Like many people, I inevitably end up checking out my horoscope while reading the funnies on Sunday. Why not? Usually, under my sign, Cancer, I discover that good fortune or a new relationship is heading my way. Even if there is nothing to such predictions, I find they give me a lift. And, the older I become, the more I think the stars may really know our future.
However, despite astrology’s popularity and appeal, it’s rare to see big companies publicly dabbling in the business of the stars. So I was surprised to see the headline of an Allstate advertisement in a September issue of Entertainment Weekly reading, “Virgos have the most accidents. What’s your road sign?” From there, the ad lists the “Official Rankings” of the best drivers by sign. Aries, Cancer, and Taurus are the top three, with Aquarius, Leo, and Virgo at the bottom of the list.
According to the fine print, these numbers are “based on frequency of auto policy claims in 2005 by birthdates of Allstate customers.” Don’t worry, Allstate isn’t charging higher premiums to people born from August 24 to September 22 (Virgo), while giving a discount to drivers born from March 21 to April 20 (Aries). “Age, driving record, type of vehicle driven and all the non-exciting stuff is what we use to determine premiums -- not astrology,” says Mike Siemienas of Allstate’s media relations department.
A September 2005 article in Insurance Journal says that actuaries are “skeptical” of any correlation. The article quotes Mark Allaben, fellow of the Casualty Actuarial Society, as concluding, “I would say at this time, [the zodiac] would have as much value as correlating driving exposure to what baseball team you like.”
Then why did Allstate’s actuaries bother looking at drivers and their astrological signs if it was not going to impact premiums? “We were looking to put together a fun ad campaign that would interest consumers and make people think about what they were doing behind the wheel. I’m a Virgo so I have to remind myself not to turn around and talk to my kids until we are at a stoplight,” explains Siemienas.
So who are the worst drivers and who are the best?
I was surprised to find other studies looking at this same question -- although their results were quite contradictory. Nancy Fenn at Tarot.com refers to a study conducted by Suncorp Metway, Ltd., an Australian financial service. Apparently Suncorp reviewed 160,000 accident claims over a three-year period, and found that Gemini were the worst drivers, followed by Taurus and Pisces. Meanwhile, she found, Capricorns are the best drivers, followed by Sagittarians and Scorpios.
The debate doesn’t stop there. The Web site for Norwich Union, a British insurance company, has reprinted an article from June 2005 claiming that “fast and furious Leos reported the highest number of accidental damage claims,” and that, along with Cancers (I have never had a claim, by the way), are “twice as likely to submit claims” as Geminis, Pisces and Sagittarians.
Elizabeth Joyce, a clairvoyant who has appeared on 'Unsolved Mysteries' and teaches courses on meditation in Pennsylvania agrees with Allstate’s findings and says that Leos are “speeders who wouldn’t think twice about cutting others off,” and Cancers are “both considerate and defensive.”
There is an explanation for the differing views on astrological signs and the driving records and tendencies of the twelve groups. Carol Allen, one of the most respected astrologers in the country and the astrologer of choice to Hollywood’s movers and shakers, explains that in astrology, the month of your birth may be less important than the position of the planets at a given time.
“In astrology, there is actually a planet that represents vehicles and a planet that represents accidents,” she says. “When the planet of vehicles is with the planet of accidents, no matter what the person’s sign -- they will have accidents!” Still, she asserts, “There are definitely driving tendencies and personality patterns of each astrological sign that sits behind the wheel.”
Whether you think astrology is baloney, or you believe in it with all of your heart, my advice would be to take notice of Allstate’s conclusions and pay more attention to road signs, your speed, those driving around you and, most importantly, your own bad habits. Ultimately, if we each do our part to drive responsibly, whatever our zodiac signs, our roads will be a bit safer, and our insurance premiums will be lower in the process.