Insurance companies are reluctant to divulge their secrets, but organizations ranging from Consumer Reports to Money Geek have analyzed premiums and insurance company practices from state to state and come up with some surprising answers. It may seem inevitable that adding your teen to your auto insurance policy will cost a fortune, but there are a few ways to keep the cost as low as possible. Knowing the facts will help you make the wisest financial decisions when adding your teen to your car insurance.
1. Consider Usage-Based Car Insurance
Usage-based auto insurance (UBI) uses telematics (also called “black boxes”) to track driving metrics. Progressive and GMAC pioneered this method to determine who is a good driver in 2008. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) estimates that 70% of auto insurance companies will be offering Pay-As-You-Drive (PAYD), Pay-How-You-Drive (PHYD) and similar premium programs.
If your teen is a safe, responsible driver, this kind of auto insurance can save you hundreds of dollars in premiums a year. Discounts vary using systems like Allstate’s Drivewise and State Farm’s UBI program. Allstate’s program will provide a premium discount up to 30% which varies depending on driving habits.
2. Sign Up for Good Student Discounts
The good student discount many insurance companies offer can reduce premiums anywhere from 10% to 30%. A new trend called “InsurTech” incorporates data about student grades, interests, and even after-school participation. The influence of “InsurTech” big data on insurance premiums is still emerging. For now, if your teen has a B or above grade point average, they are likely to qualify for a good student discount. College students must be enrolled half-time to receive a good college student discount.
3. Buy, or Keep, Safe Used Cars
Used minivans or small SUVs, including cars like the Honda Odyssey or Jeep Patriot, routinely top the list of lowest insurance rates. Many of them are on the road, they use commonly-available parts, and they are often used for errands around town. Used cars are almost always more affordable to insure than new cars. If you do buy a new car, keep it for yourself and give your teen the older car in the household. Your teen may resist driving a “mom van,” but the time-honored tradition of passing an older car on to teens as a first car is a money-saver.
4. Take Advantage of Distant (College) Driver Discounts
Don’t neglect to tell your insurance company if your teen is going away to college without a car. Many students attend college at urban universities or in rural settings where everything is available on campus. The majority of insurance companies offer “distant driver” or college driver discounts. Pay only when your teen is home and driving.
5. Call A Variety of Insurers for Quotes
In 2015, Consumer Reports’ in-depth survey of more than 2 billion insurance price quotes showed differences of thousands of dollars for large national insurance companies between different states, different customer driving records, and even credit scores. The survey busted some myths, such as customer loyalty discounts. Many insurers charge long-time customers more than new customers, Consumer Reports found. Auto insurers also use a specialized credit score to determine rates. Only California and Massachusetts prohibit insurance companies from using credit scores to determine premiums, so if you and your teen live in one of the other 48 states, getting several different quotes is a must. You may be surprised at the answer you receive.
Let’s say it’s the weekend and you’re celebrating a football game win, or hanging out with your friends at a party. If that party becomes too crazy–and anyone underage consumes alcohol–they are in illegal territory. Teenage drinking and driving can lead to an underage DUI (driving under the influence) conviction that can have a devastating, long-term impact.
Underage DUI Consequences
Even though it is illegal to drink alcohol when under the age of 21, this doesn’t stop many teens from drinking. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 14 percent of fatal car crashes in the United States involve young people aged 16-20 who were alcohol-impaired.
The law, therefore, takes a zero-tolerance approach to underage DUIs. Standard DUIs are based on a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 percent. Underage drivers, however, can face a DUI charge with just a slight trace of alcohol — as little as 0.01 or 0.02 percent. This usually equates to less than one beer or glass of wine.
Financial Cost and Penalties
A DUI doesn’t come cheap. After an arrest, you’ll pay bail and be liable for your vehicle’s towing costs. Next come legal fees, DUI school, court-ordered fines, and license reinstatement fees. Costs for a first-offense DUI can run from $10,000 up to $25,000. If you are involved in an accident, there’ll be car repairs and medical costs if you’re injured.
To add to your woes, teens with a DUI are hit hard by higher insurance rates, often paying as much as $40,000 over a 13-year period. Additional penalties include community service and a suspended driver’s license. Without a license, you’ll have to use public transport that will add to your spiraling costs.
Imprisonment and a Criminal Record
First-offense DUIs are usually charged as a misdemeanor. However, things take a serious turn when someone is killed in a drunk driving accident, elevating the charge to DUI manslaughter, or worse, DUI murder that can result in a long prison sentence.
An underage DUI charge will go on your criminal record. This can adversely affect college or job applications in the future. In most states, a DUI can be expunged after a certain period. However, in some states like Massachusetts, a DUI remains on the record permanently.
Once you pick up a DUI, international travel becomes difficult. Many countries deny visas to travelers with a criminal record. If you were hoping to work overseas, your chances of landing a job drop drastically. Most international employers will not consider an applicant with a criminal record. You may have to wait until your criminal record is clear before you can fulfill your dream of traveling.
The aftermath of teen drunk driving and the consequences of an underage DUI can linger for years. The most devastating outcome of drunk driving is killing someone in an accident. Imprisonment, while a harrowing experience, has an end date. Living with the guilt, however, can haunt you for the rest of your life.
Dr. Paul Holinger, Professor of Psychiatry, Rush University Medical Center, Chicago, says teens struggle with guilt, sadness, fear, horror, shame, depression and anger after an incident like this.
“Intense feelings of guilt and shame may cause the teen to withdraw from relationships with parents, siblings, and friends, thereby losing potential sources of support,“ says Dr. Holinger. “The trauma probably impacts youngsters more profoundly than older adults, depending on the individual’s personality structure. We find that most young people need psychological treatment including psychotherapy, psychoanalysis, and sometimes medication to overcome a trauma like this.”
There’s a reason the expression “the folly of youth” exists. Many young people think they’re invincible, are blind to danger and don’t anticipate the consequences of reckless behavior. Think before knocking back that drink. Teenage drinking and driving can lead to tragic consequences with long-lasting repercussions.
A lot of people take driving for granted, but it’s actually really tough to be a new driver. There’s a lot of new information to take in. It’s a little overwhelming at first–and a lot of people who’ve been driving for years and even decades don’t really remember what’s it’s like to ask beginner questions. Teens are in danger whenever they drive with big skill gaps. This potentially puts everyone on the road at risk.
So, what’s the solution?
It turns out, there may still be more we can do to prevent accidents. Past research has suggested that many new drivers don’t learn how to adequately anticipate hazards, assess risks, and adjust their driving accordingly.
A McKnight and McKnight research study reviewed police reports and determined that the most significant causes of crashes among kids ages 16 to 19 essentially amounted to gaps in student driver knowledge and basic skills.
Visually scanning ahead for hazards, paying attention, and appropriately managing speed were all cited as weaknesses that represented 43.6 percent, 23 percent, and 20.8 percent of all car crashes for that age range, respectively. Combining these percentages, more than 80 percent of young driver accidents could be attributed to basic driving skills failure.
9 Essential Driving Skills for Teens
Really, though, there are only 9 essential skill areas to master. Each of these content areas is helping to keep your new driver safe, so it’s important to have these in the curriculum.
Of course, distractions are also a concern with teen drivers, so preparation for a drive should include distraction management. At the Center for Injury Research and Prevention at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, researchers note that young drivers’ perception that messages should be responded to immediately is one big reason why teens use their phones while driving.
“In focus group research, they [teen drivers] told us that the need to instantly respond to messages by being constantly connected plays a role in why they think they use cell phones while driving,” a representative from the Center for Injury Research said.
To combat this idea, parents can let their teens know it’s okay to wait. It’s not just peer communications that create this stress for new drivers, either. Some teens incorrectly their parents demand immediate communication.
Ready for our list of essential driving skills? Here are 9 areas every new driver needs to be familiar with.
1. Basic car parts and how they are used
How to properly label and identify individual car parts will help your teen if they have to troubleshoot problems with their vehicle, explain what’s happening, or even just understand how their car works.
A few other essentials to know:
- Vehicle body
- The battery
- Doors and windows
- Tires and wheels
- Turning signal lights
- Trunk, hatch, back door, etc.
- Front-wheel drive, rear-wheel drive, four-wheel drive, all-wheel drive, etc.
- Steering wheel
- Brakes (also including parking and emergency brakes, too)
- Gas pedal
- Gear shift (and if the vehicle is automatic or manual)
- Windshield wipers
2. How to prepare for a drive
Before starting a drive, your teen should know basics like making sure the vehicle is in good working order, has enough fuel for the trip, has intact tires that are filled, and so on. This doesn’t mean a top-to-bottom diagnostic before every journey, but it does mean that your teen should know how to recognize a flat, notice an empty gas tank, and observe other basics that would mean some basic car maintenance is in order.
3. How vehicles actually work
The basic science behind how vehicles really work and the essentials they need. The roles of various engine systems, the cooling system, etc. Your teen doesn’t have to know what every part does or how every system works, but it’s a good idea to have a basic understanding of how vehicles operate.
4. Operating your vehicle
How to drive the vehicle. This includes using the brakes and pedals and recognizing what the warning lights and indicators for your teen’s specific make and model mean. The process from turning the key in the ignition to putting the vehicle in park and preparing to shut everything off.
5. Parking your vehicle
Of course, your teen will also need to know how to park a vehicle and end the drive. Parallel parking is one important thing on the list, but there are also other important skills to remember. Rules about how close to park to the curb are also points to add to your list.
6. Types of roads and road conditions
Experienced drivers know that gravel roads, pavement, cement, and brick are all very different to drive on. Turning and maneuvering on different terrain is an essential driving skill.
7. How the time of day and weather influence driving conditions
Planning for adverse weather conditions, driving on snow, maneuvering the vehicle during a rainstorm, and reacting appropriately to weather changes. Even clear sunny days pose a unique driving situation–plus drivers can become overconfident if they judge the weather to be particularly favorable. It’s a good idea to prepare your teen for these situations.
8. How to handle special situations (u-turns, roundabouts, backing around corners, etc.)
Special driving circumstances can pose a distraction to new drivers if they don’t have enough experience with them. The first time a new driver sees a roundabout or has to make a u-turn, for instance, could be needlessly stressful.
9. Following the law and interacting with first-responders
New drivers should be prepared to answer questions, follow the laws carefully, provide the right information, and interact respectfully with law enforcement and emergency personnel.
While the majority of vehicles on the road today are automatic, there are many benefits to learning how to drive stick shift. Manual transmission vehicles don’t have to be for experienced drivers only. Even if your teen doesn’t primarily drive a manual transmission vehicle, it can make sense to teach them this valuable skill.
This blog post will make the case for manual driving. After you’ve mastered the basics of driving an automatic vehicle, it may make sense to move on to this next-level driving experience.
5 Advantages of Learning How To Drive Stick Shift
Manual Transmission Driving Is A Different Skill
Most cars and trucks on the market today are automatic transmission vehicles. The EPA’s statistics record sales of manual vehicles reaching a peak in the 1980s at around 30 percent, falling since then to under five percent of the total market. Automatic transmissions now make up the vast majority of cars and trucks for sale even though manual vehicle models are still available.
Driving a manual is a bit more involved than driving an automatic, requiring a different skillset and experience. Keep reading to learn why you should consider adding manual driving to your driving skill toolkit.
1. The “Manual Mindset” Has Drivers Paying More Attention
As a manual driver, you’ll learn to pay more attention to road conditions, vehicle speeds, and the road grade. This carries over well into automatic driving and might make you a better driver. The fact of the matter is, more is involved with driving a manual transmission.
CarTalk notes that much more is involved in driving a manual transmission than an automatic. This might leave you with less of a feeling that you can also send text messages, watch a screen, or try using an app at the same time.
2. Classic and High-End Vehicles Need Manual Driving Skills
It’s a nice skill to have with driving classic cars, towing heavy loads, or driving high-end vehicles. You never know when you may need to know this skill (and few people do). Luxury cars are often available as manual transmission vehicles because manuals give drivers a chance to really “experience the road.”
3. Be Able to Drive Just About Anything
Be able to drive just about anything. Even if few cars in the US are manual transmissions anymore, there are still stick shift vehicles on the road, after all. Drivers who know how to maneuver stick shift vehicles are able to drive the vast majority of cars, trucks, and high-end vehicles around the world. How cool is that?
And according to Edmonds.com, as much as 80 percent of the vehicles sold in European and Asian countries have manual transmissions. So manual drivers are prepared for driving wherever they go. They’re ready to drive a rental car in other parts of the world, so wherever their travels take them, they can include a road trip.
4. Develop a Greater Understanding of How Cars Work
Cars have a lot of moving parts, gears, and electronics. You can learn how cars work by driving a stick shift, since you’re essentially controlling your vehicle’s shifting manually (that’s why it’s called a manual!) instead of relying on your car to do this for you. Driving stick gives you a chance to experience this first hand and understand why automatic transmissions were developed, too.
5. Have a Skill That’s Going Away
Few people can drive manual vehicles. U.S. News and World Report says as few as 18 percent of Americans can actually drive a manual transmission vehicle, so your new driver can join the just under one-fifth of American drivers who have what it takes to drive stick.
Car and Driver began a campaign to #savethemanuals back in 2010, but manual transmission driving skills could still be described as a lost art.
Ready to Drive Stick? Be Safe and Smart
If you’re thinking of learning to drive stick shift, you’ll need to have an experienced manual driver provide you with lessons, since there’s a lot more involved in driving these vehicles. This isn’t a vehicle type you start out with as your very first. So should your teen drive one? After learning to comfortably drive automatic vehicles. You’ll need to keep in mind that driving a stick shift vehicle can be somewhat riskier than an automatic, so be safe about it.
The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) wants teens learning manual vehicles to do so safely. Kara Macek, Senior Director of Communications and Programs at GHSA, says drivers should be cautious about learning driving basics on manual vehicles.
“The biggest challenge for a new driver trying to learn manual transmission is that it’s more complicated than learning automatic, which flies in contrast to the typical educational model where you start with basic skills and then advance,” Macek noted. She added that brand-new drivers may be tempted to start on a stick vehicle, but are probably better off considering manual driving to be something to graduate into.
And with the cool options available to stick shift drivers, there’s definitely some great motivation to learn.
School’s back in session, and with this comes to your teen driver asking to take the car to school and to practice after class. They’ve completed all the required driver’s education training courses, they’ve taken responsible driver training, and they’re a good student. But, you’re still worried. The problem isn’t them; it’s the added threat of back-to-school time, more students on the road, and the typical driving dangers that you’re worried about. Thus, you begin to fear increased insurance premiums, and with good cause. So, what can you do to avoid those hikes?
1. Push for Good Grades
Teen drivers who do well in class and are responsible in their studies tend to transfer those skills behind the wheel. And, insurance companies are aware of this. This is why many companies offer incentives for good student drivers to students who maintain a certain GPA, don’t miss class, and do well in their coursework. The number of discounts you’ll receive varies from insurer to insurer, so it is worth comparing policy rates to find the best deal. To qualify for discounts, students must:
- Be 25 years of age or younger
- Be enrolled full time
- Maintain a 3.0 GPA or maintain a spot on the dean’s list
Insurers will require a letter from institutions/universities, proof of report cards, and other materials, to ensure students are maintaining their grades.
2. Require a Clean Driving Record
Teens who don’t get in accidents, and who don’t have speeding tickets or other moving violations on their driving record, tend to pay less for insurance (in fact, this is the case for adults as well). So, as a parent, you can make a deal with your teens before adding them to your policy. As long as they maintain good grades, and don’t have any violations, you’ll allow them to remain on your plan. If not, you can take them off your policy, and they’ll have to pay their own car insurance. Otherwise, you can limit their privileges until they’re able to improve their driving capabilities and become safer drivers.
If you allow your teen to get numerous speeding tickets and parking violations on campus, without eliminating certain privileges, you’re continually going to pay premium increases. So, work on a deal with your teen, which is beneficial for them, and keeps your rates down.
3. Continue Drivers Education
Even after completing drivers ed courses, there are continuing education courses many companies offer. And, many insurance companies provide additional programs for teens and adults, to help them save on insurance costs. Have your child take these courses. Doing so will allow them to keep up with changes to road rules/regulations, and it will also help them become safer drivers. If nothing more, it will keep your insurance costs at bay.
Additional Factors That Affect Policy Rates
Females typically pay a lower premium than male drivers, especially if they’re under 25. In fact, with individual insurers, the rates can more than double for male drivers. The reason being is that female drivers are typically more responsible and pay attention to traffic rules. Additionally, the type of vehicle driven by your teen, and whether they’re a primary driver or secondary driver, are also variables that will impact your policy rates.
If your vehicle has electronic monitoring devices, which can indicate your teen is a safe driver (i.e. maintains a safe distance, doesn’t hit the brakes immediately, doesn’t speed, etc.) these are variables which can help reduce insurance premiums as well.
Get the Most Affordable Rate
Both teen drivers in high school and college students, tend to pay increased insurance premiums. Not having a long-standing driving record, lack of knowledge, and the history of accidents/teen drivers, means insurers aren’t willing to insure teen drivers, without charging a premium rate.
As a parent paying insurance for a teen (or portion of the cost), these are some ways in which you can reduce policy costs. Additionally, check with your insurer about discounts. Many people would be surprised to learn there are many ways to save, if they ask—especially in instances where you’ve been with the insurer for years and have a clean driving record. Many insurers are also willing to offer discounts, after a certain amount of time, if teens are added to your current insurance policy.
Visit our Car Insurance Resource Center for more information.
School’s back in session. And, as a parent, you’re thrilled to have the kids off the couch and doing something productive—like learning! But with back-to-school time also comes a few significant concerns. One of the major concerns many parents have is on-road safety, and transportation for their kids, to and from school.
Bus Riders & Drivers
Of high concern to every parent is that their kids are safe. So, it’s essential to ensure they’re getting to school safely. For parents sending their kids off on the bus, it is vital to inform them of dangers and how to avoid them, getting on and off the bus each day. Some tips parents should give their children when riding the bus includes:
- Standing a minimum of 6-feet away from the bus when it is approaching
- Walking a minimum of 10-feet away from the front of the bus when crossing (crossing guard should help)
- Looking both ways before crossing the road
- Waiting for the bus to come to a complete stop
- Being mindful of curbs, sidewalks, and oncoming traffic at all times.
Sure, it seems simple enough. But, when dealing with kids who are 5 to 6 years old, these are things parents must explain. And, even teens who ride the bus are often distracted. Therefore, it’s worth discussing the safety tips with them.
How about the teen driver? The concern of on-road accidents and fatalities are of high interest to many parents. Especially with teen driver fatalities on the rise. Parents, remind your kids to pay attention to the road. Put the cell phone down, better yet, disable it when they’re behind the wheel! Teach them proper driving distances, speeds, and how to drive in school zones. Consider enrolling them in a drivers education course. The more precautions you take, the more likely they’ll be mindful drivers, and help prevent injuries, keeping the roads safe.
Biking to School
Just because kids aren’t on a bus or behind the wheel, doesn’t mean dangers are avoided 100%. Walking to and biking to school is just as dangerous because of surrounding threats. For bikers, make sure kids know how to utilize proper hand signals for turning and are aware of appropriate distances from cars on the road. Also, make sure their helmet is adjusted correctly, to prevent injuries if they do fall. Although cyclists should share the road with drivers, many impulsive and distracted drivers, aren’t paying attention to them. Parents, make sure you teach your kids to pay attention to hazards to prevent major accidents.
Walking to School
Kids who are walking also have to be mindful of the dangers around them. For example, walking with traffic, rather than against it, is extremely important. Kids should look both ways (twice) before crossing and wait for the crossing guards’ instruction. But, it’s still worth mentioning!
Additionally, watching out for crosswalks and stopping at an appropriate distance from the road, not walking with headphones on, and never walking and texting, are of high concern. Especially with all the mobile devices, kids have today.
Regardless of how kids get to school and back home, parents must teach them proper safety tips to ensure they are mindful of the dangers around them. So, even if some of these items seem obvious enough, discuss them with your kids. It’s worth mentioning the risks, and the simple steps they can take, to ensure their safety now that school’s in session.
We may all be late at times. But when being late turns into a pattern, it’s time to take action. If you’re chronically tardy, understanding your “lateness personality type” can help you to determine how you can change being late to being on-time or early.
Time management expert Diana DeLonzor was suspended three times during junior high school for tardiness. She decided to help herself and others struggling with being late. She identified different types of “late” personality and created ways for each to overcome the problem.
Diana DeLonzor’s Seven Types of Late Personalities
- Rationalizers: tend to blame outside influences (traffic, family members, personal problems).
- Producers: are always busy and squeeze more than is possible into their day.
- Deadliners: enjoy the suspense of running late and deadline pressure.
- Indulgers: procrastinate and put off duties.
- Rebels: resist authorities and rules.
- Absent-minded: easily distracted and forgetful.
- Evader: anxiety and fear-based (worried, clothing, hair or tests).
Tips and Tactics to Be on Time
Late people tend to have unrealistic ideas of how long it takes to do anything. Here are some tips that work for any of the seven late personality types:
- Travel Time: If your school is 4 miles away, you may think it takes 4 minutes to drive there. Even in perfect traffic, this is impossible. Use your mobile phone or computer-based traffic app to show you how long it will take to get to school. Leave at least five minutes before the time the app indicates you should leave.
- How Long Does Getting Ready Take?: Keep a notepad by you and write down how long it takes to do your usual morning activities. Include brushing teeth, getting dressed, and eating breakfast. Combine the time for each activity, and then add another five to ten minutes.
- Determine Your Load Time:After you’ve added up all the steps needed to get ready, combine this time with the longest amount of time it could take you to get to school. Subtract this from the time you have to be at school, and you will have your “load time,” the hour and minute you have to get out of the house and into your car.
- Add Extra Time: Even though you’ve done everything perfectly, unforeseen circumstances can still intervene. An extra-rainy day can put obstacles on the road. An accident could occur in your school parking lot. Road construction could slow traffic more than expected.
One of the simplest tactics to be on time is setting your home and car clocks 10, 15, or 20 minutes fast. Whichever tactic you choose, the best way to get to school safely and on time involves thinking ahead and taking action to be timely instead of tardy.
Many teens gawk in disgust at the possibility that they’ll have to enroll in a drivers education course. They think about how annoying it will be to sit in 30+ hours of listening to an instructor talk about road signs, and then teach them how to parallel park around a few cones when they finally get to sit behind the wheel. But, drivers ed courses teach students a lot more than how to park. In fact, classes will provide teens with insight into many laws most teens would never know (in fact most adults don’t know) which will help prevent accidents.
From learning how to correctly change lanes to understanding bike lanes, drivers ed provides students invaluable insights to traffic laws and rules they’d otherwise never learn from a practice book or online exam.
3 Driving Skills Only Drivers Ed Can Teach You
1. Bike Lane Awareness and Safety
Most drivers, including adults who’ve been driving their entire lives, aren’t aware of the road rules regarding bike lanes. Our course teaches students that the only time it is legal for them to drive through a bike lane is when they’re making a turn. These turns include: entering an alley, private road, or a driveway.
2. Appropriate Lane Usage
Another everyday rule teens won’t find online trying to pass their driver’s exam on their own is the rule regarding use of lanes. When a road has two or more lanes going in the same direction, drivers should remain in the right lane if they plan on driving slower. Left lanes are for faster traffic. In situations where three lanes are going in the same direction, the speed will increase accordingly (from right to left, speeds will increase).
Drivers who aren’t aware of this rule can cause road rage in other drivers, cause on-road arguments, slow down traffic, or possibly a significant accident.
3. Carpool Lane Confusion
Many drivers also abuse the carpool lane. But, for many, it is because they don’t know how to correctly follow signs which dictate times when they can/can’t drive in those lanes. Many drivers also aren’t aware that HOV (high occupancy vehicle lanes) refers to carpool lanes. This can further back traffic up during busy hours. These lanes are intended for cars with two or more passengers.
In some states, including Virginia and California, HOV lanes allow motorcycles to drive and pass through the traffic lanes. For the safest travels, carpool signs should be read each time a driver enters the highway, as they can differ significantly from state to state.
Develop Your Driving Skills with DriversEd.com
Our in-car driving lessons are bar-none the best students can expect when it comes to learning how to drive! Students will have one leg up on other drivers who are getting ready to sit in for their driving exam relying on our patient, licensed, and certified instructors. Some reasons our courses are superior include:
- Students can log in anytime, anywhere, to take their course on any computer or mobile device
- Behind-the-wheel training is taught in top safety-rated vehicles
- Online content is developed for easy understanding and an engaging experience
Our school is also the only one in the U.S. that is approved by the Road Safety Educators’ Association and accredited by the Driving School Association of the Americas. So, students (and parents) can feel confident that they’re learning from the most qualified professionals in their respective field.
Over the past two weeks of Car Insurance 101, we have discussed how to choose the best car insurance for the first-time driver and how to pick out a car. Now that we’ve talked about how to spend money, it’s time to talk about how to save money.
It’s a beautiful sunny morning and for once, you got going a few minutes early because you’re planning to meet up with your best friend before class. You’re driving along obeying every rule and suddenly your bliss is shattered by a loud siren and bright flashing lights.
You’re being pulled over!
Your heart starts pounding, your hands feel sweaty, and you can barely breathe.
What do you do next?
Rafael Reynoso, Public Information Officer, California Highway Patrol—San Juan Capistrano, put together step-by-step guide for teens who find themselves pulled over by a law enforcement official.
5 Tips for Handling Traffic Stops
No. 1: Relax and stay calm. This sounds almost impossible, but here are some tips to calm yourself that can work in any stressful situation. Breathing slowly and deeply is the most-effective short-term action you can take to keep calm when you are being pulled over. Breathe in through your nose and exhale as slowly as possible through your mouth.
No. 2: Pull over. Check your right side to make sure you are proceeding safely and come to a stop at a normal pace on the right side of the road.
No. 3: Place the vehicle in park. Lower your driver and passenger side windows and wait inside your vehicle unless you are instructed to exit. If it is nighttime, turn on your dome light. Important note: Be sure to keep both hands on the steering wheel where they are clearly visible.
No. 4: Continue your deep breathing and wait for the officer to approach the vehicle.
- Listen to the officer’s instructions.
- Communicate courteously and straightforwardly to the officer.
- Tell the officer you are going to reach for your driver’s license, registration, and insurance documents.
- Ask for clarification if you don’t understand what the officer is asking you to do.
No. 5: Whether or not you receive a citation, it is important to make sure you are calm before you re-enter the roadway. Continue deep breathing. This will help to relax the panicked and anxious feelings you experience during a traffic stop. They are normal and natural; it’s your “fight or flight” response.
Understand the Process
Knowing why officers conduct traffic stops and how many stops occur may also help you to feel a little calmer in the event you do get stopped. Traffic stops are one of the primary ways that law enforcement agencies keep roads safe, which is a huge feat given that California has nearly 27 million licensed drivers. CHP’s online incident report shows that officers respond to traffic accidents or road hazards 1 to 3 times a minute, 24 hours a day. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 12% of drivers in the U.S. are pulled over each year.
A law enforcement officer in California cannot pull you over if he or she doesn’t have “probable cause” — a specific reason. However, know that the leading reason drivers are pulled over by officers is because of speeding. So take your time and keep an eye on those speed limit signs as you’re driving to school.
Other common reasons you could be pulled over include:
- Your license plate is expired or improperly attached.
- Your headlight, turn signal, tail light, or brake light isn’t working.
- You littered and the officer saw it.
Be sure you have all your legally-required information (license and proof of registration and insurance) in your car before you drive. The majority of stops do not result in any type of citation or ticket.
Above all, understand that the true purpose of traffic stops is keeping the roads safe. More than 179,000 people were injured and 2,125 people were killed in accidents on California roads in 2017. This sounds terrible, but it’s a lot less than the 254,000 people injured and 3,435 people killed in 2015. Traffic stops helped to reduce those numbers and you can do your part as well.