How to Prevent Flood Damage

According to, “Every year, flooding causes more than $2 billion of property damage in the U.S.” and “In a high risk area, your home has a 26% chance of being damaged by a flood during the course of a 30-year mortgage, compared to a 9% chance of fire.”  The Insurance Information Institute (or III) states: “Flood damage is excluded under standard homeowners and renters insurance policies.”  Not only that, but there is a 30 day waiting period on Flood policies before their coverage goes into effect!

Since floods and flash floods occur in all 50 states, homeowners all over the country can benefit by making sure their homes are as prepared as they can be.  Here’s some tips from HomeAdvisor on how to prevent flood damage.

If you’re in the process of pumping water out of your basement right now, these tips might be too late to prevent flood damage for you.  But if you have the time and money and want to prevent flood damage to your home in the future, read on!

Retaining Walls

Residential retaining walls are generally meant to hold soil in place and prevent erosion.  Retaining walls can also deter flood water and protect your property from flood damage if they’re properly placed and designed.  Their cost (installing a masonry retaining wall averages over $5,000) can be prohibitive for many homeowners; unless you have experienced lots of trouble with flooding, you may want to consider other options first.

Clean Your Gutters

Clean your gutters.  It’s a cheaper way to prevent water damage and flooding, and gutters can be a great benefit to your home by carrying water to an area where it will create the least damage, but only if they’re properly maintained.  Clogged gutters, however, don’t just perform poorly, but have also been linked to erosion, basement flooding, and even foundation damage.  At an average cost of $191 nationwide, having your gutters cleaned is one of the most affordable ways to reduce the risk of flood damage.

Get an Inspection

Even capable do-it-yourselfers may not have the knowledge necessary to predict how their home will perform under flood conditions.  Hire a professional to inspect your home to identify areas where water damage is likely and help you to better fortify your property.  A general home inspection averages $324.

Permeable Paving

Conventional asphalt and concrete pavement blocks water from naturally seeping into the ground.  Consider using permeable pavement, paving stones, or grass pave to counter flood damage.  If you really want to save money and reduce runoff at the same time, skip the paving all together and opt for gravel fill instead (residential asphalt paving averages $4,704; gravel fill averages less than $1,000).

Sump Pumps

Sump pumps are basically the last line of defense against excess water.  When ground water rises to a critical point, a sump pump begins to divert that water away from your home where it won’t harm your property.  While installing a sump pump is not an infallible defense against flood damage, when precipitation threatens property damage, the average investment of $866 could save you thousands!

Talk with your local Farmers Union Insurance Agent about what you can do to reduce the risk of flood damage to your home, and report any damage right away.

Thanks to company partner Foremost Insurance for contributing to the content of this blog.

Snow Shoveling Tips, Tools and Techniques

Snow shoveling can be a laborious but inevitable winter chore.  Between the snow and ice storms in the colder regions of the U.S., the responsibility to clear your sidewalk, driveway, and various other paths are on the to-do list.  Snow shoveling may seem like a no-brainer, but many people don’t complete the task as effectively or as safely as they should to reduce the risk of injury!  Take a look at the top three things to keep in mind when snow shoveling to keep paths clear and your body pain-free this winter.

What kind of shovel should I use when snow shoveling?

  • High-strength, plastic shovels are light and easy to use, so if you have snow piling up, this kind of shovel would do the job well.  However, constant scraping against sidewalks and driveways can wear out the material, and they are not particularly effective when ice is on the ground.
  • Metal shovels are heavier and more difficult to maneuver, but if you are dealing with both snow and ice, this might be a good way for you to go.  These shovels will save you a lot of time if you need to chip ice while shoveling, and have amazing durability when chosen properly.
  • Either way, make sure the shovel has a long, curved handle to reduce risk of spinal stress.  Back injuries, fractures, and heart problems related to snow shoveling cause more than 11,000 adults and children to go to the hospital every year – you don’t want to be part of that statistic!

How should I prepare my body to help ensure comfort and safety while snow shoveling?

  • Stretch your arm and leg muscles to help prevent injury from strain.
  • Dress in warm, thick layers (and don’t forget a hat!).
  • Wear boots that provide proper traction to avoid slipping.
  • Stay hydrated – grab some water every 15 minutes or so.

What form should I have when snow shoveling?

  • Push, don’t lift!  Snow can be surprisingly heavy, especially when wet.  If you only have a few inches of snow on the ground, pushing instead of lifting when snow shoveling will relieve strain on your back, shoulders and neck.
  • Do not throw snow over your back.
  • Squat by bending your knees rather than your back.
  • Remove snow by layer.  Rather than scooping one foot of snow, skim the top few inches and toss in front of you, then continue to skim until you can push the last few inches to the end of your driveway/sidewalk, etc.

First and foremost, make sure that you keep yourself safe this winter during snow shoveling!

Thanks to company partner Foremost for contributing to the content of this blog.  Find this article and more helpful tips for you and your family by checking out their blog!

Find a local Farmers Union Insurance Agent in your area by clicking HERE.  For information about the insurance services and products our Agency can provide, please visit our website.

Holiday Decoration Safety Tips for Homes and Businesses

The Holiday season is upon us, and it’s a great time for parties with family, friends and coworkers.  As the song goes, it’s time to “deck those halls and trim those trees.” But, you don’t have to be Clark Griswald and overdo your holiday decorations, which can not only be a little tacky, but it can also lead to an unsafe environment in your home or office.

Seasonal decorations, including lights, trees and wreaths can help put your home or office in the holiday spirit.  However, when not displayed properly, decorations can create safety hazards or cause fires.  According to the National Fire Protection Association, electrical distribution or lighting equipment was involved in 43 percent of home Christmas tree fires.  Between 2012-2016, home fires started by Christmas trees cost $12 million in direct property damage annually.  Two of every five (40 percent) home Christmas tree fires started in the living room, family room, or den.  Three-quarters of the fatalities and two-thirds of the associated injuries resulted from fires started in this area.

Holiday Decoration Safety Tips

By taking the proper precautions both inside and outside of your home or business, you can prevent hazards and focus on friends and family during the holidays.  Keep your employees and your family safe during the holiday season by following these holiday decoration safety tips:

  • Choose holiday decorations that are flame resistant or flame retardant
  • Hang ceiling decorations away from sprinklers and fire alarms
  • Keep lit candles away from sprinklers and fire alarms
  • Never leave a candle flame unattended
  • Refrain from placing extension cords in high-traffic areas of your workplace, or under rugs, carpets or furniture
  • Use the right ladder when hanging lights and other decorations
  • Check the ladder to make sure it is not in a broken or in a deteriorated condition as both of these factors can make working at heights even more dangerous

Holiday Light Safety Tips

  • Check your holiday lights if they are for outdoor or indoor use and use them appropriately
  • Use lights that have been tested for safety by a nationally-recognized testing laboratory, such as UL or ETL/ITSNA
  • Replace any string of lights with worn or broken cords or loose bulb connectionss
  • Read manufacturer’s instructions for number of light strands to connect
  • Use clips, not nails, to hang lights so the cords do not get damaged
  • Plug outside lighting into GFCI outlet to help prevent electric shock or electrocution
  • Always turn off holiday lights before leaving the office or home and before going to bed

Christmas Tree Safety Tips

  • Look for the “Fire Resistant” label when purchasing an artificial tree
  • Choose a live Christmas tree with fresh, green needles that do not fall off when touched
  • Place the tree at least three feet away from any heat source like fireplaces, radiators, candles, heat vents or lights
  • Position the tree away from any exits or doorways
  • Add water to the tree stand and water the tree daily
  • Remove the live tree from the office or home when it is dry as they are a fire hazard and should not be left in the home, office or garage
  • Check with your local community for Christmas tree disposal or recycling programs
  • Take down lights after the holidays to prevent breakage and keep them in good use for years to come

Holiday Entertaining Safety Tips

  • The holidays are also a time for entertaining in the office and at home.  Below are additional tips to have a safe holiday event at your home or office:
  • Keep children, pets and flammable materials away from lit candles
  • Stay in the kitchen when cooking to keep a close eye on the process and the food
  • Move items that can catch fire, such as oven mitts, wooden utensils, food wrappers, or towels away from the cooking area
  • Make sure kids stay at least three feet away from the stove and oven, hot food, and liquids
  • Set up a deep turkey deep-fryer on a flat, level surface at least 10 feet from your home or office building

Safely decorating your home or business during the holiday season requires a bit of extra time, but it is well worth the effort.  Wishing you a safe and Happy Holidays, from the Staff and Agents of Farmers Union Insurance Agency!

Thanks to company partner AmTrust contributing to the content of this blog.  You can find more safety tips for your business by visiting AmTrust’s Loss Control Department, and be sure to contact one of our friendly Agents in your area to discuss writing an AmTrust policy for your business.

Fall and Winter Energy Saving Tips from Farmers Union Insurance Agency

During the last few months of the year, energy bills can skyrocket, especially here in Minnesota.  Here are some Fall and Winter energy saving tips for you to use in your home.

These tips will help you save energy and money and stay comfortable during the cool fall and cold winter months.  Some of the tips below are free and can be used on a daily basis to increase your savings; others are simple and inexpensive actions you can take to ensure maximum savings through the winter.

If you haven’t already, do an energy audit to find out where you can save the most, and consider making a larger investment for long-term energy savings.

1.  Take advantage of heat from the sun.  

  • Open curtains on your south-facing windows during the day to allow sunlight to naturally heat your home, and close them at night to reduce the chill you may feel from cold windows.

2.  Cover drafty windows.

  • Use a heavy-duty, clear plastic sheet on a frame or tape clear plastic film to the inside of your window frames during the cold winter months.  Make sure the plastic is sealed tightly to the frame to reduce air leaks.
  • Install tight-fitting, insulated drapes or shades on windows that feel drafty after weatherizing.

3.  Adjust the temperature.

  • When you are home and awake, set your thermostat as low as is comfortable.
  • When you are asleep or out of the house, turn your thermostat back 10 to 15 degrees for eight hours and save around 10% a year on your heating and cooling bills.  A smart or programmable thermostat can make it easy to set your temperature back on a timer.
  • If you have a heat pump, maintain a moderate setting or use a programmable thermostat specially designed for use with heat pumps.

4.  Find and seal leaks.

  • Seal the air leaks around utility cut-throughs for pipes (“plumbing penetrations”), gaps around chimneys and recessed lights in insulated ceilings, and unfinished spaces behind cupboards and closets.
  • Add caulk or weatherstripping to seal air leaks around leaky doors and windows.

5.  Maintain your heating systems.

  • Schedule service for your heating system.
  • Furnaces and heat pumps: replace your filter once a month or as needed.  Find out more about maintaining furnaces or boilers and heat pumps.
  • Wood- and pellet-burning heaters: clean the flue vent regularly and clean the inside of the appliance with a wire brush periodically to ensure that your home is heater efficiently.

6.  Lower your water heating costs

  • Turn down the temperature of your water heater to the warm setting (120 degrees F).  You’ll not only save energy, you’ll avoid scalding your hands.
  • Find other strategies for energy-efficient water heating.

These Fall and Winter Energy Saving Tips were excerpted from, an office of the U.S. Department of Energy.

13 Tips for a Safe Halloween

Halloween is just a few days away, and many consumers may not realize just how frightening this night could be for their safety, property or accounts.

To help individuals, families and businesses enjoy the holiday and protect themselves against Halloween risks, here are 13 Trusted Choice®-endorsed safety tips:

  • Don’t be a scary driver.  Driver sober, slowly and even more carefully than usual on Halloween.  Watch out for children who may be running or wearing dark costumes.
  • Don’t be a scary pedestrian.  While walking, do not text or use a cell phone unless necessary – especially as pedestrian traffic and the number of children outdoors increases throughout the day and evening.
  • Hear and be heard.  Make sure cumbersome costumes or earphones don’t impair your hearing.  Alert yourself to the sounds of moving vehicles, other groups of pedestrians, bicyclists and animals.
  • Stay accident-free.  Temporarily remove or re-situate lawn furniture, decorations and any other obstacles to avoid accidents or damage.  To avoid trick-or-treater injuries on your property, ensure your home’s entry is in good condition and free of loose or broken pieces on stairwells, and that walkways are clear.
  • Prevent fires.  Place pumpkins that contain candles at a distance where curious guests can’t tip them over or accidentally ignite a costume.  Extinguish all candles before going to bed and use battery-operated lights if possible.  A variety of jack-o-lantern lights are available at most stores that sell Halloween décor.
  • Wear a safe costume.  Costumes can hide more than someone’s true identity – they may cloak potential hazards as well.  All disguises should be made from flame-resistant materials and shouldn’t contain sharp accessories.  Be sure the costume fits and isn’t too long.  Avoid masks that may obscure vision, and use hypo-allergenic makeup if possible.
  • See and be seen.  Encourage all trick-or-treaters and adult chaperones to carry a flashlight and, if possible, wear bright colors.  Apply light-reflecting material to costumes for additional safety.
  • Use power in numbers.  When traveling on foot, walk in groups, cross only at corners and crosswalks – never between parked cars – and keep to well-lit streets.
  • Fend off unwelcome guests.  Keep outdoor lights on to scare away thieves and vandals who often take advantage of a busy Halloween night to strike.
  • Keep pets safe.  Secure all pets indoors.  Warn children to stay away from animals as they go door to door.  Halloween night can be stressful, even for the friendliest creatures.  Especially keep your black pets safe indoors as they are often targeted by people who intend to do them harm on this holiday.
  • Inspect your candy.  Cavities aren’t the only candy-related risks on Halloween.  Inspect all trick-or-treats and never eat unwrapped, tampered or expired items.  Collect candy only from people you trust, and ask the local police department if it offers a candy x-ray or inspection service.  Throw away any suspicious candy.
  • Stay aware of allergies.  Offer allergen-friendly treats if possible, such as peanut- and gluten-free items, if possible.
  • Carry an umbrella.  Make sure you have homeowners or renters insurance, which can provide protection for Halloween mishaps like slips and falls, a candle that sets a costume on fire, claims of tainted candy and more.  An umbrella policy may be the best option for comprehensive coverage.  Find your local Farmers Union Insurance Agent here, or click here for a quote!

Best wishes for a safe and Happy Halloween from Farmers Union Insurance Agency!

Content excerpted from, Insight + Analysis for the Independent Agent.  Authors: Margarita Tapia is Big “I” director of public affairs. Sue Nester is Big “I” director of broadcast media.



We are seeking an Insurance Agent to join our team!

Farmers Union Insurance Agency is seeking an Insurance Agent to join our team!

Enthusiastic?  Looking for an outstanding challenge?  Then we are looking for you!

Farmers Union Insurance Agency is seeking a dynamic salesperson for a Park Rapids, MN Agent position.  This is not your ordinary insurance sales job!  If you are outgoing, relationship-driven and a top producer, then read on…

We are looking for a vibrant individual with a minimum of two (2) years of sales experience preferred.  An active Property & Casualty Insurance and/or Life and Health producer license is also preferred.  Agent must be a self-starter, competitive and able to develop relationships within your network and community.

This Agent will be responsible for expanding the company’s book of business by selling various types of insurance policies to new and existing clients.


  • Present and sell insurance policies to new and existing clients
  • Develop and calculate suitable plans based on clients’ needs
  • Resolve client inquiries and complaints
  • Expand business reach through networking techniques
  • Comply with insurance standards and regulations
  • Track and identify areas of improvement


  • Previous experience in insurance, customer service, or other related fields
  • Ability to build rapport with clients
  • Strong negotiation skills
  • Excellent written and verbal communication skills
  • Ability to prioritize and multitask


  • Unlimited income potential
  • Independent working environment
  • One-on-one training
  • Recognition and More

Please visit Farmers Union Insurance Agency‘s Careers tab on this website to upload your resume and details.

School Bus Safety Tips from Farmers Union Insurance Agency

Riding the school bus for the first time is a big step for your child. Help your kids get a gold star in school bus safety by following these tips, brought to you by Farmers Union Insurance Agency.

The Hard Facts about School Bus Safety

School buses are the safest way to get children to and from school, but injuries can occur if kids are not careful when getting on and off the school bus.

Top Tips for Riding the Bus

  1.  Walk with your kids to the bus stop and wait with them until it arrives. Make sure drivers can see the kids at your bus stop.
  2. Teach kids to stand at least three giant steps back from the curb as the bus approaches and board the bus one at a time.
  3. Teach kids to wait for the school bus to come to a complete stop before getting off and not to walk behind the bus.
  4. If your child needs to cross the street after exiting the bus, he or she should take five giant steps in front of the bus, make eye contact with the bus driver and cross when the driver indicates it’s safe to do so. Teach kids to look left, right and left again before crossing the street.
  5. Instruct younger kids to use handrails when boarding or exiting the bus. Be careful of straps or drawstrings that could get caught in the door. If your child drops something, they should tell the bus driver and make sure the bus driver is able to see them before they pick it up.
  6. Drivers should follow the speed limit and slow down in school zones and near bus stops. Remember to stay alert and look for kids who may be trying to get to or from the school bus.
  7. Slow down and stop if you’re driving near a school bus that is flashing yellow or red lights. This means the bus is either preparing to stop (yellow) or already stopped (red), and children are getting on or off.

Remember, it’s illegal in Minnesota to pass a stopped school bus. Do not drive around a bus with red lights flashing or with the stop sign out.

Learn More

Want more tips about how to keep your kids safe on or around school buses? Read more from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Check out this school bus safety tips sheet from Thanks to Safe Kids Worldwide for the content of this blog.

Farmers Union Insurance Agency – Giving Back to Our Community

At Farmers Union Insurance Agency, we believe in giving back, and strive to fulfill our slogan that we are “Trusted. Local. Committed.” Part of how we do this is by donating our time and talents, both as individuals and as a company, to worthy organizations within our community.  Our Agents and Staff are actively involved with other organizations, community events and volunteerism.

Wednesday, July 11th, 2018 was a Day of Service for the Staff and Agents of Farmers Union Insurance Agency, donating time, labor and funds to Second Harvest Heartland in Maplewood, sorting food donations destined for local food shelves throughout Minnesota.

President & General Manager Rodney Allebach and wife Linda led the team effort in the morning, sorting and packaging almost 9,000 pounds of meat.  District Manager Jared Harding, Commercial Marketing Specialist Kathleen Zehm and Agent Cary Sundlof were also part of the morning crew.

Staff and Agents of Farmers Union Insurance Agency sorting and redistributing meat donations destined for local food shelves across Minnesota.


President Rodney Allebach, District Manager Jared Harding, and Commercial Marketer Kathleen Zehm sort and redistribute meat donations. Almost 9,000 pounds of meat were sorted and packaged during the morning shift.


During the afternoon shift, Operations Manager Robin Rohde Keller, Director of Communications Emmy Frederickson, Information Specialist Emily Olson, and Accountant Tim Nummela sorted bread and bread products, accumulating 7 pallets, or 343 boxes.

Company partner MAX, MutualAid eXchange, through their Mutual Aid Ministries program, also assisted with grant money toward our cause, and funds were matched and added to by President Rodney Allebach and the Agency, providing an additional 975 meals for those in need.

Second Harvest Heartland Major Gifts Officer Anne Rodenberg accepted the monetary donation from President Rodney Allebach on behalf of the Agency, which was supplemented by a grant from company partner MAX, MutualAid eXchange through their Mutual Aid Ministries program.

Farmers Union Insurance Agency is proud to offer our time and fellowship to Second Harvest Heartland, and we look forward to future volunteer opportunities with this worthy organization!  Please consider giving back to your community by visiting their website at

Farmers Union Insurance Agency is committed to providing comprehensive, quality insurance products and service to fit the needs of your family, and being active in our communities on a local level.  We work to establish long-term relationships, placing emphasis on protecting your most important assets at home and in your business.  Our high standard of excellence is a part of our adhering to the Trusted Choice® pledge of performance.  Contact your local FUIA Agent today and see why our company stands out from the rest.

Coexisting with Bicyclists

Cycling has grown significantly in popularity over the past decade, so it’s important to review how to coexist with bicyclists safely.  Towns across the country are adding bike lanes to their roads to become more bike friendly, and more and more people are ditching their car and using a bike as their primary form of transportation.  According to USA Today, larger cities like Minneapolis have more than doubled their rate of bike commuters since 2014.

Now, with bike riding growing in popularity across the U.S., we here at Farmers Union Insurance Agency think it may be a good idea to brush up on some traffic guidelines to avoid any accidents.

When you purchase a bike, you’re likely not required to take a safety class before you ride it.  And, for drivers, the instructors touched on bike safety as part of Drivers Ed, but who remembers details from a course they took in their teens?

The point is, adults aren’t given much guidance when it comes to cyclists and cars coexisting on the roads.  The author of this original blog post from company partner Foremost Insurance did some research, because she needed a refresher herself.  Here are her tips for coexisting with bicyclists.

Safety Tips for Drivers:

  • Try to drive at least three feet or more away from a bike.
  • Try to pass on the left whenever possible.
  • Blind spots are always lurking, make sure to watch for bikes.
  • Only pass a bicyclist when your passing lane is free and clear.
  • Look in your mirror for bicyclists when you’re parking.
  • Always think of bicyclists as equals – remember, they have rights on the road, too!

Safety Tips for Bicyclists:

  • Make sure to ride with the flow of traffic.
  • Traffic signs and signals aren’t just for cars.  Stop on red to be safe.
  • Use marked bike paths or lanes if they’re available.
  • Use your arm to make turn signals and take advantage of turn lanes so cars are aware of what you’re doing.
  • Consider using a mirror to monitor the cars behind you.
  • If you’re riding at night or in a storm, make sure to use some sort of flashers.
  • Watch for parked and parking cars.
  • And most importantly: stay alert at all times.

If you’re unsure about your city’s or state’s traffic laws, it doesn’t hurt to look them up beforehand.  No matter what you drive, be sure to enjoy the roads out there safely!

Original article by Jenean Zahran, a communications specialist at company partner Foremost Insurance.  Find this and other helpful safety tips on Foremost’s Blog.

Remember to contact your local Farmers Union Insurance Agent to get a quote with Foremost Insurance and many other carriers.  Because it’s important to have a relationship with an Agent if – and when – you have a claim.

Motorcycle Safety Tips for New & Returning Riders from Farmers Union Insurance Agency

Expert Motorcycle Advice for First-Time and Returning Riders

Motorcycles are fun and fuel efficient.  That’s not news to anyone who’s ridden one.  But neither is the fact that they’re also way more dangerous than a car.  The cold reality is that motorcyclists are 30 times more likely to die in a crash than people in a car, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).  And nearly half of all motorcycle deaths are the result of single-crash vehicles.

The numbers are even scarier for older riders, who are increasingly taking up or returning to motorcycling after many years.  Because of slower reflexes, weaker eyesight, more brittle bones, and other disadvantages, riders over 60 years old are three times more likely to be hospitalized after a crash than younger riders.

Still, many enthusiasts enjoy a lifetime of riding without injury.  The key to optimizing your odds is to be prepared and avoid risks.  Keep in mind that 48% of fatalities in 2010 involved speeding, according to the IIHS, and alcohol was a factor in 42%.  Eliminate those factors and you’ve dramatically reduced your risk.

Below are some more tips, excerpted from Consumer Reports, to help you stay safe on two wheels.

1.  Don’t buy more bike than you can handle.  If you’ve been off of motorcycles for awhile, you may be surprised by the performance of today’s bikes.  Even models with small-displacement engines are notably faster and more powerful than they were 10 or 20 years ago.  Start with a bike that fits you; you should easily be able to rest both feet flat on the ground without standing on your tip toes.  Handlebars and controls should be within easy reach.  Choose a model that’s easy for you to get on and off the center stand; if it feels too heavy, it probably is.

2.  Invest in anti-lock brakes.  Now available on a wide array of models, anti-lock brakes are a proven lifesaver.  IIHS data shows that motorcycles equipped with ABS brakes are 37% less likely to be involved in a fatal crash than bikes without it.  “No matter what kind of rider you are, ABS can brake better than you,” says Bruce Biondo of the VA Dept of Motor Vehicles Motorcycle Safety Program.  The reason is simple: locking up the brakes in a panic stop robs the rider of any steering control, which can easily lead to a skid and crash and result in serious injury.  It can be especially valuable in slippery conditions.You may also be able to offset some of the cost with an insurance discount.

3.  Hone your skills.  As Honda’s Jon Seidel puts it, “There is nothing we could say or advise more than to go find a Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) riding course in your area.  That’s critical, absolutely critical.”  An MSF course or similar class can teach you the basics, as well as advanced techniques, such as how to perform evasive emergency maneuvers.  The cost ranges from free to about $350.  An approved safety course may make you eligible for an insurance discount and, in some states, to skip the road-test and/or the written test part of the licensing process.  Some motorcycle manufacturers offer a credit toward the cost of a new motorcycle or training if a rider signs up for an MSF course.  The MSF website lists about 2,700 locations for such courses around the U.S.

4.  Use your head.  Yes, helmets are an emotional topic for some riders.  But the facts show the risk.  Riders without a helmet are 40% more likely to suffer a fatal head injury in a crash and are three times more likely to suffer brain injuries, than those with helmets, according to government studies.  When Texas and Arkansas repealed their helmet laws, they saw a 31- and 21-percent increase in motorcycle fatalities, respectively.  “It is absolute insanity to repeal helmet laws,” says Orly Avitzur, M.D., a neurologist and a Consumer Reports medical adviser.  “Because helmets do save lives, it is insanity to expose the skull and the brain to potential trauma that could be prevented or at least mitigated.”  Modern helmets are strong, lightweight and comfortable, and they cut down on wind noise and fatigue.  Just bear in mind that helmets deteriorate over time, so replace accordingly.

5.  Wear the right gear.  Jeans, a T-shirt, and sandals are recipes for a painful disaster on a bike.  Instead, you want gear that will protect you from wind chill, flying bugs and debris, and, yes, lots of road rash if you should slide out.  For maximum protection, go for a leather or other reinforced jacket, gloves, full pants, and over-the-ankle footwear, even in summer.  Specially designed jackets with rugged padding and breathable mesh material provide protection as well as ventilation for riding in warm weather.  You’ll also want effective eye protection; don’t rely on eyeglasses or a bike’s windscreen.  Use a helmet visor or goggles.  And keep in mind that car drivers who have hit a motorcycle rider often say they just didn’t see them, so choose gear in bright colors.

6.  Be defensive.  A recent study by the University of South Florida’s Center for Urban Transportation Research found that in collisions involving a motorcycle and a car, car drivers were at fault 60% of the time.  So, you need to be extra alert, especially in this age of epidemic phone use and texting behind the wheel.  Keep an eye out for cars suddenly changing lanes or pulling out from side streets.  And don’t tailgate; keeping a safe following distance is critical, both to ensure you have enough stopping distance and so you have time to react to obstacles in the road.  An object that a care might easily straddle could be a serious hazard when on a bike.

7.  Avoid bad weather.  Slippery conditions reduce your margin for error.  Rain not only cuts your visibility but reduces your tires’ grip on the road, which can make cornering tricky.  If you need to ride in the rain, remember that the most dangerous time is right after precipitation begins, as the water can cause oil residue to rise to the top.  And avoid making sudden maneuvers.  Be especially gentle with the brakes, throttle, and steering to avoid sliding.  When riding in strong side winds, be proactive in anticipating the potential push from the side by moving to the side of the lane the wind is coming from.  This will give you some leeway in the land, should a gust nudge you.

8.  Watch for road hazards.  A motorcycle has less contact with the pavement than a car.  Sand, wet leaves, or pebbles can cause a bike to slide unexpectedly, easily resulting in a spill.  Bumps and potholes that you might barely notice in a car can post serious danger when on a bike.  If you can’t avoid them, slow down as much as possible before encountering them, with minimal steering input.  Railroad tracks and other hazards should be approaches as close to a right angle as possible, to reduce the chances of a skid.

9.  Be ready to roll.  Before each ride, do a quick walk-around to make sure your lights, horn, and directional signals are working properly.  Check the chain, belt, or shaft and the brakes.  And inspect the tires for wear and make sure they’re set at the proper pressure.  Motorcycle mechanics we’ve spoken with say they routinely see worn-out brakes and improperly inflated tires that greatly increase safety risks.  When tires are under-inflated, “handling gets really hard, steering gets hard, and the bike doesn’t want to lean,” says Mike Franklin, owner of Mike’s Garage in Los Angeles.

Remember, as an Independent Agency, Farmers Union Insurance Agency does business with multiple companies, giving you greater selection of coverage when seeking motorcycle insurance.  Contact a local FUIA Agent in your area today and make sure you are covered!