How to Drive Through a Summer Storm

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Vehicle driving in rainstormWhen you think of challenging driving conditions, summer probably isn’t what first comes to mind, especially if you’re from the Northeast. Instead, most of us likely associate the daunting months of winter with harsh driving conditions. But what some people might forget are the strong winds and torrential downpours that summer storms can bring. Though these storms may only occur a handful of times per season, summer rains can present difficulty for many drivers as they navigate the roads.

Here are a couple tips to help you through some tough summer weather conditions:

Take your time. Visibility is often very poor during torrential rains, and keeping the wheel straight can be challenging. If caught in a heavy downpour, it’s best to slow down to a safe speed and leave extra space between you and other vehicles as a buffer. Make sure to turn on your lights so that other cars are able to see you, and if visibility is too low, pull over to a safe spot and wait out the storm.

Avoid standing water. Traveling through puddles at high speeds can cause hydroplaning, so be sure to safely steer clear of standing water. If avoiding a pool of water is impossible, slow down to a safe speed. If you do find yourself hydroplaning, don’t panic! Ease off the gas pedal and keep the wheel as straight as possible.

If you are on a multi-lane road and you spot a puddle, moving to the inside lane is best. Since roads are designed to let water run off to the shoulder, the center lanes should be safer.

Share the road. When driving conditions are less than ideal, smaller cars are less affected by wind and heavy rains than larger vehicles such as tractor trailers. Wind and rain can cause bigger vehicles to drift into other lanes unexpectedly, which can be a danger for passenger cars on the road. Avoid driving next to larger vehicles and remember to leave extra space between your car and other vehicles.

Be on the lookout for debris. Strong winds frequently scatter debris onto the road, so stay alert while driving. Sometimes it can be hard to see debris on the road because of rain, darkness or other hindrances like water accumulation. A quick reaction to fallen debris can be difficult as roads can become slick during storms and rapid braking becomes harder.  If you see fallen debris in the road, be sure to alert local authorities so they can remove it to minimize danger for other drivers.

Car Theft Prevention Tips

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Car Robber with FlashlightJuly is the picturesque example of warm weather and clear skies in the Northeast. While heading to the beach or planning road trips, don’t forget that July is National Vehicle Theft Prevention Month!

With the beautiful weather of summer comes the increased possibility of your car being targeted by thieves. After all, July is one of the top months for car theft. According to statistics, only about half of Americans ever worry about their cars being broken into or stolen. For the half that doesn’t usually worry about car theft, we’ve collected some tips and safety measures to help keep you ahead of the curve when it comes to the safety of your car.

Follow the light! Always try to park in a busy, well-lit area. Light is a thief’s worst enemy. Park near streetlights or brightly-lit buildings to deter potential thieves from breaking into your car. If you do not park in a garage while at home, consider this tactic, too, by installing a motion detector light in your driveway to ward off any potential thieves.

Lock it down. Always make sure all windows are rolled up and doors are locked before leaving your car parked.

Don’t get caught idling. Leaving your engine on when you go inside to run a quick errand is something we all might think about doing. However, this is something car thieves look for. In the seemingly short time it takes you to walk in and out of the store, thieves could have stolen items from inside your car (e.g., sunglasses, phones, GPS devices, etc.) or worse, the car itself.

Keep your keys in a safe place. While at home, avoid leaving your keys out in the open where they could be easily spotted by someone outside. For example, don’t leave them on a counter or near windows/doors. Instead, try keeping your keys in out-of-sight places like a kitchen drawer, so thieves can’t spot them from the outside.

Check your plates. Have you ever been victim of license plate theft? It might not be one of the more commonly thought of forms of car theft, but it can end up causing you more problems than you think. Thieves will take your license plates and place them on vehicles they use to commit crimes. Be mindful to check the plates on your car frequently, and if they do get stolen, report the theft immediately to local police.

Track & Recovery Systems. If your car is an older model, consider installing an anti-theft device. Nearly 45% of cars that are stolen are never recovered, so installing track and recovery systems, like Lojack, can help law enforcement locate your stolen vehicle. A budget-friendly way to help deter theft is to place car security system stickers on windows where thieves can see them. The stress of having to silence a car alarm could be enough to make thieves pass on your vehicle.

If you are a Plymouth Rock customer, you could be eligible for a discount if you have an anti-theft device installed in your vehicle. Investing in the technology and time it takes to keep your car safe can save you money in the long run.

What gas is right for your car?

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Summer is here, which means the time for long road trips is upon us. If you are part of the 35% of Americans who plan on traveling this summer, then it might be time to consider whether you should opt for regular gasoline if you typically buy premium. The consensus among energy experts at the California Energy Commission (CEC) is that even if the manufacturer recommends premium gasoline for your car, then it might not be required.

Gas prices 3.10.11

Many drivers assume premium gasoline is better gasoline for cars, but the advantage of premium gasoline is limited to performance-oriented engines where higher octane fuel can provide better acceleration and power output. This information could help consumers everywhere save money at the pump heading into the summer season. So how do you determine if you should use regular or premium gasoline?

Check the owner’s manual. If you are unsure whether your car should use premium or regular gasoline, look through the owner’s manual for recommended octane level for the engine. If you own a high-performance luxury car, your owner’s manual may call for premium gasoline (usually 92 or 93 octane). If you find that your car only needs 87 octane fuel, then you can start purchasing regular gasoline instead of premium. Unless you have one of those high performance cars, or you are experiencing engine knocking (rare these days), 87 octane fuel will be just fine. For you, the only remarkable difference between premium and regular is how much you pay.

Know your car’s engine. Higher octane gasoline is more resistant to engine knock, the premature detonation of fuel in the engine’s cylinders.  Occasional knocking won’t hurt your car, but heavy knocking can cause engine damage.  Saving at the pump could end up costing you at the mechanic if you aren’t careful. Fortunately, modern engines are now complex enough to mostly prevent knocking, even with lower octane fuel. If you hear your engine knock when using the recommended fuel, try switching to a higher-grade gasoline. If knocking continues after a couple fill-ups, your car may need a tune-up.

Save Money. Switching from premium to regular can save you money at the pump. If you aren’t driving a high powered sports car and just need to get from place to place, fueling up with regular gasoline is fine. So before you take that summer road trip with the family, make sure you’re using the right gasoline for your car and your wallet.

Mass RMV Driving Manual now in Spanish

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Cars crossing the Zakim Bridge

The Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) recently announced that their Driver’s Manual is now available in Spanish. The Driver’s Manual includes the latest information on driving safety, special driving conditions, as well as rules of the road. The Driver’s Manual also provides customers with the information on how to obtain and keep a license in Massachusetts. Drivers can download the manual online, or purchase a printed copy at an RMV branch for $5.00.

Having the Driver’s Manual entirely in Spanish is a great step in helping Spanish-speaking drivers in the Commonwealth. With the availability of the Spanish version of the Driver’s Manual, Spanish-speaking drivers in Massachusetts now have better access to proper driving rules and regulations in their native language.

For more information on Massachusetts driving resources, please visit the RMV’s website.

Hampton Beach Master Sand Sculpting Competition 2016

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For the second year in a row, Plymouth Rock Assurance teamed up with our friends from Tobey & Merrill Insurance as platinum sponsors for the 16th Annual Master Sand Sculpting Competition in Hampton Beach, New Hampshire.

We couldn’t have asked for better weather both Friday and Saturday as Otto, our mascot, the Plymouth Rock team, and folks from Tobey & Merrill greeted and entertained beachgoers and sand sculptors alike.

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Over the last 16 years, the Hampton Beach Master Sand Sculpting Competition has turned into an iconic New Hampshire event, challenging artists from around the world to put their best foot forward at creating works of art using nothing but sand, water, and their imaginations. As a locally-based company, we’re proud to support events that celebrate the crossroads of artistic creativity and the local Hampton Beach community.

If you couldn’t make it up to Hampton Beach last weekend, the sculptures will remain on display through July 4. You can also check out the Hampton Beach Master Sand Sculpting Competition’s Facebook page for some great photos of the sculptures. And for those of you who might be reading this from your desk at work, there’s a Beach Cam that gives you a bird’s eye view of the entire setup.

Thank you to the Hampton Beach Master Sand Sculpting Competition and Tobey & Merrill Insurance of Hampton Beach for a wonderful weekend!

Plymouth Rock tent setup

Safe rotary and roundabout navigation

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aerial view of roundabout in wroclaw city

If you’ve spent time driving in New England, chances are you’ve come upon a roundabout or a rotary.

Considered a safer alternative to the traditional intersection, roundabouts and rotaries can be tricky to navigate if you aren’t used to them, so here are some tips on how to pass through safely:

Know what you’re driving into. Roundabouts and rotaries are different infrastructural systems and the terms shouldn’t be used interchangeably. Rotaries (also known as traffic circles) are large in diameter and allow for high speed vehicle entries. Once in the traffic circle, cars can weave in between one another due to the lack of clear lane markings.

Roundabouts are another alternative to a traditional intersection and are much smaller in size. Though traffic slows in a roundabout, the roundabout can accommodate higher volumes of traffic safer than a rotary can. When entering roundabouts, cars are forced to slow down and yield to cars already inside the circle. Roundabouts also have designated lanes, which make them easier to navigate than the “free for all” approach of the rotary.

Enter slowly. Enter the roundabout or rotary slowly while being mindful that cars already inside have the right of way. Traffic travels counterclockwise.

Stay in your lane. Some roundabouts and rotaries have a single lane, but others will have more than one. If you encounter a multi-lane roundabout or rotary, once inside, pick a lane and stick to it – this will help keep traffic flowing smoothly.

Keep on moving. Once you’re safely inside the circle, don’t stop moving. If you happen to miss your exit, simply continue around and try again.

Avoid large vehicles. Roundabouts sometimes will have an apron – an angled section of pavement – wrapped around the circumference of the inner island to help larger vehicles safely make the turn. Since larger vehicles might require more space to complete their turn, avoid driving next to large vehicles while you’re in a roundabout.

Exit carefully. As you approach your exit, use your right-turn signal to let others around you know that you are leaving exiting. Oftentimes roundabouts have crosswalks for pedestrians, so keep an eye out for anyone waiting to cross.

Ready or not, they’re coming! A study from the Minnesota Department of Transportation’s Office of Traffic, Safety and Technology found an 80% reduction in fatal and serious injury crashes after single-lane roundabouts replaced classic intersections. We’re likely to see more and more roundabouts sprouting up on our roads, so it’s important to cover the basics of navigating this modern wonder.

Headquartered in Boston,Plymouth Rock Assurance is a leading auto insurance carrier in Massachusetts, Connecticut and New Hampshire. Personal auto and commercial auto policies in Massachusetts and Connecticut are underwritten by Plymouth Rock Assurance Corporation. New Hampshire auto and home policies are underwritten by Mt. Washington Assurance Corporation. Each is a member of the Plymouth Rock Group of Companies, which together write and manage over $1 billion in auto and homeowners insurance.

Everything you need to know about spare tires

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flat tireIf you’re shopping for a new car, something you probably aren’t thinking about is what you’ll do in the event you run a flat. After all, you haven’t even purchased the car – why would you be thinking about roadside troubles already?

Well, flat tires are a pain. So you’ll want to make sure whatever car you purchase has the right equipment to deal with that situation (unless you plan to use a roadside assistance service.)

If roadside assistance isn’t your thing, there are a handful of alternatives – like the classic spare tire. Speaking of spares, have you ever heard it referred to as a “donut”?  Do you know if there’s a difference between a donut and a spare tire? Are they the same?

Turns out, there is a difference and it’s pretty sizable (you’ll appreciate the joke if you read on…)

Now that we’ve got you thinking about donuts, take a minute to familiarize yourself with the different types of spare tires:

  • Full size spares – A full size spare tire is a tire that is the same size as the rest of your tires. Because it’s the same size, the full size spare shouldn’t compromise your car’s driving performance once installed, which is one of its biggest benefits. Of the spare tire options, the full size spare will take up the most space in your car’s trunk, so you might want to consider trunk space when selecting your spare. Full size spares can be matching or non-matching.  A matching full size spare is identical to your other tires and should be incorporated into your regular tire rotation.  A non-matching full size spare has lighter-weight construction and shallower tread depth to reduce weight and make it easier to install.
  • Temporary spare – Also known as a “donut,” this tire is smaller than your car’s standard tires. Unlike the full size spares, there will be a noticeable performance difference when driving on a donut. Plus, the size difference between the donut and the rest of your tires limits the speed and distance you can safely drive. The trade-off is that a donut won’t take up as much space in your car when it’s not being used. If you’re trying to maximize your trunk space, the donut might be the better spare tire option for you.

If you have a spare that spends its time collecting dust in your trunk, it’s a good idea to periodically check its air pressure. How tragic would it be to find yourself in a situation where your tire is flat… and so is your spare?

It’s also important to remember that non-matching full size spares and donuts are temporary fixes and should only be driven on long enough to get your car safely to a service center. Once at the service center, a trained professional should replace the spare with the correct tire to match your set.

An alternative?

As car manufacturers become more mindful of things like trunk space and fuel economy, they are shying away from including spare tires in new vehicle models. To keep up with the changing times, there are a couple alternatives to spare tires for car buyers to consider:

  • Run-flat tires – Run-flat tires are made with reinforced sidewalls and are designed to keep your car going even after a tire has been punctured. While run-flat tires are a good option because you can essentially keep driving even after your wheel’s been punctured, there are tradeoffs to consider, like higher cost and a shorter tread life. Edmunds.com outlines potential pros and cons.
  • Self-sealing – Similar to run-flat tires, self-sealing tires are designed to withstand punctures and keep you going. Self-sealing tires tires are made with a sealant inside that can maintain the air pressure even after you, say, drive over a nail.
  • Tire repair kit – A tire repair kit is a nice alternative to a spare tire because it won’t take up nearly as much space in your trunk. Typically this kit will include an air compressor and sealant that can be used to fix a tire so long as the puncture is on its tread.

So while you’re shopping for your next car, remember to consider your spare tire options. Whether you end up with a full size spare, spring for some run-flats or self-sealing tires, or are prefer roadside assistance at least now you know what a “donut” is in car terms.

 

Boat Safety Basics

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Young father and son going for a speedboat ride together

Maritime activities are big here in New England. From our stretches of coastline to our tranquil bays, winding rivers and freshwater lakes, we’re spoiled with endless waterways that make boating in New England a treat.

Now that the weather’s warmed and summer isn’t too far off, boaters are preparing to put their vessels in the water for the season. But no matter how experienced a boater you are, it’s always a good idea to brush up on some safety basics to ensure your 2016 season is a success:

  • Know the forecast. New England weather can be unpredictable. Before heading out, make sure weather and water conditions are good. If the weather looks unfavorable, it’s best to take a raincheck on your boat day. Similarly, choppy waters can make for a bumpy ride – especially if you have a smaller boat. In that case, consider waiting until the waters have calmed down.
  • Check the tides. It’s a good idea to plan your maritime excursion around the tides, especially if you intend to ride up rivers or through waters that can become dangerously shallow at low tide.
  • Life jackets are essential. Life jackets are the single most important thing to have on your boat, so make sure your vessel is equipped with enough Coast Guard-approved life jackets for you and each of your passengers. Don’t forget to consider different sizes for children vs. adults. Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, and New Jersey all have their own life jacket laws. In the states that don’t have specific requirements, the U.S. Coast Guard requires children less than 13 years of age to wear approved life jackets. You can learn more about your state’s life jacket requirements here.
  • Have the right equipment. Make sure your boat is stocked with the right equipment before heading out. The U.S. Coast Guard created a helpful guide that outlines federal requirements for recreational boats. You can download the guide
  • Pack enough food and water. Whether you’re going out for a quick joy ride or spending a full day on the water, be sure your boat is equipped with enough water and food for you and your passengers.
  • Be smart. Whether you’ve been boating for years or are just beginning, you’ll likely be sharing waterways with drivers of all levels. To ensure your passengers’ and your own safety, always keep your vessel at an appropriate speed, steer clear of large watercraft that may be limited in their maneuvering capabilities, and pay attention to buoys and navigational beacons.
  • Consider a free Vessel Safety Check. The U.S. Coast Guard offers complimentary safety checks for personal watercraft upon request. If you don’t pass, there are no consequences. This is simply the Coast Guard’s way of making boating safer for everyone. You can request your free safety check using this form.
  • Take a boating safety course. It never hurts to brush up on boating education. There are a variety of courses available throughout the country, ranging from basic boat safety to reading the weather. The U.S. Coast Guard’s Boating Safety Division’s website has compiled a list of helpful courses. You can also check out The BoatUS Foundation for Boating Safety and Clean Water for additional course information.
  • Have a second mate. There should be at least two people on a boat that are familiar with its handling, operations and general boating safety. If the primary operator is unable to operate the vessel, it’s imperative that someone else can safely get everyone onboard back to shore.

This list is only intended as a starting point for your boating basics. For more information on boat safety, visit BoatUS.org, DiscoverBoating.com, and the U.S. Coast Guard’s Boating Safety Division

Are you affected by the Takata Airbag Recall?

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Interior view of 2 deployed airbags, view from driver's side with focus on first airbag and steering.

The largest airbag recall in US history just got a whole lot bigger as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) adds another 35-40 million Takata airbags to the list.

Though the specific vehicles included in the expansion have not yet been announced, the NHTSA will roll out its expansion in five phases, prioritizing high-risk vehicles. According to the NHTSA, risk will be determined by the age of the airbag inflators and exposure to high humidity and fluctuating high temperatures, which accelerates the degradation of the chemical propellant – the root cause of the faulty airbags.

For our Plymouth Rock customers

Recently, some car manufacturers have notified their customers that airbag replacement parts are in short supply and that repairs may take longer than expected. Those drivers waiting for repairs have been advised to rent cars while they wait. But given the recall’s latest expansion, this could mean longer wait times with rental cars.

As the Takata recall continues to unfold, the safety of our customers is our top priority. If you are a Plymouth Rock customer and your vehicle has been affected by this recall, rest assured we’ve got you protected.  As long as the recalled vehicle is out of use, your Plymouth Rock coverage will extend to your replacement rental vehicle until the necessary repairs can be completed – consider your auto insurance one less thing to worry about during this particularly stressful time. Please remember that for coverage to apply, it is important that you do not use the recalled vehicle until repairs are completed.

If you have any questions about your Plymouth Rock auto insurance policy, do not hesitate to contact your Plymouth Rock independent agent or call our Customer Solutions team. We’re here to help.

Wait. Back up. What?

In November 2014, the New York Times released an article claiming that Takata, a popular airbag manufacturer, was aware of defects with its airbags years before it filed paperwork with federal regulator. Shortly after, the NHTSA issued a national recall of defective Takata airbags, which included a range of popular car models, from BMW and Chrysler to Ford and Honda. A number of things took place in the months that followed regarding the Takata situation, including Takata’s official acknowledgement of its faulty airbags in May 2015 and the U.S. Department of Transportation imposing the largest civil penalty in NHTSA history on Takata in November 2015.

The problem

ConsumerReports.org explains the issue lies within the airbag’s inflator. The inflator is a metal cartridge loaded with propellant wafers, which has been shown to ignite improperly with explosive force. In some cases, when a cartridge ruptures, it can send metals shards flying from the airbag – an obviously dangerous outcome to those riding in the car.

To date, 10 deaths and over 100 injuries can be linked to Takata’s faulty airbags.

Have you been affected?

If you’re not sure if your car is affected by the recall, you can use your VIN to check on the NHTSA’s website, where you can also find a list of affected vehicles.

Since the NHTSA is rolling out the latest expansion of affected vehicles in phases, consider subscribing to its Recall Notification System – this way, you’ll be among the first to know if your specific car has been included in the recall.

Headquartered in Boston,Plymouth Rock Assurance is a leading auto insurance carrier in Massachusetts, Connecticut and New Hampshire. Personal auto and commercial auto policies in Massachusetts and Connecticut are underwritten by Plymouth Rock Assurance Corporation. New Hampshire auto and home policies are underwritten by Mt. Washington Assurance Corporation. Each is a member of the Plymouth Rock Group of Companies, which together write and manage over $1 billion in auto and homeowners insurance.

Grill safety is hot!

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Horizontal photo of large barbeque cooker, with lid up, on concrete outdoor patio with woods background

Even though it’s only the beginning of May, summer is on the horizon. And when I think of summer, especially here in New England, a few things come to mind. Conveniently, they all begin with “B”: beach, baseball and barbecues.

But before we get to firing up the grill in anticipation of Memorial Day Weekend cookouts, it’s a good idea to refresh ourselves with some basic safety guidelines. After all, nearly 5,700 grill fires take place on residential properties each year, and no one wants their BBQ to be remembered as the one that went up in flames.

Before you cook

  • First and foremost, any propane or charcoal grill should only be used outside
  • If last year’s drippings tray is caked with grease or fat buildup, consider replacing it. Keep the tray clean throughout the season by removing any grease/fat after each use.
  • If using a propane grill, carefully check the hoses to and from the gas tank and look for any cracks or holes. Tighten the hose if it’s loose.
  • If starting a charcoal grill, only use lighter fluid design for grilling. Do not use gasoline or other flammable liquids

 While you cook

  • Once your grill is lit, let it heat up a bit before putting any food on. If there’s lingering residue from last time, the heat will burn it off
  • If you smell gas, turn the grill off immediately
  • Use long-handed utensils to avoid burning yourself
  • Keep children away from the grill while it’s on
  • You should be able to put the flames out at a moment’s notice, so it’s a good idea to keep a fire extinguisher nearby
  • This goes without saying, but never leave your grill unattended

After cooking

  • Give the grill ample time to cool off before letting anyone near it. Even once the grill is turned off, it can still be quite hot
  • When the grill has safely cooled, scrub the grates with a wire brush to remove any cooking residue
  • If you’re using a charcoal grill, allow the ashes to cool for at least 48 hours before disposing. When disposing, wrap the ashes in tin foil and place in a non-combustible container

We’ve only covered the basics. For more information on grill safety, the National Fire Protection Association and the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association are good places to start.

Does your insurance cover you in the event of a grill fire? Learn more about homeowners insurance from Plymouth Rock and our affiliate, Bunker Hill Insurance.

Headquartered in Boston,Plymouth Rock Assurance is a leading auto insurance carrier in Massachusetts, Connecticut and New Hampshire. Personal auto and commercial auto policies in Massachusetts and Connecticut are underwritten by Plymouth Rock Assurance Corporation. New Hampshire auto and home policies are underwritten by Mt. Washington Assurance Corporation. Each is a member of the Plymouth Rock Group of Companies, which together write and manage over $1 billion in auto and homeowners insurance.