Do you know who is driving your car? What about who is riding in it? As parents, we try to let our children have more freedoms as they grow up. But when it comes to driving, that freedom might not be the best thing for the parent or the child. Aside from the startling statistics about teen drivers in America, parents need to be aware of how car insurance affects the driver and passengers in an accident caused by their teenager.
When it comes to your child, you need to know who is driving your car–and how. Teen drivers are a high-risk category for accidents and fatalities on the road. According to the Centers for Disease Control, nearly 3,000 teens age 15-19 in the United States were killed in motor vehicle accidents in 2009, while over 350,000 teens received emergency treatment after being injured in an accident. The CDC also states that 16-19 year old drivers are four times more likely to be involved in a car crash than older drivers.
A major risk factor for a teen car accident is distractions, particularly in the form of friends as passengers. Teens behind the wheel of a car filled with teenage passengers can quickly become distracted by conversation or general rowdiness. In some households, such as mine, parents do not allow their children to drive with anyone else in the car, except immediate family members. We do this to prevent distractions, but also because the owner of the vehicle is responsible for any property damage or injuries that result from their teen’s accident.
In Florida, teenagers can get their driver’s license at age 16 if they’ve gone through the proper training and passed the required tests. When your child applies to get a learner’s license at age 15, the parent or guardian must sign a document stating that he or she complies with the responsibilities outlined in Florida statute 322.09. This statute states that the person who signed the application is responsible for “any negligence or willful misconduct of a minor under the age of 18″ caused by their driving behaviors. This statute applies on top of the fact that your child will probably be driving your vehicle, which means that you may be responsible for the insurance aspects of any accident they cause.
A driver is responsible for the damage that their vehicle causes in an accident, even when they lend it to someone else and they act negligently. In Florida, this can also apply to injuries. Personal injury protection coverage can pay for the costs related to medical treatment after a car accident. P.I.P. pays benefits to the insured driver, regardless of who is at fault in the accident. It can also cover that person’s family members or other passengers in an accident if they do not have their own policy or do not live with someone who has car insurance.
For example, consider the insurance implications if your teenager is an accident and has 3 passengers in the vehicle. All four have injuries that require emergency treatment. Whether or not your child contributed to the cause of the accident, your personal injury protection coverage applies to them. If the passengers do not have their own car insurance policy or if they do not live with a parent that has a car insurance policy for their own vehicle, then you may also be responsible for their medical bills. Depending on your policy limits, it might limit the amount of benefits available for each person. If your child caused the accident, you may be held responsible for any property damage or serious injuries.
Parents are the ultimate authority as to whether their child can drive. This ability requires a parent’s written consent, and since most minors do not have the money for their own car or insurance policy, the parents provide these privileges. Parents are in the best position to determine whether their child is a safe driver. Protect your child by making sure they understand Florida’s driving laws, have enough practice to drive safely, and are not distracted by passengers.