It’s time for tuxedos, prom dresses, and corsages as prom season gets underway for parents and teens across the Volunteer State. But before handing over the car keys on prom night, the Tennessee Department of Commerce & Insurance (TDCI) encourages parents to first do their homework about auto insurance. Talking to young drivers about the importance of responsible driving can help ensure that prom season is safe for everyone.
“It’s important to encourage safe driving behaviors with your teens,” said TDCI Commissioner Julie Mix McPeak. “Not only do motor vehicle crashes raise insurance rates, they can cost lives. Educating your teen on the physical and financial consequences of reckless driving can help keep them safe behind the wheel during prom season and beyond.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for U.S. teens. In 2014, motor vehicle crashes in the U.S. had a total economic impact of $242 billion. Fortunately, there are several preventative measures that can reduce the likelihood of your teen being involved in an accident.
To help parents talk with their teens about unsafe driving behaviors, TDCI shares the following tips:
- SET GROUND RULES. Insuring a teen driver can be costly, no matter which insurance policy you choose. However, how well your teen respects the privilege of driving is a factor you can control. Set ground rules like:
- The hours during which your teen may and may not drive.
- The number of friends allowed in the car at a time.
- The number of miles your teen is allowed to driver per week.
Consider setting up a driving contract with your teen that clearly lists their responsibilities when driving and caring for a vehicle. Talk to them about the financial impact of keeping them insured and how an accident or driving infraction would impact that cost.
- PUT IT IN PARK. Talk to your teen about putting the vehicle in park before sending texts, answering calls, or setting navigation services. Remind them that distracted driving can be created by anything that diverts a driver’s attention away from the road.
- DANGERS OF DRIVING WHILE TIRED OR IMPAIRED. Remind your teen to call you or someone you trust if they are too tired or impaired to drive. Talk to them about the dangerous impacts of drinking and driving. Never drink and drive, ever.
- ENCOURAGE DEFENSIVE DRIVING. Teach your teen to watch for unsafe drivers. Encourage them to keep their distance and keep their cool in stressful situations. If your teen ever feels unsafe or like they are being followed, encourage them to call the police.
- PREPARE FOR EMERGENCIES. Make sure your teen knows what to do if their car breaks down. Encourage them to keep an emergency kit in their car. If you are an auto club member, make sure they have a copy of the ID card in the vehicle. If your auto insurance policy includes roadside assistance, make sure they know what number to call to get help.
- REVIEW YOUR POLICY AND UPDATE ACCORDINGLY. Regularly review your policy to make sure the basis for your premium is as accurate as possible. Here are some things that can affect your premium:
- Adding or removing a vehicle from your policy;
- Your teen graduates from high school or reaches the age of 18;
- Car insurance for teenage boys is more expensive by $300-$400 than teenage girls;
- Some insurance companies give discounts to teen drivers who make good grades.
- MANAGE ACCIDENTS. While education and preparation can help, accidents still happen. In 2018, teens aged 16-20 were the drivers in over 43,000 accidents in Tennessee. About 20% of Tennessee drivers are uninsured. (Tennessee is No. 5 in the nation for states having the highest percentage of uninsured motorists.) Insurance premiums increase more for teens in an accident than for adults in an accident. Plus, the parent will have to pay for any repairs to the vehicle that wasn’t covered by insurance.
- Car insurance rates can increase by approximately $400 if you’re involved in an accident that is your fault.
- If your teen is under 18 and gets in an accident that causes a fatality, the teen will have to go back to using a learner’s permit until he or she turns 18.
- If an accident occurs, be sure to handle claims as quickly as possible. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners has a free WreckCheck app for iPhone® and Android® that walks you through what to do — and not do — after an accident.
- GET MORE INFORMATION. The NAIC has many resources for teen drivers and their families. For help with all things insurance in Tennessee, contact the TDCI Consumer Insurance Service Division at 1-800-342-4029 or (615) 741-2218, or visit us online.
About the Tennessee Department of Commerce & Insurance: TDCI protects the interests of consumers while providing fair, efficient oversight and a level field of competition for a broad array of industries and professionals doing business in Tennessee. Our divisions include the State Fire Marshal’s Office, Insurance, Securities, Consumer Affairs, Tennessee Law Enforcement Training Academy, Regulatory Boards, Tennessee Emergency Communications Board, Tennessee Corrections Institute, and TennCare Oversight.