Retired car features that people miss


vintage car interior

Hey – why doesn’t my car turn signal make a sound anymore? Audible turn signals are just one of the new car features you may overlook on a test drive, but later look back on nostalgically. New car advances are great – we’re all driving safer, more fuel efficient vehicles than our parents did – or even than we did, a decade ago. Safety features like air bags, seat belts, anti-lock brakes, cars designed to hold up under crash criteria, rear cameras and other innovations are now fairly standard in new cars. But despite the innovation, many car buyers wax nostalgic for standard features that have all but disappeared or are on the way out. One of the most surprising car features that is going the way of the dinosaurs in many new cars are spare tires, a topic we’ve discussed before (See Does your new car have a spare tire? Don’t count on it!)

AAA features a fun article that talks about 10 Car Features That No Longer Exist in New Vehicles. Some features like front bench seats have been gone or scarce for so long that it’s doubtful if most young people even recall them. Others, like the disappearance of ashtrays, are largely a feature of changing consumer habits. Check out the list – hand-cranked windows, audible turn signals, simple controls and more. Plus, the comments are fun – people list even more bygone favorite features. The most frequently mentioned missing convenience is a Hi/Lo foot-operated dimmer switch that used to be on the floor of the car. Other people said they miss clutches, air vents in the floor, light bulbs that are easy to replace and rear windows that go all the way down. And even though the older, heavier cars were less safe, many people miss the large bodies and the heft and feeling of security that metal and steel offered.

Before you get too sad about bygone Happy Days-era car features, check out this list of what you can look forward to for the future. Consumer Reports offers a preview of up-and-coming vehicle features: Must-Have Features to Get in Your Next New Car, ranging from safety features to convenience. They break both categories down into “must have” and “nice to have” features, as well as a few that they suggest taking a pass on. Here’s their clip on some of the safety features in action.

Remember, whether you are looking for auto insurance  for a vintage classic car or a high-tech new vehicle with all the bells and whistles, your local independent insurance agent can scour the market for the best options.

Cool tools for drivers


toy car on an interstate map

Are you planning a summer road trip? Does your work take you on the road for frequent state-to-state travel? Do you regularly visit family that live in another part of the country? If so, you might find this tool handy: The AAA Digest of Motor Laws. It’s an online compendium of laws and rules related to driving and owning a motor vehicle in the 50 U.S. states, territories, and the provinces of Canada. AAA began producing this digest in paper form in 1930. In 2011, it eliminated the paper version and brought it online.

The online version allows you to search by location or by law. You can view laws by specific topics, such as accident reporting, distracted driving, window tinting, “move over” laws, headlight use, impaired driving, licensing requirements, seat belt use and much more.

AAA says that it sources its content by compiling statutes and regulations and submissions from local and state jurisdictions. The digest principally covers general interest subjects on private passenger vehicles, but some limited coverage of laws governing commercial vehicles is included, as are some special laws relating to motorcycles, mopeds, and trailers. AAA also offers a note of caution: “The state laws reflected on this website do not necessarily reflect traffic safety best practices.”

If you’ll be living in another state for a period of time or you have an out-of-state student on your auto policy, you might want to talk insurance implications over with your independent insurance agent.

More useful driver tools

AAA has other handy tools for drivers such as Gas Prices, which monitors pricing nationally and by state, and offers a gas cost calculator to help you gauge the cost of a planned trip. They also sponsor the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, which offers information, research and tools on a variety of road safety issues. Here are three that we think are very useful:

  • Keys2Drive – tools to help parents and teens throughout the whole learning-to-drive process.
  • Senior Driver Licensing Policies and Practices – “one stop shopping” for information on state driver licensing policies and practices affecting older and medically-at-risk drivers.
  • RoadwiseRx – a tool for understanding how medications may affect you and your driving. Type a name of a prescribed or over-the-counter medication you are taking to learn about any potential driver warnings.

Unusual perils in your morning commute: will your insurance cover this?


How’s your morning commute? This commuter encountered an unusual peril, a unique example of road rage, with the Nissan Pathfinder coming out on the losing side.

This clip is dramatic evidence of the size of an American bison in relation to a car – pretty formidable. Below is a clip of an Alaskan moose ambling down the highway to give you a dramatic size perspective.

Wildlife and vehicular collisions are pretty common, and while they peak in October through December, they can occur at any time of the year. State Farm tracks wildlife-vehicle collisions, reporting in October 2018:

The 16th annual State Farm deer-vehicle collision study has some good news. Overall in the U.S., drivers were less likely — one in 167 — to have a crash involving a collision with deer, elk, moose, or caribou. Last year’s survey put that chance at one in 162. It is estimated deer, elk, moose, and caribou collisions dropped slightly to 1.33 million in the U.S. between July 1, 2017 and June 30, 2018 — down from 1.34 million in 2017. And, this is despite the fact that there are nearly four million more licensed drivers.

Those odds are in about the same range as being audited by the IRS (1 in 175) so when you think of it that way, it’s worth thinking about how you’d react to this hazard in a driving situation.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety tracks fatalities in animal-vehicle crashes, marking 211 in 2017. They include a breakdown by state.

If you see a deer in the road, should you swerve or not? Here’s some advice from safety expert Mike Winterle, who advises you not to swerve.

“The leading cause of accidents, injuries, and deaths from deer-related accidents is when vehicles swerve in an attempt to avoid hitting a deer. Swerving can result in vehicles moving into oncoming traffic, crashing into trees and other objects, or evening rolling over. While it may be against a driver’s first instinct, the safest thing to do is slow down as much as possible and let your vehicle strike the deer. Instincts tell us to avoid an obstruction in the road, but if you can train yourself to not swerve to avoid deer in the road you will keep yourself, your passengers, and other drivers much safer.”

Here’s some other good advice:

AAA: Wildlife Crossing: Tips to Avoid Animal-Vehicle Collisions
Insurance Information Institute: Avoid a deer-car collision

Does insurance cover animal-vehicle collision damage?

Will the damage caused to the Nissan Pathfinder be covered by their auto insurance? That depends on whether they have comprehensive, which is an optional not a mandatory coverage. See The Insurance Information Institute: Cars and Deer – A Risky Combination; Consider Including Comprehensive Coverage on Your Auto Policy

Damage caused by an accident with deer or other animals is covered under the optional comprehensive portion (not the collision portion) of an automobile insurance policy. Comprehensive auto insurance includes coverage for: fire, theft, vandalism or malicious damage, riot, flood, earthquake or explosion, hail, windstorm, falling or flying objects, damage due to contact with a bird or animal, and sometimes, depending on the policy, windshield damage.

Do you need comprehensive insurance? That probably depends on a lot of factors such as the age of your car and how much you depend on your vehicle. Could you afford to repair or replace it if you have a collision with moose or damage from weather-related perils or human-generated vandalism? Your independent insurance agent can get you a quote and help you think through such scenarios to assess the cost-benefit in your particular situation.

Emerging risks: Car hacking


illustration of vehicle cybersecurity

As our cars and trucks become more computerized, the potential risk of a cyber attack increases. We have an increasing array of technologies in our vehicles designed to improve our safety, our convenience and our comfort – from electronics, sensors and wireless connectivity to assistive technologies for crash prevention and parking assist. Technologists say that the modern car has at least 100 million lines of code in various computer systems. That increases our potential risks for bad actors to hack our cars.

Innovation & Tech Today discusses these vehicle cybersecurity risks and gives examples of our increasing exposure:

  • Mobile apps used to control car features (like remote start) are proliferating and can expose data and vehicle functions if they’re not properly secured.

  • Apps can now be downloaded to your car’s infotainment system, potentially including embedded malware.

  • On-Board Diagnostic (OBD) dongles are harder to get to (typically, you have to be in the car), but they provide access to the critical CAN bus that controls the car’s operating functions.

  • Key fobs that use a signal to open car doors are vulnerable to hacking, giving access to the vehicle.

To see some of these risks in action, check out this video where Consumer Reports and the National Highway Traffic & Safety Administration (NHTSA) team up in the test field.

There was also a famous example of jeep that was attacked by a hack that brought it to a standstill on the highway. This was a controlled experiment but it is pretty dramatic. The experiment had wide attention and led to a recall of 1/4 million vehicles.

So what can you do to prevent your car from being hacked?

If you drive an old beater with minimal technology, your risks are on the low side, but if you are an early adapter of new technologies and conveniences, you need to be alert and informed about the potential – that’s step one. Keyless car systems, for example, up the risk ante so be an informed consumer. Security firm AVG offers the following 6 steps to protect your car from hacks.

  • Keep in touch with your car’s manufacturer

  • Update your car’s software

  • Store your keyless remote in the fridge (or faraday bag)

  • Turn off your car’s Bluetooth and Wi-Fi when not in use

  • Hide your car’s Wi-Fi password

  • Scan USB drives before plugging them into your car

If storing your keyless remote in the fridge sounds wacky, check their tips in the linked article to learn more about each recommendation. They also offer steps you should take if you think your car has been hacked.

In addition to taking your own steps to increase security, the industry and security watchdogs are monitoring this issue and taking regulatory steps. Follow NHTSA – vehicle cybersecurity for ongoing reports and updates.

Keyless car owner alert: Carbon monoxide poisonings


keyless ignition photo

If you have a keyless car system, you may be at heightened risk of a potentially deadly problem: More than two dozen people have died and another several dozen others have debilitating illnesses such as brain injuries related to carbon monoxide poisoning, according to a new York Times report: Deadly Convenience: Keyless Cars and Their Carbon Monoxide Toll.

Keyless ignitions are very popular. Citing the auto information website Edmunds, the NYT says keyless systems are now standard in over half of the 17 million new vehicles sold annually in the United States. But because the cars are so easy to turn on and off with the flick of a button, it can be all too easy to become distracted and not turn the car off – or to think it has been turned off when it hasn’t. Consumer Reports describes the problem : “If the car is parked in a closed garage attached to a house, especially a basement-level garage, carbon monoxide fumes from the idling engine may seep into the living area, possibly harming anyone in the house.”

The problem can be even worse with silent hybrids:

“A subset of keyless-ignition cars, hybrids and plug-in hybrids, pose an even stealthier problem, because they are virtually silent when in electric mode, which they may well be when sitting still after parking. A driver doesn’t have to be absent-minded to assume that the car is shut down—after all, the engine isn’t running. But the car may not be truly off. The engine could restart itself, say to address a climate control need, potentially sending carbon monoxide into the residence.”

The risk was identified early by safety advocates. From the NYT article:

“The risk identified initially was theft, because drivers might leave the key fob in the vehicle by accident. (In conventional ignitions, under regulations adopted in the 1990s, the key cannot be removed unless the car is in park.) The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s general counsel warned automakers in 2002 that keyless ignitions would be prone to mishaps arising from human error. In 2006, the agency updated its regulations to state that with keyless ignitions, “a warning must be sufficient to catch a driver’s attention before he or she exits the vehicle without the keys.”

Many safety advocates such as Consumer Reports and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) are asking automakers to add safety features to prevent this, such as an audible alert or an automatic shutoff when a driver leaves the car. Some cars have safety features but most don’t – ” … a survey of 17 car companies by The New York Times found that while some automakers go beyond the features recommended by the standards group, others fall short.”

For now in many keyless cars, the burden of safety falls directly on the driver. Here are a few tips:

  • When purchasing a car with a keyless system, ask about safety features
  • Read your owner’s manual to understand how your system works
  • Be aware of the problem and take extra precautions to shut vehicles down
  • Have a working carbon monoxide detector in your home