Tips for safer, more economical teen driving

by Ken Selzer, CPA

Kansas Insurance Commissioner

Schools around Kansas will soon finish the spring semester, and that means young drivers will be on the roads more, traveling to jobs, social events and recreational activities.

Unfortunately, more teenage motor vehicle fatalities happen in summer than any other time of year.

While teen driving statistics are troubling, research shows teens whose parents set rules are half as likely to get in an accident.

The National Associa­tion of Insurance Commis­sion­ers, of which the Kansas Insurance Depart­ment is a member, has compiled tips for parents and teens to make driving safer and more economical this summer.

Setting expectations.

Distracted driving, especially texting and driving, speeding and drug/alcohol use are major contributors to teen-related vehicle crashes.

One way to help your teens become safer drivers is to talk openly about your expectations when they are behind the wheel. Here are some discussion items.

◼ Set a driving curfew. More than 40 percent of teen auto deaths occur between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m.

◼ Put a limit on the number of passengers allowed in your teen’s car. For teen­agers, the relative risk of a fatal crash increases as the number of passengers increases.

◼ Make the smartphone off limits while driving. Talking or texting can double the likelihood of an accident.

◼ Encourage your teen to exercise his or her rights as a passenger. Only 44 percent of teens say they would speak up if someone were driving in a way that scared them.

Keeping costs down

Parents know, too, that vehicle insurance for teenagers is expensive. That’s why it pays to follow some useful advice from insurance experts in making sure you can keep premium costs as low as possible. Here are some suggestions.

◼ Encourage teen drivers to keep their driving records free of accidents and moving violations for at least three years. Many companies grant discounts to “safe drivers.”

◼ Enroll new drivers in defensive driving courses. Some companies offer discounts for completion.

◼ Some companies may offer driver awareness programs, either online or with a smartphone app for young drivers. Ask your insurance agent or company if there is a discount for using these programs.

◼ Encourage teen drivers to keep their grades up. Many insurance companies offer discounts or preferred rates for teens at particular Grade Point Average levels.

◼ Ask your insurance company about an “accident forgiveness” clause that guarantees premiums will not increase after one minor accident.

◼ Consider a higher deductible and only allowing the teen to drive the family’s oldest, least expensive car. The type of vehicle also will affect the policy premium. SUVs, convertibles and performance vehicles typically cost more to insure than other cars.

Accidents happen

While education and preparation can help, accidents still happen. If you or your teen are involved in one, make sure you know what steps to take to stay safe and protect your identity when exchanging information for a claim.

The NAIC’s free Wreck­Check app for smartphones guides users through what to do—and not do—after an accident. It helps drivers collect necessary information on the spot, then immediately emails a report to your home and your insurance agent.

For more teen driving tips and resources, check the Kansas Insurance Depart­ment’s booklet, “Auto Insur­ance and Shopper’s Guide,” which you can print from our website:

Also, check out our YouTube video “Teens and Safe Driving.”

Staying safe on the road just makes good sense.

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