Teen Drivers

Freedom of the Road

One of the great moments in a teenager’s life is receiving their driver’s license. For parents, it is a moment of pride in their son or daughter growing up. That pride is quickly overcome by fear, doubt, and uncertainty. What of their child’s safety? Will their teen be one of the many teen driver accident statistics? What will having a teen driver in the household do to my car insurance rates?

Parents primary concern is, of course, for the safety of their first-time driver and others sharing the road. With little prior driving experience, inexperienced drivers are at an elevated risk for accidents. Although safety certainly is a main concern, controlling cost and confirming sufficient coverage to protect against liability claims is also a major consideration. Even in the absence of any claims, many parents might also be concerned about the increased cost of auto insurance.  

Auto insurance, whether acquired through an insurance broker or insurance agent, can be expected to increase between $100 to $250 a month or more once a teen driver is added to the policy.

Parents should also take proper steps to further reduce risk by understanding how teen driving affects car and home policies. Working with your Aspen Insurance advisor is a great place to consider available options in coverage and in reducing financial exposure.

Include Your Teen in Car Insurance Discussions

Begin by making teens fully aware of the potential consequences of their actions. No one sets out to hit another car, hence the reason they are called “accidents”. Your teen should recognize driving is a privilege, a privilege which comes with responsibility.

Driving a car is piloting more than 3,000 pounds of steel and gasoline. A collision even at a slow rate of speed can cause a great deal of damage, including severe bodily injury. Teens should be aware that 98% of the time, driving is a low-risk endeavor. However, that risk increases greatly when drivers are distracted by high rates of speed, mobile phones, friend’s conversations or altered states.

As a result, automobile accidents can have far reaching financial consequences affecting your family’s financial future. As parents, we should continually reinforce driving safety and alert our teen to the negative consequences of receiving a driving citation or being at fault in an acciden, both of which result in insurance rate increases.

Teen Driving Statistics

Younger drivers may feel invincible, as in: “I can text and drive”, “I’ll keep my phone handy in case someone calls”. Statistics demonstrate something very different:

  • In their first year of driving, 1 in 5 16-year-old drivers will have an accident!
  • In 2019, distracted driving was a reported factor in 8.5% of fatal motor vehicle crashes.
  • Over 74,000 young people die or are injured each year by not wearing seatbelts.
  • 42% of high school students across the United States admitted that they text or email while driving.
  • Two-thirds of teen passenger deaths are in vehicles driven by other teenagers.
  • In 2018, 2,500 adolescents (ages 12-19) died and approximately 297,000 had nonfatal injuries resulting from motor vehicle crashes according to the most recent teen driver safety statistics compiled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
  • Underage drinking and drug use is illegal. Your automobile policy may be void if a car accident involves illegal activities.  

Taken together, these statistics show an alarming pattern of risk for less experienced drivers. In-car distractions and inexperience all contribute to a higher rate of accidents for teenagers.

Distracted Driving

According to the CDC, eight people are killed in the US each day in crashes reported to involve a distracted driver. Although not just a problem affecting teen drivers, teens are over-represented in distracted driving statistics. We should remind our teens that in three seconds, a car travels over 170 feet at thirty-five MPH.

There are three main types of distraction:

  • Visual: taking your eyes off the road
  • Manual: taking your hands off the wheel
  • Cognitive: taking your mind off driving

In the U.S. in 2018, over 2,800 people were killed and an estimated 400,000 were injured in crashes involving a distracted driver. About 1 in 5 of the people who died in crashes involving a distracted driver in 2018 were not riding in vehicles: they were walking, riding their bikes, or standing in their front yard.

Have frank discussions with your teen about the dangers of distracted driving and what distractions they need to prevent. Both holding a mobile phone or texting while driving are distractions, as is having a phone conversation while driving. Not only is cell phone use a distraction, but it is also against the law and a citable offense in many states.

Twenty-five states, D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands all prohibitdrivers from using handheld cellphones while driving. All are primary enforcement laws; a traffic officer may cite the driver for using a cell phone. Thirty- states and D.C. ban all cellphone use by novice drivers, and 23 states and D.C. prohibit it for school bus drivers.

Currently, forty-eight states, D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands ban text messaging for all drivers.

Cell phones are not the only possible in-car distraction. Driving large groups of friends may cause the driver to lose road awareness for a few seconds: in those few seconds, a car traveling at 60 MPH will have traveled close to 200 feet!

Teen Education Discounts

One way to reduce the increased cost of auto insurance is with education discounts. Many insurance companies offer premium reductions for teens maintaining good school grades. Some discounts your teen driver may be eligible for include:

  • Students maintaining an average of “B” or above.
  • Teens completing a recognized driver training course, either through AAA, school or through local programs.
  • College students attending school a minimum of 100 miles away from home who do not bring their car to campus.
  • Teen (and adult) drivers using SafeDriving or TeleTrack applications receive discounts for verifiable safe driving habits.

Choose the Appropriate Auto Insurance Company

It will normally be cheaper to add teenagers to an existing parent policy rather than having teens purchase their own. Adding an additional automobile to an existing policy may enable a multi-vehicle discount.

Different insurance companies use proprietary methods for pricing young driver policies. Ask your insurance agent to research alternative possible policies, searching for the best fit for your specific circumstances.

Assigning Your Teen to the Correct Car

Some insurance companies will “assign” the most expensive-to-insure driver to the most expensive-to-insure car, increasing the total cost of your auto insurance. One possible way to reduce your insurance cost is to have the company assign your teen to the least expensive car. This will reduce the potential cost of damages and lower the monthly fees.

However, your teen must use the car to which they are assigned. If your teenager is involved in an accident driving a car they were not assigned to, there could be penalties, premium increases or negate the policy coverage.

Increase Liability Insurance for Greater Protection

Be advised that state minimums for liability insurance may not be sufficient to fully protect from lawsuits, were your son or daughter to be in a collision. It may be in your best interest to purchase umbrella policies with higher amounts of coverage for increased financial protection. If your teenager is involved in a collision and is found to be negligent, the damages could easily exceed the state minimum liability.

If you (or your teen) are found financially responsible, you could be sued in court for the amounts above and beyond your coverage maximum.

Changing Conditions

Depending on your state of residence, teens may have to contend with driving in changing conditions. The road to your house on bright, sunny can easily be navigated at 50 MPH. In high winds, or heavy rain, that same road may be unsafe at 35 MPH. Let your teen know of the varying road conditions which could impact speed and safety:

  • High water
  • Hydroplaning
  • Bright sun shining on the windshield.
  • Snow
  • Ice

All the above conditions change the operating safety and should also alter rate of speed. Teens should be advised of the increased caution required for driving in adverse conditions and the appropriate response to such conditions. They should know how to control a skid on snow, ice or mud, and proper driving speed for weather conditions.

These are all things which may not have been taught in driving classes and could increase the possibility of sliding into either other vehicles or stationary objects on the side of the road.

21st Century Driving

Cars continue to get larger and heavier, with the ability to cause considerable damage even at the lowest rates of speed. Cars are safer, and that safety engineering comes at a cost of more expensive auto repairs. Cell phones, text messages, after-school friends, dating, unfamiliar roads are all common situations which could cause your son or daughter to lose concentration with devastating results.

Make sure you and your family are protecting your financial security while minimizing the risk for your driving teen.

Aspen Insurance Agency is in Denver, CO, and services clients nationwide. We are a family run business working with multiple insurance carriers to offer our customers the coverage they need at the lowest possible cost. We offer a wide range of personal, commercial, and professional insurance to residential and commercial customers enabling the cheapest rates available. Call to speak to one of our insurance professionals and see how painless insurance shopping can be.