For more than a century, cars have played a central role in American life. And over that time, plenty of auto-related myths have also developed (many of which are commonly 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 may be costing you time and money – or even compromising 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.
There Are More Car Accidents During a Full Moon
The moon has been a source of myths for ages – being blamed for increases in everything from violence to sleepwalking. And at least one of those myths is car-related: That drivers are more likely to be involved in an auto accident during a full moon.
To put this lunar theory to the test, we enlisted the help of some auto insurance experts at Erie Insurance. And after combing through claims data, we can officially debunk the full-moon myth.
During 2021, the number of auto collision claims per day was actually slightly lower on days with a full moon. And if we go back through ERIE collision claims data from the past five years, the average number of collision claims per day are nearly identical – differing by less than one.
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 however: there were less accidents on Sunday than any other day. Per ERIE’s data, more collisions actually happen on Friday. This makes those Sunday drivers look better after all.
Red Cars Cost More to Insure
When it comes to auto insurance, here’s one myth you’ve likely heard: Red cars cost more to insure than other colored vehicles (and that they’re more likely to get pulled over). But as an auto insurance company, we can assure you there’s no truth to back up this claim. If you own a red car, you’ll pay the same amount for car insurance as you would if your vehicle was a more run-of-the-mill color like white, silver or black.
There are a lot of 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’s different from the factory color). If your car has been modified in this way, an insurer may consider it as custom equipment because it would make your vehicle more expensive to repair in the event of an accident.
You Should Change Your Oil Every 3,000 Miles
Decades ago, many auto experts recommended that you should change your car’s engine oil every 3,000 miles. But the technology used in manufacturing both cars and engine oil has changed a lot since then – making the old 3,000-mile recommendation an extremely conservative estimate.
These days, modern synthetic oils are designed to last up to 10,000 miles between oil changes. And most auto manufacturers recommend oil change intervals between 5,000 to 7,500 miles or more. To learn what’s 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.
Using Bluetooth While Driving is Safe
According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 13 percent of all auto accidents 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 assume that using a hands-free device or Bluetooth connection in your car makes it safe to call when driving. But the research begs to differ. In a 2018 survey, Erie Insurance found that after daydreaming, cell phone use was the second most common reason for distraction related to fatal car crashes.
Any cell phone use while driving will negatively impact the driver’s performance – even if the call is made using a hands-free device. It’s true that making phone calls using Bluetooth may be marginally safer than using a hand-held device. But NHTSA says it’s the conversation itself that can lead 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.
Airbags Can Cause More Harm Than Good
Airbags are one of the most important vehicle safety innovations in recent history – saving more than 50,000 lives according to NHTSA estimates. However, the existence of airbag-related injuries has led some to claim that this modern safety equipment can cause more harm than good. So let’s set the record straight.
First, it’s true that airbags have caused injuries. But these injuries were most prevalent from cars with early airbag designs. NHTSA claims that between 1990-2008, approximately 290 deaths were caused by airbags that deployed in low-speed crashes. However, in nearly 90 percent of those accidents, the vehicle was manufactured before 1998.
There’s one more important factor to consider. In more than 80 percent of those accidents, the passenger was not properly restrained. This includes either not wearing a seatbelt or having a child sit in the front seat of the vehicle.
Thanks to improvements in vehicle technology, airbag injuries are extremely rare these days. That means the combination of wearing a seatbelt and driving a car with airbags is far more likely to save your life than cause any harm. Airbags are just one of many things that are considered and tested by NHTSA and IIHS when it comes to vehicle safety and crash test ratings.
You Should Warm Up Your Car in Cold Weather
When the outdoor temperatures drop, it’s often said that starting your car to let it warm up is a good tip to follow. But the truth is, running your car before hitting the road is just a waste of time and fuel. The “idling car” myth probably gained traction back when cars didn’t have the technology to properly warm a carburetor. But today, that’s not a concern – which is why many experts recommend not bothering with this extra step.
Consumer Reports says the fastest way to warm up your engine is by driving. Just remember to keep the engine RPMs low until the car reaches a normal operating temperature.
Premium Gas Makes Your Car Run Better
When a new car is designed and manufactured, engineers specify the type of fuel it should use. For most cars and trucks, lower-octane “regular” gas is just fine. But 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 work 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 doesn’t deliver any extra benefits when it comes to engine life, fuel economy or reduced emissions. So, unless your vehicle requires high-octane fuel, you’re just losing money at the pump.