Is my teen driver covered in an auto accident?

If you have a teenage son or daughter, there's a good chance your child will be involved in an auto accident before he or she turns 19.

According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), teen drivers age 16 to 19 are almost three times more likely than drivers age 20 and older to be involved in a fatal crash.

If your teenager gets involved in a motor vehicle accident, not only will you have your child's health and a banged up car to worry about, you may also have to take legal responsibility for the teen's negligence.

In California, parents of new teen drivers assume the minor child's liability if the child causes a motor vehicle accident. Parents sign a consent form when the child gets a driver's license. Parents are released from liability when the child turns 18.

Will my insurance policy cover my teen driver?

Most families add their teens to their existing policy, which covers them in case of a crash. Because of the higher crash risk for teen drivers, you'll likely see your premium rates climb. Ask your insurance agent about potential discounts. Some companies offer discounts for students with a "B" average or higher, or for students who take a driver's education or defensive driving course.

If you experience sticker shock when adding your teen driver, know that rates will improve in a few years-if your child maintains a clean driving record. Rates decrease when your teen maintains an accident-free, ticket-free driving record for three years.

California law keeps teen drivers safe

California's Graduated Driver Licensing Program (GDL) allows teens to gradually get experience on the road, which keeps them safer.

CDC reports that GDL programs are associated with a 26 to 41 percent reduction in fatal crashes and a 16 to 22 percent reduction in crashes overall. In California, teens can apply for a provisional permit at age 15-and-a-half. Teens can practice driving when accompanied by a parent, guardian or adult over age 25.

When teens have completed 50 hours of driving, including 10 at night, they can apply for a provisional license at age 16. Teens can drive alone with a provisional license, but not after 11 p.m. They can't have other teens in the car unless accompanied by an adult. At age 18, teens become eligible for a full license without restrictions.

When a teen starts driving, AAA encourages families to sign a Parent-Teen Driving Agreement. The agreement outlines the teen's and parent's responsibilities. Download this sample copy.

By working with your teen to ensure safe driving habits (Wear a seat belt. No texting!), you'll dramatically lower his or her crash risk, saving all of you from injuries, vehicle damage and possibly a lawsuit.

Has your teen driver been involved in a serious auto accident? Contact the Law Office of David G. Smith for a free consultation.

Photo courtesy of State Farm, Flickr

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David G. Smith, Attorney At Law
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Oakland, CA 94612

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