Teen drivers are involved in more accidents than any other age group, but new licensing laws and technology are having positive effects on teen driver crash rates.
My daughter got a reckless driving ticket. Will this always affect her car insurance rate?
That ticket will affect your daughter's car insurance rate significantly for several years. Exactly how long depends on your state's insurance statutes and your insurer. The best way to counteract its effect is to develop a history of safe driving.
Are teen drivers more at risk of being involved in fatal accidents?
Yes. According to 2014 reports from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), the fatal crash rate per mile driven among 16- to 19-year-olds is about 3 times higher than drivers 20 or older. And while fatal crashes involving teens have decreased, car accidents remain the leading cause of death among teenagers.
What effects have laws banning cell phone use while driving had for young drivers?
As of 2013, laws banning cell phone use, including texting, while driving have yet to show positive consequences in reducing crashes for drivers of any age. Experts suggest that this is likely because it's hard for police officers to spot those who are texting and driving and the numbers behind distracted driving in general are underreported. That said, studies show that texting while driving makes crashes up to 23 times more likely, and simply talking on the phone makes them 1.3 times more likely. It's therefore very important that parents of teen drivers work to keep their children from using their cell phones while driving.
How can we reduce car accidents for teen drivers?
Although graduated driver licensing programs have led to a boost in teen driving safety, and auto manufacturers are introducing myriad technologies to improve driver safety, education remains the best way to improve young driver safety. According to Anne McCartt, the IIHS senior vice president for research, "Technology can't substitute for parents getting involved."
Ride along with your teen to pass on the driving expertise you've gained over the years. Stress the importance of avoiding distraction while driving. Eating in the car, talking on a cell phone, texting, and even driving with friends can distract a driver, increasing the chance of an incident.
Detail the dangers posed by driving while intoxicated. You might even write up and sign a driving contract to help communicate the responsibilities involved in driving, using this PDF from AAA as a model.
What is graduated driver licensing? Is it helping improve teen driving safety?
Graduated driver licensing is now in place in all 50 states. Instead of simply giving 16-year-olds who pass their driving tests full driving rights, graduated licensing establishes 3 stages that teen drivers must pass through to reach full driving freedom:
- The first stage includes a minimum age ranging from 14 to 16, a mandatory holding period (the minimum amount of time the new driver must spend in the learner's stage) ranging from 10 days to one year, and a minimum number of hours of supervised driving.
- The second stage allows unsupervised driving, but prohibits it during certain hours, usually during the night, and limits the number of non-family passengers.
- The final stage maintains nighttime and passenger number restrictions until the teen driver meets a particular age.
Here's a state-by-state breakdown of graduated licensing requirements.
Are these programs proving effective? Studies suggest that graduated driving has had
a significant positive impact on teen driving safety. 2012 reports from The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for instance, estimate that the most comprehensive GDL programs have lowered fatal accidents by 38 percent among 16-year-olds.
What safety features can I put on the car my son/daughter is driving to encourage good driving habits?
Auto manufacturers and insurance companies are developing and encouraging the use of safety technologies that can significantly improve driving safety. Some coverage plans employ telematics devices to track driver habits and reward good practices with reduced rates.
At Esurance, we offer the DriveSense™ discount program to drivers in dozens of states. DriveSense is a small telematics device that you plug into your car's onboard diagnostics port to gather data about your (and your teen's) driving habits. You can use the data gathered to teach your teens about safe driving. And, as a plus, depending on how (and how often you and your teen drive) you could save as much as 30 percent on your car insurance.
Adding safety features can also help you qualify for more money-saving discounts. Safety features and systems in recent models include:
- MyKey — Ford developed this computer-coded key that allows parents to set speed limits on their young family members' cars and mutes the stereo when seat belts aren't buckled
- Electronic stability control
- Lane departure warning
- Collision warning with automatic braking
- Blind-zone warning
- Emergency brake assist
- Adaptive headlights
- Antilock brakes
- Air bags
- Traction control
- Active head restraints
- Crumple zones
Third-party companies have developed safety deterrent systems such as:
- CarChip® — records speed, mileage, and other data through the diagnostics port in most cars made since 1996; CarChip can also be set to beep if a driver exceeds a certain speed or engages in other risky practices
- tiwi™ — provides drivers with verbal feedback when they're speeding, not wearing their seat belt, or driving aggressively; notifies parents of unsafe driving through text, voicemail, or email; and makes info accessible via the Web for parent analysis and discussion
- DriveCam — this camera system captures video of the car's interior and exterior environment and records events before and after an incident; usually a green light on the camera blinks red when the driver has triggered a recording
Having a handful of these features in your teen's car could make a big difference in terms of driver safety and insurance rates.