For many parents, the scariest experience of their lives is handing the car keys over to a newly-licensed teen and watching them pull out of the driveway. Without Mom or Dad in the passenger seat, the loss of control is a heavy weight, and many worry until they see the vehicle safely returned. But there are several things parents can do to keep teen drivers safe, avoid auto insurance claims, and keep premiums lower.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death in teens ages 16 to 20. No parent wants to get the call that their child has been injured in a crash, so it’s important to be aware, and teach student drivers to avoid the risky behaviors that can result in a catastrophic consequence.
There are many factors that contribute to teen driving accidents, but the most common are:
- Inexperience. Teens are more likely to make poor decisions or fail to recognize dangerous situations due to a lack of time behind the wheel. Parents need to hold on to the car keys when factors are not favorable, such as poor weather conditions.
- Driving faster and closer to other vehicles. Teens are more likely than older adults to engage in risky behavior.
- Driving while impaired. Teens have a tendency to experiment with drugs and alcohol, and getting behind the wheel of a car while under the influence puts them at risk.
- Driving while distracted. So many things can take the focus off the road, including phones, smartwatches, music, friends, and food.
- Not wearing a seatbelt. This is a problem with teens who are driving, as well as those who are passengers. In 2015, more than half of teens admitted to not wearing a seatbelt when in a vehicle with another driver.
How do parents make sure teens don’t engage in high risk behaviors when driving? There are many suggestions for parents of teen drivers. First, make sure they get plenty of experience before getting their license. Florida requires that student drivers have 50 hours of experience behind the wheel, with 10 of those being at night, but parents shouldn’t let teens rush the process. If after 50 hours, you don’t feel your child is ready, require them to keep driving with supervision until they are confident and capable. Also, make sure they have plenty of experience in rain, and wind, two things all Floridians must be able to navigate.
Second, require teens to take a safe driver course. In addition to the required coursework for the state, your insurance provider can suggest a course that can be taken online or in a classroom that will reinforce the skills needed to drive safely.
Next, make very clear rules about possible distractions. Many parents only allow one friend in the car. Also, make it clear that using the phone for texting or talking while driving is not allowed.
Also, parents can use modern technology to ensure teens are making good decisions. Before, parents just had to hand their child the keys and hope for the best, but now there are a variety of apps you can install on a child’s phone that will let a parent know where the child is, if they are speeding, accelerating or stopping too quickly. Other apps restrict parts of the phone when they sense the child is in the car, and moving over 5 MPH.
Because teens are considered a high risk driver, many families are also surprised by the increase in their insurance premium after a teen obtains a license. There are things you can do to keep costs down though. Teens who take a safe driver course will be eligible for a discount, so that’s a good idea on more than one front. In addition parents can talk to their insurance provider about:
- discounts for students who get good grades
- increasing deductibles to lower premiums
- buying a teen an older, safe car for lower premiums
- a monitoring device on the vehicle that rewards safe drivers with a discount.
Having a teen driver in the household is a stressful time, but it is also a big step of independence. Parents who take the time to teach children, set clear boundaries, and monitor the situation will be able to feel confident in handing the keys over to their teenager. For more information about safety and insurance for teen drivers, contact us.
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Rob Macoviak is the President of Oyer, Macoviak and Associates. Oyer, Macoviak and Associates is the oldest independent insurance agency in Boynton Beach and has been in business since 1953.