New teen driver. As both the father of a new driver and an underwriter, those words make me nervous. But some proactive discussion among the new driver, his or her parents and your local agent can make the teenage driving years a lot less stressful.
Readiness – First, make sure your teenager is ready to be behind the wheel. Even a delay of six months could allow your teen enough time to be ready for the responsibility of driving.
You set the tone – Your driving habits have an impact on how your child will behave behind the wheel. Set a good example by being a safe, courteous, defensive driver.
Safety first – Make sure that you are providing your teen with a safe vehicle to operate, free of any maintenance issues.
No texting and driving – If your teenager has a cell phone, discuss the dangers of texting or talking while driving.
Obey all traffic laws – Make sure your new driver understands the need to obey all traffic laws, especially driving the speed limit. Remind your teen to wait until all passengers have buckled their seat belts to start the car; seat belts are mandatory in every state except New Hampshire. Check the Governors Highway Safety Association website for more details.
You make the rules – In the first few months, it may be helpful to limit your teen’s driving to areas close to home, then work up to driving longer distances and on the interstate highways. Set a limit on the number of passengers in the vehicle; 46 states and the District of Columbia have enacted laws restricting passenger numbers for young drivers. You may want to set your own rules that are even more restrictive. Consider limiting driving time to daylight hours or lighter traffic times while your teen gains confidence behind the wheel. Again, many states have already enacted daylight restrictions.
Seek good advice – I found it very useful to have my son sit down with our local, independent agent to discuss the new responsibility of driving and the impact it could have on our family and others. My son seemed to listen more closely to another adult discussing these matters than he would have if I were the person speaking. My agent stressed never drinking and driving, driving defensively, limiting the distractions (including the radio), as well as what to do in the event of an accident or vehicle breakdown.
Think about insurance – My agent also discussed with my son the financial consequences his driving habits could have on our insurance premiums. By obeying all traffic laws and avoiding situations that could lead to an accident, we could avoid any potential premium increase that may result from a moving violation or claim. Other factors that may lower your premiums are to have the teen drive a standard vehicle (avoid the sportier models) and consider higher physical damage deductibles.
By teaching your child to be a responsible driver – through discussions and leading by example – you can keep your teenager, their passengers and other drivers safe and save money on your car insurance. With this knowledge, you can definitely make your life a little less stressful during those teenage driving years.