For more than a century, automobiles have played a central role in American life. And during that time, lots of auto-related myths have also developed (many of which are widely accepted as truth).
Whether you heard it from a friend or have believed it for as long as you can remember, one of these driving myths can cost you time and money—or even compromise your safety behind the wheel.
To help you separate fact from fiction, we’ve got the truth behind eight of the most common driving myths.
1. There are more car accidents during a full moon
The moon has been a source of myth for ages – blamed for the rise of everything from violence to sleepwalking. And at least one of those myths is car-related: That drivers are more likely to be involved in a car accident during a full moon.
To put this moon theory to the test, we enlisted the help of some auto insurance experts at Erie Insurance. And after combing through the claims data, we can officially debunk the full moon myth.
In 2021, the number of auto collision claims per day was actually slightly lower on full moon days. And if we go back through ERIE collision claims data from the past five years, the average number of collision claims per day is almost identical – differing by less than one.
2. Sunday drivers cause more accidents
We’ve all been stuck behind a slow Sunday driver, and the myth is that they cause more accidents. Not according to ERIE’s collision claims data, though: there were fewer accidents on Sunday than any other day. According to ERIE’s data, more collisions actually occur on Friday. This makes the Sunday drivers look better after all.
3. Red cars cost more to insure
When it comes to car insurance, here’s a myth you’ve probably heard: Red cars cost more to insure than other colored vehicles. However, as a car insurance company, we can assure you that there is no truth to support this claim. If you own a red car, you will pay the same amount for car insurance as you would if your vehicle was a more advanced color such as white, silver or black.
There are many factors that go into determining your car insurance rate. But the color of your vehicle is not one of them. The only exception to this rule would be for a custom paint job (one that differs from the factory paint). If your car has been modified in this way, an insurer may consider it special equipment because it would make your vehicle more expensive to repair in the event of an accident.
4. You should change the oil every 3,000 miles
Decades ago, many automotive experts recommended that you change your car’s engine oil every 3,000 miles. But the technology used in making both cars and motor oil has changed a lot since then – making the old 3,000 mile recommendation an extremely conservative estimate.
Today, modern synthetic oils are designed to last up to 10,000 miles between oil changes. And most automakers recommend oil change intervals between 5,000 and 7,500 miles or more. To learn what is best for your vehicle, be sure to check the manufacturer’s recommended oil change intervals. Following regular maintenance schedules is just one way to make your car last longer.
5. Using Bluetooth while driving is safe
According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 13 percent of all car crashes are caused by a distracted driver – resulting in more than 3,000 deaths each year. And the number one cause of distracted driving: cell phone use.
When it comes to distracted driving, many people assume that it is safe to make calls when using a hands-free device or Bluetooth connection in the car. But the research is starting to differ. In a 2018 survey, Erie Insurance found that after daydreaming, cell phone use was the second most common cause of distraction associated with fatal car crashes.
Any mobile phone use while driving will adversely affect the driver’s performance – even if the call is made with a hands-free device. It’s true that making phone calls using Bluetooth can be marginally more secure than using a handheld device. But NHTSA says it’s the conversation itself that can cause drivers to miss the visual and audio cues needed to avoid an accident. For this reason, hands-free calling is not the same as risk-free calling.
6. Airbags can cause more harm than good
Air bags are one of the most important vehicle safety innovations in recent history—saving more than 50,000 lives, according to NHTSA estimates. But the prevalence of airbag-related injuries has led some to argue that this modern safety equipment may be causing more harm than good. So let’s set the record straight.
First, it is true that airbags have caused injuries. But these injuries were most common from cars with early airbag designs. NHTSA claims that between 1990-2008, approximately 290 deaths were caused by air bags that deployed in low-speed crashes. But in almost 90 percent of these accidents, the vehicle was manufactured before 1998.
There is one more important factor to consider. In more than 80 percent of these accidents, the passenger was not properly restrained. This includes either not wearing a seat belt or having a child in the front seat of the vehicle.
Thanks to improvements in automotive technology, airbag damage is extremely rare these days. This means that the combination of wearing a seat belt and driving with airbags is far more likely to save your life than cause any injury. Airbags are just one of many things considered and tested by the NHTSA and IIHS when it comes to vehicle safety and crash test ratings.
One thing to note: There is an ongoing recall of defective Takata PSAN airbags. To see if your vehicle is affected by this recall, use NHTSA’s recall checker. It’s easy: just enter your Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) here.
7. You should warm up your car in cold weather
When the outside temperature drops, it is often said that it is a good tip to start with the car to let it warm up. But the truth is, driving your car before hitting the road is just a waste of time and fuel. The “idle car” myth probably got back when cars didn’t have the technology to properly heat a carburetor. But today, that’s not a problem – that’s why many experts recommend that you don’t bother with this extra step.
Consumer Reports says the fastest way to warm up your engine is by driving. Just remember to keep the engine revs low until the car reaches normal operating temperature.
8. Premium Gas makes your car run better
When a new car is designed and manufactured, engineers specify the type of fuel it will use. For most cars and trucks, lower octane “regular” gas is just fine. However, if you drive a high performance vehicle, higher octane “premium” fuel may be required.
Why? Because higher-octane gas doesn’t ignite as quickly—a feature that helps high-compression engines run more efficiently while emitting less exhaust.
Some drivers believe that using premium gas is better for their car. But the general consensus is that using premium fuel when your car only requires regular gas offers no added benefits in terms of engine life, fuel economy or reduced emissions. So if your vehicle doesn’t require high octane fuel, you’re just losing money at the pump.
Save on car insurance with ERIE
Here’s another myth: Good car insurance has to be expensive. As an ERIE customer, your local insurance agent can help you get the insurance you need—and nothing you don’t—all at a great price. Contact your local agent today to learn more about auto insurance from ERIE.
ERIE® insurance products and services are provided by one or more of the following insurers: Erie Insurance Exchange, Erie Insurance Company, Erie Insurance Property & Casualty Company, Flagship City Insurance Company and Erie Family Life Insurance Company (home office: Erie, Pennsylvania) or Erie Insurance Company of New York (home office: Rochester, New York). The companies within the Erie Insurance Group are not licensed to do business in all states. See the company’s licensing and business information.
The insurance products and rates, if applicable, described in this blog are effective as of July 2022 and are subject to change at any time.
Insurance products are subject to conditions and exclusions not described in this blog. The policy contains the specific details of coverage, terms, conditions and exclusions.
The insurance products and services described in this blog are not offered in all states. ERIE life insurance and annuity products are not available in New York. ERIE Medicare supplement products are not available in the District of Columbia or New York. ERIE long-term care products are not available in the District of Columbia and New York.
Eligibility will be determined at the time of application based on applicable underwriting guidelines and rules in effect at that time.
Your ERIE agent can offer you practical guidance and answer any questions you may have before you buy.