Recognizing Our Veterans and Troops on Veterans Day

Today is Veterans Day. A time to remember and celebrate the brave men and women who’ve fought for our country. And a time to thank the nearly 1.5 million troops who are currently serving at home and abroad.

Originally known as Armistice Day, the holiday began with a truce between the Allied nations and Germany on November 11, 1918. One year later, President Wilson commemorated Armistice Day, which finally became a national holiday in 1938. Then, in 1954, the name was changed to Veterans Day to include all veterans.

At Esurance, we work hard every day to show our support of troops and veterans in the community as well as the workplace.

Customers on active duty

One way Esurance thanks our customers in the military is by making it easier for them to take care of their car insurance. Generally, if you cancel your policy, a lapse in coverage will cost you the next time you purchase a policy. (Car insurance companies consider drivers who go without coverage to be a higher risk than those who remain continuously insured.)

If you’re an active member of the military who’s deployed abroad, however, Esurance won’t count your time away as a gap in insurance coverage. Just let us know ahead of time when you’re being deployed and we’ll take care of canceling your policy. We’ll even waive any cancellation fees. Then, when you return home, we’ll reinstate your policy without any penalties.

And if you transfer to a base in another city or state, we’ll help you update your policy in a snap. If you’re reassigned to a state where we don’t currently offer car insurance, we can help you find a new policy with a reliable company.

Veterans in the workplace

Who better to understand our customers in the military than veterans themselves? Esurance proudly employs military vets and is dedicated to supporting veterans’ issues both in and out of the workplace.

Because veterans often encounter a unique set of challenges upon returning to civilian life, we developed the Esurance Veterans Engagement Team and Supporters (EVETS), which serves as a valuable support system for our veterans and their loved ones. EVETS also works to create career development opportunities for former military personnel and promote awareness of veterans’ issues and concerns.

This year, each of our offices will recognize Veterans Day with special activities that honor our vets. Some offices are holding breakfasts where current and former military personnel are invited to wear their uniforms or military insignia. Other offices are creating bulletin boards that showcase our veterans’ military pictures and stories.

Of course, these are just tokens of the deep respect and appreciation we feel. To all the men and women who’ve served and continue to serve our country, we salute you.


Find out a little more about EVETS

Stopping Distance: Is the 3-Second Rule Wrong?

Most automakers tout their cars’ ability to go from 0 to 60 in X seconds flat. The Bugatti Veyron, for example, can hit 60 mph in 2.4 seconds, making it one of the fastest cars in the world. While all that torque, muscle, and power may be impressive to some, at Esurance we’re more concerned with a car’s ability to stop on a dime.

After all, when it comes to avoiding a car accident and staying safe on the road, it’s the stopping power that can make a difference between a near miss and an oh-no!

So what does stopping power depend on? And how long does it take to go from 60 to 0?

Stopping distance: how long it takes to go from 60 to 0

For the average car with reasonably good tires, here’s how it breaks down:


In normal driving conditions, it takes roughly 4.6 seconds — also the time needed to read or send a text — to stop safely. And that means if you’re texting while you drive (not good!), you could very easily collide with the car in front of you.

Add rain or snow to the mix and you need even more cushion because wet surfaces reduce friction, making it hard for your tires to grip and slow down.

The physics behind stopping distance

I’m not a physicist. But I happen to know someone with a master’s degree in mechanical engineering (who, coincidentally, now calculates risk as a homeowners actuary at Esurance).

According to Joe F., coming to a complete stop from 60 mph requires turning kinetic energy (or the energy of motion) into heat through friction. For a car, this involves brakes transmitting stopping force to your tires, which then grip to the road to slow you down until you come to dead halt. So, whether you drive a Bugatti or a Buick, the physics of deceleration is the same.

But coming to a full stop doesn’t just depend on the laws of physics. It also depends on your car’s brakes and tires. And, of course, the condition of the road and your ability to react play a role as well.

The 3-second rule: Is it unsafe?

Given that it takes more than 4 seconds to stop safely at highway speeds, does following the 3-second rule actually put you at risk? It would seem so.

To be safe, AAA recommends that you give yourself a cushion of 4 or more seconds when driving at freeway speeds. Of course, when the roads are slick with rain or slushy with snow, give yourself a cushion of 6 or more seconds.

Related link

Following too closely: a common reason to get pulled over

Best Booster Seats: See Which Models Top the List

Car booster seats are getting better and better, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). They’ve just released their 2013 booster seat ratings, and of the 31 new models they tested, 19 earned the top rating of BEST BET.

Booster seats have been shown to lower the risk of serious injury among 4- to 8-year-old passengers by 45 percent. But the effectiveness of a booster depends on how well the lap and shoulder belts fit. Some models only work well in certain types of cars or depend on the size of the child — and the popularity and price of a booster don’t necessarily match its rating.

Why are booster seats necessary?

Booster seats are an important intermediate step between forward-facing harness seats and adult seat belts. Boosters make use of the vehicle’s backseat lap and shoulder belt, but they elevate your child so the belt is positioned properly. To avoid injury, the belt should fit across the strongest parts of your child’s body (the pelvis, shoulders, and chest), rather than the abdomen, face, or neck. Improperly fitted belts can put children at risk of injuries to the spine and internal organs.

Though state laws vary, children should use booster seats until they are big enough to fit properly in an adult seat belt, with their backs flat against the seat back and their knees fully bent over the front edge of the seat. For some children, this might not happen until the age of 12.

Types of booster seats

There are 3 types of booster seats: combination, high-back, and backless. Combination (or convertible) seats can be used with either a 5-point harness or the vehicle seat belt and are ideal if your child is in a transition stage between harness and booster seats. High-back seats offer head support and protection, while backless seats do not. Backless styles are compact and lightweight, but should only be used in vehicle seats with a built-in headrest. Some seats are dual-use, meaning they can be used as either a high-back booster or a backless booster.

Best booster seats: how the ratings work

Using 4 configurations that corresponded to different vehicle types, the IIHS tested how well 3-point lap and shoulder belts fit a child-sized dummy seated in the booster. (Crash tests were not part of the evaluation.) For a correct fit, the lap belt must lie flat over the upper thighs and the shoulder belt must be snug across the middle of the shoulder. Boosters were given ratings of BEST BET, GOOD BET, Check Fit, or Not Recommended. Dual-use models were tested separately in each mode and given 2 individual ratings.

To earn a BEST BET rating, the booster must provide a correct fit for an average-sized 4- to 8- year-old child in almost any vehicle. A total of 58 boosters — new models as well as carry-overs from previous years — met these criteria, including the Britax Parkway SG (high-back mode), Evenflo Amp (backless), and Graco Affix (high-back and backless modes).

A GOOD BET booster provides the correct fit in most vehicles. 5 boosters earned this rating: the Combi Kobuk Air Thru (high-back and backless), Evenflo Symphony 65 (high-back), Ferrari Beline SP (high-back), and Maxi-Cosi Rodi (high-back).

Check Fit means that the booster fits some children well in some vehicles. Before purchasing these seats, parents are urged to test the fit with their own child and vehicle. This year, 11 seats fell into this category, notably 3 new Britax models — the Frontier 90, Pinnacle 90, and Pioneer 70.

There are 2 seats in the Not Recommended category — the Safety 1st All-in-One and Safety 1st Alpha Omega Elite. Both are 3-in-1 styles that can be used as rear-facing and forward-facing seats with harness restraints and can also be converted to boosters. But, when used as booster seats, the lap and shoulder belts are unsafely positioned too high on the abdomen and too far out on the shoulder.

The IIHS began rating boosters in 2008. Since then, the number of BEST BUY seats available has increased greatly and the number of Not Recommended seats has fallen sharply. The IIHS attributes this to manufacturers focusing on meeting the ratings criteria. This means you can find BEST BET models that are convertible, dual-use, high-back, or backless in a range of different prices.

No matter what you decide, just remember the bottom line: it’s always important to check the latest ratings before you buy. Get the full IIHS list here.

Related links

Find out about child seat safety laws, inspections, and recalls
Get the facts on 5 common car seat myths

5 Reasons to Be Thankful for Renters Insurance (Infographic)

In this season of giving thanks, we often focus our gratitude on friends, family, and health. Of course, these are invaluable riches, but I’d like to throw something else into the ring too. I’m thankful for that unassuming workhorse: renters insurance.

Don’t scoff! When you look at the facts — renters are 25 percent more likely to be victims of theft than homeowners, the average residential burglary costs about $2,185 worth in property loss, and renters coverage costs an average of $10 a month* — you might want to show your appreciation too.

Along with theft, renters insurance covers fire and severe weather (your landlord’s insurance policy will pay for damages to the building, not your personal items). And, on top of that, it has some other surprising attributes that make it a protection powerhouse.

5 little known renters insurance facts

1. It covers items both in and out of your home

Whether your stuff is swiped during a break-in or while you’re sitting at the coffee shop, you’re covered. Plus, many renters policies will pay to replace your locks after your home’s broken into or your food if it spoils during a power outage.

2. It can pay for additional living expenses

If you have to move temporarily because your place is damaged by fire or water, renters insurance can help pay for everything from the hotel room to your meals.

3. It can help you recover from identity theft

Unless you live totally off the grid, identity theft is an ever-present risk. But some renters policies will work with credit card companies, credit bureaus, and other institutions to help you recover. Even associated legal fees may be covered.

4. It can pay liability and medical costs

Say your dog chews up your friend’s shoes — renters insurance can cover the replacement costs. Or, what if your friend trips over your toddler’s toy train and breaks her ankle? Renters insurance can help pay the medical bills.

5. It can cover replacement costs

Even if your stolen or damaged items have depreciated in value since you bought them, many renters policies will give you the full amount needed to repair them or replace them with brand-new, comparable items.

1922.14 - Renters Insurance

Wondering what else renters coverage can do? Join the @WiseBread tweetchat tomorrow, November 7 at noon PT, hosted by our friends at WiseBread. These personal finance and frugal living gurus will be leading a discussion entitled “Renters Insurance: Myths vs. Facts,” joined by an Esurance renters insurance expert. RSVP for a chance to win prizes! #WBChat

Related links

How renters insurance can benefit college students
How renters insurance can benefit victims of apartment fires
How to protect your bike from theft

*Average monthly cost and annual premium figures based on Esurance renters coverage purchased between 8/25/2012 and 7/31/2013. Your premium will depend on the details of your selected coverage and your specific property. Coverages subject to availability and qualifications. Terms, conditions, limits, and exclusions will apply. Esurance renters coverage is not available in all states. In those states, Esurance Insurance Services, Inc. (California License #0G87829), offers, among other insurance products and services, the renters policies underwritten by member companies of the Homesite Insurance Group and Security First Insurance Company.

Policies purchased by residents of FL are underwritten by Security First Insurance Company, and policies purchased by residents of all other states are underwritten by member companies of the Homesite Group Incorporated where not underwritten by Esurance. Renters insurance claims are processed and paid by the underwriting company. Esurance does not underwrite, provide customer service, or pay claims for any renters policies underwritten by Security First Insurance Company or member companies of the Homesite Group Incorporated.

Do Synchronized Traffic Lights Really Solve Congestion Woes?

If you’ve ever driven in LA during rush hour, you know it can take an hour to travel 5 miles (and even at noon, it’s no cakewalk). The city is well known for its traffic problem and has tried a laundry list of solutions — widening highways, building rail lines and subways, even implementing carpool and toll lanes — to no avail.

Then they tried something really ambitious.

In April of this year, Los Angeles became the first major city in the world to synchronize all of its 4,500 traffic lights. This effort to reduce congestion, pollution, and wasted time took 30 years and cost $400 million. Transportation experts estimate that implementing this new system across the country could reduce traffic congestion by up to 10 percent and air pollution up to 20 percent. It would also theoretically reduce accidents at intersections, the amount of money spent at the pump, average drive times, and, of course, drivers’ frustration levels.

So what is this magical congestion reduction system?

Traditional timing system vs. synchronized traffic lights

Traffic lights are traditionally controlled by roadside or centralized timers that tell the lights what time schedule they should be on given peak and non-peak traffic congestion hours. For example, the timer might tell the light, “Use Timing Schedule A between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m., and then Timing Schedule B until 4 p.m.”

These timers are supposed to be updated and adjusted by the state every 2 years to keep up with recent traffic survey info. This is especially important for busier intersections that might experience increased congestion from new homes or businesses in the area.

But a 2007 report card from the National Transportation Operations Coalition gave traffic departments nationwide an “F” for data collection and traffic monitoring, both of which are crucial to well-timed traffic lights. In fact, an estimated 75 percent of the country’s 300,000 traffic lights require timing improvements.

This probably isn’t news to you. We’ve all found ourselves in a long line of cars waiting to turn left, only to find that the arrow turns yellow after 10 seconds. These delays happen because the timing of the lights does not reflect actual traffic conditions. And even if the lights were maintained regularly, the traditional system still can’t account for possible delays due to accidents, bad weather, or construction.

Cue the new system: synchronized traffic lights.

In LA, the Automated Traffic Surveillance and Control system, as it’s officially known, uses hundreds of cameras and magnetic sensors to measure traffic flow. A centralized computer system makes constant, real-time adjustments to keep traffic moving as quickly as possible. The magnetic sensors in the road also pick up most bicycles — pedestrians are more difficult but still accounted for. This is all without human intervention (except for the person monitoring the underground computer system).

Early estimates boast a 16 percent increase in traffic speed, as well as a 12 percent reduction in delays at major LA intersections. And yet, in the same month that the new system was implemented, LA again claimed the number one rating for worst traffic in the country according to INRIX, an industry leader in creating systems that analyze traffic data.

How is that possible after implementing one of the most comprehensive, modern traffic control systems in the world? Let us try to explain.

A long-term solution or a short-term fix?

Although many traffic experts agree that LA’s money was well spent on the synchronization, some are skeptical that the new system will reduce congestion in the long run. Statistics indicated an initial reduction in congestion … until people realized that the city’s roadways were less awful and a new population of previously avoidant motorists took to the roads.

It’s like loosening your belt after a particularly large meal — while it creates more room for your burgeoning belly, the space is quickly filled because you can finally relax (or eat dessert). The same thing is happening with LA traffic. By reducing average travel times, synchronized traffic lights allow more people to travel. The benefit may not necessarily be speedier traffic, but rather a greater number of cars passing through during the same amount of time. The level of congestion may stay the same simply because there are more cars on the road.

This is not to negate the positive effects synchronized traffic lights have had in LA. There are still fewer accidents at major intersections and fewer emissions from the average vehicle. In fact, some sources suggest that the reason LA still has so much congestion is because the city’s recent economic improvement allows more people to live and work there.

And with almost 7 million motorists on LA metro’s roadways during rush hour each day, even the system’s supporters fear it might not be enough to prevent gridlock.

Synchronized traffic lights: a verdict?

Though LA is the first major city to synchronize all of its traffic lights, the concept isn’t new and has been successful in several U.S. cities.

Portland, Oregon, for example, installed carbon dioxide emissions monitors at their intersections before working to improve traffic flow. The monitors recorded lower-than-average pollution levels and enabled the city to claim federal credits for pollution reduction. They then sold those credits for $560,000 on the carbon offset market and used the money to pay for Portland’s intersection improvements. Success!

For major commuter cities like LA, however, the benefits aren’t as immediately clear. With a sprawling urban landscape and a population far greater than most U.S. cities, it’s hard to compare the successes of Portland to LA’s less fruitful attempts.

So, do synchronized traffic lights work in the way they were intended? The answer’s a definitive sometimes. In LA’s case, it may mean heading back to the drawing board to get to the root of their traffic problems.

Do you think there’s a solution for LA? And do you think your hometown could benefit from synchronized traffic lights? Join the discussion in the comment section below.

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