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Advice on Car Insurance for Parents with Teen Drivers

Teen drivers cause or are involved in auto accidents at three times the rate of all other drivers. [1] In 2011 over 3,000 teens suffered fatal injuries in vehicle crashes [2], while tens of thousands required emergency room treatment – often for injuries that lead to life-long disability. For decades, driving crashes have been the number one cause of death for teens, over-shadowing suicide, drugs and guns.

Here you'll find guidance on several key car insurance issues:

·         State laws that can help you

·         The need for driver's education

·         How to choose a car for your teen

·         How to get the best insurance rates

State Laws Aim to Reduce the Crash Rate

The states have each passed laws that aim to minimize the risks of driving when the teen is just beginning to drive. These are known as Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) laws. As a teen gains experience and time behind the wheel, GDL laws allow the teen to drive in increasingly risky situations – for example, allowing night driving or allowing the teen to drive with another teen as a passenger. Laws vary by state, but they're all designed to expose your teen to risks only as he or she becomes ready to handle them. You can find a summary of GDL laws in your state at the Governor's Highway Safety Administration. [3] Among them you'll find that parents are legally responsible for driving with their teen – usually for 40 to 60 hours – to give them real-world experience behind the wheel. Even more important than simply complying with the law, you'll be giving your child the experience he or she needs to drive far more safely.

What About Driver's Ed Classes?

Some states also require that teens take a driver's education class. We recommend such classes even when they're not required by law. They teach traffic laws and give the teen basic information about how to handle a vehicle. However, most traditional driver's ed classes with 30 hours of classroom time and only six hours of actual driving experience deliver far too little to prepare a child to drive safely. In fact, a study conducted by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration found that teens who participate in a driver's education classes had no fewer accidents than those who did not participate. While enrolling your child in a driver's ed program is a wise, positive step, parents need to give their teens many hours of driving experience once the Learner's Permit has been granted.

Choosing a Car for Your Teen

If you decide to buy a car for your teen, consider these guidelines.

·         Newer models have more safety features than older models. Air bags, initially only provided for front seat passengers, are now accompanied with side air bags and even knee-level air bags designed to reduce leg injury in some vehicles. Electronic stability control (ESC), which has been standard for several years but may not be included on older vehicles, helps prevent skidding and driving-off-the-road crashes. With some diligent shopping you're likely to find a vehicle at an affordable price that provides at least ESC, front and side air bags. You can check the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety [5] to find the safest cars dating back to the 1990's.

·         By all means, avoid “muscle cars” and sports cars. Insurance premiums on these are guaranteed to be more costly than, say, a traditional sedan. Likewise, avoid pickup trucks, crossovers and SUV's. These all have a higher center of gravity and are more susceptible to roll-overs if the driver is too aggressive when making a turn.

·         Also, consider the physics of a crash between two vehicles. Even with the most modern safety equipment, a very small (light weight) car will suffer more damage than a larger, more massive vehicle. It's wise to protect your teen with a larger car, and to avoid the sub-compact and “mini” cars available today.

How to Get the Best Rates

Insuring teen drivers is critical to protect your family from financial ruin should your son or daughter be found at fault in a serious crash. Yet insurance premiums are more costly for teen drivers. The insurance professionals at Quoteasy recommend you consider the following.

Should I Add My Teen to My Insurance Policy?

·         Adding him or her to your policy extends all your policy's provisions to your teen. Your deductibles, limits and specific coverages will all pertain to your teen just as they do for you. While we all expect our kids to drive safely, history shows that many teens, sadly, do not. You may want to talk with your insurance professional about the deductibles and limits you currently carry to learn whether adjusting them to account for the greater risk of a teen driver is appropriate. For example, you can reduce your premium cost by raising the deductibles on collision and comprehensive coverages. However, if your personal financial situation is better served by paying higher premiums but avoiding large out-of-pocket deductibles, decreasing them may be a better choice. Your own financial situation needs to guide your choices.

Caution: If you allow your teen to drive a family vehicle, be absolutely sure to add him or her to the policy. If your teen is involved in a crash and is not listed on the policy as authorized to drive the vehicle, your carrier could deny the claim altogether.

·         As for discounts available …

o    You may be able to receive “good student” rates for teens who maintain a certain grade average, usually a 3.0 GPA. These can save as much as 15 percent with certain carriers.

o    Some carriers offer discounts for teens who complete driver's ed.

o    Others offer discounts for teens who complete a defensive driver training program, sometimes known as accident prevention training. Not to be confused with traditional driver's ed, these classes focus exclusively on becoming a defensive driver.

o    Install an anti-theft device or a GPS tracking device. Many carriers offer discounts for vehicles so equipped.

·         You also face risks when you add your teen to your policy. If he or she has a crash, or several, you will see rate increases on your policy and perhaps the loss of discounts you've grown accustomed to having, such as the “good driver” discount.

·         Finally, buying a separate policy for your teen isolates your policy from any degradation due to your teen's poor driving. However, paying for two policies is always more costly than one. We generally don't recommend buying a separate policy unless you are already paying increased premiums due to your own poor driving – a history of traffic accidents, citations and so forth. Adding a teen to such a policy could push the premiums to an uncomfortable level. In those cases, a second policy may well be the best choice.

Need Some Help?

Quoteasy – We're a team of insurance professionals who can make sure you have the best coverage for you and your teen driver. We'll deliver the protection you want at the best rates and with every available discount. Call our friendly team at 305-587-2410. We're here to help.


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