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Jul 23, 2014
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Farm Talk on the Front Porch

RSS By: Grinnell Mutual, AgWeb.com

You face risks as you cultivate crops and raise livestock. We’ll share tips, stories and recommendations to help you protect property and prevent costly losses on the farm. It's our Policy of Working Together®.

Teaching respect for ATVs: A role for everyone

Jul 18, 2014

"Hop on! I’ll take you there."


Whether it is crossing a ravine, climbing a hill, or traveling down a gravel road, the ATV may be the fastest way to get to a broken fence, stray livestock, or anything else that needs attention on the farm and in the field. Many farmers take the speed and convenience of ATVs for granted.

"Riders don’t give ATVs the respect they deserve," said Glenda Blumer, a farm claims manager at Grinnell Mutual. "It’s second nature to them to get on and do what needs to be done when, in fact, they need to think about the consequences."

Children account for over a third of ATV-related injuries, according to reports from the Childhood Ag Safety Network. Young, inexperienced riders are at risk of injuries or death because ATVs have high centers of gravity and can weigh 800 pounds. Parents can help prevent a tragedy by modeling good riding, talking about riding readiness, and education.

"There are two common reasons for child-ATV injuries," said Marsha Salzwedel, Agricultural Youth Safety Specialist at the National Children's Center for Rural and Agricultural Health. "First, the size of rider for the size of machine needs to be considered. No one under age 16 should be on a full size ATV.

"Second, passengers should only be allowed on ATVs that are designed to carry passengers and most are not. Even ATVs designed for passengers are not designed for small children, so ‘giving rides’ on ATVs to small children is a very dangerous practice."

Model good riding

Children learn from the actions and behaviors of their parents—both good and  bad.

"Modeling behavior is easier said than done for farmers because of routines," said Blumer. "The farmer hops on and goes to chase a cow that got out."

Wearing a helmet and using manufacturer-installed safety equipment such as seat belts are two ways older riders can lead by example and demonstrate the respect ATVs require.

One way parents and teens can discuss ATV safety is to cover the Readiness Checklist from the ATV Safety Institute, which offers a series of question for parents and children based on physical and mental development as well as decision-making skills.

If you want a teen to perform work on your farm, the North American Guidelines for Children’s Agricultural Tasks has a set of guidelines and questions for you to use to evaluate your child’s abilities. Cultivate Safety has information for hired teen workers. The ATV Safety Institute also offers riding courses.

For more information

For more tips on how to help prepare teens for success on ATVs, visit the ATV Safety Institute. For more information on how you can prevent accidents on your farm, visit Farm Talk on the Front Porch on grinnellmutual.com

Reentry motorcycle riders start on the right foot with a rider course

Jul 15, 2014

Take the memories of riding a motorcycle from your younger days. Mix in some disposable income, some new-found free time, and an opportunity to ride again. What would you call this?

"Some people call it a mid-life crisis. We like to call it reentry," said Pete terHorst, spokesperson for the American Motorcyclist Association.

Often, the reentry rider rode in their teens or twenties, stopped riding because of obligations to his or her family or career, then had motivation to return to riding. Some reentry riders stowed their motorcycles in a shed or the back of a garage. Others were drawn back to riding by family, friends, or a shiny new bike at a dealership.

Learning fundamental riding skills with people like you

"If you haven’t ridden in over a decade, I daresay you’re rusty," said terHorst. "The motorcycling community welcomes back the reentry rider with courses tailored toward these enthusiasts. We know, in many cases, that they already have a motorcycle endorsement on their license. Rider training like the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) curriculum helps them hone their skills or, if they never had the skills, to develop them properly in the first place."

In an MSF-approved course, riders learn about the fundamental skills needed for riding through a combination of classroom teaching and riding on a practice range, usually over one weekend. Riders learn key skills including accelerating, braking, cornering, shifting, and lane changes that will help them be confident, able riders on city streets and rural highways.

"Because reentry riders often take the class with people like them, people in their thirties, forties, and fifties who rode in their younger years, it’s a less threatening environment. They renew the pleasures of riding all over again," terHorst said.

Giving reentry riders tools for success

"In a reentry rider course, it’s fun to see riders have those light bulb moments out on a test range," said Matt Williams, senior claims adjuster at Grinnell Mutual. He became a riding instructor in 1999. "Some make incremental improvements in their riding, but for others, the changes are dramatic."

An additional benefit of taking a basic rider course for riders who do not have their motorcycle endorsement is that upon successful completion, participants receive a waiver from taking the state written and riding tests.

For more tips on how to enjoy motorcycling and other recreational activities safely, visit the Front Porch blog at grinnellmutual.com.

The cell phone dilemma: Three ways you can help your teen avoid distracted driving

Jul 02, 2014

"Crazy and scary." 

This is how Shannon Arendt, director of personal lines support at Grinnell Mutual Reinsurance Company, describes her feelings about her two teenaged children when they get behind the wheel to drive. Cell phones just add more anxiety. 

"I want them to have their cell phones so if they have any issues they can make a call but I don’t want them to be on their phones while they’re driving," said Arendt, who tested her teens when they first learned to drive by calling them while they were driving. "If they would happen to answer, I would remind them they should not be looking at their phones or answering them while driving.

Nearly four out of five teens own a cell phone and over one-third own a smartphone, according to research from the Pew Research Internet Project. Three-quarters of teens text and the typical teen texts 60 times a day.

"Some teens get so engaged with their smartphones they feel they can’t do anything without them, even driving,"  said Kevin Dowling, assistant vice president for direct claims at Grinnell Mutual who also has two teenage drivers.

Talk with your teens about distracted driving

The combination of inexperience and overconfidence can have serious consequences for many teen drivers. The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration estimates that 16 percent of all distracted driving crashes involve drivers under 20. In addition, teenage drivers have the highest proportion of fatal crashes tied to distracted driving.Inexperience causes three-quarters of serious accidents for teens, according to analysis by The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia Research Institute.

Grinnell Mutual recommends the following to help prevent crashes and help your teens be better, safer drivers:

1. Model good driving. 

Children imitate their parents, even at the earliest ages. With this in mind, the National Safety Council recommends setting a good example for your children whenever you are behind the wheel. Model good driving behaviors such as using turn signals, wearing seat belts, and avoiding distractions.

"It’s so easy for a parent to answer that phone when they are going down the road," said Arendt. "Your kids will think that is okay, too. The good things or the bad things, kids do pick up on them."

2. Discuss driving expectations. 

The National Safety Council (NSC) recommends setting expectations for your teens about distracted driving. As they meet expectations, reward them with new privileges. The NSC’s Parent-Teen Driving Agreement is one tool you and your teens can use to have conversations about expectations and rewards.

"When my teens were first learning to drive at 14, their eyes were focused on the road. I helped them with the things they may not see on their own," said Arendt. "Now I remind my teens to pay attention because you don’t always know what’s going to happen. Even though you drive the same road, it is different every day."

3. Practice driving with them. 

Practicing driving is a skill many teens value, yet research National Young Driver Survey reveals that only 15 percent of teens consider their peers to be inexperienced. By riding with your teen, you may help them gain the experience and confidence they need in a variety of driving situations. Many states also require supervised driving time as part of a graduated driver’s license (GDL). (View your state’s license requirements.)

Lessons for the road, lessons for life

The lessons parents teach in the car about distracted driving can also be lessons for life. 

"As a parent, I give our children positive affirmation about their driving abilities, while helping them understand the numerous risks," said Dowling. "To be successful at whatever you do, there is often an element of avoiding the distractions. As parents, we have to help them identify those distractions and help guide them, especially when it comes to driving." 


Boating under the influence: Stay dry when you are on the water

Jun 27, 2014

Alcohol use is the primary contributing factor in recreational boater deaths, according to data compiled by the U.S. Coast Guard. Alcohol can impair a boater’s judgment, balance, vision, and reaction time. The sun, wind, noise, vibration, and motion intensify the effects of alcohol.

Whether paddling a canoe on a creek or piloting a pontoon boat on a lake, Grinnell Mutual recommends that boaters enjoy the pleasures of boating responsibly.

"There is a misconception that you can drink on the water without consequences," said Larry Gallagher, director of corporate loss control at Grinnell Mutual. "Excessive alcohol and boating do not mix. Boaters should consider the safety of those in their boats and the other boats near them."

Boating while intoxicated is against the law

boatingOperating a boat with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08 or higher is against federal law and most state laws. Boating under the influence (BUI) laws pertain to all vessels, from canoes to motorboats and pontoons. 

"Drunk boating and boating under the influence is more than a careless choice made by a few isolated boaters. Adults and children are killed every year in accidents on the water caused by boaters who were operating under the influence of drugs or alcohol," said John Fetterman, spokesperson for Operation Dry Water, a national campaign to build awareness for safe boating practices.

Boaters should also be aware of those who share the water with them. Be prepared with proper safety equipment, including life jackets for each passenger on board.

"We don’t always know how much alcohol the other boaters on the lake have consumed," said Gallagher, who is also a boat owner. "An intoxicated boater might panic or oversteer, react inappropriately, and cause an accident."

For more information

For more information about safe boating, visit Operation Dry Water, a joint program of the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators and the U.S. Coast Guard, at operationdrywater.org.


Dress for success when you ride to work on a motorcycle

Jun 16, 2014

Many people think of motorcycles as mere recreational vehicles, but for many of the 8.5 million Americans who own motorcycles, they are also a means of transportation to and from work. On International Motorcycle & Scooter Ride to Work Day, Grinnell Mutual Reinsurance Company encourages you to dress for success when you ride by wearing gear that provides comfort and protection.

Matt Williams, senior claims adjuster at Grinnell Mutual, knows how important dressing for success on the ride can be. He walked away from a motorcycle crash in 2003.

"I slid about 100 yards down the interstate, face first with just a thin face shield protecting my face from the asphalt. My motorcycle-specific jacket was torn at the shoulder and elbow," said Williams, who has also taught motorcycle safety for more than 15 years. "My gear allowed me to walk away from the wreck."

From helmet to boots, the right gear will provide comfort and protection from abrasion, impact, and the elements.

ride to workHead and eyes

"Your helmet will be one of your most important purchases," said Imre Szauter, government affairs manager for on-highway activities for the American Motorcyclist Association. "Don’t skimp on it, but you don’t need to spend an arm and a leg to buy a good one, either. If your helmet is sized properly and has the features you’re looking for, it’s money well spent."

When selecting a helmet, visit a dealership or store and try it on. You may not know how the helmet purchased online will fit."If your helmet is uncomfortable, try a different one," said Williams. "Everybody’s head is a little different."

The American Motorcyclist Association recommends purchasing a DOT-compliant helmet because it will provide an acceptable level of protection. Replace your helmet after an impact or every three to five years. Helmets come in a variety of styles, from half helmets to a full-face helmet with a flip-up shield.  Many states require riders to wear a helmet and eyewear.

"In the Midwestern states where Grinnell Mutual insures motorcyclists, helmet laws range from no regulations to full helmets and restrictions on the kind of padding they have," said Pam Bryan, director of commercial underwriting at Grinnell Mutual. "Many states also require eye protection. A grasshopper to the eye can be devastating."

Upper body and hands

A jacket and pair of gloves should provide a balance of fit, comfort, and protection that is right for you and the length of your ride. It’s especially important to think about protecting your hands from heat loss while riding, especially in cool or wet weather.

"As the motorcycle is moving, the wind accelerates the loss of heat from the body. Your hands are often the first to get cold on a ride," said Szauter. "You don’t want to lose the mobility you have in your hands, because they help steer the bike and operate controls."

Lower body and feet

At a minimum, wear sturdy jeans or some leg protection. Boots designed for riding will be comfortable while providing foot and ankle protection.

"Jeans will not provide much protection for abrasion or impact, but they’re certainly better than shorts," said Szauter, who sometimes rides his sport touring bike to work.

Eventually, you will stop your motorcycle and put your feet on the ground. Shoes or riding boots with quality soles allow riders to plant their feet well and hold the bike upright, especially on wet or oily roads.

Enjoy the ride to work

Whether you ride to work or ride for pleasure, wearing comfortable gear that protects you will help make every ride an enjoyable one. 

"Prepare for the worst and hope for the best," said Williams. "If you’re out there in shorts, t-shirt, flip-flops, and no helmet, how have you prepared for the worst?"

For more tips on how to enjoy motorcycling and other recreational activities safely, visit the Front Porch blog at grinnellmutual.com.


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