Does one of your kids have the car nut gene, too? They’ve spent years at your side attending car shows and races. They’ve gotten their hands dirty tinkering on cars with you on the weekends.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re good to get behind the wheel. Know the signs of when your teen is ready to drive and how you can help. Given the auto insurance premiums for teen drivers, you definitely don’t want to pay auto insurance for teens after an accident.
Your Teen Is Ahead of the Game
Baby Boomers are the generation traditionally known for having a strong love affair with cars, so there’s less of a chance that their kids, the Gen Xers and the millennials, are imparting much car care wisdom to their teens who are coming of driving age.
Some parents have been using the coronavirus quarantine to teach auto mechanic skills to their kids, but depending on what the parent knows, they could be learning right along with their teen, which may not provide an optimal education.
But if your car nut teen has been doing repairs with you, they already have a solid foundation of knowing the basics, and most likely more.
So you already have the peace of mind that if they become stranded on the road, they know how to take care of themselves, from jump-starting the car to changing a tire. And they know how to maintain a vehicle to try to avoid problems.
You’ve also most likely instilled in your child a respect for the value of a vehicle. They’ve become well-acquainted with the amount of labor involved in repairs, the cost of equipment, and the skill needed to do a good job. Hopefully, that will make them take driving more seriously, and they’ll be less inclined to make reckless decisions when they’re behind the wheel.
Is your Teen Ready to Drive?
So you know your teen has respect for what cars can and can’t do, and can handle roadside repairs. But are they ready to deal with being on the road with other drivers?
Deciphering teenagers is an elusive art, from their slang to their moods. Just because they’ve met the minimum age requirement to start driving doesn’t necessarily mean they should.
Signs Your Teen Is Ready to Drive
Here are traits you can look for in your teen as good indicators that they’re ready to take the wheel.
- Responsible: If they’re good about following rules at home and school, they’re most likely to follow through on the rules of the road.
- Dependable: Your teen takes care of chores and schoolwork without having to be repeatedly reminded about it.
- Good judgment: They make mature decisions that will keep them out of trouble, including not giving in to peer pressure.
- Patience: Yes, teens can be moody, but look for signs in which they control their impulses and remain level-headed.
- Desire: If your teen expresses the desire to drive, they may just double up on the indicators above to prove to you that they’re ready.
Teachable Moments With Your New Teen Driver
You’re most likely supplementing a driver’s education class, but your job is no less important: Your teen needs to practice driving, they need to be supervised while they do it, and they need to become familiar with handling the family vehicle.
Here’s how to approach your exciting but stressful new role as a driving instructor parent.
Start Slow With Your New Teen Driver
Yes, your teen is anxious to learn, but you want them to retain information and not become overwhelmed.
Ease them into this new experience. Start with short lessons and in a stress-free area like an empty parking lot. Once they’ve attained a comfort level of being in the driver’s seat as well as the basics of using the accelerator, the brake, the mirrors, and the vehicle’s other features, then take on a locale where they can drive in minimal traffic.
Also, before you take them on a highway, familiarize them with driving around your neighborhood. As noted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), approximately 52% of all accidents occur within a five-mile radius of home, and 69% of all car accidents occur within a 10-mile radius from home.
Be a Good Role Model to Your Teen
When you are driving with your teen, lead by example and be a model good driver. Follow the rules of the road and don’t engage in any distracted driving behaviors or impulsive driving. It will make your job easier when you’re trying to teach your teen good driving practices and they see that you practice what you preach.
You can also create teachable moments when you drive by narrating your driving decisions as you go, noting other drivers’ decisions, and getting your teen’s feedback.
Stay Calm With Your New Teen Driver
Be open, supportive, upbeat, and present when you’re helping your teen get in their driving practice.
Be a good passenger and teacher. Put the cellphone away and focus on how your teen is responding to the environment around him while he’s driving so you can track his progress. Actively listen to his comments to best address his concerns and make the experience positive and productive.
Realize that your teen is going to make mistakes, and his pace and style of learning may differ from yours. Avoid micromanaging, yelling, or getting upset, so you don’t fluster your teen and take their attention away from the road.
Prepare Your Teen for Problems
Your teaching doesn’t end when your teen gets out of the car.
Your knowledge sharing should also include what to do when a vehicle breaks down, such as whom to contact and when they need roadside assistance.
Also teach them what to do in case they are in an accident, such as calling the police and the insurance company, not admitting fault, and taking plenty of pictures.
Insurance for Your New Teen Driver
While you’ve done all you can to prepare your teen to drive, now the question is: Are you prepared for your teen to drive?
You’re not only contending with the realization that your child is maturing and gaining independence but there’s the financial aspect — mainly, the increase in your insurance premium.
Adding a Teen Driver to Your Policy
Before your teen gets a learner’s permit, check on your state’s laws as well as your auto insurance company’s guidelines.
In most states, teens are covered under their parents’ auto insurance policy during their learner’s permit phase and at no additional charge since they are driving supervised and are therefore less of a driving risk.
But whatever the situation, your teen needs to be listed on your policy and your rate will increase either when they receive their learner’s permit or they get their driver’s license.
And get ready for a big increase. Your insurance rate could be doubled.
But it’s better than if they had to get their own auto insurance policy, which would be, on average, $216 a month or $2,593 annually for their state’s legal minimum coverage requirements, and $583 a month or $7,000 annually for full coverage (comprehensive and collision).
Why Teen Auto Insurance Is So High
Here are six reasons why auto insurance costs more for young drivers:
- They have an unproven record.
- They’re less experienced.
- They’re more likely to engage in distracted driving behaviors.
- They’re more likely to be reckless.
- They are statistically more likely to be involved in an accident.
- They pose a financial risk to an insurance company.
Saving on Teen Driver Insurance
You’ll be relieved to know there are ways to keep from making that additional cost higher, and even ways to lower it.
Clean driving record: Talk to your teen about the financial, legal, and other repercussions of speeding, drinking and driving, distracted driving, and other reckless driving. By maintaining a good driving record, they’ll keep from doubling their already high insurance rate after just one accident.
Good student discount: Most insurers offer rate reductions of up to 25% for students who maintain a B or a 3.0 grade-point average.
Defensive driving discounts: Many insurers also offer rate reductions for additional education on safe driving, including completing an online course for State Farm, an approved driver safety course for Nationwide, a teen safe driver package for AAA, and an approved driver education program for Safeco. This could shave at least 10% off your teen’s insurance rate.
Karen Condor is an insurance expert who writes and researches for the auto insurance comparison site, AutoInsurance.org. She has first-hand knowledge of when teens are ready to drive and how to teach them, as her parents tasked her with teaching her younger brother and sister how to drive.
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