auto insurance

You Should Know: Keeping Back-To-School Teen Drivers Safe

Road Safety Tips for Teen Drivers
Heading Back to School

Labor Day weekend is over and summer is in the rearview mirror. New backpacks are crammed full of the tools of learning: laptops, books, pens, pencils, notebooks and more. But what about the tools young drivers need to stay safe on the road? These tips can help the teen drivers in your life get from home to homeroom in one piece.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for teens. It is estimated that on average, six teenagers die every day in the United States from a car crash. As teens head back to school, you should know how to keep them, and others, safe.

The Stats

Teens who text and drive are  outside of their lane   about 10 percent of the time.

Teens who text and drive are outside of their lane  about 10 percent of the time.

A teen driver on the road is more likely to cause a car crash than any other driver. Per mile driven, teen drivers ages 16 to 19 are nearly three times more likely than drivers aged 20 and older to be in a fatal crash. Young men are two times more likely to get in a crash than young women.

If your teen driver has recently received his or her license, inexperience can spell disaster out on the road. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, teen drivers ages 16 to 17 are twice as likely to get in a car crash compared to teen drivers ages 18 to 19. 

Teens are also less likely to practice safe driving behavior, such as using seat belts or maintaining a safe following distance. In 2015, only 61 percent of high school students reported they always wear seat belts when riding with someone else. [Download report.]

The Risks

Teens are also much more likely to drive distracted. Drivers under the age of 20 have the highest proportion of distraction-related crashes, and 42 percent of teens admit to texting while driving. Carpooling seems like a convenient way to get to school, but teens riding with other teen drivers increase the risk of distraction with every additional teen passenger. Here are all eight of the CDC danger zones most often linked to teen crashes:

  1. Driver Inexperience
  2. Driving with Teen Passengers
  3. Nighttime Driving
  4. Not Using Seat Belts
  5. Distracted Driving
  6. Drowsy Driving
  7. Reckless Driving
  8. Impaired Driving

The Parents

So, what can parents do to prevent teen driving tragedies?

  • Most important, lead by example. Forty-eight percent of young drivers have seen their parents talking on a cell phone while driving, and 15 percent of those have seen their parents texting while driving. Show your kids how to drive responsibly by driving distraction free, wearing your seatbelt and following all speed limits and traffic laws.
  • Set limits. Multiple teen passengers and late-night driving lead to more crashes. Limit the number of passengers for your teen drivers and set a curfew.
  • Buy a safe car. The car your teen drives should be reliable. Purchase from a reputable dealer, and check all cars at Safercar.gov for recalls. Make sure your young driver knows what to do if a car breaks down.
  • Practice driving with your teen. Provide your teen driver with 30 to 50 hours of supervised driving practice over at least six months. Practice on a variety of roads, at different times of day, and in varied weather and traffic conditions. Stress the importance of continually scanning for potential hazards including other vehicles, bicyclists and pedestrians.
  • Create a Parent-Teen driving agreement. Put your driving rules in writing to clearly set limits, as well as the consequences for not following those rules.

This article appeared in our September 2017 "You Should Know" e-newsletter.

You Should Know: Beware the Insurance Company Three D’s

When you buy insurance, you’re buying security. In exchange for your hard-earned dollars, you trust the insurance company to be there when disaster strikes, to shoulder a potentially devastating financial burden. But too many insurance companies care more about profits than policyholders. They employ shady tactics to keep from paying legitimate claims, a practice we call The Three D’s.

If you’ve ever had to file an insurance claim, you know the frustration that seems baked right into the maze of endless forms and confusing small print. Companies that once lived up to their promise to “be on your side” when disaster strikes dramatically shifted business practices in the 1990s to meet Wall Street demands for short-term profits. The result is chronicled in the book Delay, Deny, Defend: Why Insurance Companies Don’t Pay Claims and What You Can Do About It by distinguished Rutgers law professor Jay Feinman. Not surprisingly, insurance companies are recording astronomical profits. Here’s how it works:

Trick #1: Deny, Deny, Deny Claims

Insurance companies will outright deny that an accident occurred or that the policyholder was seriously injured. Some companies even offer gifts and bonuses to employees who deny claims and keep payments to a minimum. Arbitrary rules will crop up, often referencing provisions that do not exist or that contradict a previous statement. The hope is that denial after denial will defeat and deflate claimants, making them feel they have no choice but to throw in the towel.

Trick #2: Delay Paying as Long as Possible...
Even Until Death

Endless forms, arbitrary rules and a sea of fine print discourage claims.

Endless forms, arbitrary rules and a sea of fine print discourage claims.

You’ve jumped through all the hoops and the insurance company has agreed to pay the claim, so you can rest easy, right? Think again. Delaying payment is another common tactic to boost profits. Insurance companies have been known to send out incorrect forms and then blame claimants for the error, or set very short time limits on when a claim can be made after an accident, injury or illness. In cases involving elderly or gravely ill claimants, some insurance companies have even delayed payments in hopes that the customer dies before they have to pay.

Trick #3: Defend in Court

Following a denied claim or a delayed payment, insurance companies know they can further delay writing a check by defending their questionable tactics in court. Billions of dollars in profits and thousands of high-priced lawyers on the payroll means they are always ready for a trial. Insurance companies know that many of their customers may be afraid or unwilling to hire a lawyer, and they use that fear to convince claimants that a court battle would only end in an insurance company victory.

Getting Paid What You Deserve

Forcing a claimant to sue for benefits owed is one way insurance companies fail their customers.

Forcing a claimant to sue for benefits owed is one way insurance companies fail their customers.

What can a David do against these insurance company Goliaths? Here are some tips on what to do before, during and after making a claim to an insurance company:

  • Pick a reputable company: It pays to do a little homework before you sign on the dotted line. Start with this list of best/worst insurers ranked on claim denials and bad-faith practices.
  • Read your policy carefully: You should know exactly what is covered and what you need for an appeal in case your claim is denied.
  • Double- and triple- check forms: An incorrectly filled-out form can be used by an insurance company to deny or delay claims. Past forms can even be used as a way to retroactively deny coverage. Be thorough and honest on every piece of paper you fill out.
  • Do not cash the check right away: Insurance companies will send checks with very low offers, or pay premium refunds if they rescind your coverage. Cashing these checks can be legally interpreted as accepting their offers.
  • Get everything in writing: If you need to fight your insurance company, you must be able to produce every bill, form and piece of correspondence.
  • Reach out for help: An experienced plaintiff’s lawyer can guide you through your claims process and provide the firepower necessary to challenge the insurance company in court if necessary.

This article appeared in our July 2017 "You Should Know" e-newsletter.