Are Seat Belts As Much of a No-Brainer As We Thought?

One of my earliest childhood memories is of the weekly car rides to my grandparents’ house for Sunday dinner.

As my dad strapped me into my car seat, perhaps noticing a 4-year-old’s lack of enthusiasm for sports talk radio and 60 minutes of sitting still, he’d sing the “Buckle Up” song, eliciting a few giggles and a smile as we hit the road.

To this day, I still sing that song in my head every time I get in a car and fasten my seat belt.

But, because not everyone had a dad with McCartney-like pipes and a penchant for 1960s jingles to remind them to wear a seat belt, here are a few things to keep in mind each time you go for a ride.

Seat belts save lives

Putting on a seat belt is one of the easiest and most effective ways to keep yourself and your family safe, decreasing the risk of fatality by 45 percent for drivers and front-seat passengers. Since becoming standard on all U.S.-manufactured vehicles in the late 1960s, seat belts are the best way to prevent death and injury in car accidents. In fact, they’ve helped keep approximately 255,000 people alive since 1975.


  • Seat belts save upwards of 14,000 lives annually … and $50 million in medical care.
  • In 2012, over half of the teens killed in auto accidents weren’t buckled in.

Seat belt laws vary by state

Although seat belts had been in cars for over a decade by the early 1980s, seat belt use hovered around a measly 14 percent. In an effort to increase use (and keep people alive), New York was the first state to pass legislation requiring seat belts for all vehicle passengers in 1984.

Since then, every state (with the exception of New Hampshire) has followed suit and the U.S. has seen seat belt use rise exponentially. In fact, a 2012 survey conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that 85 percent of people buckled up.

But not all seat belt laws are created equal. Seat belt legislation for adults is split into primary and secondary laws.

Primary laws: In states with primary seat belt laws, police are allowed to pull over and ticket drivers if either they or other front-seat passengers are not wearing seat belts. States with primary seat belt laws for adults riding in the front seat include:

Alabama Alaska Arkansas
California Connecticut Delaware
Washington D.C. Florida Georgia
Hawaii Illinois Indiana
Iowa Kansas Kentucky
Louisiana Maine Maryland
Michigan Minnesota Mississippi
New Jersey New Mexico New York
North Carolina Oklahoma Oregon
Rhode Island South Carolina Tennessee
Texas Washington West Virginia

Secondary laws: Drivers in states with secondary seat belt laws can’t be pulled over for driving unbuckled. Officers in these states can issue a ticket for not wearing a seat belt only if an additional traffic law has been broken. States with secondary seat belt laws for adults riding in the front seat include:

Arizona Colorado Idaho
Massachusetts Missouri Montana
Nebraska Nevada North Dakota
Ohio Pennsylvania South Dakota
Utah Vermont Virginia

Additionally, laws differ for people in the back seat, and, in some cases, can vary based on age and weight.

Regardless of which rules your state follows, seat belt laws make a positive difference. States with primary laws have 88 percent seat belt use, while secondary enforcement states report 75 percent use.

Laws can differ greatly from state to state, so brush up on your state’s rules frequently. If you’re riding with children, make sure you’re familiar with child passenger safety laws.

How much do seat belt tickets cost?

Breaking seat belt laws can result in more than just a citation. While some states start small with a $10 or $20 fine, others can charge as much as $200 for a first-time infraction (looking at you, Texas).

If the first-time ticket doesn’t inspire you to buckle up, a second offense may cost even more. If an adult is caught unbelted in California, for example, the first time will cost them about $20. But after that, the ticket jumps to $50. And while $50 may not sound like a ton of cash, it can add up quickly, especially for repeat offenders.

Lead by example

Whether you’re riding with kids or other adult passengers, be sure to set an example by always putting on your seat belt. Although the U.S. has seen a rise in seat belt use, 1 in 7 people still don’t buckle up when they get into a vehicle. By taking a few seconds to fasten your seat belt, you’ll be better protected in the event of an accident and you’ll keep your wallet safe from seat belt infraction fines.

Another good way to protect yourself (and keep cash in your pocket)? By having quality, reliable car insurance from Esurance. Get your free quote today to see how much you could save.

Towing and Labor Coverage Defined

You’re buying car insurance, hemming and hawing over limits and deductibles, when you come across the towing and labor option. It’s inexpensive, but is it worth it? Does it even cover anything? Does everyone already have this coverage and you just don’t know it yet?!

Whoa there, tiger. If there’s one thing we know best, it’s auto insurance, so don’t panic.

What is towing and labor?

Sometimes called emergency road service, towing and labor coverage is intended to help you when you’re in a roadside bind. It’s offered by pretty much every car insurance company (and select companies even offer it as a service independent of insurance), and you can also add it onto your cell phone plan.

Some car insurance companies automatically include the coverage in your policy premium, while others let you choose whether or not you want it. At Esurance, we like to give you the option to customize your policy, so our towing and labor coverage is an optional add-on when you purchase comprehensive and collision coverage.

So how can towing and labor help me?

Let’s say you’re cruising down a country back road — no worries in the world, wind blowing through your hair, singing your favorite tune — when all of a sudden your car sputters, chugs, and slowly… just … stops. Uh-oh.

You turn on your hazard lights and pull over to the side of the road. And then you remember (with a sigh of relief) that you’d added towing and labor coverage to your car insurance policy for just-in-case moments like these.

Although you might not know what’s wrong with your car, you can rest assured knowing exactly what is included with your towing and labor coverage. And the best news is it helps pay for more than you probably think (yay!).

There are certain incidents that are typically covered up to the limits on your plan, regardless of which insurer you choose, including:

  • Towing (when it’s not related to an accident)
  • Gas, oil, and water delivery if your ride runs dry
  • Locksmith services if you get locked out
  • Tire changes and jump starts
  • Mechanical labor at the breakdown site

Of course, not all roadside service plans are created equally, so no matter where you buy your coverage, it’s important to ask a licensed agent and/or read the fine print when purchasing your policy.

Need other coverages?

At Esurance, we like to make the insurance process as simple (and affordable!) as possible, which is why we came up with Coverage Counselor®, our nifty online tool that can help you tailor your car insurance coverages to your needs. Play around and see if emergency roadside service and a wealth of other optional coverages can help you get the most out of your auto insurance.

Or if you’re ready to get a quote, go for it!


Lightweight Motorcycle Gear: 3 Summer Must-Haves

It’s no surprise that the best time to hit the open road on a motorcycle is somewhere between May and September when you’re less likely to face frigid, wet obstacles. But before you ditch your leather jacket for a cotton tank top, it’s a good idea to consider how the right riding wardrobe can help keep you safe and comfortable on summer rides.

Lightweight motorcycle gear intended for higher temperatures makes all the difference in keeping you cool and safe on the road. Check out these 3 examples of summer-specific riding gear to help you cruise comfortably all summer long.

1. A seasonal, DOT-approved helmet

Summer is a good excuse to go shopping for a heat-friendly helmet. There’s a lot to consider when choosing a helmet, but always make sure yours is DOT-approved (there will be a sticker on the back to indicate its certification). That means it’s a top-quality helmet with ample protection for your noggin.

Finding a helmet that has seasonal fixes is also helpful. For example, a flip-face helmet allows you to easily flip up the face guard to to get some air and feel the breeze when you’re stopped at a light. And don’t forget to grab a helmet liner, especially one with a moisture-wicking, breathable knit fabric. Helmet liners help keep the inside of your helmet cleaner and drier, especially on sticky summer days.

2. A mesh motorcycle jacket

When riding in warmer temperatures you’ll want to opt for a jacket that moves with you, doesn’t weigh much, and is ventilated. Fortunately, there is such a thing: a mesh motorcycle jacket. Mesh jackets are typically much thinner than traditional leather jackets and allow air to flow through. Plus, they’re still designed to help keep you safe! The most versatile, cost-effective solution is a jacket with a polyester or poly-mesh shell, removable waterproof liner, CE-approved armor in the shoulders and elbows, and interior mesh lining for breathability.

3. Gloves with increased air flow

It seems like more ventilation would mean less protection (because greater air flow has generally come from bigger perforations and/or mesh or textile fabrics), but newer summer motorcycle gloves don’t compromise comfort for safety.

The best pair of summer gloves will provide better protection and air flow by using protective material (like Kevlar) in vulnerable places (like your knuckles) and using air vents and/or breathable material in less vulnerable places (like the back of your hand).

Keep layering through the summer months

When  temperatures rise, it’s often more comfortable to shed any extra layers and start soaking up that Vitamin D. But on a motorcycle, light layering (like wearing a shirt over a t-shirt) is the smarter (and safer) move. Layering helps your body preserve moisture, so it can better cool itself down. Loss of moisture means you’re more susceptible to the drying, dizzying effects of summery winds and sun.

And for the best defense for you and your bike this summer, make sure you’ve got motorcycle insurance. Grab a quote from us to see if Esurance fits your lifestyle.

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Road Trips Get a Modern Makeover with Fuelcaster™

When summer rolls around, I find myself getting restless. Just a little twitch at first. But, as the season progresses, so does my desire to get outside. Summer is road trip season after all. And I’ve still got a lot of road to cover.

Sadly, it’s been several years since my last multi-day road trip. But those memories are still finely etched in my mind.

Skydiving (indoors!) in Vegas. Smelling the Great Salt Lake long before seeing it. Spotting a black bear cub while whitewater rafting in Jackson Hole. Eating A LOT of pizza in Chicago. And doing it all with my best friend by my side.

Back then, all we packed were some clothes, some tunes, and a paper (yes, paper) map. Smartphones and GPS were still years away.

But, in the modern world, we’ve got a few more road trip tools at our disposal, like Fuelcaster™, the first-of-its-kind gas price predictor.

Fuelcaster gives road trips a modern makeover

With Fuelcaster, you just type in your ZIP Code to see whether gas prices are expected to rise or fall tomorrow. That way, you can decide whether it’s better to fill up today or wait. Plus, it tells you where to find the lowest gas prices in your area (you can even get directions to the station). Best of all, it’s free for everyone!

I visited to look up predictions for some of the top road trip destinations in the U.S. (a girl can dream, can’t she?). Hopefully all the “wait” predictions mean lower gas prices are just around the corner!

Fuelcaster predictions infographic

With Esurance, saving on gas is just the start. From quote to claim, we have a bounty of tech tools that could help you save time and money on your insurance. Get a quote and see if Esurance is right for you.

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Are Hydrogen Fuel Cells the Wave of the Future?

In the quest for emission-free cars, electric vehicles have been gaining speed. Currently, there are 16 plug-in models on the market (some fully electric and some hybrid) and more than 8,200 public charging stations around the country. And, on May 23, 2014, Nissan reached 50,000 sales of its popular all-electric Leaf.

Nonetheless, some big automakers think the future may lie in hydrogen fuel cells. Hyundai’s hydrogen-powered Tucson crossover, the first mass-produced fuel-cell car on the U.S. market, has just arrived in California. And Toyota recently ended a battery-supply deal with Tesla Motors, choosing to focus on fuel-cell cars instead. Their fuel-cell vehicle is scheduled to debut in 2015.

Why all the hype?

First off, let’s talk about how they work. Rather than storing energy within a battery (as hybrids and electric cars do), fuel cells combine hydrogen and oxygen to form H20, generating electricity in the process — the only emissions are water and hot air. And since hydrogen is the most abundant element on earth, there is a seemingly limitless supply of fuel.

But the fuel cell dream isn’t new. In fact, President George W. Bush announced a Fuel Cell Initiative way back in 2003.  So why hasn’t this technology taken off sooner? Unfortunately, though hydrogen is present in vast quantities in water, natural gas, and many other organic substances, it doesn’t exist in its pure state on Earth. Extracting it cleanly and efficiently has proven to be a challenge.

Fast-forward 11 years and suddenly we’re all about fuel cells again. There are 4 main reasons for this.

1.   Zero-emissions mandate
Despite the boost in year-to-year numbers, plug-ins captured only about one percent of passenger-car sales in 2014. With more states mandating an increase in zero-emission vehicles, automakers are willing to try a variety of solutions, and recent developments on the hydrogen-fuel front are making fuel cells an increasingly viable option.

2. Better production methods
Currently, most hydrogen fuel is extracted from natural gas in a process that creates large amounts of carbon dioxide. The alternative “clean” method, which involves splitting water molecules, was generally considered too costly.

But, last year, scientists at Stanford and the University of Colorado Boulder announced new, cost-efficient ways to split water using light energy — without any polluting by-products. Renewable fuel company HyperSolar has also developed a low-cost method using sunlight and water (including sources like seawater and wastewater).

3. Faster refueling
Fuel-cell vehicles have the edge over plug-ins here — for example, it takes 10 minutes for the Hyundai Tucson to refuel, while a Tesla with a 60-kilowatt-hour battery pack needs 3.5 hours to recharge. (If you take the Tesla to one of the company’s public Supercharger stations, however, you can get an 80 percent charge in 30 minutes.)

4. More places to refuel
There are currently 11 public hydrogen refueling stations in the U.S., 9 of which are in California (17 more are under construction in the state). And this past May, the California Energy Commission announced plans to fund an additional 28 stations, for a total of 54 by the end of 2015. Granted, that’s not many compared to the number of gas stations or even charging stations, but it will allow fuel-cell cars to be introduced on a large scale for the first time.

Challenges of hydrogen fuel cells

Though they’re up to 3 times more efficient than internal combustion engines, fuel cells still have a long way to go before they’re a truly viable alternative.

One of the biggest issues is hydrogen storage. Because hydrogen has a relatively low energy content by volume, it takes up huge amounts of space unless it’s compressed (often either as a highly pressurized gas, a very cold liquid, or chemically bonded with a metal hydride). This makes transporting hydrogen difficult. Creating tanks for commercial vehicles that hold enough fuel, but aren’t too big and heavy, has also been problematic.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, a fuel-cell car must have a range of 300 miles to meet consumer needs. Hyundai seems close to meeting that challenge — their Tucson can go an estimated 265 miles between fill-ups.

Will fuel-cell vehicles replace electric cars?

For the time being, electric cars have a distinct advantage — electricity is readily available everywhere, while hydrogen fuel can be found in only a handful of places. But this may change as the fuel-station infrastructure continues to grow and the costs of hydrogen fuel and fuel-cell vehicle production continue to drop.

At Esurance, we’re all about taking innovation to the next level. So we’re excited to see how the fuel-cell story shakes out. How about you? Would you consider buying a hydrogen fuel-cell car? Let us know in the comments section below.

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