At the Day household, we have a new driver. Our youngest daughter, Kate, got her learner’s permit a few weeks ago. While we have gone through this phase with the two older kids, it has been a while so we are once again reminded of all the issues surrounding teenage drivers. If you have teenage drivers now or will have them in the near future, this post is for you. For the rest of you, read on to learn what to do if you are involved in an accident with a teenage driver.
Car accidents are the number one cause of death for teenagers, and the first six months of driving are the most dangerous. So let’s talk about the steps you need to take for your teenage driver:
- If you have the resources, we recommend a driver training course. It will help your teen get ready for the knowledge portion of the learner’s permit test, and they will also get some road time with a certified instructor. The driving course that Kate took has cars that are equipped with two steering wheels and two sets of gas and brake pedals so that an experienced adult can take control of the vehicle in the event of an issue.
- Practice, practice, practice. The more practice your teen has the better driver they will be. For your teen to obtain a license, the teen must have held the learner’s permit for at least 180 days. In addition, the parents must certify that the teen has driven at least 50 hours with a minimum of 10 hours at night. In addition to this, it is a good idea to practice with your teen in all sorts of conditions: rainy weather, construction zones, the interstate, rush hour, etc.
- As a parent, insist on safety rules. Both the learner’s permit and the Intermediate Restricted license have prohibitions on number of passengers and driving during certain hours. You can read about those on the State’s quick reference guide. And, of course, using a cellphone while driving has been against the law since July of 2019, and Tennessee law requires the use of seatbelts. Other important rules are:
- Require full-time and attention to driving. No eating and driving, no putting on make-up, no using navigational systems while driving, etc.
- No driving when tired.
- No speeding. Consider using an app to monitor your teen’s driving habits.
- Be sure to add your teen driver to your car insurance. When you call your agent, use that as an opportunity to review your car insurance policy. Do you have sufficient liability insurance in relation to your assets? Do you have uninsured/undersinsured motorist coverage and in a sufficient amount? Ask your agent to price these coverages at different levels as you will be surprised at how inexpensive it is to get more protection that could be absolutely critical in the event of an accident.
- Teach your child what to do after an accident. We recommend printing our What To Do After An Accident page and putting it in their glove box for future reference.
OK, let’s change gears and talk about what happens if your teen is in accident or you are in an accident with a teenager. First, in order to be issued a learner’s permit or a license as a teenager, parents must sign a Financial Responsibility Affidavit. You may not remember signing it, but you did. And in doing so, you agreed to be financially responsible for any negligence or willful conduct of your child until they turn 18 years of age. For parents, the short of all this is that you are on the hook for any harm your teen causes while driving.
And for anyone involved in an accident with a teen, this is a reminder that the parents are responsible. Again, this is why it is terribly important to make sure your teen is a listed insured on your policy and that you have an appropriate amount of liability insurance. The uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage is important because 1 in 4 drivers in Tennessee do not have any insurance. Zero. And another large percentage only has the minimum limits. If your teen is involved in a serious accident, uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage may be the only thing that protects him or her as that insurance will help with you and your family with injuries, out-of-pocket expenses, etc.
If a teenage driver causes an accident, be kind. You should be kind to everyone but especially teen drivers. This is most likely their first accident and accidents are scary. In addition, they have the added stress of having to tell their parents that they wrecked the car.
If you have questions about a car accident case, we have answers. For a free, no-obligation consultation, give us a call at one of the numbers listed below. Our award-winning lawyers handle all accident cases on a contingency basis so we only get paid if we recover money for you.