipping over. (Road conditions can be extremely dangerous before, during and after a hurricane. For your own safety, please avoid driving unless it’s an emergency.)

Comprehensive coverage can pay for damage “other than collisions” – for example, if your car gets flooded or the wind snaps a tree limb that falls on your car. Comprehensive coverage is optional, so if you live in a hurricane-prone area, you might want to consider adding it to your auto policy.

Still have questions? Read our ultimate guide to understanding auto insurance or learn about the built-in extras that come with every ERIE auto policy.

Q: What’s a named-storm deductible? And does ERIE have one?
A:
 The deductible is the out-of-pocket amount you pay to your insurance company after a covered loss. If you live in a hurricane-prone area, some insurance carriers have deductibles that only apply to damages from natural disasters – for example, named storms or windstorms.

Many named-storm deductibles are set up as a percentage of a home’s value – usually from 1 to 10 percent – instead of a fixed dollar amount. That means a homeowner with a home insured for $161,100 would shell out $16,100 if their named-storm deductible was 10 percent.

If you’re not financially prepared, it can be a big sticker shock. Some insurance companies make the percentage deductible mandatory for homes in high-risk coastal areas.

Other storm deductibles may be set on an actual dollar amount. At Erie Insurance, storm deductibles are optional, and we let you choose an actual dollar amount for your named storm deductible – from $250 to $10,000 – based on your budget and how much risk you’re willing to retain. Learn more about how naming your own deductible works, or ask an ERIE agent.

We’re here when you need us.
When you’re with ERIE, our policy is a promise to do the right thing. If a hurricane hits and you have to file a claim, know that we’re here for you from first question to final follow-up.

We value your time, energy, schedule and commitments. That’s why we do everything we can to make our claims process convenient and fast. Learn more about how to file a claim.
 

Stay safe this hurricane season. Our local ERIE agents are here to help answer your questions and help you feel confident about your coverage.

A Parent's Guide to a Fun (and Safe) Halloween

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Trick or treat! Halloween is quickly approaching. Annual traditions like jack-o’-lanterns and trick-or-treating are fun for the whole family. A little safety checkup can go a long way to make sure your night is all treats and no tricks. 

Need a place to start? Check out this roundup of our most popular Halloween safety tips: 

How to Prepare Your House for Trick-or-Treaters
From the driveway to your front door, follow this step-by-step guide to get your house ready for visitors. 

Pumpkin Carving Safety Tips
Don’t let a slip-up spoil this fun tradition. Here’s how to set up your pumpkin carving station for the best success.

Your Halloween Safety Checklist
Flame-resistant costume? Check. Comfortable shoes? Check. Get the rest of this costume-safety inspection in this post.

Teen and Tween Safety on Halloween
From setting a curfew to borrowing the car, Halloween can get trickier when your kids become teenagers. Read these tested tips for navigating the changes. (Got a new driver in the house? Learn more about how insurance works for teen drivers.

How to Organize a “Trunk or Treat” Event
“Trunk or treat” events are a hot trend. They’re great for younger children and offer a shorter, friendlier Halloween experience. Participating in one for the first time? Here’s what you need to know.

At Erie Insurance, we get how important “home” is… no matter the season. We’re here to protect it with insurance that fits your life (and budget).

The "Smart" Way to Ensure Fire Safety

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The mantra of “stop, drop, and roll” is a familiar drill and phrase we repeat as children, but we rarely talk about it or practice it in adulthood. And while children may learn about fire evacuation plans at school, grown-ups might not remember to actually put them into action. With an average of 358,500 house fires per year, fire safety is something everyone should think about—and often.

Home automation devices offer the technology to help safeguard your home against fires. Here's what you can do to stay protected the “smart” way.

Invest in a Monitored Smoke Alarm
Many home security systems offer monitoring services. This means the system is linked to a central monitoring station that receives an alert when a security alarm is triggered and can notify authorities on your behalf. This type of home security system is widely regarded as the safest and smartest choice, but it doesn't have to stop at security.

Many of today’s home security systems allow you to purchase monitored smoke and fire alarms as well. If smoke is sensed an alert will trigger prompting the monitoring station to reach out to the fire department and let them know an alarm is going off in your home. These systems can be set up and managed by your internet service provider.

Utilize Sirens
The telltale chirp of a smoke alarm is a sound everyone is familiar with, especially when the battery is getting low. It may be hard to imagine anyone sleeping through the sound, but why take that chance? Home security systems usually have a siren that sounds at 90 decibels or above, and by linking these sirens to your smoke alarms through home automation systems, you can double up on the alerts.

A good way to utilize these additional sirens is to place one in each bedroom. Even the heaviest sleeper will be jolted awake by the volume.

Let Smart Devices Minimize Risk
Cooking accidents are the leading cause of house fires across the country. While some of these infernos are no doubt the result of grease fires and other cooking mishaps, a concerning number of them are caused by people leaving the oven or other appliances on and forgetting to turn them off. There are a several smart ovens on the market that will regulate their temperature and turn off automatically after a few minutes of inactivity.

However, these smart ovens carry a high price tag. A more budget-friendly option is to invest in a smart outlet plug for your appliances and a motion sensor, and then use a system like If This, Then That (IFTTT) to set up a series of commands. For example, if no motion is detected in the room for a certain amount of time, it will turn off power to the appliance.

There are also smart sensors that can detect sudden, rapid changes in temperature that might indicate a fire. These sensors can be added in conjunction with the rest of these methods to automatically detect potential fires and cut off the appliance in question.

Upgrade Your Smoke Detector
Everyone is familiar with the circular-shaped traditional smoke detectors, but if you want an option with slightly more usability, consider a product like the Nest Protect. Smart detectors offer several advantages over traditional detectors. The first is that it won't give off the annoying chirp when the battery gets low; instead, you'll receive a notification on your phone letting you know it’s time to replace the battery.

Another advantage of these devices is that they can send you a push notification anytime the sensor detects smoke. The sensor itself will also go off, emitting a loud siren, but you can easily silence this from your phone in case the tea boiled over or you burnt some toast. These detectors also detect carbon monoxide in the air, another serious safety risk.

Make Your Batteries Smarter
What's better than a 9 Volt battery? A smart 9 Volt battery, naturally. Smart batteries are relatively new to the smart home scene, but they serve a simple yet ingenious purpose. Smart batteries replace the existing batteries in your smoke detectors and send a notification to your phone when the detector is triggered. These batteries also send notifications when they need to be replaced.

While smart batteries cost a bit more than normal batteries, they're a cost-effective alternative if a smart smoke detector is outside your price range.

Practice Smart Habits
Fire is a constant consideration for homeowners, especially during the colder months when fireplaces are opened up and put to use. In addition to the safety provided by smart home technology, there are a few basic things to keep in mind:

  • Keep spare firewood far from the fireplace. It's easy to toss a few logs onto the hearth for easy access, but it's better to place them well away from anything that might ignite them.
  • If you start cooking something that will take several hours, set a timer on your phone to check on it every half hour.
  • Finally, make sure your fire extinguishers are within easy reach and fully functional.


If you keep a close eye on things, you can nearly eliminate the risk of a fire in your home. Easy access to an extinguisher will let you put out small blazes (like those of an inexperienced cook on the stove), but make sure to get out of your house and call the fire department if you're in danger.

Patrick Hearn is an Atlanta-based tech writer for  XFINITY Home. You'll find him working away in coffee shops or tucked in a corner reading and sipping the latest pour-over.

 

Speak! How to Decode Dog Body Language

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All relationships are about communication. Without the luxury of language, a dog uses physical cues to tell you how he’s thinking and feeling. Avoid getting lost in translation by learning to read a dog’s body language – especially if he’s trying to say, “Back off!”

National Dog Bite Prevention Week® takes place during the second full week of April each year. You can avoid and prevent injury by recognizing the signs a dog might bite.

Eyes

  • Direct eye contact  

Ears

  • Ears lying flat, or stuck to the sides of their head could mean a dog is frightened and on alert. If a dog’s ears are standing high or seem to be pushed forward, the dog may be aggressive

Mouth

  • An upturned nose or licking lips (when they aren’t eating) with teeth exposed means the dog could use some space
  • Exposed teeth and curled lips pulled high may mean the dog is aggressive and you should not go any closer or approach the dog

Body/Posture

  • Raised fur between their shoulders or hair that’s raised on the entire length of their back
  • Rigid body posture
  • A stiff and straight tail. (Short, abrupt wags, or wagging at just the tip, could indicate a threat.)


You can find more dog bite prevention tips from the American Kennel Club and the Humane Society of the United States online. It’s important to read about these cues to take from dogs to help keep you safe.

Even the most well-behaved dog can bite if he’s threatened or provoked – and if your dog bites another animal or person, you’ll be held responsible. That kind of lawsuit can get expensive pretty quickly if the injured person has any long-lasting physical scars or impairments.

Homeowners and renters insurance policies typically cover dog bite liability, but if you’re concerned about having enough liability protection, consider a PCL policy that offers an extra $1 to $5 million in coverage. An insurance advisor like an ERIE agent can help you find the right coverage that meets your needs and budget.

Can You Guess Our Biggest Driving Distraction?

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Of the more than 172,000 people killed in car crashes over the past five years, one in 10 were in crashes where at least one of the drivers involved was distracted. These statistics come from data analyzed by Erie Insurance housed in the Fatality Analysis Reporting System, a nationwide census of fatal motor vehicle traffic crashes maintained by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Erie Insurance consulted with the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety in its analysis.

But distracted driving doesn’t just mean being distracted by your cell phone.  ERIE’s analysis found daydreaming or being “generally distracted” (being inattentive, careless, or distracted–details unknown) or “lost in thought” was the number one distraction associated with fatal crashes.

"Some people see driving as a time to relax and unwind and let their minds drift off, but that’s actually one of the worst things you can do,” said Jon Bloom, vice president of personal auto, Erie Insurance. “Most people know about the dangers of texting while driving, but daydreaming while driving is an almost invisible distraction – people do it automatically without even realizing the risk.”

The Erie Insurance analysis of police data from 2012-2016 showed the majority of drivers who were distracted were “generally distracted” or “lost in thought.” In fact, police report that 61 percent of distracted drivers were daydreaming at the time of a fatal crash, compared with 14 percent of drivers who were distracted by cell phone use.  Erie Insurance did a similar analysis five years ago and revisited the data to see if the types of distractions had changed over the years. The analysis found the distractions were largely the same.

Bloom said that because FARS data on distraction is based largely on police officers’ judgment at the time of the crash, and because people involved in a crash may be reluctant to admit to distracted driving behaviors when being interviewed by police, the numbers are difficult to verify. And they may, in fact, under-represent the seriousness and prevalence of driving distractions.

 

CAUGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF A DAYDREAM?

To help drivers avoid daydreaming while driving, Erie Insurance reached out to Paul Atchley, Ph.D., an internationally recognized cognitive behavioral researcher. Atchley has studied distracted driving and worked with numerous national safety organizations to reduce it.

“One effective strategy to counteract daydreaming is to keep your mind alert with so-called passive forms of engagement, like listening to a radio show or a podcast,” Atchley said. “The beauty of passive engagement is that your mind will automatically tune it out when it needs to. So, if something out of the ordinary suddenly happens in your environment, your brain won’t even hear what’s on the radio anymore. It will be fully focused on the task at hand.”

Dr. Atchley cautioned against listening to a playlist of songs you’ve heard again and again, which is not recommended. Listening to something too familiar could actually encourage your mind to drift off.

Atchley offers these additional tips to help drivers keep their attention on the road:
 

  • Don’t replace boredom with a distraction. For example, never send or read a text to alleviate boredom. Instead, play verbal road games that help you focus, like “I Spy.” Make it even more effective by saying “I Spy a Distracted Driver” which will help your mind focus even more on the road and defensive driving.
  • Keep your hazard perception skills sharp. This means knowing where to look on the road ahead and watching for situations that may require you to take an action, such as changing speed or direction. Examples include a car entering an intersection or a pedestrian crossing the road.
  • Consider carpooling with another experienced driver. Just as professional truck drivers sometimes enlist a partner to share the driving duties, Atchley says having a co-driver can also work for everyday people. Another experienced driver sitting in the passenger seat next to you can serve as a second set of eyes.And, engaging in light conversation while you’re both looking at the road ahead can help keep your mind alert.

April is dedicated to Distracted Driving Awareness. It’s important to think about all the ways we can be distracted while driving all the time.  “We’re always looking after our Customers; we want to not only insure their cars but also protect their lives,” said Bloom, “so that’s why we’re drawing attention to the dangers of distracted driving, including driving while daydreaming.”