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Parents do their best to protect their kids and keep them safe through every stage in life—but when it comes to driving, it gets more complicated. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), teens are eight times more likely to be involved in a crash or near collision in the first three months of becoming licensed than during the previous three months, when they drove under supervision with a learner's permit.
How can parents protect their kids behind the wheel and prevent the financial impacts of an accident? The reality is that driving is dangerous, especially for brand-new drivers who don't have experience behind the wheel. Although getting a license means freedom for many teenagers, parents still need to instill rules, guidelines and boundaries to help them make safe decisions.
Protecting Children After They Are Licensed
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that more than 4,400 teen drivers were involved in fatal crashes in 2016, showing that the cause for concern is understandable. While parents can't spend every minute in the car with their newly licensed drivers, there are steps they can take to protect children after they are licensed.
Every new driver should be required to follow the state's graduated licensing program. While these programs vary by state, they typically include driving curfews and a limit to the number of passengers in the vehicle. According to the CDC, some states' graduated licensing programs resulted in a reduction of collisions ranging from 26% to 47% .
Parents should also discuss cellphone use with new drivers. In 2016, distracted driving claimed the lives of more than 3,400 individuals. Limiting all cellphone use, including texting and voice calls, prevents unnecessary distractions behind the wheel. Today, many states are working or have laws in place to limit cellphone use.
The risk of an accident drastically increases when the sun goes down, with more than 30% of fatal teen crashes occurring between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. Establish a curfew for driving at night, even if it is stricter than current state laws, until new drivers have more experience driving at night with parents in the car.
In addition to these guidelines, parents should also set expectations for new drivers. These should include wearing a seat belt, following the speed limit and never driving while under the influence.
The Financial Impact of a New Teen Driver
A newly licensed driver also has a financial impact on parents when it comes to buying auto insurance and a new or used vehicle. Parents should add their teen to their auto insurance policy as it is cheaper than buying a separate policy. Adding a teen driver to an auto policy is also a good time to review liability coverage and make sure it is sufficient.
Unlike comprehensive or collision coverage, liability coverage protects you financially when another individual is hurt or their property is damaged during an accident. Liability insurance will cover you if your teen is at fault in a collision with another person. However, you'll be responsible for paying any amount over your policy's limits. For example, if an injured individual requires $30,000 in medical expenses, but you carry the state's minimum limits of $20,000, you would be responsible for paying the additional $10,000 out of pocket.
Before buying a new or used car for a teen driver, parents should carefully weigh the safety features of a new car versus the high costs of repairs for a new vehicle. Some parents find that buying an older car makes more financial sense because they cost less upfront to insure and repair.
Holding New Drivers Accountable
Last, parents need to hold teen drivers accountable for their actions. If an established rule is broken, there should be consequences—including loss of driving privileges and participating in safe driving courses. Several driving apps can track when teens drive, how fast they go and cellphone use while a vehicle is in motion. By using these types of programs, parents have a clear picture of the choices teens are making while driving and can easily hold them accountable when necessary.
Even though teens get licensed and can legally explore their new sense of freedom, it is essential that parents establish rules to keep them safe and help them to make better choices while driving.
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