Our kids are dying out there on the road. Teens crash three times as often as drivers over the age of 20. Car accidents are the leading cause of death for teenagers. Seven teenagers die behind the wheel of a car every single day. That's some sobering news.
But we can do something about it.
We can help save lives by talking with our teens about safe driving. There are dozens of safety tips we could talk about with them. The Centers for Disease Control lists eight "Danger Zones" on their excellent parent resource website. (I encourage you to visit it.) But I'm going to limit this article to just five simple rules:
1. Drive a safe car.
The car you drive can save your life.
I'll bet you didn't know that there is an organization that evaluates the safety of specific models of cars, vans, mini vans and SUVs each year. It's the IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety). Not only do they compile an annual list of the safest vehicles to drive, but they also create a list each year of the safest used cars for teens to drive. Here's the 2014 list.
You'll notice that there is a "Best Choices" category, but that can get expensive. After all, many of us can't afford to shell out $20,000 or more for our kid's first car. Fortunately, the IIHS also includes a list of "Good Choices," all for under $10,000. Just keep scrolling down the list until you find that category.
Even if you and your teen can't afford any of the vehicles on those lists, there are three additional choices that everyone can make, regardless of budget:
2. Slow down.
Speed kills. It's just that simple.
In over 800 vehicle crashes involving teenage drivers, 21% of the accidents involved teens going too fast. That's according to a study in the academic journal Accident Analysis and Prevention. You can be the best driver in the world, but it's still harder to recover from an unexpected bump in the road or an unfamiliar curve when your car is going faster. It's no insult to your teenager's ability to drive. It's just simple physics.
3. Pay attention.
Hang up and drive.
We all know that texting while driving kills people. Plus it's illegal in most states. But texting is not the only thing that kills our kids. It's talking on their cell phone. Or laughing and talking with their friends- especially when their friends are in the backseat. Even seemingly safe activities may not be safe while driving. A burger and fries aren't safe at 65 miles per hour if they spill ketchup on their pants and look down to see how badly it stained.
Anything that's going on inside the car that takes their eyes off the road could be lethal. Have the talk. Sit down tonight and discuss all the ways that eyes come off the road, and figure out how to keep that from happening. Maybe offer to do it together. A pact. No more texting, calling or eating Big Macs and driving- for either of you. It's a thought.
4. Scan the road.
Scanning the road doesn't come naturally.
Most new drivers don't look much farther ahead than just over the hood of their car. They fail to see what dangers are coming up farther down the road... the car that swerved in front of a delivery truck two hundred yards ahead, or the falling couch from an overloaded trailer. So let's teach our teens to lift their eyes and look ahead.
We also need to teach our teens how to scan the road side to side. Dangers aren't always just in front of us. Train your new driver to scan intersections before entering them, and have their foot ready for the brake just in case . They may have the right of way... and still end up dead.
Spend time talking about hypothetical situations. Go to websites that discuss safe driving such as this website. The more we keep the subject of scanning the road in their minds... the more likely it could save their life one day.
5. Buckle up.
This one should go without saying.
Buckling your seat belts is common sense, and it's the law. But that doesn't mean your teen buckles up when you aren't there to watch. A 2012 study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration showed that of all teens (age 13-19) in the United States who died in traffic accidents, 55% were not wearing seat belts. Here are the big stats on teen drivers... if you haven't checked out any other links, this one is worth reading.
Moms and Dads, don't assume your young adults are buckling up. Ask them. Then tell them that you want them to come home alive tonight.
What's the next step?
Share this post with a teenager you love.
Make them message you back that they looked at it. Schedule a time to talk about safe driving. Make a pact with them to follow these rules yourself. Changing habits is hard. Having a friend to help makes it easier. Your teen is moving from being "your little kid" to becoming "your adult friend." Help your friend stay alive.
Should you combine insurance policies after you get married?
Most of the time- yes.
We love "love stories" here at the St. Clair Insurance Agency. We are all for romance and marriage proposals and wedding engagements. It seems that every time we turn around, someone is tying the knot. So if you got engaged last Fall, or more recently around Valentine's Day, and you are getting married this Spring or Summer- call us!
Yeah, we want to hear your love story (really, we do!). But more importantly, we want to help you save money and make sure you are properly insured now that everything is changing.
You need to make important insurance changes when you get married.
Combining your homeowners or renters policies
Every new marriage brings unique insurance questions. Let's start with "should my fiance and I combine our property insurance after we get married?"
If you both own a home, and one of you will be selling your home, and living in the other spouse's home, this should be easy. You may be able to keep your policies just the way they are for now. Of course you need to inform the insurance company about your change in marital status, and the change in "who is living where."
Talk to us about the timing. Just remember that "what's mine is yours and what's yours is mine" works in the movies, but not always in this situation if you have separate policies. And your premiums may be higher while you do this. So call us and ask.
If you both rent, you will want to combine policies as soon as possible. Just like the advice to homeowners, you need to let your insurance agent know before the wedding of the changes in martial status, and who will be living where.
The good news is, in almost all cases, combining your homeowners or renters policies will save you both money.
Combining auto insurance when you get married
Should a married couple combine their auto insurance policies, or should they keep separate auto insurance policies?
Here's where general advice doesn't always work. So we'll give you the generally accepted answer, and then bring up a few things that, if they apply to you, should make you call us.
General advice: combine your auto insurance when you get married.
When does this get "not simple?"
If your fiance has a lousy driving record, or bad credit, or too many accidents, adding them to your policy can get expensive. You will need a strategy to help lower your insurance costs that is unique to your situation.
What can you do?
You can (and should) call us to discuss all of your options. You can raise deductibles, or assign the higher cost driver to the cheaper car (if that is the car they will be normally driving), or make some lifestyle changes (buy less expensive cars or drive less miles by carpooling).
Yeah. None of these are fun topics of discussion, but they are things that need talking about for some married couples in unique circumstances. Some people may even need separate car insurance policies (at least for a short time). Some states and some companies allow for a seldom used endorsement called the "named driver exclusion" which is a fancy way of saying... your spouse is not covered at all on your policy. Even if you have insurance with someone other than us (shudder)... we can help you with these tough questions.
All of these options, or none of these options, may be helpful in your particular situation. Often, you aren't even sure if the questions you are asking are the right ones.
If we haven't rained on your wedding yet...
You have so much to celebrate. Go ahead. Get married. Let us do the worrying about insurance for you. Consider it our wedding gift.
St. Clair Insurance Agency: (951) 284-0400
(Photo courtesy Anthony Kelly, CC Licensed)
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Thanks for stopping by. ~Jeff St. Clair