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UPDATED: Mar 13, 2020
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Auto accidents are a leading cause of death for teenagers and young adults. Statistically, a 16-year-old driver is twice as likely to be involved in a collision as a 19-year-old driver and up to 12 times as likely to be involved in a collision as an experienced driver. Because of their high risk, young drivers pay more for auto insurance than any other group of people, and just having a teenage driver in your home can reduce your insurance rates as well.
Fortunately, the statistics do seem to be improving. There were 3,466 teenagers killed in automobile accidents in 2009; while still a high number, this is a 15% decrease from 2008 and a massive 60% decrease from 1975. Improved driver’s education and graduated driver’s license programs have helped to reduce the threat to young drivers; further changes implemented by state laws, insurance companies and parents can lower the risk even further.
Why Young People Are at Risk as Drivers
There are numerous reasons why young people have the highest risk of auto accidents. Not all teenagers will have all of these factors, but the combination of risks across the overall teen population is responsible for the high number of accidents and fatalities.
Drunk driving is a major concern among young people. DUIs account for 33% of all fatal accidents that teenagers are involved in. This may be because teenagers do not want to get in trouble for underage drinking, so they do not call for a cab or their parents when they are intoxicated. They are also not as likely to practice responsible drinking behaviors like keeping a designated driver. Parents can reduce this risk by making it clear to kids that they can always call home for a ride at any time, even if they’ve been drinking.
In addition to drinking and driving, teenagers are prone to other high-risk behaviors that can increase their likelihood of being in an accident:
— Speeding; 37% of teenage accidents occur at high velocities
— Failure to wear a seatbelt; 55% of teenage traffic fatalities occur to drivers without seatbelts
— Talking on the phone or texting;’ teens have the highest incidence of talking on the phone while driving
— Vehicles often carry multiple teen passengers increasing the risk of serious collisions and fatalities
Beyond these high-risk behaviors, teenagers are simply less experienced than older drivers. Because they are new to driving, they have not yet developed the technical skill and reaction time necessary to avoid collisions. When combined with reckless behavior, the results are catastrophic.
How Graduated Licensing Programs Help Teens
In the past decade, many states have begun enacting graduated licensing programs. This makes the process of obtaining a driver’s license much longer and more thorough than what previous generations of drivers underwent. Rather than obtaining a driver’s license right away, teens must complete a series of steps including driver’s education courses, supervised driving hours and limited licenses.
Before they can obtain an unrestricted license, teens must complete a certain number of practical driving hours under the direct supervision of their parents. They must also be a certain age. In some states, teens do not receive an unrestricted license until they turn 18.
This helps to reduce the overall number of accidents dramatically. Although some teens may ignore the restrictions on their licenses, the legal consequences are enough to stop many drivers from attempting it. Additionally, the large number of practical hours required to obtain a license will help many teens learn how to drive much better than what they may have done without such programs. This will help them become better drivers in the long term.
How Teens Can Reduce the Cost of Insurance
Fortunately, there are a few ways for teens and young adults to reduce the cost of auto insurance. First, most insurance companies offer good student discounts to high school and college students who have a high GPA or make the Dean’s list. These discounts are offered because good students often avoid high-risk behaviors such as partying, so they are less likely to be involved in collisions.
Teens can also reduce the cost of their insurance by driving safe cars. Certain types of vehicles are more affordable to insure than others, and parents shopping for their child’s first car may wish to take these into consideration. Luxury vehicles and sports cars are more expensive to insure than sedans and pickups. Minivans are some of the cheapest and safest cars available, and college students may appreciate the ability to haul their belongings to and from campus in one.
Depending on your family’s financial needs, it may make sense to carry limited coverage on a student’s vehicle. Liability-only insurance is more affordable than full coverage, and if the car is older and less valuable it won’t matter as much if the car cannot be repaired after an accident. This isn’t the best option for all people, but it is certainly a choice to consider.
Fortunately, insurance premiums go down the longer a person has a policy. By obtaining a policy as a teenager, a person can begin to develop a long-term and valuable relationship with the insurance company. Several years of safe driving as a young adult will lead to discounts later on down the line. Like youth itself, expensive insurance premiums do not last forever; if you concentrate on making safe choices now, you will be rewarded later.