Every year, around 14,000 teens between the ages of 16 and 19 are killed in car crashes. It’s no wonder that parents are afraid of letting their children hit the road on their own—and that they take every possible precaution to keep their children safe. It’s also no wonder that insurance rates for teens are incredibly high. Fortunately for parents of teens everywhere, there are programs in place that can help keep kids safer on the road, and keep their insurance premiums as low as possible.
Safe Driving Courses
There are a number of safe driving courses out there that go above and beyond the training that traditional driver’s education courses offer. Most of them are aimed at young adults 15-25. They usually last about four hours and teach young drivers about:
- How to avoid underestimating risks on the road.
- The danger of driving with knees (something young drivers—and plenty of adults—commonly do).
- Dealing with peer pressure, as well as texting and other handheld distractions.
- State and local laws.
According to the National Safety Council, these safe driving (sometimes called “defensive driving”) courses reduce the risk of car accidents for young drivers.
And here’s your bonus: Many insurance companies discount the cost of young driver insurance for those who complete the course.
As an added incentive for students to do well in school, good grades = lower insurance premiums. Research shows that students who do better in school are less likely to get into accidents on the road. Young drivers will generally qualify for a good student discount if they:
- Have a 3.0 (B average) GPA or better or are on the honor roll/Dean’s List
- Are under age of 25
- Are enrolled full time in high school or college/university.
- Can provide proof of academic performance (generally a report card issued by the institution)
Teen Driving Contracts
American Automotive Association (AAA) developed a parent-teen driving contract in coordination with various insurance companies, and the idea has really taken off in the last five years. These contracts aren’t legally binding; they’re simply an agreement between parents and teens that lays out in writing what the expectations are for the teen before he or she takes the keys and hits the road alone. Contract can be altered to fit individual needs, and are auto-filled with recommended guidelines for each category. The categories are fairly extensive, and include:
- Privileges such as curfews, number of passengers allowed in the vehicle, and weather conditions that would limit driving.
- Rules the teen is expected to follow, such as basic road rules, keeping in contact with parents, and potential risks.
- Consequences for irresponsible behavior and driving while the keys are in the teens control.
Teen driving contracts help teens gradually step into the responsibilities of driving, make them aware of the consequences for not following the rules, and still allow them to have some freedom. In some cases, insurance companies offer discounts for parent-teen driving contracts as long as they are kept on file with the company.
One great way to keep teens responsible behind the wheel is to require that they bear some of the financial costs. They’re much more likely to be attentive and cautious behind the wheel if they know that consequences for their failure to do so will come out of their pockets. At the very least, you should make sure your teen knows that he or she will be financially responsible for:
- Any tickets, whether for moving violations or parking.
- A set dollar amount or fixed percentage of the cost to repair the damaged vehicle if the teen is at fault.
- The cost of insurance on the vehicle. The teen should pay the difference between your old insurance rate and your new rate with the teen driver added.
Giving your teen a financial stake won’t reduce the cost of insurance, but it will help keep your teen safer on the road.