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Insure.com survey 2018: Why most parents don't enforce teen driver safety laws

Teens in Jeep about to crashNearly one-quarter of parents surveyed said they don't enforce all teen driving laws for their children.

Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) laws restrict young drivers, such as limiting the time of day and who's in the vehicle with teen drivers. Experts say GDL laws are a critical factor in reducing teen driving-related fatalities over the past two decades.

Despite fewer teen driver fatalities than the 1990s, car crashes remain the number one killer of teens in the U.S. Teens are also the highest crash risk of any age group. Riskier drivers also mean higher premiums when you add a teen to your policy.

Insure.com found that adding a teen to your policy increases your premiums by an average of 161 percent. That's a $2,328 increase on average.


Why parents aren’t enforcing GDL laws

In a new survey of nearly 1,000 parents of teen drivers, Insure.com found that five percent of parents acknowledged that they never enforce GDL laws, while nearly 17 percent said they sometimes don't enforce the teen-driving laws.

The survey found that 80 percent of moms say they always enforce restrictions, while the same is true for 74 percent of dads. However, moms are also more likely to never enforce restrictions: seven percent for moms; four percent for dads.

Why wouldn't parents always enforce laws meant to protect their children? The number one reason was that their teens don't always listen to them.

Here are the results (parents could choose multiple reasons):

  • 33% said the teen doesn't always listen to them.
  • 29% said they don't know GDL laws.
  • 25% said they don't think GDL laws are fair.
  • 23% said they pick and choose what laws their child follows.
  • 20% said the teen's friends always need transportation and so it's hard to say no.
  • 6% said GDL laws aren't necessary.


Cellphone ban top GDL law being broken

The survey found that nearly half of respondents that didn't fully enforce GDL laws said they don't always impose cell phone restrictions. That was slightly higher than the percentage of parents who let their teens drive with friends despite driving restrictions.

Here are the totals:

  • 49% don't enforce cell phone restrictions.
  • 45% don't enforce passenger restrictions.
  • 36% don't enforce time restrictions.
  • 30% don't enforce electronics ban.
  • 18% don't enforce supervised driving hours (i.e., they fudge the hours).
  • 7% allow their teen to drive alone though it's against the law.

If parents aren't always enforcing GDL laws, that must mean they're confident in their children's driving, right? Not exactly.

We asked parents about their teen's worst driving habits. Parents pointed to speeding, distracting driving, failing to stay in a lane while turning at an intersection and texting while driving as the most significant problems. Two-thirds of parents cited all of these issues in the survey.

How many parents text while driving with their teens in the car?

Teen drivers aren't the only ones modeling less than stellar behavior behind the wheel.

Slightly more than half (51 percent) of parents text while driving with their teen, at least on occasion. Here's how they responded when asked how much they text while driving with their teen passenger:

  • 49% said never
  • 26% said hardly ever, just a few times when I felt it was necessary
  • 17% said sometimes, when I feel I can still do it safely
  • 8% said frequently, I know I shouldn't but it's a bad habit

Parents plan to put limits on older teens

Nearly one-quarter of parents don't always enforce GDL laws, but many parents said they plan to limit their teen's driving after they're fully licensed and no longer restricted by GDL laws.

That decision could be critical. The Governors Highway Safety Association (GSHA) reported last year that older teens are twice as likely to be involved in a fatal crash between midnight and 6 a.m. than younger teens. GSHA said expanding GDL laws to older teens could help reduce that sobering statistic.

Our survey found that most parents said they plan to continue restricting their teen drivers even after they're fully licensed. More than half expect to limit late-night driving, the number of friends riding with the teen and cell phone use while driving. About one-quarter of parents said they will trust their teen's driving once they're fully licensed enough to give them few driving restrictions.


Vehicles for teens: SUVs, driverless cars?

When buying a car for their teen, a vast majority of parents said a car's quality features into the decision. The survey found that 90 percent of parents said it played at least a part in the choice with 72 percent saying it was the most critical feature.

When asked about vehicle safety features, one-third of parents said they wish the teen's car could stop at all stop signs and red lights automatically. That topped the list of dream safety features. It was followed by safely merging onto the freeway (25 percent) and detecting approaching vehicles in blind spots (20 percent).

Many survey respondents liked the idea of driverless cars for their teens. A majority of parents said they would prefer their teen operating a driverless vehicle, though they're still concerned about whether the teen driver would be able to take over control of the car if there's a problem.

  • 39% said they would let their teen ride in a driverless car and that it's better than a teen driver.
  • 26% said they would NOT let their teen ride in a driverless car because those vehicles are not safe enough for their teen.
  • 25% said they would let their teen ride in a driverless car, but would still be worried about whether the teen could take over the vehicle.
  • 11% said they would NOT let their teen ride in a driverless car because the child could not take over if needed because of their lack of driving experience.

The survey found that most teens today drive older vehicles just like their parents did when they were young. Thirty-five percent of respondents said their child drives a used vehicle that's 10 years old or more. Twenty-seven percent said their teens drive a car between five and 10 years old. Less than one-fifth (18 percent) of respondents said their children drive a new car. 

One difference between today's teens and their parents is that young adults nowadays are most likely to drive an SUV. The survey found that 30 percent of respondents said their child drives an SUV; 29 percent drives a family sedan; 14 percent drives a sports car, 13 percent drives a coupe; and 9 percent drives a minivan.

If you’re looking to buy a used car for your young driver, review our used car average rate tool to see what you can expect to pay for 1,700 models, and compare vehicles side by side.

Tips for saving on teen car insurance

Teen drivers are considered higher risk because of their driving inexperience and youth. That means insurance companies charge more when you add your teen to your policy. How much more depends on your location, the amount and cost of claims, driving record and type of care.

The good news is there are ways for parents to limit the cost of adding a teen to a policy. Here are three ways to limit the increase:

  • Add the teen to the least expensive car on your policy.
  • Ask your insurer about discounts, such as good student and driving training.
  • Talk to your insurance company about whether they offer a program to monitor your teen's driving. Some companies have devices that you can plug into the vehicle, in which you can track driving behaviors. You can get a discount for adding that to a car, too.

Having a teen driver in your household can be stressful and costly. However, by being a good driving role model, including putting down the phone, and teaching them the rules of the road, you can set your teen on the avenue to safe driving.



Insure.com in May 2018 commissioned Op4g to field an online survey of nearly 1,000 parents of teen drivers.

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