My parents let me start driving as soon as I was able so I could help them run errands, but in my line of work I see too many car accidents involving teenagers to think this is a safe practice today. Teenage driving safety is one of my biggest concerns—an insurance policy can protect you financially, but it can’t take back a car accident.

According to the Center for Disease Control, car accidents are the number one cause of death among American teens. There are simply too many distractions for inexperienced teenage drivers to process what could be life or death decisions. Scientists from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have found that vital areas of the teenage brain don’t fully develop and mature until age 25. Plus, research by the NIH’s National Institute of Mental Health suggests that emotional immaturity, not inexperience, is the primary reason teenage drivers are responsible for far more car accidents than any other age demographic.

Your insurance policy will probably reflect the higher risk for teenage drivers, but let’s take a look at what you need to have in an auto insurance policy to help protect the teenage drivers in your life.

What do you need to do for a teen with a learner’s permit?

The first step to becoming a licensed driver is to qualify for a learner’s permit. Some states require teens to pass a permit test, and others have different requirements, but in most cases once teenage drivers have a learner’s permit, they can drive a car with another licensed operator in passenger seat. Allowing teenage drivers to practice driving with a trusted adult is one of the most important parts of educating them on safe defensive driving techniques.

At this time, it is the parent’s responsibility to notify the insurance company that there is a teenage driver in the household. There usually isn’t anything written in the policy to prevent coverage if you don’t disclose the new driver, but it’s in your best interest when a young driver has access to and is operating the vehicle.

Extra charges and insurance discounts

Be careful—there can be exorbitant surcharges to add a driver to your existing automobile policy. Insurance companies can justify these charges because of all the research that has been done regarding accidents and injuries involving teenage drivers. Teenage drivers carry the highest amount of risk, and so if you have a teenage driver in your family, I always recommend carrying the highest limits of liability possible under your automobile policy.

However, if your teenage driver shows a history of safe driving, know that his or her insurance policy premiums will drop over time. You can also ask your insurance agent about good student discounts or other insurance discounts available to teenage drivers that can further lower the premium.

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Linda Rey is a licensed insurance agent at Rey Insurance with a broad spectrum of expertise in life, accident, health, property and casualty insurance as well as retirement planning and college funding strategies.

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