3 Reasons Esurance Is All About Carpooling

As a direct result of our partnership with Zimride, carpoolers have saved more than a million driving miles to Esurance-sponsored events like the Sasquatch! Music Festival. We’ve also teamed up to make it easier for Esurance associates to carpool their commutes. If you’re wondering why a car insurance company would care so much about carpooling, we’re here to explain.

Here are the top 3 reasons why Esurance loves a good carpool:

1. Fewer cars, fewer crashes

This is a primary motivation for all insurance providers to rally behind the carpooling cause.

When we each take our own cars to work, we contribute to traffic jams and slightly increase our risk for a collision or mechanical breakdown. Congestion is a leading cause of accidents, and can have a maddening domino effect. All it takes is a single car hitting a guardrail during rush hour. Traffic thickens and becomes more dangerous as the car is cleared and our natural rubbernecking tendency kicks in. Prime time for fender benders.

Congestion also leads to road rage, which is another leading cause of avoidable accidents. Some of the most popular and effective carpools take place during commuting hours, and there’s no better time to take a car off the road.

We have a dream of a rush hour filled with happily chatting passengers and relaxed drivers, and Zimride’s working to turn that goal into rush-hour reality. The bottom line for Esurance as an insurance company, though, is this: Fewer cars on the road makes for safer driving. And fewer accidents lead to fewer claims — and better car insurance rates.

2. It’s green

And Esurance is reaaaaaaaaaaaaally big on green. This eco-emphasis sprouted during our dot-com roots, when we helped turn a traditionally paper-hungry industry into an electronic one. In the decade-plus since, our interest in saving trees has blossomed into numerous green partnerships and tree plantings across the country.

And encouraging our customers and associates to carpool is another way we’re able to help green the planet. Consider the eco-benefits of carpooling: If you carpool 30 miles a day with 3 other people, the shared car (let’s say it gets 25 mpg) emits 3.122 tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. That might sound like a lot, but by leaving Cliff’s Chrysler, Joe’s (classic) Scout, and Diane’s Prowler at home, the 4 of you end up saving 9.366 tons of CO2 a year.

That’s a full-grown elephant’s worth of greenhouse gas saved by a few friendly commuters.

3. It’s community

Esurance sponsors and supports community events from Tampa to Tacoma, and what better way to get to them? To make it easier for everyone to find a ride, we work with Zimride to create event-specific pages for all of our sponsored events.

Last year was a banner year for Esurance ridesharing. People who signed up to share rides to sponsored events saved 1,484,853 driving miles over the course of the year. That’s 6.21 trips to the moon, not to mention an army of greenhouse-gas elephants spared.

So there you have it. Hopefully that clarifies our car insurance company’s interest in filling seats as easily as possible. See what ride-shareable events are in the cooker and sign up for a seat by visiting the Esurance carpool page.

This post originally ran on Zimride’s blog earlier this month.

The Hotly Contested History of the Seat Belt

Schematic for the first patented American seatbelt.

In honor of the 2011 Click It or Ticket campaign (May 23–June 5), we decided to research the fascinating subject of seat belt history. As researching history on the Internet usually goes, it turned out to be quite the romp through fields of mis- and disinformation, with a measured dose of contradiction thrown in. Here’s what we’re sure is true:

1849 – seat belts make their debut (sorta)

The Internet assures us this is when Volvo offered the first car with built-in seatbelts. If true, it’s interesting that they didn’t introduce the world’s first 3-point front seat belts until 110 years later …

1885 – the first seat belt patent

Edward J. Claghorn nabs the first U.S. patent for something like a seat belt, though he himself describes it in the patent application as having nothing whatsoever to do with automobiles.

1885–1920s – cars with seat belts hit the roads

Nothing happens.

Well, that’s not entirely true. Claghorn’s invention fizzled, but cars with seat belts begin to appear. With little traffic on the roads at the time, these early seat belts undoubtedly helped keep motorists from bouncing around too much during very bumpy rides.

Later, the seat belt emerges in the worlds of flying — where it served to keep pilots in their seats during upside-down maneuvers — and racing, marking the first time racecar drivers managed to be more sane than the rest of the populace.

1930s – lap belts appear

Several U.S. physicians install lap belts (aka, 2-point seat belts) in their own cars and begin urging auto manufacturers to include them in all new cars. The auto manufacturers don’t listen until …

1950 – Nash models get the safety belt

The now-defunct manufacturer Nash includes seat belts in its Statesman and Ambassador models. The general public isn’t all that excited about the development, however, and seat belts continue to be nonstandard for decades to come.

1954 – racecar drivers love seat belt safety

The racecar-driving world continues to outpace safety boards in the Grand Prix du Sanity when the Sports Car Club of America mandates that competing drivers wear lap belts.

1955 – a seat belt committee is formed

The Society of Automotive Engineers gets wise and establishes the Motor Vehicle Seat Belt Committee.

1956 – safety restraints become optional

Volvo, Ford, and Chrysler each include and actively market seat belts as accessories or options in new models. Numerous Ford ads make their new “Lifeguard” safety features — seat belts included — a central feature. Volvo’s offering anticipates modern seat belts with a diagonal chest strap.

1958 – the 3-point belt saves lives

Volvo design engineer Nils Bohlin patents the first 3-point safety belt. In 2002, Volvo estimated that the invention had already saved over one million lives.

1959 – Volvo leads the way

Volvo makes the 3-point seat belt standard. In Sweden.

1963 – the first standard seat belts

Volvo makes the 3-point belt standard in front seats in the U.S.

1965 – Europe requires front seat belts

Front seat belts become a requirement for cars manufactured in Europe. In the U.S., an estimated 50,000 people die in car wrecks. The U.S. Senate passes a 2-year, $320 million highway beautification bill. Less than one percent of those funds go to highway safety studies.

1966 – the NHTSA is born

The U.S. Congress passes the Highway Safety Act and the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act authorizing the federal government to set and regulate motor vehicle and highway safety standards. The acts also create the National Highway Safety Bureau, now the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Resulting automobile design improvements include:

  • Head rests
  • Energy absorbing steering wheels
  • Shatter-resistant windshields
  • Mandated installation of seat belts

1966–1970 – seat belts become standard

With seat belts now present in all American-manufactured cars, seat belt advocates turn to the grim task of convincing Americans to use them. Misconceptions spread like wildfire, convincing some that seat belts will prevent them from escaping their cars underwater or in a fire, and others that it was actually safer to be thrown from a car in an accident. Others assert that drivers compensated for the increased safety by driving more recklessly.

1970 – a hotly contested year

A Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard proposes that all vehicles made after January 1, 1973, include an automatic restraint system, i.e., air bags or automatic belts. The auto industry, knowing that it would have to increase production costs to meet the new standard, balks, leading to a decade of argument and delay.

1981 – seat belt use languishes

Worn down by a decade of argument over the automatic restraint system question, the NHTSA finally withdraws their proposal. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that only 11 percent of those in cars make use of their seat belts.

1983 – new restraint systems regulation

Realizing how much money automatic safety restraint systems would save them, State Farm Insurance Company brings the NHTSA to court over the matter. State Farm wins the case and the NHTSA is ordered to write a new regulation for automatic restraint systems.

1984 – NHTSA proposes seat belt regulations

The NHTSA proposes that automatic restraint systems be required in new vehicles unless mandatory seat belt laws covered two-thirds of population by September 1989. Automakers, safety advocates, and the NHTSA join forces to encourage states’ passage of such laws.

1985 – most states warm to seat belt laws

In startling contrast to the glacial pace of earlier attempts at seat-belt reform, it takes just one year for mandatory seat belt use propositions to be introduced in all states but Idaho and Nevada.

1989 – seat belt use is mandated

By September, 34 states had established seat belt use laws.

1995 – New Hampshire lags

On December 27, Maine finally passes a mandatory seat belt use law, leaving only New Hampshire without such legislation on the books.

1997 – a big year for safety

The CDC reports that seat belt use has increased to 68 percent.

2010 – seat belt use peaks

According to the NHTSA, seat belt use reaches 85 percent, with higher numbers common in the western states.

There’s still room for safety belt improvement

New Hampshire still has no mandatory seat belt use law for adults, and 16 other states have only implemented secondary enforcement laws. In contrast to primary use laws, under which a police officer can stop and ticket a driver simply for not wearing a seat belt, secondary laws only allow for mandatory seat belt use enforcement if a driver has been stopped for some other reason. Studies have shown that primary enforcement is far more effective in improving use and lowering fatalities.

So do your part to prevent crash fatalities by strapping in every time and encouraging your friends, loved ones, coworkers — everyone! — to do the same all year round.

The physics of seat belt safety

Edmunds.com Shapes the Future of Automotive Safety

On May 24, Edmunds.com will host a one-day conference in Washington, D.C., to foster discussion and generate a valuable exchange of ideas that will shape the future of automotive safety. Here are some preliminary highlights.

New technology is “the real leap forward for safety”

NHTSA Administrator David Strickland lists some of the new car safety technologies currently under evaluation.

Cars would be safer if they were more dangerous

“I think cars would be safer if they were more dangerous because it would keep you focused. You know what I think the solution’s going to be? It’s not something that most people will like,” advises Don Norman, author of The Design of Everyday Things, Emotional Design and Living with Complexity.

Brain development science sheds light on teen driving habits

“[In the teenage brain] a combination of advanced (but not yet totally mature) reasoning and heightened sensation-seeking explains why otherwise intelligent adolescents often do things that are surprisingly foolish (like driving 100 miles an hour just to see what it feels like),” states Dr. Laurence Steinberg, the Distinguished University Professor of Psychology at Temple University and the author of You and Your Adolescent: The Essential Guide for Ages 10 to 25.

What’s more fascinating: our brains or the technology we’re adapting to?

Using video driving simulators and eye scanning technology, Bryan Reimer of MIT’s Age Lab evaluates how drivers juggle cognitive demands behind the wheel.

An expert witness speaks out

“For every case I accepted as an expert witness, I rejected 2 or 3 that had no merit whatsoever,” comments mechanical engineer and automotive expert Les Jackson.

Vehicle and roadway environments

Insurance Institute for Highway Safety President Adrian Lund calls for improvements for the driver’s environment — both in and out of the car.

To learn more about how automotive safety is gaining traction, check out
Edmunds’ Safety Conference.

5 Tips for Bike to Work Day

You may not know this, but May is National Bike Month and the 20th (this Friday) is National Bike to Work Day. But if you’re not a cycling enthusiast (or even bike confident), the idea of hopping on a small, 2-wheeled, you-powered vehicle and sailing off toward work may seem a little daunting. So we hit up our in-house cycling expert, Blair Cerny, to get a few tips for Bike to Work Day.

1. First (and most obviously) you’ll need a bicycle. If you don’t have one, see if you can borrow or rent one. Most major cities have a number of bike rental options, from tourist places that rent by the day to stands that rent by the hour. If you live in a more rural area, check with your local bike shop (chances are you have at least one). The best part about renting is that you can take Bike to Work Day for a spin (so to speak) before deciding if it’s a viable everyday option.

2. Next up, you should learn how to change a flat tire. If there’s one single piece of bicycle maintenance that everyone should know, this is it. But don’t stress … it’s pretty easy. All you need to change a flat are tire levers, a pump, and a new inner tube (make sure it’s the right size!). Trust me, if you can change the tire on your car (and, of course, you can), then you can easily change a bike tire.

3. You’re also going to need something to carry your stuff in. If you don’t have a medium-sized knapsack or backpack, it might be time to invest in one. Seriously. A backpack should give you plenty of space to hold a change of clothes, your tire repair supplies, your lunch, your laptop, and whatever else you need. (You should also throw in a stick of deodorant and maybe a hand towel, just in case you get a little sweaty.) Here’s a comprehensive packing list to get you on your way.

4. You’re almost ready to roll! All you need to do now is plot your course. Google maps has a great new feature that will show you bike-friendly routes. After you enter your starting and ending locations and get your directions, just click the little bicycle icon. (There are also buttons for taking the bus and walking!) If that’s not enough detail for you, most cities offer online and printed versions of cycling maps that show which streets have bike lanes, and even list the grades of the inclines along the way.

5. On your ride, it’s important to follow the rules of the road. Your bicycle is considered to be a vehicle under almost every vehicle code in the nation, which means you have to stop at red lights and stop signs, and signal your intentions. Ride on the right side of the road, not on the sidewalk — that’s illegal everywhere. Watch out for pedestrians and potholes, and most important, beware of people swinging their doors open to exit their parked cars.

5.5 Make sure you have a good quality lock (and know how to use it), bring some blinky lights if you’ll be riding in the dark, wear a helmet, and last but not least, HAVE FUN!

Top 5 Tips for Sharing the Road Safely with Pedestrians

The numbers for car-pedestrian collisions are sobering. From 2005 to 2009, there were 224,000 collisions involving pedestrians and single-passenger vehicles. Of those accidents, 13,193 were fatal. But even more sobering are the circumstances in which those pedestrians were hit.

Though you might imagine otherwise, the most common scenario in which a pedestrian and car collide is when a person is crossing the road and the vehicle is going straight — this is how it happens 95 percent of the time. In many of those cases (54 percent), nothing is obscuring the driver’s vision. And the driver usually fails to brake.

In fact, drivers who hit pedestrians while traveling straight hit the brakes only 13 percent of the time. And according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, fewer than 12 percent of all incidents involved a “dart-out,” i.e., someone appearing out of nowhere in the middle of the roadway.

(Click the images to enlarge.)
All frontal crashes

Fatal frontal crashes
Though the auto industry is working hard to reduce the possibility of such incidents, until such sci-fi-style technologies become standard — and even after they do — there’s the human factor to consider.

Here are the top 5 things you can do to keep pedestrians safe and your premiums down. When you’re driving, try to keep the following in mind:

1. Don’t drive distracted

The easiest thing you can do to avoid a pedestrian collision is to avoid distraction. That means putting the cell phone away and letting that call wait — yes, that goes for you Bluetooth users as well. (Studies show that even talking on a cell phone with a hands-free device affects driver response times.) It also means keeping your fiddling with the stereo to a minimum and letting that breakfast bagel wait till you’re in the office.

2. Use your turn signals

The controls are right there, next to the steering wheel. It takes no more than a flick of the wrist to turn them on. Pedestrians look for those signals just as much as your fellow drivers do. And like drivers, they rely on them to know your intentions, and when it’s safe to go.

3. Don’t California roll

Most often employed on back streets free of traffic control lights — exactly where the intrepid pedestrian is most vulnerable — this hurried driver’s tactic threatens pedestrians with much more than a gentle tap. Even at the generally slow speeds at which drivers use this technique, a collision is still going to hurt a pedestrian — and your car insurance premium.

4. Look both ways

We know your mom taught you this one: lesson number one when crossing the street. And like most things mom told you, it’s still important. Even if you’re turning onto a one-way street it pays to crane your neck right and left before you hit the gas. Doing so will ensure you see pedestrians approaching from either direction, and hopefully, avoid running them over.

5. Slow down

If you’re driving in an area with crosswalks that aren’t traffic-light-controlled, slow it down. There’s nothing more unnerving for a pedestrian than trying to cross the street as a driver approaches without visibly slowing down. Making it clear that you are slowing down is a great way to communicate that it’s safe to walk.

Keeping your fellow users of the road — pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists — in mind is the surest way to ensure safer streets and better insurance rates. So keep your eyes on the road, your right foot ready to brake, and your hands at 10 and 2 — and watch out for those on 2 legs as well as 4 wheels!