The Perzel Agency Blog – January 2014


Jan 30 – Sidewalk Safety For All Seasons


Remember the old childhood rhyme, “Step on a crack, break your mother’s back?” Hopefully, no one will ever break anything on your sidewalk. But if you don’t maintain your sidewalk, it can become very dangerous to pedestrians — and to you.

“Anytime someone gets hurt on your property as a result of dangerous conditions present on the property, you potentially can be held negligent,” said Terry McConnell, vice president and manager of Personal Lines Underwriting at Erie Insurance.

So you need to be proactive–and vigilant. Follow these steps every season.


Once the snow and ice have finally disappeared (at last!), you might think you’re home free. But alas, the harsh winter weather can wreak havoc on concrete. In the spring, sidewalks get cracked and uneven, which can be hazardous to passersby, who could trip and fall.

It doesn’t even have to be a large change to be problematic; the Americans with Disabilities Act considers a vertical change greater than 1/4” a trip hazard.

“If it looks dangerous, then you ought to do something about it,” said Alan Pepicelli, an attorney in Meadville, Pa.

So if you notice that your formerly flat sidewalk is starting to look a little uneven, it’s probably time to repair the damage. You may be able to just seal the sidewalk and fill in some gaps, but for larger problems, you may need to call in the professionals.


You love the shade afforded by the beautiful old trees in your front yard. Unfortunately, old trees often have big roots that threaten to uproot sections of your sidewalk.

You may be able to shave down the concrete on the areas that have been lifted if the damage isn’t too severe. “But in more serious cases, you may have to remove the sidewalk, dig up and remove the tree roots, and then lay a new sidewalk,” McConnell said.


It’s important at this time of year to use the rake or leafblower to keep sidewalks clear.

“When leaves fall and they’re wet, they are a big slip-and-fall hazard,”

Don’t forget to put away your rake after clearing away the leaves and other debris. That can be a tripping hazard, too.


Clearly, ice and snow are the big hazards to monitor.

How early do you have to shovel after a freak snowstorm drops 10 inches of snow on your property overnight? That depends. Some places, such as Baltimore County in Maryland, require sidewalks to be cleared within 24 hours.

Otherwise, consider what a jury would deem reasonable precautions and do your best to address the situation as soon as possible, McConnell said. See what your neighbors are doing, too. He recommended stocking up on salt for the sidewalk before a storm hits.

When in doubt, check your city’s ordinances to find out exactly what’s required of property owners. Some ordinances just provide general guidance, but others are much more specific. Check with your homeowners’ association, too.

The bottom line: keep the sidewalks clear and in good condition. It can prevent injuries and save you money. “Liability claims against a homeowner could increase premiums,” he explained.

CONTACT: The Perzel Agency, 800-440-3480, http://www.PerzelAgency.com/

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Jan 22 – The Age Of The Brain

Three Generations of Women

How the brain reacts to distraction at different stages of life

Statistics on crashes and scientific studies of the brain present conflicting data on whether younger or older drivers are more affected by distracted driving.

The worst offenders of distracted driving, according to the NHTSA, are also youngest and the least experienced: men and women under 20. The under-20 age group had the highest proportion of distracted drivers involved in fatal crashes (16 percent), followed by drivers 20 to 29 years old (12 percent).

But when it comes to cognition, older drivers are naturally more distractible. “Internal thoughts may be particularly hard for older adults to filter, starting in middle age but increasingly after age 65. We have some evidence that auditory stimuli are hard for them, too, to tune out during visual tasks,” reports neuroscientist Dr. Cheryl Grady of the Rotman Research Institute in Toronto.

“I would advise any driver, but particularly an older one, to avoid distraction as much as possible—not using the cell phone, programming GPS systems, fiddling with the radio and CD player, and so on,” she says.

But experience may already be helping older drivers understand that, since the younger, less experienced drivers have the highest crash rates. Teens and young adults are more likely to carry their mobile devices into the car, using MP3 players and texting – which means the temptation for distraction could be more prevalent.

The solution? Stay safe at any age and keep your eyes on the road and hands on the wheel.

By Rachel Adelson


CONTACT: The Perzel Agency, 800-440-3480, http://www.PerzelAgency.com/

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Jan 20 – Are You In The Angry Zone

Angry Driver

Click Here To Take the Test – http://www.erieinsurance.com/Eriesense/issues/Fall2009/RoadRage.aspx

CONTACT: The Perzel Agency, 800-440-3480, http://www.PerzelAgency.com/

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Jan 14 – The Science Of Sorrow

Grief Stricken


New findings may help ease the grief

George A. Bonanno Professor at Columbia University

As anyone who’s experienced loss knows, it’s never easy. It’s not something for which we can always prepare. But, recent studies show that the process of coping may not be what we once thought.

George A. Bonanno, a professor of Education and Psychology at Columbia University, has been researching the science of bereavement for nearly 20 years. He believes, now, that most people know innately how to deal with loss, as part of human nature. It’s a theory that doesn’t fully agree with the typical grieving process, as we’ve come to accept it. Instead, it challenges the notion of five specific stages.

Bonanno, the author of “The Other Side of Sadness: What the New Science of Bereavement Tells Us about Life after Loss” has, with the help of his staff, interviewed thousands of people who have experienced grief. They’ve concluded the majority of survivors were more resilient than we would have imagined.

“That doesn’t mean they were not sad or disturbed by the loss,” says Bonanno. “But they didn’t experience the notion of a grieving process the way so many books suggested they should. They grieved, but the majority of people continued to function.”

The book was inspired in part by Bonanno’s own experience: he lost his father while in his early 20s. He still feels sad over the loss, but he says, “In a way, my life opened up after my father’s death.” For him, it’s normal for multiple emotions, like sadness and happiness and hope for the future, to coexist, without the need to “process” or “resolve” further.

Specifically, Bonanno explains the process of grieving, as he sees it, to be like a pendulum.

“During the first several months following loss,” he says, “the pendulum swings back and forth between sadness and happiness. At the moment of loss, a person seems to pay little attention to the world around him. He takes in his new situation and tries to imagine life without his loved one.

“As the person acclimates to changes, he feels unexpected moments of happiness, then sadness again. The pendulum finally slows and equilibrium results.”

As the pendulum swings, Bonanno recommends each person be allowed to find his or her own way to achieve balance.

“Do what feels right,” he says. “It may be going to the grave to talk or donating to a charity in your loved one’s name.”

Joining a grief support group may be right. “For some, sharing feelings of grief in a group that seeks to help us can support healing,” Bonanno says.

What’s most important is that each person has the freedom and support to heal in his or her own way, whether that’s laughing, crying, talking—or not talking—or a mixture of techniques over time.

While we can’t always protect ourselves emotionally from these occurrences, there are steps we can take to protect loved ones financially during such circumstances. Life insurance is one way.

CONTACT: The Perzel Agency, 800-440-3480, http://www.PerzelAgency.com/

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Jan 06 – Got The Winter Jitters? Learn To Roll With It

Scared Female Driver

Tires can help improve driving safety all year round

By Maureen Blaney Flietner

Today’s vehicles have flashy designs, brilliant engineering and clever gadgets—many of which help keep us safe on the road. With our eyes on all that, and our nerves stirred by snow and ice, who remembers the rolling rubber? Having the right tires can make a huge difference in driving safety.

A recent survey by the Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA) found that nearly 11 percent of vehicles had at least one bald tire. That raises the risk of a crash in inclement weather. Why? Bald tires can more easily hydroplane, or skate, on water. Start to hydroplane and you’ve lost control of your vehicle.

The RMA also discovered that 64 percent of motorists don’t know how to identify a bald tire.

Thankfully, identifying tread trouble is easy. Here’s how:

The penny test: Put a penny with Lincoln’s head upside down into the groove of the tire. If you can see all of Lincoln’s head, the tire is considered dangerous. The less of Lincoln’s head you can see, the safer you are. If you want to know when to start shopping for new tires, use a quarter instead.

Watch a video on how to measure the tread on your tires.

The wear bar test: All tires have wear bars molded into the tread, per federal regulation. When the tires are worn down, a solid bar of rubber will run across the width of the tire and will be even with the tread.

If you’ve found that it’s time to replace your worn-out tires, there’s help available to make relative comparisons. Dan Zielinski, RMA senior vice president of public affairs, says to use the Uniform Tire Quality Grading Standards ratings as part of your tire shopping experience.

The standards, which apply to tires (excluding winter/snow tires) for passenger cars, are considered just one purchasing tool. Tire manufacturers use the standards to assign “Grades” to the three Ts of a tire:

  • Treadwear. Tires are rated against a “standard” tire with a score of 100. A tire rated at 300, for example, would supposedly have tread that would last three times as long.
  • Traction. This measures the ability to stop on wet pavement under controlled conditions. Tires are rated as AA, A, B or C. AA is tops.
  • Temperature. This measures a tire’s abilities to resist generating heat and to dissipate heat at high speeds. Tires are rated at A, B or C. A is best.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) developed these standards, but DOT does not conduct the tests. Grades are assigned by tire manufacturers and are often used in the manufacturer’s marketing materials. TireRack.com provides information about the Grades that can help you understand what they mean before making a tire purchase.

If snow is your particular nemesis, take a second look at winter—we used to call them snow—tires. They’re underused, says Joe Nolan, senior vice president at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. “They can be a little noisier, but they can really help.”

The tread pattern on winter tires is more effective, and the tire composition is designed for steady temperatures below 45 degrees, says Zielinski. Other tires harden a bit at low temperatures, offering less grip and reduced traction.

Whether you live in a snow-zone or a no-snow-zone, it’s also important to keep your tires properly inflated. (Yeah, we’ve all heard it. But winter driving season’s a good time to actually do it.) Here’s what to know:

  • A visual inspection of radial tires doesn’t work. “Eyes are a poor substitute for a tire gauge,” says Zielinski. “Today’s radial tires are fairly rigid. A tire can be 50% underinflated and not look it.” An RMA survey of more than 6,300 vehicle tire pressures measured in 31 U.S. cities found only 17 percent of vehicles had four properly inflated tires.
  • Find the tire pressure number for your vehicle on the driver’s side door or in the glove compartment. It’s not the number on the tire sidewall. That’s the “maximum permissible” for that tire. The vehicle manufacturer determines the correct tire pressure for your vehicle. Why? Because proper pressure is based on vehicle design load and tire size.
  • Don’t believe that myth that under-inflating your tires will get you better traction. The idea was that the broader surface would increase traction, said Zielinski. Instead, under-inflation has the vehicle riding on the tire sidewall, not where the grip is. Traction is based on correct tire pressure.

Curious about your tires? Check their rating with the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Looking for more tips to help you make it through winter driving? Check these from the National Safety Council.

CONTACT: The Perzel Agency, 800-440-3480, http://www.PerzelAgency.com/

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Posts In January

Sidewalk Safety For All Seasons

The Age Of The Brain

Are You In The Angry Zone

The Science of Sorrow

Got The Winter Jitters? Learn To Roll With It




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