Car Insurance Laws for Teenagers

By Christina Hamlett

  • Overview

    Car Insurance Laws for Teenagers
    Car Insurance Laws for Teenagers
    The elation that most teenagers feel when they finally get their driver's license is matched only by the mind-numbing panic their parents feel that this could, literally, mean an accident waiting to happen. While the insurance requirements for teen drivers vary from state to state--along with varying costs amongst insurance providers--this article offers an overview of what parents and their offspring need to know to make sure that they will have sufficient coverage in event of collisions and injuries.
  • Why Insurance Rates for Teens Are So High

    Across the board, insurance rates for teenagers--especially teenage boys--are higher than for other ages of drivers because their maturity level, their desire to show off to friends, and their susceptibility to distractions (cell phones, music and cute pedestrians) can impair their judgment behind the wheel. Coupled with a mindset of "I'm going to live forever," they are more likely to engage in risk-taking behaviors than adults and also to think nothing of loaning their wheels to a friend as casually as they would loan a sweatshirt or their homework. Insurers further cite evidence that vehicles driven by teens are more likely to be stolen because they were left unlocked--or, worse, with the keys still in the ignition--while the driver ran into a video store "just for a few minutes."
  • Who Pays for Coverage

    Under state laws, a teenager can't purchase her own car insurance until she has reached age 18. If she can make a good argument to her parents that she needs to be able to drive a car so she can get to school and to her job, they will likely add her as a driver to their own insurance policy. In terms of cost, this is a less expensive route than it will be for the teen when she turns 18, moves out, and goes to purchase insurance of her own. Further, parents who add a young adult to their policies may be entitled to money-saving discounts. Conversely, where other parents often err in their attempt to save money is in believing that because their teen still lives at home, the insurance company doesn't even have to be notified that she's driving the family car around town. Should she get involved in an accident, however, it will be exposed that she was not an authorized driver on the existing policy. Not only will the insurer refuse to pay any claims resulting from the accident but will probably cancel the parents' policy as well.

  • Good Grades Equal Lower Rates

    In addition to insurers in some states favoring teen drivers who can provide evidence of successfully passing a school-approved driver's education training course, there is also an incentive to be pulling down a 3.0 or higher grade point average as a full-time student. A discounted premium is a reflection of the belief that a student who is conscientious enough to study hard enough to get high marks is also going to be focused and serious about operating a motor vehicle.
  • Zoom Zoom

    What teenager wouldn't love to picture himself behind the wheel of a flashy, high performance convertible? Even if he was able to purchase it outright with money from his trust fund, insurers nationwide are going to charge much higher premiums for him to operate it because of the likelihood of it being in an accident (especially an accident that involves exceeding the speed limit). The less flashy the car and the higher its consumer safety ratings, the lower the expense will be in insuring it. Another thing that teens need to take into consideration is that if they rack up a pile of tickets for speeding violations while they are driving the totally "boring" family car, these errors in judgment will come back to haunt them when they graduate to a car of their own and have to buy insurance for it.
  • It's Midnight.: Do You Know Where Your Teen Is?

    In many states, strict curfew laws are enforced for young drivers. This is not only an attempt to cut down on the number of incidents wherein they may be partying late with friends and drinking alcohol but also to protect them from unsavory characters who may be lurking in dark parking lots and poorly lit streets. In Illinois, for example, drivers under the age of 17 must be home by 10 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays and by 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. There are also state distinctions between whether the curfew only applies to those who are driving vehicles and those who are simply hanging out with friends somewhere other than in their own homes. While first-time offenders are often let off with a warning, those who continue to break curfew are subject to a fine and, in some cases, revocation of their driver's license. Because they are underage, their parents may be required to pay fines as well.
  • Drinks and Drivers Don't Mix

    Teenage drivers are held just as accountable as adults when it comes to driving under the influence of alcohol. In the event of an accident, the insurance rates will increase substantially. As authorized drivers under a parent's policy, teens need to be made strictly aware of the consequences of foolish actions. Many parents, in fact, have drafted contracts with their teen drivers in which the latter agree to call them immediately if they are in a situation in which they feel that they are unable to drive themselves safely home or have been asked to be a passenger in a car driven by a friend who is intoxicated.
  • Learner's Permits

    Last but not least, teens and their parents need to adhere to state laws regarding the driving privileges granted with a learner's permit. Most states require that beginning drivers be at least 15 years of age. In rural jurisdictions where there may be cases of family hardship, this can be as low as 14 with special permission. It is against the law for a teen with a learner's permit to operate a motor vehicle unless she has a passenger who is a fully licensed driver. This latter issue can get somewhat sticky in the courts if the teen is driving the car because the car's owner has had his license suspended for DUIs. The purpose of having a fully licensed passenger, of course, is so that this person can take over the driving if need be and can advise the teen on the rules of the road. There are also rules in certain states that the licensed driver can be the only passenger. Decals that state "Student Driver" should be clearly displayed for other motorists to see. After a period of six months (which can also be determined by "x" number of hours behind the wheel), a teen is eligible to take a state-administered test and apply for a driver's license with her parent or guardian's permission.
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