Wednesday, August 20, 2008

"People don't want to be inaccessible for even 15 minutes driving up the street," said Harrison, 19, a sophomore at Marshall University in Huntington, W.Va. "They're so used to being accessible all the time.

"Targeting inexperienced motorists, several states have passed laws during the past five years restricting cell phone use by teenage drivers.

But a recently released insurance industry study looked at whether teens are ignoring such restrictions contends enforcement and parental influence are just as important as new laws. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety studied specific state laws which fine motorists under age 18 who are caught using a cell phone.

Researchers who watched as high school students left school found that teenage drivers used their cell phones at about the same rate both before and after the laws took effect.

"Cell phone bans for teen drivers are difficult to enforce," said Anne McCartt, the institute's senior vice president for research and an author of the study. "Drivers with phones to their ears aren't hard to spot, but it's nearly impossible for police officers to see hands free devices or correctly guess how old drivers are."

Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for teenagers, according to the government's auto safety agency, and teenagers are involved in three times as many fatal crashes as all other drivers.

The institute says 17 states and the District of Columbia have cell phone restrictions in licensing requirements for teen drivers. The National Transportation Safety Board in 2003 recommended that states limit or bar young drivers from using cell phones, leading many states to act.

Harrison, who serves with Students Against Destructive Decisions, an advocacy group focused on highway safety issues, said few of her friends know about laws banning cell phone use by novice drivers.

Bill Bronrott, a Maryland state delegate who sponsored a successful bill in 2005 prohibiting rookie drivers under 18 from using cell phones, except to make 911 emergency calls, said a "combination of education and enforcement" was critical. So, too, parental involvement.
Added Barbara Harsha, executive director of the Governors Highway Safety Association: "What these kinds of laws do is send the message to the parent more than anything else."

In the North Carolina study, researchers found that 11 percent of teenage drivers observed departing 25 high schools during the two months before the ban took effect were using cell phones. About five months after the ban took effect, during the spring of 2007, nearly 12 percent were observed using phones.

In the North Carolina phone survey, 95 percent of parents and 74 percent of teenagers supported the restriction. But 71 percent of teens and 60 percent of parents felt that enforcement was rare or nonexistent.In North Carolina, 37 citations were issued in 2007 by the state highway patrol to teens using a cell phone while operating a vehicle. Twenty-eight citations have been issued in 2008.

Selena Childs, executive director of the North Carolina Child Fatality Task Force, said in an e-mail that with many child safety laws in the state, "knowing that it's against the law is enough for many people to choose to comply with a law."

Childs said the state's driver's license system for young drivers has been effective "not so much because of law enforcement/citations, but because parents and teens self-enforce the law, resulting in reduced crashes.

"Matt Sundeen, a transportation analyst with the National Conference of State Legislatures, said many state laws on cell phones are new, making it difficult to assess their impact. He said more states are considering similar restrictions.

The institute conducted two separate telephone surveys: the first, before the cell phone restriction took effect, was in November 2006 and involved 400 pairs of parents and teenagers; the second, after the law had taken effect, was in April 2007 and involved a different sample of 401 pairs of parents and teenagers. Each survey had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 5 percentage points.

Please share your thoughts here to help keep our young drivers safe and alive!

Friday, August 1, 2008

Why Insurance Rates for Teens Are So High?

As an insurance agent, this is probably one of the most frustrating responses I get from parents who are adding their teen to their car insurance. I understand this frustration and after I explain the reasons, they usually respond with “But, my teen is a good driver…”

That may be true and you’ve probably spent countless hours helping your teen become a safer driver. If you have, then you should be glad that the chances of your teen getting into an accident will be less likely than most teens on the road. But let me emphasize… Less Likely Than Other Teens… not experienced drivers.

It takes thousands of hours behind the wheel to get the experience to avoid accidents and become the safest of drivers. And this can take years. Here’s a statistic to prove this point.

The crash rate for 16 year olds is nearly 3 times higher than 19 years and nearly 6 times higher than drivers 20 to 24 years old.

Unfortunately, you are going to have to pay high rates for your teen to drive. But, you can take steps to avoid paying the highest rates and keep them down.

Step One- Use an insurance agent that specializes in insuring teen drivers. Family Insurance Specialists represent companies that offer good rates but most importantly offer quality insurance protection that can help you avoid paying out of your own pocket for an accident if your teen causes an accident.

Step Two- Make sure you are getting every discount you deserve. Available discounts may include safe driver, claims-free, good grades, multiple policies with the same company, and in some states you can qualify for a lower rate by keeping a good credit rating.

Step Three- Buy a safe, older, lower profile vehicle for your teen to drive. Make sure it has airbags and anti-lock brakes and is not considered a dangerous vehicle. Your Family Insurance Specialist can help you decide which vehicles are least expensive to insure.

Step Four- Increase your deductibles or drop the collision on older vehicles. If your teen is driving an older, less expensive car, you can “self insure” the car. That means of course, if something happens, you’ll have to pay for the damages to your car, but it can save you a lot of money- nearly 1/3 to 1/2!

Step Five- Get a Teen Driver Monitoring Device installed in your teen’s car. Some insurance companies offer special discounts for these systems. The greatest advantage of these systems is that this will most likely prevent your teen from speeding. Speeding tickets can greatly increase your insurance rates and jeopardize your insurance coverage. Insurance companies know that if a teen driver gets a speeding ticket, the likelihood of an accident in the near future is great. You could get cancelled and it may be more difficult to get another insurance company to pick you up.

To learn more about how you can get the right protection for your teen driver, find out other ways you can save on your car insurance, and keep your teen driver safe visit my website at or call my office at 869-3335.