The 5 Cardinal Rules of Carpooling

Sharing a ride to work or the game can save you gas money, lower your stress (depending on who’s driving), and fight traffic congestion. Carpooling’s also one of the easiest ways to lower your carbon impact. But with transportation costs on the rise and more HOV lanes than ever before (over 1,000 miles and counting), why do most carpools break up?

With all due respect to Jerry O’Connell and Tom Arnold, even the movies and shows about ridesharing can’t seem to break through. So we decided to look into this. And the one topic most carpooling advocates shy away from is personal chemistry. Who cares about saving at the pump when Fred’s singing “Footloose” in falsetto?

As the advantages of carpooling continue to outweigh the pros of driving alone, we gathered a list of ridesharing tips to help you boost your ’pool appeal in the short- and long-term.

Buff up on current events

Catch the news or listen to AM radio before you leave. Your awareness of what’s new will come in handy during that long tunnel ride when the radio cuts out.

Discuss costs upfront

Generosity is king of the carpool lane. Make sure there’s no miscommunication regarding gas money, toll money, etc. When carpools are mutually beneficial and driving duties are split down the middle, there’s typically no need for money to exchange hands. But it never hurts to ask.

Get to know your fellow carpoolers

Ideally, carpooling is a way to meet new people and find out what you have in common with the guy in the next cubicle. It’s not always easy to be alert and friendly on a long drive, but when all else fails you can always crank up the tunes and hope you have similar tastes. Our friendly rideshare experts at Zimride call this phenomenon “to Gaga or not to Gaga.”

Cut back on cologne or perfume consumption

A little splash goes a long way. Consider your fellow riders’ proximity, and closely monitor how many windows are open. If it’s way too cold/hot for that many open windows, it may be time to recalibrate your scent’s potency.

Be on time, all the time

This one’s a no-brainer. You’ll be a welcome addition to any carpool when the driver knows you’ll be ready to go, like clockwork.

If you follow these 5 cardinal rules of carpooling etiquette, you’ll stay in demand as a noted sharer of rides. And if you have a bad day or a misstep that hurts your carpool, there are countless genuine (and funny) ways to say “I’m sorry.”

For more carpooling resources:

How Stuff Works
Mannequin Passenger (true story)
Esurance Partners with Zimride

3 Ways to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

Do you ever find yourself stuck in traffic and wonder how all that exhaust affects your health and the environment? Some of you are surrounded by thousands of vehicles on the highway every single day. So what can you do to reduce your carbon footprint?

First, understand the facts

Remember that any action that reduces climate-change pollution from driving is likely to reduce other types of auto pollution as well. According to the GHG Protocol, 19.56 pounds of CO2 are produced for each gallon of gasoline. Transportation is the fastest-growing source of U.S. greenhouse gases (GHGs), accounting for 47% of the net increase in total U.S. emissions since 1990. And the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency purports that transportation is also the largest end-use source of CO2, which is the most prevalent greenhouse gas.

Second, reduce as much as you can

Here are a few easy things you can do every day to reduce the amount of carbon emissions you produce from driving:

  • Keep your car’s maintenance schedule up-to-date to help it run more efficiently. That means replacing your air, oil, and fuel filters on schedule.
  • Have your tires properly inflated to prevent 400-700 pounds of CO2 pollution annually.
  • Drive at 60 mph or less to save fuel. Studies indicate that going over 60 mph for extended periods can reduce fuel mileage by 1-2%. By accelerating slowly and smoothly, driving the speed limit, maintaining a steady speed, and anticipating your stops and starts, you could save more than a ton of CO2 per year.

Third, offset what you can’t reduce

You’ve still got to get from one place to the next — to work, the supermarket, the dentist’s office. So while you’re reducing as much as you can, consider offsetting what you can’t. By offsetting your driving emissions, you can begin to balance your carbon footprint. If you’re really ambitious, you could even bring your entire footprint down to a net of zero. And if you do that with NativeEnergy, you also help build new renewable energy projects that support economies for communities in need.

More about NativeEnergy

Since 2000, NativeEnergy has used our distinctive Help Build model to support the construction of new wind farms, other renewable generation, and carbon reduction projects. We offer our customers carbon-solutions consulting services and carbon offsets and renewable energy credits (RECs). By helping finance construction of Native American, family farm, and community-based renewable energy and carbon reduction projects, our customers help communities in need build sustainable economies. We also have significant Native American ownership, providing tribes the ability to share in the business value we are creating.

Additional resources

NativeEnergy: How offsets work
ABC News: Reducing your carbon footprint
Wikipedia: What is a carbon offset?

How to Avoid Flood Damaged Cars

As the saying goes, April showers bring May flowers. Unfortunately, the rainfall now hitting parts of the country is more on the level of biblical deluge than nourishing spring showers. And that leads to flooded roads and potentially flood-damaged cars.

In addition to the safety hazard that driving in floods represents, owners of flood-ravaged vehicles often sell their once-soggy cars. If you’re not the ark-building type, check out the following tips on how to avoid flood driving and flood damaged cars.

Flood driving: Your car won’t always power through

Your best bet, when a local river or body of water is rising rapidly, is to stay off the roads in that area. But if you have to drive where flooding is a possibility, tune into a local broadcast for alerts on dangerous or impassable roads. In addition to chart-toppers from the 30s and 40s, you can typically find up-to-date driving news on your trusty AM dial.

Bottom line: If you hear that water’s on its way, try to get off the roads. Just 6 inches is enough to reach the bottom of most passenger cars.

Floods are unpredictable and can happen in seconds. So if you’re suddenly caught in flash flood conditions, try to avoid driving through pockets of water. Even shallow moving water can conceal missing portions of roads, bridges (really!), and other debris like tree limbs and stones.

Also, be sure to pay attention to your tires’ traction — a total loss of grip on the road could leave you at the mercy of extremely fast currents. And your local Main Street is the very last place you want to experience whitewater rafting for the first time.

If you’re driving through water and your car stalls, get out and move to higher ground immediately. Your vehicle is replaceable, after all. You and your passengers — not so much. As you exit your car, exercise extreme caution if the water is above knee-level. In faster, deeper floodwater, you could easily be overpowered by currents or injured by large moving debris.

But as with any list of bad-weather driving tips, the best advice is to stay put and wait it out.

How to spot flood-damaged cars

Even if floods aren’t a cause for concern in your area, flood-damaged cars are sometimes resold on the opposite side of the country.

Flood damage is hard to spot, and often impossible to see from the outside. While visible cosmetic damage will probably have been repaired, significant damage to the electrical and heating/cooling systems can remain hidden. Even after thorough cleaning, sensitive electronic systems can corrode and oxidize weeks or months after exposure.

In addition, mud and debris inside the engine and other mechanical systems can lead to excessive wear and early failure. That makes a flood-damaged car a classic lemon.

If you’re in the market for a used car, the only way to really know the full story is to have a qualified mechanic inspect it. You can also run a check on the car’s title history through services like CARFAX. These investigations will help ensure that the car you’re interested in isn’t a flood-damaged lemon in disguise.

Though it’s been a long, soggy winter, hang in there, rainy-weather drivers and used-car buyers. May flowers (and quality wheels) are just around the corner.

Related articles

Weather.com’s driver safety tips
Smartdriving.co.uk’s rainy-weather safety tips

The Tree-Hugger’s Guide to Car Insurance

Trees are pretty cool. They mark the seasons, provide shade and protection, beautify our communities, and purify the air we breathe. Sure, you know all that. But did you know that trees can also save you money on your car insurance? It may sound like crazy talk, but actually…it’s true.

More and more studies are indicating that trees enhance traffic safety by helping to reduce speed. Here’s how they do it:

  • Tall trees — like tall buildings — make a street feel narrower, which slows drivers down as they compensate for decreased maneuverability and line of sight.
  • Trees that are spaced close together help slow drivers by creating the perception of speed as they go by very quickly.

Reduced speed, especially in residential areas, most always results in fewer accidents. And fewer accidents, of course, means better auto insurance rates.

But that’s not the only way that trees are able to benefit urban communities.

Additional benefits of trees

In addition to helping calm traffic and reduce auto insurance rates, trees offer numerous other benefits:

  • They help reduce crime and make streets safer.
  • They help lower energy spending with their cooling shade.
  • They reduce noise and air pollution and help offset carbon emissions.

Esurance and trees: 85,429 planted

On September 24, 2005, we planted our very first tree with T.R.E.E., Inc. as part of our ongoing green initiative. Since then we’ve planted 85,428 more in urban areas from Denver to Chicago. All part of our quest to make the world a safer place to drive…and a little greener too!

Related article

Pint-sized parks make safer streets

Top 10 Most Stolen Cars

It’s recently been estimated that 2,650 cars are stolen daily in the U.S. That equals about one every 33 seconds, which means in the time it takes you to read this post, 2 cars could have been stolen (or 3, depending on your read/scan ratio). And it’s not just fancy cars being nabbed either. According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), the following were the most stolen cars in 2008:

  1. 1994 Honda Accord
  2. 1995 Honda Civic
  3. 1991 Toyota Camry
  4. 1997 Ford F-150 Pickup
  5. 2004 Dodge Ram Pickup
  6. 2000 Dodge Caravan
  7. 1996 Jeep Cherokee/Grand Cherokee
  8. 1994 Acura Integra
  9. 1999 Ford Taurus
  10. 2002 Ford Explorer

If you happen to have one of the cars listed above, however, that doesn’t mean you’re powerless against thieving scoundrels.

Here are 3 surefire tips for avoiding auto theft no matter what kind of car you drive.

  1. Don’t be a dummy — simple common sense will go a long way towards protecting you against theft. Always lock your doors (even in your own driveway), try to avoid parking in risky areas (if you’re not sure, it’s probably risky), and never leave tempting valuables in your car (if you must, at least hide them).
  2. Say yes to an aftermarket anti-theft device. From the Club to VIN etching, there are a lot of products on the market today designed specifically to prevent auto theft. Investing in just one can help make your vehicle less of a target to would-be thieves, and might also qualify you for a discount on your auto insurance.
  3. If you can’t beat ’em, track ’em. If you live in an area with high theft rates or drive a particularly theft-prone car, there are numerous tracking devices on the market that significantly increase the odds of recovering a vehicle that’s been stolen.

And of course, no matter what type of theft-prevention tactic you decide to go with, always be sure to have your vehicle fully insured to guarantee that you’re covered in case of the worst. (You must have seen that coming.)

Helpful related articles:

Auto theft, vandalism, and your auto insurance
Avoiding auto theft and insurance problems
How to prevent your car from getting stolen