For generations, learning to drive and acquiring a driver’s license used to be a milestone a 16-year-old couldn’t wait to reach. It was a rite of passage into the beginnings of adulthood. A driver’s license was a sign of freedom, and only the very un-kewl kids didn’t have one. Still relying on a “parent taxi” to get from place to place when you were a junior or senior in high school signaled that you were a “dweeb” who couldn’t let go of the apron strings or that you were dangerously incompetent behind the wheel. Either of which was a kiss of death to any social life you might have imagined.
More than 4,000 teens die in car crashes every year across the United States. Teens crash four times more often than any other group. The Centers for Disease Control reported in 1996 that 85% of high school seniors had a driver’s license. By 2012, that number had fallen to only 75%. Of the 18 and 19-year-olds surveyed, over 56% of them cited lack of time or that they were too busy to get one. That might be a good thing, since teenage drivers (age 16-19) tend to exhibit dangerous, distracting behaviors such as speeding and texting while driving, which makes them three times more likely to have an accident than drivers over 20. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s Highway Loss Data, the risk is highest with drivers between the ages of 16 and 17.
Graduated licensing laws that include strong nighttime and passenger restrictions and laws that delay the ages for obtaining learning permits and full licensing are associated with substantial reductions in crash fatalities. According to SafeAmerica.org the four major factors influencing whether or not your teen driver will have a crash are: inexperience, teen passengers, driving after dark, and parental involvement in the teen’s driver instruction. Just as it took practice for your child to learn first how to ride a bicycle with training wheels before graduating to two wheels, driving an automobile has a learning curve before competency is achieved.
According to AAA.com, a 16 or 17-year-old driver’s risk of dying in a crash quadruples when carrying 3 or more passengers under the age of 21; it doubles when carrying two passengers under 21; it increases 44% when carrying one passenger younger than 21, and it decreases by 62% with a passenger age 35 or older. Though they may vary by company and state, insurance rates are based on risk and statistics such as these so you can expect to pay higher premiums for your young driver, especially if it’s your son, (young men have more accidents) at least until they turn 20.
On the other hand, it is cheaper to add a teen to your existing policy than it is to purchase a separate policy. Rates can also be offset by good student discounts (good grades demonstrate responsibility and, therefore, less risk) , having a good driving record and taking a driver’s training class approved by your state department of motor vehicles. Driving a vehicle with enhanced safety features may also get you a discount, at any age. For a good student discount, most insurers require the student to be a full-time student, to maintain a GPA of 3.0 or higher and be 25 years old or younger.
If you are a two-car family and your child will be driving one of them, list your teen as a primarily driving the less expensive of the two. Your premium will be much higher if you state that your teenager is primarily driving your current-year, top of the line Mercedes convertible than if you show him/her mostly driving the 25-year-old Toyota Celica. Avoid sports cars and others designed for speed.
If your teenager has his/her own car, you’ll want to get quotes on an individual policy and compare it with the costs of adding another car and driver to your existing policy. If the teen’s vehicle is older, of lower value, and paid for, it may make sense to get an individual, bare-bones liability-only policy, without the more costly collision and/or comprehensive coverage that is usually required if the car is financed. As stated earlier, rates and terms may vary from region to region, so get quotes from several insurers.
Your teen will be required to carry at least the minimum insurance mandated by state law, and some states may even require drivers with learner’s permits to carry insurance, so determine this through your state’s DMV. Perhaps one of the best things parents can do is to set rules and conditions for your teen drivers, and then follow through by enforcing them if they are broken. Risky behavior behind the wheel of a car should never be laughed off or downplayed as “kids just being kids” because a future occurrence could result in somebody’s tragic death, perhaps even your child’s.
Kids learn a lot about responsibility by watching their parents exercise it (or not). But that doesn’t exempt them from bad judgment. You were a kid once, you remember the feeling of invincibility and sometimes immortality that comes with youth! You’re probably also keenly familiar with the stupid decisions they may make, especially in response to peer pressure. Make your rules of the road crystal clear to your teen drivers and stand by them, because it’s important you get this right. Make them sign a pledge to never drink and drive. Joyrides can turn deadly in a blink of an eye, so don’t be afraid to take away the keys if your rules aren’t followed, with longer periods of time for repeat offenses. If they don’t respect you enough to honor your rules, they won’t respect other motorists either.
If your teen isn’t in a hurry to get his/her driver’s license, he/she isn’t weird, bucking a trend or thumbing his/her nose at tradition. With Lyft, Uber and the many alternative modes of transportation available these days, your teen may not see the urgency in having a license that, among the responsibilities that come with it, requires paying for gas, maintenance and insurance, especially when there are few jobs available to earn the money to do that. Besides, if they wait until they’re adults to get their license, you will not have had to pay 5 years of higher insurance premiums and they will have matured (hopefully) sufficiently to not act like idiots behind the wheel. That’s a win-win for all concerned!