New Teenage Drivers
Getting your driver’s license isn’t quite the rite of passage it use to be, but it’s still a significant change in responsibility. For many the drivers license is factual documentation of leaving childhood and entering young adulthood. The car is a big machine that can cause serious damage to yourself and others. It’s fun, scary, dangerous, nerve racking, monotonous, and boring all at the same time.
There is a ton of information online about teenage driving, videos, and classroom training. Today’s teenagers should be very prepared when taking to the streets. They need to be. DriveitHome is a website designed by and for parents of newly licensed teen drivers. Here is a list of their 12 driving essentials:
- Practice Driving in the Rain
- Risks of Night Driving
- Dangers of Distracted Driving
- How to Respond to Emergency Vehicles and Traffic Stops
- Maintaining a Safe Following Distance
- What Your Teen Needs to Know about Intersections
- Watching Out for Road Hazards
- How to Scan the Road
- How to Regain Control of Your Car
- How to Deal with Aggressive and Unsafe Drivers
- Learning How to Drive a Safeco Speed
- Impaired Driving: When Teens Shouldn’t Drive
All of these concerns existed when parents learned to drive as teenagers. Experience is the big factor to driving safely. Beginner freeways and intermediate highways do not exist. Teens make up only 6.9% of licensed drivers, they account for 15% of fatalities
Teen Driving Psychology
Pemco did a study of their teenage drivers. Here are their findings:
Overconfident Teenage Driving
The 16-year-olds had a higher accident rate than adults, but not that much higher. However, at age 17, 18, and 19, we see the rate jump to three times the adult rate. One reason is that teenagers get overconfident. They’ve driven from home to school to home repeatedly, and they begin to think they’ve mastered driving.
They haven’t. They’ve only mastered their “regular” trips, where they know every curve, intersection and lane change. That doesn’t mean they’re good at judging new situations for the first time, especially if it’s under difficult conditions (other teens in the car, dark outside, bad weather, etc.)
Overconfidence when driving a different car
Any car that isn’t your child’s regular car is potentially a hazard. Your friend’s car. Another car in the family. A Sport Utility Vehicle or another vehicle that is bigger, heavier, and takes longer to turn or stop. Sensitize your teenage drivers to this. They will need to focus harder. The car will handle differently. The dashboard will be different. The light switch and wiper controls might be unfamiliar. There will be a number of distractions they aren’t used to
If you tell your teenage children they can’t have teenage passengers, music, night driving, etc., you’ll likely hear something like this: “What’s the point of even having a license if I can’t drive with my friends and listen to music? What’s the point if I can’t have fun?”
We’ve all been brainwashed by a lifetime of ads and movies to think that driving should be exhilarating, exciting, and fun – an emotional experience. Well, everything in moderation.
If you’re too excited, take a big breath and calm down. (When was the last time you felt exhilarated during your morning commute?) Emotion is what sells cars. But we’re really not supposed to drive emotionally. This point gets lost on people, especially teenagers.
Teen Drowsy Driving
According to researchers at the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), two-thirds of all drowsy-driving crashes involve people under age 30 – with males outnumbering females by five-to-one. Sleep deprivation is the likely cause.
Teens and 20-somethings miss out on sleep owing to a combination of sleep patterns (younger people naturally tend to be more alert late at night, meaning they often go to bed too late to get all the sleep they need on weekdays), schoolwork demands, part-time jobs, extracurricular activities, and late-night socializing. The average high school senior sleeps just 6.9 hours on weeknights – far short of the optimal nine hours needed on weeknights by people that age, as recommended by the NSF.
That’s a sobering thought when you consider that, according to the NSF, being awake for 18 hours produces driving impairment equal to having a blood alcohol level of .05 (.08 is legally drunk)! Other groups at high risk for drowsy driving include night-shift workers, long-haul truckers, people with untreated sleep disorders, and those with chronic insomnia.
See the checklist below for clues that your teen may be sleep deprived.
Checklist for parents:
Is Your Teen At Risk For A Drowsy Driving Accident?
Driver fatigue causes 100,000 accidents a year and kills more than 1,550 people, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. So how can you tell if your son or daughter is bleary-eyed enough to be a danger on the road? The NSF says to watch out if he or she:
- must be awakened for school or work (usually with difficulty)
- sleeps two or more hours later on weekends than on weeknights
- relies on caffeinated beverages in the morning to wake up or consumes two or more during the day
- naps more than 45 minutes regularly.
Good sleep habits (a regular bedtime, no TV or other electronics in the bedroom, and no caffeine after lunch) combined with learning to say “no” to sleep-robbing over commitments can help reduce the risks.
Insurance for Teenage Drivers
Adding teenage drivers to your insurance policy is expensive. Expect anywhere from 40-75% depending on the carrier and circumstances. Shop rates, but if you’ve been with your current carrier for 3 years or more with a clean record, I wouldn’t change unless there is a very significant savings. A carrier with an established driving record with your family may be easier to work with if problems come up – independent insurance agents are invaluable in these situations.
Discounts. Carriers have discounts if your teenager maintains a 3.0 or B average in school.
College Discounts. Most carriers have a discount if the young driver is a full time college student, attending school more than 100 miles away from home, and does not have a car at college with them.
Cars. If you have newer cars and more drivers than cars – consider raising your collision deductible. It’s rough, but you may want to pay a $1000 repair bill out of pocket rather than filing a claim and taking a surcharge. A lot of parent’s buy a $5K-10K good used car for their teenager to use. Higher rate as a principal driver (vs occasional), but you can just insure for liability only. Rating keeps getting more involved, I can’t say for certain anymore that this scenario is $500 more than that. Best to let your agent see how it will work out.
Permit Drivers: Let your agent know. They will know if your carrier wants them listed (rated or not) on the policy.
Divorced Parents. Find out if your child is insured on your ex’s policy, and let your agent know the particulars (if he doesn’t already have both policies). Your agent can check with your carrier for the correct rating. Make sure to check with your carrier for the correct rating/coverage on the teenage driver.
Loaning/Borrowing Cars. Make sure your teenager knows to ask you if a friend can drive your owned car. Most policies state the registered owner has to grant permission (not the teen). You also need to know if young drivers are excluded on that car’s policy. A lot of policies specifically exclude coverage for drivers under 25 years of age. Your agent can help you with this.
I am available for questions, and quotes if you want to shop your insurance rates. Comments welcomed.