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Safety Tips

Snowmobile safety is key to snowmobiling fun

Snowmobile safety tipsAs the fall weather gets cooler and the leaves fall from the trees, I get more and more excited! This means snow will soon be here, and snowmobiling is just around the corner. It also means it’s time for my family’s snowmobiling safety checks.

Even before the snow comes, there is significant work to be done. We have to check over the snowmobiles, make sure all our gear fits: snowsuits, gloves and most importantly, helmets!

As my children grow from year to year, we buy new helmets for them to ensure they fit properly and we never snowmobile without a helmet, not even just going down the trail a little way.

My husband does a detailed inspection of our snowmobiles to make sure they work properly. These inspections include: changing the oil, checking the carbides (or blades on the bottom of the skis), making sure the track has no nicks or tears, checking the sparkplugs and making sure the snowmobile insurance is up to date.

You never know when you are going to need insurance, so making sure you have the proper coverage is very important.

A couple of years ago, my husband was in a snowmobile accident, and he wasn’t even going very fast. He was going around a corner at 20 m.p.h. when his ski caught a rock on the trail and the sled went over. Luckily, he flew one way and the sled the other.

The worst part about it was the kids and I were following him and we came around the corner to find him lying on the ground not moving. It was one of the scariest moments of my life!

He did get up and ended up hurting his knee a little, but the sled was totaled. When we calmed down a little, we called some friends to get us, then promptly called American Family’s customer service center to report the claim. Our agent called back immediately to make sure we were all OK.

An adjuster visited the dealership within a day, and we had a check within three days. My husband was back on a new sled in a week, and we were back on the trails good as new.

It’s important to prepare your snowmobiles and the riders. Go snowmobiling, but do it safely so you can enjoy the wintertime and all its beauty.

Posted by Dawn Mortimer on Tue, Oct 30 2012 12:11 pmDawn Mortimer is Innovation Director at American Family Insurance. She and her family are snowmobiling enthusiasts who love to hit the trails near their home in southwest Wisconsin.

Confessions of a safe teen driver

Signing the Teen Safe Driver Pledge carThree years ago, I was approaching my 16th birthday. I was looking forward to the freedom I was about to experience. I was finally going to be able to drive myself wherever I pleased, and I was going to do it unsupervised. Kind of.

When my birthday rolled around, I had my keys in hand and the open road in my sight. I was ready to go. But with my new car came some interesting news. Mom and Dad were ready to go, too, but with a set of rules and a contract to sign detailing the specifics of when I was allowed to have the car, how many people I could have with me, and just how grounded I would be if I broke any of their many rules.

Apparently, that wasn’t enough. They brought backup in the form of the American Family Insurance Teen Safe Driver Program.

I thought I was a relatively good driver. By that, I mean I didn’t expect to see a motion-sensor camera in my car any time soon. And that’s what most teenagers think. Research shows we are all susceptible to being more confident than we are skilled, and Teen Safe Driver was a way to fix that.

I was less thrilled than Mom and Dad seemed to be. Who wouldn’t be frustrated at the thought of having their driving monitored? The driving that I imagined being so free began to feel constrained.

I was lucky to have a car of my own in the first place, so no amount of complaining was going to prevent the installation of the device. What came as a surprise, though, was that after a few days on the road with Teen Safe Driver, the uneasy feeling slipped away. With the help of my parents, I began to see – if not a little reluctantly – that there was good in it for me; it wasn’t just for their peace of mind. It very well might have saved me money in tickets or repairs.

Along the same lines, I watched videos from other drivers who have gone through the program and I realize now it might have saved my life. Of course, my parents said that from the beginning.

What I gained from Teen Safe Driver was the valuable experience of watching my own driving with coaching from an adviser who had plenty of experience helping other teens drive better. 

We often excuse our own actions, but when you’re staring at yourself making mistakes on the road, there is no denying it. Although my driving isn’t perfect, I make better decisions while driving, like not texting or running through stop signs: Things we all see other drivers do. 

Teen Safe Driver is a powerful program, and as a graduate I think it’s great that American Family makes it easy for customers to be a part of it. Even signing the Safe Driver Pledge makes people think about their driving and provides inspiration to make changes.

With my sister just reaching driving age, I am excited to see her go through the program and see how much it helps her driving habits. If you have a teen driver at home, go check out the program!

Speaking from experience, it’s worth it.

Editor's note: During Teen Driver Safety Week, talk with your family about distracted driving and what it takes to be a better driver. If you need some motivation, get everyone to take the American Family Insurance Safe Driver Pledge. And just for taking the pledge, we’ll enter you in a drawing for one of 10 $250 gift cards.

Posted by Brent Bacus on Fri, Oct 19 2012 12:19 pmBrent Bacus is studying microbiology at Michigan State University. He was a research intern for American Family Insurance in summer 2012.

Safe driving lessons from the side of the road

Running shoesAs we mark National Teen Driver Safety Week, I’m reminded that driver education, while especially important to new drivers, is important to everyone who gets behind the wheel.

Ironically, some of my best lessons on driving have come while running.

From a pedestrian-level view of my town’s roadsides and sidewalks, I’ve received many a crash course on how not to operate a motor vehicle.

In one case, it was literally a crash course – or at least the aftermath of one – where a driver had smashed into the traffic light at the entrance to my neighborhood and then left the scene before the police arrived.

Another time, I witnessed a woman driving a minivan almost hit a pedestrian in a crosswalk. I’m fairly certain the dog on her lap didn’t help her concentration.

And then there are the cell phone users – drivers of all ages – who seem more interested in what the person on the other end of the call has to say (or text) than how the driver in front of them is turning or stopping.

Perhaps worst of all, I’ve seen my fair share of empty beer cans and bottles along the highway – especially on stretches of road outside town. I hope I’m never running alongside someone who thinks they can operate a vehicle safely after downing a 12-pack of their favorite brew.

What’s become abundantly clear as I huff and puff along miles of roadway is that good driving is about so much more than just obeying road signs and the speed limit.

Good driving is about taking responsibility when you make a mistake.

It’s about patience – even if you have to wait to talk to a friend.

It’s about leaving the driver’s seat to the driver.

It’s about never – ever – starting a car when you’re not 100 percent in control.

In a nutshell, good driving is about exercising common sense every time you get behind the wheel.

That’s a lesson we can all run with.

Editor's note: During Teen Driver Safety Week, talk with your family about distracted driving and what it takes to be a better driver. If you need some motivation, get everyone to take the American Family Insurance Safe Driver Pledge. And just for taking the pledge, we’ll enter you in a drawing for one of 10 $250 gift cards.

Posted by Paul Bauman on Tue, Oct 16 2012 12:58 pmPaul Bauman is a web experience administrator for American Family Insurance. When not developing content for the company’s websites, he enjoys sharing the running trail with his thoughts, which move at a much faster pace.
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