Flowering America: A Breakdown of State Flowers

Since the first flower blossomed around 130 million years ago, life on earth hasn’t been the same. From livening up our landscapes to giving us pungent perfumes, it seems like there are a thousand and one uses for these beautiful blooms.

But perhaps one of the best things about flowers isn’t what they do, but what they can signify. For most of us, a red rose given to a sweetheart suggests amorous intentions. A bouquet of daffodils in February signals that spring is just around the corner.

With so much meaning in every blossom, it’s no surprise that states also use the power of flowers to represent themselves. But which flower stands for which state?

State flowers

Ever wonder, “What is the state flower for California?” Or Nebraska? Or any other state for that matter? Well wonder no more because we’ve gathered all 50 state flowers in one pretty place.

50 state flowers
Click to enlarge!

Car insurance by state

If thinking about state flowers has you wondering about other state-specific info (like car insurance info, maybe?), we have a state-by-state guide to explain car insurance in your state. From required coverages to car insurance discounts, our state-by-state resource has everything you need to know about insurance and driving where you live. And as a (free) bonus, you can also find quirky facts and state-specific trivia.

Crash Tests and Safety Ratings:
What Does It All Mean?

Car commercials often tout crash test safety ratings and expect us to be impressed. But how do cars get those ratings and do they actually translate to real-life collisions? Join us as we figure it all out.

Who conducts crash testing?

In the United States, both the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) conduct crash tests to determine structural integrity and the risk of injury to drivers and passengers. Both are valid sources, but their tests differ, so it pays to give them both a closer look.

NHTSA crash tests

The NHTSA uses crash test dummies to test front, side, and rollover crashes. The car can receive 1 to 5 stars for each test based on the chance of serious injury to specific parts of the body.

Frontal impact crash tests
This test measures the force of impact after a vehicle crashes head-on into a fixed barrier (which represents another car of the same size) at 35 mph.

Side impact crash tests
In a side impact test, a sedan-sized barrier moving at 38.5 mph T-bones a non-moving vehicle. Injury to both front and back seat occupants (i.e. crash test dummies) is measured.

Rollover assessments
These determine how well the car prevents occupant ejection in a rollover and how well it protects non-ejected occupants (think roof crushability).

New crash test criteria

In 2011, the NHTSA began conducting more stringent crash tests. The revised tests added some new features, such as:

  • A side impact test to simulate a crash into a telephone pole or tree
  • Crash test dummies of different sizes (after all, people come in all shapes and sizes)
  • Identifying advanced crash avoidance features (though these don’t actually factor into the car’s score)
  • Injury assessment on additional parts of the body

Plus, the new system now includes an overall safety rating, making it easier for you to assess a vehicle’s safety at a glance. But keep in mind that if you’re comparing a new car to an older model, their safety ratings can’t be measured side by side.

IIHS crash tests

Rather than conducting the same crash tests as the NHTSA, the IIHS looks at other factors that could affect crashworthiness. The 2 agencies complement each other to give a fuller picture of a car’s safety. So, when you’re shopping for a new car, consider both safety ratings.

Frontal offset crash tests
The IIHS places one average-sized adult male dummy in the front seat and crashes one side of the front end at 40 mph. Why one side? Because the IIHS believes that in real collisions, most drivers try to avoid the incident by turning, thus only one side of the front is impacted.

Side impact crash tests
To offset the government’s side impact test (which uses a sedan-simulated barrier), the IIHS uses a barrier with the height and shape of a typical SUV or pickup. They also use smaller dummies since shorter drivers are more likely to suffer head injuries during these types of crashes.

Other tests the IIHS conducts

  • Roof strength
  • Rear crash protection/head restraint ratings
  • Electronic stability control
  • Bumper evaluations

How crash test ratings translate to real-world performance

Frontal crash tests
According to the IIHS, an occupant in a car rated “good” is 46 percent less likely to die in a frontal crash than a driver of a vehicle rated “poor.” A driver of a car rated “acceptable” or “marginal” is 33 percent less likely to die than a driver of a poorly rated one.

Side impact crash tests
The results are similar for side impact tests. A driver of a car rated “good” is 70 percent less likely to die in a left-side crash than a driver of a car rated “poor.” And drivers of cars rated “acceptable” or “marginal” are 64 percent and 49 percent less likely to die, respectively.

It’s hard to argue with the math. Safety ratings make a difference. But don’t forget, these ratings are usually based on accidents between cars of a similar size. Crashes between cars of different sizes are a whole different ballgame. For more facts and info on how the size of your car can impact your safety during a crash, read how car size translates to car safety.

Related links

Find out your car’s safety rating
Safe cars are only one part of the safety equation
How crash tests can affect car insurance rates
How do luxury cars stack up in frontal crash tests?

Cars Get Their Own Social Network … and It Could Save Your Life

Half a mile ahead of you, around a long, looping curve, a motorcyclist swerves to avoid a sofa that’s just fallen off a truck, sparking a 5-car (and one-moto) pileup you’re now approaching at 60 miles an hour.

You’ll be at the scene in a mere 30 seconds … and the curve hides it completely from your view.

But your car knows it’s there (or will soon).

The social network for cars: NHTSA is testing vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication

August marked the beginning of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) trial run of car-to-car communication in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Called “The Safety Pilot,” the program put 3,000 WiFi-equipped cars in the hands of everyday drivers to start gathering data to determine:

  • Future vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication standards
  • What sorts of data are most useful
  • How many cars will need the technology to positively impact crash statistics
  • How drivers behind the wheel will respond to their cars’ sudden development of situational awareness

V2V communication represents a significant leap forward in car safety technologies. While current active safety systems, like lane correction and active braking, can help drivers steer clear of some accidents, V2V makes the car itself aware of situations — long before the driver encounters them. Once the car senses an oncoming situation, it can then alert the driver and/or take action itself through its onboard safety systems.

(Related: take this myth-busting quiz to see if you’re up to speed on data and smart cars.)

How V2V communication works

V2V combines common current technologies like GPS, on-board diagnostics (OBD) systems, and WiFi to let your vehicle communicate with the vehicle down the road. Every car equipped with the system broadcasts a “Here I Am” message that contains such information as current location and speed. While you drive, your car gathers all these messages, calculates the risks coming ‘round the bend, and lets you know about anything pertinent — or just goes ahead and acts on its own initiative to keep you safe.

What could this mean for drivers and pedestrians? Well, according to the NHTSA, widespread adoption of the technology could eliminate the causes of 76 percent of all accidents. The result: a much safer world for us all.

The value of using existing technologies

One of the smartest elements of this test is the NHTSA’s use of existing, widely deployed technologies. You see, for V2V communication to work, all cars will need to speak the same language. And the best way to ensure that happens is to make sure that the technologies supporting the car-to-car dialogue are easily deployable in just about any vehicle out there.

Onboard diagnostics, GPS, and WiFi connectivity have become practically universal in modern cars, vans, and trucks. Which makes widespread market adoption of V2V technology that much easier. Rather than waiting for individual car manufacturers to implement solutions that might not be cross-make compatible, the NHTSA is taking the lead to keep the inter-automobile conversation on track.

What do you think?

So, does V2V sound as promising to you as it does to the NHTSA? Does the thought of your car talking to other vehicles around it, telling them where it is and how fast it’s going, reassure or unsettle you? Check out this recent report on smart cars and data (and what you should know about both).



The Esurance Guide to Leaf Peeping

Today is the first day of fall, time to bid a fond farewell to summer and welcome all that autumn brings: scarves, pumpkin pie, cozy firesides, and (of course) leaf peeping.

For many of us, one of the best ways to appreciate the changing seasons is with a picturesque drive to view autumn’s amazing palette. But gazing at the foliage, while spectacular in theory, can sometimes end with less-than-colorful results — like being too early or too late for Mother Nature’s show. It can also leave you open to the dangers of fall driving — one of which is slow-moving, distracted leaf peepers … yourself excluded of course.

So before you chart your road trip, pack the camera, load the car, and get on your way, check out our guide to maximizing your adventure.

Scope out fall foliage with cool apps

In the old days, you had to rely on hearsay and instincts to plan the perfect trip. Today, with the magic of technology, all it takes is an app.

Here are some of our favorite (free!) apps for leaf lovers:

  • Leaf Peepr: Whether you live in the Northeast or on the West Coast, this app lets you find and report on the most brilliant displays of fall color anywhere in the U.S. Utilize reviews, pictures, and ratings from other users to see which areas are at their peak.
  • TreeID: Ever wonder whether that beautiful leaf you’re admiring is a maple or a dogwood? Well, with the TreeID app, you can identify almost any tree in North America. (Sorry Android users; this app only works with iPhones®. But the Audubon field guide to North American trees is only $0.99 and works great with Android.)
  • Esurance Mobile: You never know when you might get a sudden craving for cupcakes or need to find the nearest gas station while leaf peeping.

Give your car a checkup

Whether your fall drive takes you near or far, it’s always a good idea to give your car a little inspection before hitting the road. Here are 3 easy things you can do:

  • Check your wiper blades.  Even if you live in the driest place in America (Death Valley, California) and rarely use your wipers, you should still change them about every 6 months. To check for wear and tear, lift up the blades and run your finger along the rubber edge. If the rubber is rigid or chipped, you probably need new wipers.
  • Check your lights. Of course, autumn means winter’s on its way. You want to be able to see (and be seen) through all those long nights ahead, right?
  • Check your tire tread. The coming of autumn means the coming of rain, which can lead to slick roads. To see if your tires still have tread (and therefore traction), use the penny test. Simply place a penny upside down in a tire’s grooves. If the top of Lincoln’s head is covered, you’re good to go. If you can see Lincoln’s hair, it’s about time to replace your tires.

Fall in line with safe driving

Did you know that fall is deer mating season? And that the average deer-car collision costs more than $3,000?

To stay safe on the road and avoid a costly car accident, be extra careful during dawn and dusk, when animals are at their most active. Learn how to steer clear of Bambi.

And hey, when you find those gorgeous fall leaves, send us a pic on Facebook (we love to do a little leaf peeping from our desks!).

Related link

While on the road, you might want to check out these 8 unusual roadside attractions.

5 Tips for Choosing an Insurance-Friendly Car

The following post on selecting an insurance-friendly vehicle comes from David Bakke, who writes about budgeting, smart spending, insurance options, and retirement for Money Crashers, an online guide to improving financial fitness.

While we all try to get the best price when buying a new car, people often forget to factor in the cost of auto insurance. And depending on the type of car you choose, it could be a make-or-break consideration. Though many factors go into determining a person’s annual car insurance premium, the car itself certainly plays a role.

For example, insuring a sensible 2013 Toyota Sienna costs about half of what it costs to insure that cherry red, spit-shined 2013 Porsche Caymen R you’ve been eyeing (though not because of the color!). And that’s a difference that adds up. So next time you’re shopping for a new ride, use these 5 tips for picking an insurance-friendly car.

1. Research premiums

Before you buy your new car, go online to get a quote for that year, make, and model. The results may be enlightening. Though there are moves you can make to minimize your costs, such as increasing your deductibles or dropping comprehensive or collision coverage, it’s important not to sacrifice solid protection for a shiny new car.

Considering a new car? Get an online quote from Esurance.

2. Avoid high-performance vehicles

Sports cars, large SUVs, luxury cars, and anything, well, souped-up all come with boosted insurance premiums because they generally cost more to repair or replace. Safety is also a factor — a small, zippy sports car generally offers fewer safety features and attracts more lead-footed drivers than a modest midsized sedan. Plus, these cars are typically gas guzzlers, which will also add to your expenses.
So unless you’re prepared to shoulder the many surrounding costs for your dream car, your best bet is to simply stay away from these high-end rides. Sensible choices reap their own rewards.

3. Research average repair costs

Cars that are more expensive to insure are generally more expensive to fix and sometimes require hard-to-find parts. Research the typical repair and maintenance costs for vehicles in your area. On many sites, you’ll find average ownership costs broken down into various categories. You can also research which cars cost the least (and most) to repair, which are worthy considerations (and ones that your insurance company will also take into account).

4. Know the stolen vehicle statistics

As you might imagine, cars that are more likely to be stolen are more expensive to insure. You can find stolen-car statistics through the National Insurance Crime Bureau. (Esurance recently reported on the most stolen vehicles of 2011.) If you’re shopping for a new car, the good news is that shiny new cars are not the most commonly stolen.

5. Go with a less expensive model

Add-ons that come standard on high-end models, such as sunroofs and built-in navigation systems, are nice to have but expensive to repair. Yes, this too means higher insurance premiums. You’ll be spending enough on your new car as it is, so if you’re willing to forego some of these luxuries, you can save on the sale price and on your insurance premium.

Final thoughts

Before you decide on your next car, do your homework to investigate how it will affect your car insurance premium. A little reality check can have a big impact on what you have to lay out each month.