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Celebrating Family

Distracted Driving Is Something We Can All Live Without

Distracted drivingAmerican Family Insurance strongly encourages safe driving practices, and we want to lead by example. This spring, we’ve instituted a cell phone usage policy that basically states employees may not use a cell phone or other mobile device to perform work when operating a motor vehicle. Hands-free devices are not encouraged but allowed if for essential company business if not in violation of local laws.

I helped develop that policy after seeing compelling research that provides strong proof that the use of cell phones while driving is a significant distraction to drivers.

To be honest, I thought the few seconds it takes to text, scan a message or have a conversation on a cell phone while driving was relatively harmless. After all, I’m an experienced driver. I was capable of multitasking. I felt I was doing pretty well by limiting where and when I used my cell phone while driving.

After I read the National Safety Council (NSA) research on the hazards of a distracted brain, that all changed.

These were the top three shockers from the report:

Multitasking is a myth. Human brains do not perform two tasks at the same time. Instead, the brain switches between one task and another. Brains can do this very rapidly which leads us to erroneously believe we are doing two tasks at the same time.

The brain not only juggles tasks, it juggles focus and attention. When people attempt to perform two complex tasks at the same time such as driving and talking on a phone, the brain shifts its focus.

Reaction-time switching costs. Research studying the impact of talking on cell phones while driving has identified tangible and measurable slowed reaction times to potential hazards.

Since then, I’ve become very aware of others driving while using cell phones. They’re the ones whose speed is constantly changing, and they sometimes swerve like they’re under the influence. I can pick out these drivers about 90 percent of the time.

Those are just the talkers. People texting and driving are even scarier! All of these drivers increase the possibility of causing a severe injury to themselves and others and I don’t want to be one of them.

If this research was not enough to convince me to change my habits, the new 16-year-old driver in my household is. Setting a good example by staying off my phone is important.

So what can we do besides put policies in place? Be aware of the risk to yourself and others when you’re distracted. Put your phone on silent when driving, use a hands-free device or, if possible, just pull over off the road. If you’re really passionate, you can contact your elected officials and push them to put laws in place to ban texting and talking while driving.

I’ll be the first to admit this behavior can be hard to change. But it’s safe to say this change is a “good call.”

April is distracted driving awareness month. Join me and commit to safer driving habits - today and every day.

Posted by Bob Ness on Tue, Apr 30 2013 9:45 amBob Ness is a corporate risk and insurance administrator for American Family Insurance.

Pinterest is the place to explore, create and share dreams

Dream room makeover Pinterest sweepstakesI’ve heard the saying a million times. “It’s not the house that makes the home. It’s the love and family inside.”

I truly believe it and live by this philosophy every day. But I’d be fooling myself if I said I didn’t like to dream of awesome things, like a pool for the family, or a bigger closet for my home.

Last year I discovered a girls’ dream: A digital, magazine-like website called Pinterest.  It’s full of endless home ideas. Just like 25 million others who use it, Pinterest is a one-stop shop for discovering and organizing everything I love, and dream about.

I quickly had a dream home created virtually on my own Pinterest page. From pets to recipes, hairstyles to inspirational quotes, Pinterest is a popular place for dreamers to organize everything their hearts desire. Never has it been so easy to browse and collect photos of our dream dinners, family photos or even gardening ideas – all in one place.

These Pinterest dreams inspired American Family Insurance to partner with Better Homes and Gardens for a Dream Room Makeover sweepstakes. What better place to gather decorating and remodeling images for your very own makeover!

Pinterest logoWhether it’s a single-family home, apartment or condo, many Pinterest users already create and pin their dream room ideas on boards dedicated to their homes. Asking them to pin images from Better Homes and Gardens for a chance to win $5,000 is a win-win scenario. They get beautiful ideas for their dream rooms, and American Family provides a chance to make those ideas come to life.

As community manager for American Family’s Pinterest page, I try to imagine what people living out their dreams in a dream home may want from an insurance company. Quite simply, we want to make sure their dreams are protected. So, we share timely safety tips for homeowners and renters on Pinterest.

For example, we’ve pinned information on protecting your home from spring flooding. Take it from someone who lived in a home damaged by water, these tips are worth pinning. As part of our Pinterest sweepstakes, sharing and pinning American Family’s home-related safety tips can earn you two additional entries. (Check out the official rules for details.)

Every day, Pinterest brings to life ideas to inspire my dreams. I love to think about what I would do in my home by browsing through these beautiful images. I also look for practical tips to make my home safe and secure, whether it’s a dream home I hope to have some day, or the one I’m living in today.

So, if you love to dream and have an ultimate dream home in mind, click here to pin your Dream Room Makeover on your Pinterest board. It could win you $5,000 toward making those dreams a reality.

Posted by Lisa Ott on Fri, Apr 26 2013 7:03 amLisa Ott is a social media specialist and Pinterest community manager for American Family Insurance.

‘Tough Decision’ on Teen Safe Driver Program Keeps Teen Safe, Sets Good Example for Friends

Teen Safe Driver programHaving a new teen driver in the family can be frightening. Statistically, one in six teens is involved in a car crash within the first year of driving.

When my son got his driver’s license, he was great about putting on his seatbelt. Unfortunately, his passengers weren’t always so responsible. After we began using the Teen Safe Driver program, we caught this kind of behavior, and as a family we talked about how it’s important it is for everyone in a vehicle to be properly restrained.

Sometimes teenagers don’t want to point out such shortcomings to their friends. But with a camera in the car, our son could now let his passengers know they’d be "caught" if they didn’t buckle up. After a discussion on this topic, we never observed un-belted passengers again.

The decision to participate in American Family Insurance'sTeen Safe Driver program was not easy. Our son protested at first. After all, none of his friends had this technology in their cars. If they had, it would have made things a little easier.

Clearly, though, some of his friends would have benefited greatly from the program. On multiple occasions, I’d observed their bad teen driving habits. Our son even commented that some of his friends have been in accidents and received tickets. He’s now 23 years old and is still accident free.

I challenge parents in similar circumstances to find others within their circle of friends to enroll in the Teen Safe Driver program together. That way, not all the pressure is on one parent or teen driver.

Teen Safe Driver logoIt was tough to be the only "bad" parents, but we understood the importance of learning good driving habits early, so we focused on this goal. We stayed tough and told our son that driving is a privilege and not a right. We are assuming the risk by signing for him and providing the insurance, so we have the ultimate say. Plus, he is our child, we are the parents and the parents need to be the ones in charge.

Parenting isn’t always easy. Tough love is part of our job description.

Editor’s note: Tina is an American Family Insurance employee and the mother of a teenage driver who together participated in American Family’s Teen Safe Driver program. As a result, she’s seen firsthand the benefits of this innovative technology that helps monitor and record teens’ driving patterns so they can learn to improve. 

Posted by Tina Schoewe on Tue, Apr 23 2013 7:57 amTina Schoewe is casualty claims adjuster for American Family Insurance.

Although you can’t see the future, plan for it anyway

Tamera and her dadThe year was 2006. In early spring, my brother Isaiah and I had taken off to Mexico with the Azusa Pacific University "Team Luke" outreach program. Our goal while we were there was to set up mobile clinics to offer basic medical care.

After crossing the border back into California, we received a phone call from my sister informing us our dad had been diagnosed with colon cancer. The loud engine of the old Ford pickup we were driving went silent as we both sat lost in thought of the possibility that this could actually be true. How could the "Superman" in our lives possibly be susceptible to this disease? Needless to say, it was a long trip back.

Flying home the next day, we realized it was not only true but also a lot worse than we all thought. My dad was in stage four of the cancer with no hope for reversal. His options were undergo chemotherapy and live 18 months, or do nothing and live 12 months. Because he only had a short time left and because he didn’t want my 9-year old sister to see him suffer, he opted to not do chemo.

There are a few things in life a 22-year-old child should never have to do and one of those is help your mom pick out your father’s casket when he is days away from death.

Unfortunately, that was my fate. But I remember heading to the funeral home with no worry about the cost of Dad’s funeral because I knew he had life insurance. I only had to think about picking something that I knew he would love but never see.

Dad’s funeral was beautiful for a funeral. My sister sang, my brother read the eulogy and I spoke about how this Assembly of God minister was now rejoicing with his Father in heaven. How we all conjured up the strength to do these things I’ll never know. Dad was escorted to the cemetery by a line of motorcycles (one of his many ministries).

I’m telling this story to let you know that not once did my family have to worry about where the money to take care of the funeral, headstone, mortuary, cards and other expenses was going to come from. The last thing you want to worry about on such a tragic day is where you are going to find the money to take care of everything and to take care of yourself after all is said and done, while the pain of the loss is still so fresh. But Dad left us with the comfort of knowing it was all taken care of through his life insurance.

Death is not something anyone wants to think about, but we all need to. My father not only set my mom up to be financially prepared for a few years, he also instilled in his children the knowledge that we also need to plan for the future with life insurance. The beautiful thing about this story is that it is now 2013 and my mom still has life insurance money to help her. My dad showed his love to her even in death.

Life insurance is so important for everyone – young or old. How much more can you let someone know you love them by insuring their financial future? Our family has seen the full benefit of life insurance, and I hope by reading my story, many more people may be able to reap the benefits as well.

Editor’s note: Need more information about life insurance? Check out our 10 reasons to buy life insurance. Or give our Life Needs Calculator a try for help estimating the right amount of coverage to ensure your dependents are financially stable.

Posted by Tamera Sevilla on Fri, Apr 19 2013 6:20 amTamera Sevilla is an agent assistant for American Family Insurance

Empowering women through sports and education

Monica Smith with some of the children of Playa Gigante, Nicaragua.In January, I had the unique opportunity of traveling to Playa Gigante, Nicaragua, to play softball and share some life-saving cancer-detection techniques.

The trip started as an invitation to play in a softball tournament and share some softball skills and knowledge with the local women. However, members of our group from Oregon have a wide range of life experiences, and we wanted to share those as well. 

Among us was a breast cancer survivor who had also lost her mother to breast cancer. She’s a firm believer that early detection and education saved her life. As a group, we made it our mission to deliver as much information about breast cancer as we were able to. Our survivor’s doctor was even able to join us!

Monica Smith with breast cancer training sessions in Playa Gigante, NicaraguaAs a group, we went through two breast cancer training sessions to prepare for our trip. We also brought training materials to leave in the village. A group of breast cancer survivors in Salem, Ore., even made hospital gowns for us to leave at a local clinic. Not to leave softball out, we also gathered bats, balls, mitts, helmets, visors, shirts and bat bags to leave as well.

We flew into the capital city of Managua and drove two-and-a-half hours to Playa Gigante. When we got there, the women were happy to see us, and we were excited to learn from each other. We even held a breast cancer training session that afternoon! 

When our breast cancer survivor told her story, many of the women in the village were very touched. Not only was she sharing her story, but she was healthy and strong. In that area, it is uncommon for people with cancer to survive. The doctor who joined us also shared information about early detection and treatments and later helped train staff at the local clinic.  

That weekend we held a softball skills clinic for the local women and girls. On our last full day in the village, we held a tournament among four teams. The local school children cleaned up the field and the entire village came out to watch.

I’ve never experienced anything like Playa Gigante before. 

They don’t have many of the things we take for granted like electricity or running water. Many homes have dirt floors and people sleep in hammocks. Cooking is done over an open fire and animals and livestock are free range. 

I couldn’t help but notice that life is more stress-free and relaxing compared to the U.S. We have so much yet are so unappreciative as a society.

I realized our trip made a difference for the women of Playa Gigante. I don’t ever doubt the impact one person can have.

Looking back, I’m not sure if we made more of an impression on the women of Playa Gigante or the other way around. 

Posted by Monica Smith on Fri, Apr 12 2013 6:15 am
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