Cell Phone Users Now Cause More than 25% of Car Accidents

Although drivers are continually reminded of the dangers of cell phone usage while driving, the numbers continue to rise. Presently, more than 25% of car accidents are attributable to a driver talking and texting on the phone.

Of the 25% cell phone-associated car accidents, only 5% happen as a result of the driver texting. Most crashes involve drivers who are distracted when talking on either a hand-held phone or a hands-free model. texting_and_driving

Texas A&M along with the National Safety Council cautions drivers that talking while driving on a phone can be more hazardous than texting. Therefore, using talk-to-text applications is not going to solve the problem.

Talking on a hands-free phone isn’t any better than texting

For the majority of phone-associated tasks, physically texting takes just a bit less time over the voice-to-text way. In any case, the performance of the driver was affected nearly the same during either task.

The country’s four largest cell phone service providers joined forces and launched the first-ever advertising campaign in support of no texting while driving in early 2013. These companies included Sprint, AT&T, Verizon Wireless, and T-Mobile.

The advertising campaign, “It Can Wait,” warned consumers against wrongly using their company’s devices.

Nevertheless, use of hands-free cell phones has become a huge factor in cell phone-associated distractions among drivers. Research conducted as early as 2009 showed that the performance of drivers using a hands-free cellphone was virtually no better in terms of safety than when a hand-held model was used.

In a recent National Safety Council report, the organization compiled a list of various tasks and rated them based on the impact they had on a driver’s mental capacity, using information gathered from a cognitive study. According to the cognitive distraction scale, talking while driving on a hand-held phone revealed a workload rating of 2.45, while talking and driving while using a hands-free phone indicated a workload rating of 2.27.

Using the same scale, the speech-to-text application had a workload rating of 3.06. According to the statistics listed on the National Safety Council’s website, so far this year there have been more than 245,000 cell phone-associated car crashes.

It’s all in the reaction time

Drivers who talk on cell phones while driving will have an increased reaction time, whether they operate a hands-free or hand-held model.

Based on data from 2011, the National Safety Council teamed up with Nationwide Insurance to generate the most accurate report on the number of fatal car accidents due to cell phone usage while driving. In 2011, there were 350 fatal car accidents involving cell phones.

The 2014 National Safety Council report revealed an increase in the percentage of drivers who were seen operating hand-held devices from 0.9% (2010) to 1.3% (2011).

It’s important to note that these percentages and statistics are not completely accurate, since many drivers are unwilling to admit to talking or texting while driving.

Today, 12 states, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, and Puerto Rico have all passed laws that make talking or texting while driving illegal, as urged by the GHSA (Governors Highway Safety Association). All but five of the 43 states that banned driving and texting have actually enforced the law, which means a police officer can give a driver a ticket for texting regardless of any other potential traffic violations.


Will Your Job Be Taken Over By Technology?

Technological advances have brought us a long way, and in a world of convenience and instant benefits or rewards, society has come to expect super-human results from many services. While some jobs require humans to do them, there are many that technology has already replaced. technology1

Many more will be replaced as technology becomes increasingly more advanced and affordable to the masses.

White-collar jobs at risk for replacement

It used to be that white-collar jobs were considered some of the most stable in the country. A few decades ago, they were high-paying office jobs that only a few educated people could fill after having spent years studying business, law, administration, marketing, etc., at a university.

However, partly because recent trends in computer programming have incorporated automated processes into the workplace, to perform such tasks as analyze paperwork, check for plagiarism, and store/find files, these once-affluent jobs are disappearing at an alarming pace.

Administrative assistant, secretarial, and other “middle-class” jobs are going

Twenty years ago offices functioned largely on a ground-up promotion model. A prospective employee would begin by applying for an administrative assistant position or a secretarial position, and perhaps even a job in the mailroom, with the hope that he or she could rise through the ranks of the office to a position of significance and power.

These largely middle-class jobs guaranteed a relatively stable income while also providing on-the-job training and potential for getting ahead. But in today’s business of appointment-reminding apps, computer file storage, e-mail, and e-docs, clerical jobs are being cut by the dozens by companies who are searching for ways to save money and downsize their staff while maintaining operations.

These jobs are seen as expendable by most businesses, and will no longer provide an especially secure employment opportunity.

Tasks performed by doctors will be replaced by technology

While there’s a higher level of stability in becoming a doctor, that may not be quite as true in the future. With the increased use of sensors, scanning systems, etc., diagnostics is becoming an increasingly tech-based and tech-managed process. It’s been estimated that 80 percent of medical tasks that doctors currently perform could be taken over by technology.

This could lead to less time being spent by physicians with each patient. This will allow the doctors to see more people during a shift, and therefore it’s likely that hospitals and other medical facilities will not need to hire as many doctors.

Blue collar jobs are as stable as ever

While technology has certainly helped our society develop better and more efficient ways to build buildings, rewire homes, or fix cars, these are all very specific construction specialties that require a substantial amount of manpower.

The craftsmanship and expertise required for each of these jobs ensures that workers who hone and perfect their trade should be steadily employed for as long as buildings need to be built, cars are being driven, plumbing needs fixing, and so on.

While a computer can read a thousand-page document in a matter of minutes, it’s not able to protect a house from water damage by installing a water-powered sump pump.

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The Resurfacing of the U.S. Real Estate Market

It doesn’t seem that long ago that everyone was writing about the supposed death of the real estate market. The housing market appeared to have experienced a complete collapse; the mortgage industry attempted to stop the hemorrhaging of funds through toxic mortgage practices that produced an unprecedented number of defaulted loans.

Despite the common prediction that the industry had gone too far off of the edge for salvage, the market is currently making a powerful comeback and is approaching a stabilizing phase.

An improved scorecard

According to a scorecard produced every month by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, home sales are on a steady rise while the increase in prices has begun to slow. This creates the perfect conditions for an even better year in 2014.

According to the scorecard, foreclosures are down. In January, a total of 30,226 homes underwent foreclosure, which was down more than 40 percent from the same month in 2013. New home purchases increased in the month of January as well. Purchases of new homes rose a total of 9.6 percent.

Rise in positive equity

The scorecard also revealed that homeowners’ equity continues to grow, which confirms the predictions of Erin Carlyle of Forbes. Carlyle predicted that not only would positive equity continue to grow, but the ability of potential homeowners to obtain loans would also increase.

She asserted that the projected rate increases will cause the refinance business that many lenders are relying so heavily on right now to recede; which will force lenders to loosen restrictions for new home loans.

A rise in inventory

One of the primary indicators of a stable housing and real estate market is available inventory. When demand is up but inventory is down, the prices tend to soar. This is simply an expression of supply and demand economics.

An article in the Huffington Post suggests that the inventory will reach traditional seasonal levels. This coincides with the data released by HUD. As the inventory continues to increase and potentially reach normal seasonal levels, the rise in prices will gradually slow, which will stabilize the market and encourage more purchase activity.

If and when the increase in home values levels off, the nation is likely to experience a slight decrease in home affordability. The rate of increase should slow dramatically when the rate at which the values are rising begins to slow.

If the market continues to grow, everyone should benefit. Homeowners will certainly experience benefits as they return from beneath the water and achieve positive equity in their homes.

Home sellers should receive significantly more for their properties than they could have anticipated only a couple of years ago. Buyers will be able to find properties that increase in value, and also have a much easier time securing the necessary financing.

For major real estate brokers that handle massive volumes of transactions, such as Keller Williams, this is great news. The market is primed for some rich activity in 2014.


4 Technological Advances That Have Transformed Home Improvement

Any homeowner or Pinterest user is probably aware that there are dozens of ways, both large and small, a home or apartment can be improved or revamped. Whether you’re giving your home a makeover to add value as you prepare to sell, or you just want to create some extra comfort and luxury for yourself and your family, remodeling has never been easier.

We largely have recent technological advances to thank for this. People might not readily think about the ways technology affects various industries and their daily activities, but they’ve played an undeniable role.

Here are four pieces of technology that have helped amateur and professional home improvement wizards with their projects.

1. The iPhone

In addition to the hundreds of apps that are available to help you do your home improvement projects, the iPhone also comes standard with a built-in level. Whether you’re putting up some new shelves, trying to get a framed picture hung just right, or want to make sure the bookcase you’re building isn’t going to be crooked, iPhone users can simply use their phone. How cool is that?

2. Instant Messenger

People who are doing home improvement projects to add value to their residence can now turn to a greeter or real estate agent live on most housing websites to consult him or her about which projects will be most productivel.

You can even ask the instant messenger assistant for suggestions on where to go to finish your project on a budget.

3. Green energy power strips

Vampire energy” has been mentioned in the media a lot. This refers to power that’s drawn from your outlets by appliances and electronic devices that are plugged in, but not currently turned on.

Homeowners who want to reduce their electric bill and make their home more environmentally friendly without the hassle of installing solar panels can switch out their regular power strips for higher-tech options that will reduce the amount of power lost to vampire energy.

4. Removable adhesive

Anyone who’s ever moved into a dorm room knows about Command strips and temporary adhesive for hooks. Increasingly, removable adhesive has been incorporated into other great products that are just as useful for home improvement projects, such as picture mountings, decals, and reusable/removable dry erase message boards.

5. Motion sensor technology

Motion sensor technology is one form of technology that can be incorporated into any home to make it greener, safer, and more efficient to live in. Whether it’s seen in motion sensor faucets, or turns up in an outdoor porch light, motion sensor technology is a great way to reduce energy costs in a home or apartment complex.

Technology has been at the forefront of making home improvement projects easier and faster for decades. With today’s advances, updating the look of your home or tackling a more complex project such as making your residence more energy-efficient or increasing its market value has never been easier.


Which Weight Management App is Right for You?

Managing your weight, whether you want to lose, gain, or sustain, can be challenging. Swimwear season is just around the corner, and now it’s easier than ever to make a splash with the right weight management app.

There are a number of helpful apps available for both Android and iPhone, but how can you know which one is right for you? Luckily, the hard work has been done by other folks, and if you consult the high rankings and glowing reviews, you should know what to get.

Start with the BMI Calculator, an aptly named app that helps you keep track of your Body Mass Index (BMI). This has been a doctor-preferred method for gauging your overall health as it pertains to weight for more than 100 years.

It’s not perfect, especially for athletes, but it’s a good indication of where you fall on the spectrum and whether you should be focusing on gaining weight, losing it, or staying about the same.

An app for all bodies

My Fitness Pal is a popular website that can assist with all aspects of your health, whether you’re trying to figure out how many meals to eat per day or keep track of calories. The complementary app is also a great tool, because it enables users watch their caloric intake, and it’s very customizable.

You can choose from an existing database of 1.5 million foods or input your own. There’s a free barcode scanner and more than 150 trackable exercises to see just how many calories you’ve burned, too.

However, if you’re on Weight Watchers, getting their app is an absolute must. You’ll get access to new recipes, media reports on health and obesity, and detailed reports on exercise information to keep you on track.

The support system for Weight Watchers is incredible, and with easy social media and forum links within the app, you’ll find a stronger network than ever, right on your smartphone.

A little extra support

Are you looking for all the benefits of a personal trainer but don’t feel you have the money to pay those costly fees? Noom Weight Loss Coach is an app that lets you personalize a weight management plan and assigns daily tasks to help you get there, whether it’s reading the latest breaking health news or tackling a new exercise challenge.

You can easily log your success and steps, and it keeps you on track with reminders so you can make changes that will last over the long run. Plus, it even comes with a GPS and pedometer so you know exactly how much movement you get under your belt.

If working out is more your thing than measuring your kale salad, the 7-Min Workout might be right up your alley. You’ve heard about seven minutes in heaven? That’s exactly what your body will think happened with this quickie app that ensures you get an intense workout almost anywhere with zero equipment.

Enjoy clear directions and commands for switching it up, and you can know that you’re getting the regular cardio you need in intervals that even the busiest of professionals can handle. No matter which app you choose, whether one or all of the above, putting your health literally in your hands is a good habit not just for bikini season, but for life.


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Four Facts that Will Convince You The World Isn’t So Bad After All

More than anything else, the uncertain economy has left many people feeling pessimistic about the state of the world. The threat from Middle East terrorists also hovers in the background as another reason for negative attitudes.

While these factors look bad, an examination of the big trends in the world paints a very different picture. A glance at the actual statistics concerning key components of wellbeing provide solid evidence that people’s lives, on average, have improved in recent decades and continue to improve. Here are four areas with good news.

1. Longer Lives

It’s true that in some regions of the world, such as parts of Africa, there can be temporary declines in average life span, but the overall trend has been an increase in how long people can expect to live. Keep in mind that in many places, such as North America, there hasn’t even been any short-term setbacks. The key players in making this possible have been increasing wealth and scientific discoveries. These forces have made their way throughout the globe during the 20th century and into the 21st century. One dramatic fact that’s resulted from this spread is that the average world lifespan has grown from 47 years in 1950 to 70 years in 2011.

2. Growing Wealth

Another area where the facts don’t warrant pessimism is in the standard of living throughout the world. The spread of more democratic governments is credited by most experts to be the main driving force. Governments that have to be responsive to their people are going to be more concerned about whether they succeed or not. The single best example of this improvement is regarding what the World Bank has defined as extreme poverty; anyone making $1.25 per day or less. In 1981, 40% of the globe’s population fell into this category. By 2010, this situation only applied to 14% of people worldwide.

3. Less Violence

The mechanics behind growing wealth and health are relatively easy to understand. Another piece of good news, the decline of worldwide violence, is a bit more mysterious to figure out. It’s thought that emergency medical and policing technologies play a role. It’s also believed that higher income levels make people less likely to commit crimes. These ideas can’t explain all of it, though. Others have proposed even more unconventional theories to account for the reductions, including the removal of toxic lead from the environment.

4. Literacy

Another bit of good news is the increase in literacy worldwide. This phenomenon can be connected to improving living standards in a feedback loop. Wealthier people can better educate their children. These children then grow up and become more productive. While increases in wealth and longevity have not taken place evenly throughout the world, this is one situation where the improvements have been consistent everywhere. Globally, the rate stands at just over 84% as of 2010.


Do you feel a little better now? When you look at the right metrics, things seem to be just fine with the world. If you want to feel even better, studies have shown that donating to charities can make you feel better about life, and make you happier. Give it a try, and you might agree; the world isn’t so bad after all.


How to Hire the Right Candidate – Putting Skills In Perspective

Every employer evaluates promising job applicants on the basis of two basic skill groupings. The first is hard skills and the second is known as the soft skills.

In most cases a candidate’s hard skills have already been established by the resume. These skills are definite and reflective of the person’s experience and knowledge. Soft skills are typically tougher to determine.

The key to evaluating both hard and soft skills is to identify which ones are important to the company and what kind of employee you feel would truly be the best fit.

Hard skills

The resume may sparkle with every key word carefully positioned on the sheet like a script for a play. This can be misleading, though.

While most candidates are surely not out to mislead prospective employers, jobs are scarce. Job seekers told by experts to custom-tailor their resume to suit the details in the job description and thereby attract the most attention.

While this may not be outright lying, it can certainly misrepresent the person’s hard skills. The candidate may have dabbled in certain technical areas in college but has no practical knowledge of them. Others may have greater experience in related skills but no true knowledge about the required hard skill.

Each system and organization is different, so there’s always going to be some kind of learning curve. Although the hard skills may not match entirely, the general perception is that they can be taught.

Most systems are generally the same within a given industry. Some of the rules may differ, but the structure of the organization is similar to that of most of the others.

Soft skills

Recently, there’s been quite a focus on soft skills when it comes to hiring. Perhaps that’s because there is an abundance, and sometimes an overabundance, of people who have the necessary hard skills to choose from.

This comes with its own set of problems, though. The soft skills of a candidate may be entirely on point. The candidate is friendly, he’s social, and he seems like the kind of person that will get along with everyone.

Don’t let the charming nature of the candidate mislead you. While there are a handful of people that are genuinely outgoing in this way, the majority may just be putting on a show to compensate for their lack of ability.

The candidates know that hiring managers are focusing on the soft skills over hard skills so they shift their presentation in that direction.

The assumption that one may easily change technical skills is a lofty expectation. Simply put, the saying about old dogs and new tricks generally holds true.

The ability to learn and adapt quickly is rare but paramount. This certainly is far from a justification to focus solely on soft skills, though.

It’s important to keep in mind the goals of the company. You are going to want to hire a candidate that will get the job done, not the candidate who might turn out to be your best friend.


4 Creative Ways to Help Your Real Estate Sell Quickly

At an auction

When it comes to selling real estate, it seems like nearly every type of creative maneuver has already been executed. And while that might be true – somewhere, somehow, nearly every type of idea has been attempted once – that shouldn’t stop you from going above and beyond with your real estate listing, and being as creative as possible.

Your agent may have some unique ideas for you, but take a look around the Internet, and you’ll find all kinds of extra things you can try to help your home sell faster (or at least generate some free buzz and word of mouth marketing). Here are our favorite ways we’ve seen people taking creative action to sell their homes.

1. Arrows

It’s been rumored that directional arrows sell as much real estate as the computerized listing systems, although that claim is hard to track accurately. Whatever the truth, arrows work. Find the heaviest traveled streets and place signs in a pattern that lead people to your property. Also include a URL on the sign, for people walking past it.

2. YouTube

Video marketing is only just beginning to materialize in the real estate industry, and you can be an early innovator before it’s crowded. Online video viewership is happening at an astounding rate, so this trend is here to stay.

You could give the tour yourself and make it fun, with inside information about certain areas. And nobody can quite convey the emotion as positively as you, since you loved living there.

3. Flyers

This old-school technique is one of the most underutilized methods out there. Of course, you can’t put them in mailboxes, but there are all kinds of places around town where free flyers can be posted. Just look for them, and you’ll notice all the locations you can use to create a little extra buzz for your real estate listing.

4. Word play on the city or street

Think of how you might play on the name of your town, and what kind of promotion you might do around that. If your real estate listing is in Truckee, Calif., perhaps you could sell your old truck along with the property! The ad could say “Free truck in Truckee, first accepted offer drives away happy!” That’s the type of promotion that will stand out from the rest, and it’s such a simple idea to implement.

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