Insights

Youthful Drivers, Same Old Risk

September 13, 2016

Private Client

Teenagers drive less than just about everyone else in the United States, yet are three times more likely to be in fatal crashes than people over the age of 20. Although people between 15 and 24 are only 14% of the population, they account for nearly a third of the total costs of motor vehicle injuries.

The Highway Loss Data Institute reports that young drivers have about twice as many claims as those between 35 and 55. On the bright side, good graduated driver licensing laws (programs that delay full licensing so beginners can gain more experience) can reduce collision claims among 16-year-olds by about 20%.

Parents of new drivers are understandably stressed about their teenagers being behind the wheel. Yet the data above tells us that people in their early 20s are also at a high risk for traffic accidents and fatalities. The reason could be in part due to the human brain that continues to develop its rational side until approximately age 25.

Knowing that young drivers live with increased liability exposure, the insurance industry often considers anyone under 25 a “youthful driver” who will likely cost more in auto insurance than older drivers. How can parents and guardians ensure proper coverage, maximize affordability, and keep their youthful drivers safe? Let’s find out.

Young Driver on Board: Protecting Your Family and Saving Money

A lot of parents are concerned about the high costs of insuring a youthful driver. The temptation is to not inform the insurance company when the teen becomes a licensed driver, which is, of course, very risky. Here are some wiser ways to protect your family—without paying top dollar.

First, find out when exactly the new driver must be added to your policy. Often you may wait until they have their full license, though some providers have options for learning drivers (check with your insurer or broker to find out your options). Again, not insuring the new driver puts you at risk.

Look into getting an umbrella policy if you don’t already have one, because your auto policy will only pay out so much. This extra liability coverage protects you and your assets from major claims that a more specific policy may not. As with any insurance, you have the right to shop around for the best deal on insuring a youthful driver.

Discounts and credits are available to offset the high costs of insuring young drivers. One is the student discount, which offers discounts for maintaining a minimum grade average (often somewhere around a B or 3.0). Another is the driver’s training credit, which rewards you for taking a behind-the-wheel class.

How much you’ll actually save with these individual credits depends on the provider, how many vehicles are on the policy and how many drivers are in the household.

Accident Prevention Tips: Training Your Youthful Driver

The best way to avoid the costs of traffic accidents is to teach your youthful driver to prevent them from happening in the first place. If you’re teaching your child how to drive, keep these tips on mind:

  • Begin in empty parking lots where you can practice starting and stopping and turning the head without turning the wheel (for shoulder checks).
  • Staying calm behind the wheel (and in the passenger seat next to your teen driver) is rule No. 1. Be prepared to stop and take breaks if anyone in the car becomes frustrated. This is safer and more effective for learning.
  • Map out a route rather than driving aimlessly. Gradually increase the distances and vary the kinds of roads, branching out from quiet streets to main drags and highways. Keep a log of where you drive for future reference.
  • Talk about being aware of the surroundings, and not fixating on one object, such as the car directly in front of them. Eyes should move from the road ahead to brake lights to mirrors to the instrument panel.
  • Practice using turn signals and other important features (windshield wipers, defroster) without looking away from the road.
  • Practice maintaining appropriate speeds and not following too closely, as well as tapping the brakes before stopping to avoid getting hit from behind.
  • Work up to challenges like passing and merging, always emphasizing the importance of not taking unnecessary risks.

Consider signing an agreement together that outlines the responsibilities that come with driving to ensure you’re both on the same page. Remember, there’s a good chance your youthful driver does not yet understand consequences the way you do, so spell things out when necessary and provide solid facts about driving safety.

Having a new or young driver in the family can be daunting, and it’s going to take some time for everyone to be comfortable with behind-the-wheel activities. Spend plenty of time practicing and ensure you have the right coverage to safeguard your family and property from traffic accidents and sky-high premiums.

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