Insure Yourself Against Halloween Dangers

All’s fiendish and ghoulish on Halloween night,
when the streets are alive with undead fright.
From zombies to pirates to ghouls to witches,
the kids will go home to count up their riches.
Don’t be the house that gives out the raisins
or next year they’ll come with the TP a-blazin’!

It’s Halloween! The kids are jacked up on sugar. The parents are dipping into the trick-or-treater candy. And nurses, pirates, and kitty cats just got a whole lot sexier.

But Halloween isn’t all fun and games. Beneath its sugary veneer lies something sinister … MUHAHAHA!

Okay, maybe it’s not quite that grave, but Halloween dangers do exist, especially for homeowners. Take a look at some potential hazards that could be in store this All Hallows’ Eve and make sure you’re prepared before the sun goes down.

Halloween dangers

Scenario 1: Fire

You’re a Halloween purist and refuse to use LED lights in your jack-o’-lanterns. After placing the carved pumpkins in your kids’ “Tree House of Terror,” you stand back to admire the candlelight’s haunting flicker. That is, until a strong gust of autumn wind knocks the candles over and sets the tree house ablaze. Thankfully, no one’s hurt but your poor pumpkins. And, believe it or not, homeowners insurance will often pay to replace the structure.

Next year, try the flickering LED lights (no one will know).

Scenario 2: Liability

Your normally gentle dog has an irrational fear of ghosts. When a group of trick-or-treaters comes to your door, he tackles a young ghoul who ends up falling and breaking his wrist. The ghoulie’s parents are now suing you to recoup the medical costs. Thankfully, homeowners insurance can kick in to help pay for liability.

Next year, make sure your dog is safely secured in another room with lots of chew toys and perhaps a Scooby-Doo marathon (those ghosts are never real).

Scenario 3: Burglary

While you’re taking your mummy and pirate trick-or-treating, an opportunistic thief (dressed as a robber) breaks into your house and steals your laptop, silverware, and candy. Though homeowners can’t replace the Bermuda pics that were on your hard drive, it can replace your belongings.

Next year (or sooner), you may want to consider installing an alarm system — you could score a homeowners insurance discount!

Scenario 4: Vandalism

You wake up on November 1 to find your living room window shattered. Among the shards of glass is a lone red apple. Granted, you probably shouldn’t have handed out apples instead of Snickers bars. But regardless, that’s vandalism and you’re covered.

Next year, hand out candy. Just do it.

Check your homeowners coverage

By taking a few simple precautions, you can usually make it through Halloween unscathed. But nonetheless, it’s a good idea to make sure your homeowners insurance is up to date before an incident occurs. Esurance recently launched homeowners insurance in Wisconsin, with more states to come soon. And don’t worry, if we’re not in your state yet, you can still find reliable home insurance through our partner. Check out our homeowners insurance page for more info on how we can help protect your home from these and other dangers.

We hope you have a safe and happy Halloween.

Related link

Here’s one more Halloween threat worth preparing for … ZOMBIES!

Halloween Vandalism: The Worst Night of the Year

According to today’s report by the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI), drivers are twice as likely to have their vehicles vandalized on Halloween. Perhaps this Halloween vandalism is due to the influx of post-dusk activity on October 31. Or, maybe we’re more inclined to do things we wouldn’t normally do when dressed as … say, Wolverine or Walter White. But either way, with All Hallows’ Eve looming, it’s a pretty scary stat.

The HLDI study states, “Halloween had the highest average number of claims for any day of the year with 1,253.” Claims included things like slashed tires and smashed windows, totaling $1,528 on average.

While your comprehensive coverage will cover acts of vandalism (minus your deductible), no one wants to wake up to a sugar crash and a smashed windshield on November 1, so we put together a few tips for avoiding unpleasant trickery on Halloween night.

Be aware

Common sense can go a long way toward preventing most mishaps, and vandalism is no exception. Simply being aware of the fact that vandals are twice as active on Halloween puts you ahead of the game.

Park smart

If you’re going out, make sure you know the area and where it’s safe to park. If it’s an unfamiliar neighborhood, ask your hosts where it’s best to park, try to get there a little early to nab a spot close to the festivities, or consider cabbing it or taking public transit. (Probably a good idea anyway if you plan on having a brew or 2.)

If you’re staying in, parking in the garage is preferable. If that’s not possible, try to park as close to your home as you can. This can be trickier in some areas than others, but regardless, park in a well-lit area if at all possible. If you’re able to park in front of your home or in the driveway, leave the lights on outside and keep an ear out for any unfamiliar or unfriendly noises.

Deter, don’t attract

If you have an alarm in your car, this is the night to use it. If you don’t, just try not to draw extra attention to your vehicle by leaving any, ahem, “treats” in your backseat or truck bed. And for those of you who like to dress up your car for Halloween, don’t make it a target by leaving it out that way overnight. The trick is to make your vehicle invisible to the rowdies.

Cover your truck

A special note for our truck-driving friends: in addition to emptying your truck bed, be sure to lock up any tool boxes. If you have a locking cover, remember to lock it up tight. And for those who don’t have one, you may want to consider covering your bed with a tarp for the night. This could help you avoid the hassle of cleaning pumpkin guts, rotten eggs, or flour bombs from your truck before heading off to work the next day.

So remember, the key to avoiding vandalism on Halloween night is the same as it is on any other night — common sense. Think ahead and your chances of getting through without a scrape are pretty good. And if you end up with more tricks than treats (and you’re an Esurance customer), you know we have your back.

Whatever your plans are this Halloween, be safe, have fun, and please remember not to drink and drive (or vandalism will be the least of your worries).

Related links

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4 of America’s Most Haunted Houses

With the launch of our new homeowners insurance product in Wisconsin, we’re all about houses here at Esurance. And with Halloween just a few days away, our minds have turned to haunted houses.

According to an Adweek poll, 23 percent of American adults believe they’ve seen or experienced a ghost. I’m not one of them — when I stayed the night at a haunted hostel in Scotland, my companion said she saw the resident ghost at the foot of her bunk, while I slept right through it. The experience has left me curious, though. What might I have seen if I’d been awake?

Maybe someday (but definitely not on Halloween) I’ll put my clairvoyance to the test again. If I do, my best bet might be one of these seriously spook-filled haunted houses. (Warning: these tales are a bit on the grisly side.)

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Whaley House, San Diego

Long before it became famous as one of the most haunted houses in the United States, this building had an eventful history. It was built as a granary and then converted to a courthouse and gallows, where infamous thief “Yankee Jim” Robinson was hanged in 1852. Local entrepreneur Thomas Whaley, who reportedly witnessed the hanging, bought the property a few years later and built his family home and general store on the site. Soon after moving in, the Whaleys heard heavy footsteps moving around the house; they concluded these were the footfalls of Yankee Jim’s ghost.

Tragedy seemed to follow the Whaleys — they lost a daughter and son to heartbreaking circumstances, and a series of arson-set fires at the general store created financial hardship. Perhaps this is why their spirits joined Yankee Jim and continue to haunt their old home. Mr. Whaley is frequently spotted on the upper landing, dressed in a frock coat, while Mrs. Whaley often drifts through the downstairs rooms and garden. A small woman in a long, full skirt is also said to haunt the courtroom.

LaLaurie Mansion, New Orleans

New Orleans is so notoriously haunted that locals take it in stride — but the LaLaurie mansion is exceptional even by NOLA standards. In 1832, Dr. Louis LaLaurie and his wife Delphine moved into this Creole mansion, and were soon highly respected citizens, renowned for their elegant social events. However, there were whispers about Madame Delphine’s treatment of her slaves. A neighbor reportedly saw her chasing a slave girl onto the roof with a whip — the girl then fell to her death. Other slaves mysteriously disappeared. The truth came to light one night when a fire broke out at the mansion; firefighters discovered awful scenes of abuse in a locked attic room. When word of this reached the city, an angry mob gathered outside the mansion and the LaLauries fled, never to be seen again.

Stories of hauntings began almost immediately. People claimed that screams and groans came from the empty house at night, and apparitions of the slaves roamed the balconies. More recently, a hastily dug graveyard was found beneath the floorboards, dating back to the nineteenth century.

For more about “Mad” Madame LaLaurie, check out the new season of American Horror Story: Coven, with Kathy Bates in the role of Delphine.

Gardette-LaPrete House (aka “The Sultan’s Palace”), New Orleans

This French Quarter house also has a gruesome history. Purchased in the 1830s by plantation owner Jean Baptiste LaPrete, it was rented some decades later to a mysterious Turk. Claiming to be a sultan, this new tenant arrived with a full harem and held lavish, incense-scented parties behind the home’s closed doors. One night, screams were heard instead of music and laughter — the next morning, the entire household was found murdered, and the Turk had been buried alive in the courtyard. No one is sure who committed the crime — some say it was pirates who came to loot the house’s rich furnishings. Another explanation is that the Turk’s brother, an actual sultan, had his relatives killed to eliminate any claims to the sultanate.

After the slayings, passersby reported exotic music and the smell of incense wafting from the house. Others heard shrieks echoing through the rooms, and residents say the fair-haired Turk himself makes occasional, sudden appearances.

Franklin Castle, Cleveland

Called the most haunted house in Ohio, this gothic mansion certainly looks the part with its imposing façade, stone turrets, and wrought-iron trim. It was built by wealthy merchant Hannes Tiedemann in 1865 and was reportedly the site of several murders.

The castle’s history is unquestionably tragic. In the space of a few years, 3 of Teidemann’s children as well as his mother died in the house. Perhaps to take his wife’s mind off these tragedies, he began building a series of secret passageways and hidden rooms. Soon after, his wife also died, presumably of natural causes. Other deaths were more sinister, including those of Teidemann’s niece and a servant girl. Legend says he killed them both as well as his alleged mistress, though the stories were never verified.

In 1913, the house was sold to the German Socialist Party, fueling rumors of Nazi spies and machine-gun massacres. It was largely unoccupied until the 1960s, when the tales of haunting began. Owners and tenants claimed to hear organ music and babies crying, and saw ceiling lights spinning and faces in the woodwork. A woman clad in black is often spotted in a turret window; the turret room is called the “cold room” because it’s 10 degrees colder than the rest of the house. Enhancing the castle’s creepy reputation still further, in the 1970s a number of human skeletons were found in one of the secret rooms.

Do you believe in ghosts?

If you have a paranormal tale to tell, share it with us below. And if you’re more worried about your house being plagued by hail damage or burst pipes than phantoms, fear not — we’ll help make sure you’ve got the right homeowners coverage.

Distracted Driving: Is It Still a Problem?

We’ve all heard about the dangers of distracted driving. In fact, more and more states have made it illegal to text and drive. But, surprisingly, Americans are becoming less concerned about risky driving behaviors.

A recent study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety compared drivers in 2009 and 2012. Their research found that the number of drivers who consider drinking and driving a serious threat dropped from 90 percent to 69 percent. Those who find running a red light to be totally unacceptable dropped from 77 percent to 70 percent. And those who think it’s seriously risky to text or email while driving dropped from 87 to 81 percent. (More drivers also admitted to texting while driving.)

Perhaps people are becoming desensitized to these risks after hearing so much about them. But that doesn’t mean the risks have diminished. In fact, between 2009 and 2012, the number of traffic fatalities rose by an estimated 5.3 percent.

Check out the distracted driving statistics below to see just how prevalent this issue still is.

4 shocking distracted driving statistics

1. People are killed by distracted drivers

According to the CDC, 3,331 people were killed in car accidents involving a distracted driver in 2011. Distracted driving includes anything that requires you to take your eyes off the road, with one of the more prevalent examples being sending or reading a text message. It goes without saying that no text is worth risking anyone’s life.

2. Texting exponentially increases accidents

It takes 4.6 seconds on average to send or read a text — the same amount of time it takes to come to a complete stop while driving 60 mph. So it’s not surprising to hear the results of research by Virginia Tech’s Transportation Institute. According to that study, truck drivers who send or receive text messages increase their risk of an accident by 23 times. A separate study by ergonomics researchers at the University of Utah found that drivers took an average of 30 percent longer to react when texting than under normal conditions.

3. Adults are worse about texting than kids

According to an AT&T online survey, 49 percent of adults admitted to texting while driving, compared to 43 percent of teenagers. In other words, nearly half (!) of the driving population engages in this risky behavior, and it looks like adults are setting a dangerous example for teens.

4. Texting is more dangerous than drunk driving

While we’re in no way condoning drinking and driving, this might shock you: you may actually be a less capable driver when distracted than when drunk. Car and Driver magazine performed a study comparing the 2 behaviors. It tested reaction times when drivers were texting compared to when they had a blood alcohol level of .08. The average reaction times were slower when texting compared to driving under the influence. If you’re opposed to driving drunk, you should be just as outraged by distracted driving.

If you’ve become desensitized to the risks, we hope these distracted driving statistics reinvigorate your senses because no text or email is important enough to put anyone’s life in danger.

Thanks to our friends at Money Crashers for their insight!

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Your Top 4 Zombie Apocalypse Must-Haves

We spent September imagining the best ways to be prepared for any disaster … even the zombie apocalypse. And since it was National Preparedness Month, we asked you to weigh in and tell us what you’d need to survive in a world overrun by walkers.

Boy, did you have a lot to say!

Thousands (and thousands) of entries later, we’ve given away 100 emergency car kits and gained a pretty good idea of what you think are the must-haves for any emergency.

The 4 most important things to have in a zombie apocalypse

While we heard everything from ketchup to Chuck Norris, there were a handful of items that kept coming up. Here are 4 of the most sought after apocalyptic must-haves:

1.  Duct tape. Fashion a weapon, repair your shelter, or protect wounds. The uses for this sticky silver tape are endless.

2. Water filter. Bottled water is great for nonapocalyptic events like baseball games, but when you’re scavenging in the middle of nowhere, you may have to quench your thirst in that murky river. And who knows how many zombie feet have trampled through that?

3. Good company. Because escaping zombies (or fixing a flat) is far less fun when you’re on your own.

4. A plan. A crossbow and canteen are certainly handy, but unless you have a clear head and a plan for staying human, zombies will eventually get the best of you.

Esurance Zombie Sweepstakes Grand Prize Winner

Kayla W., our grand prize winner, is heading to zombie survival training in Portland, Oregon, this weekend (just in time for whatever comes lurking this Halloween).

She’ll be spending the weekend sharpening her apocalyptic survival skills and learning how to start a fire without matches, create a makeshift shelter, and of course, fight off the brain-eating undead.

The rest of you living (and hoping to stay that way) beings should be sure to check out all the entries (here, here, here, and here) to make sure you’re ready for the walking dead … or a flat tire.

Thanks for all your great suggestions, everyone!