Letting your children use your car for the first time - or for the first time in a while, if they've returned home from university for a few weeks' holiday and have their eyes firmly set on your wheels - is one of those moments in your life where pride is neatly counter-balanced by fear: pride, because they’re grown-up and free; fear because there is just so much that could go wrong…
But, as with so many situations, proper planning can help mitigate the risks while maximising the pleasure.
Here is our guide to helping them make the most of their fledgling motoring career.
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Premiums for young drivers can easily reach four figures a year, making it tempting to add them to your policy for the first couple of years to save money. There’s nothing inherently wrong with doing this, providing they are genuinely the secondary, not primary, user of the car.
However, it isn’t necessarily the best course of action. If they have an accident, it will be your no claims bonus that takes the hit, and you’ll pay extra for years to come due to an accident that wasn’t your fault. It also means they aren’t building up their own no claims bonus, something that will stand them in good stead in the future.
So, while the initial figures might point towards a shared policy, long-term thinking suggests they get their own car and start with their own insurance cover from day one.
Saga Car Insurance is available exclusively for the over 50s, so you won't be penalised for a young driver's mistakes.
Older drivers are sitting on a broad plateau of experience and maturity. Our reflexes are almost as good as they’ve ever been and any slight deterioration is more than off-set by decades of driving, which helps us make better decisions and risk assessments than those of new drivers.
This is especially true of the newly qualified driver for whom passing the driving test may not have fully equipped them for the realities of the road. Despite only holding 8% of the total number of UK driving licences, drivers between the ages of 17 and 24 account for 30% of all road traffic accident fatalities, with a quarter of all young drivers having at least one accident in their first six months.
This is a sobering thought but the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) could help with its Skill for Life course. Costing just £149, it not only gives them the skills to drive more safely, it might also help them qualify for cheaper car insurance.
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Consumer electronics have a place to play in keeping your children safe on the road with a variety of options available. Ford, for example, offers MyKey across its range. MyKey is a separate key that enables you to set the maximum speed of the car, along with limits on the radio volume and an early low-fuel warning.
It also prevents the driver deactivating some safety measures like the car’s traction control, blind-spot warnings, and parking aids and stridently encourages them to wear a seatbelt. It’s a great system and worth remembering when it’s time to change cars.
Some insurance companies offer a ‘Black Box’ for younger drivers’ cars that measures parameters like acceleration and cornering, with most allowing you to view the data on its website, which is a fantastic monitoring tool for worried parents. Shades of 1984? Not really; under EU regulations, all cars must be fitted with something similar by 2018, which can be accessed by the police in the event of an accident...
There are also a number of Smartphone apps you can use. SafeDriver, for instance, lets you set a maximum speed and cornering force and if the car exceeds the limits you have set, it will send you a text or email.
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Setting the ground rules
Two of the biggest contributing factors in young driver accidents are carrying passengers and driving at night.
Passengers can tempt the driver to show off, while driving at night presents its own unique challenges, with young males being 17 times more likely to crash than you or I when they’re driving between 2am and 5am.
So you might like to consider setting a driving curfew and a limit on the number of passengers they can carry. And while trust is a wonderful thing, an in-car CCTV camera is a low-cost way of monitoring them while having the added benefit of independent evidence in the event of a no-fault accident.
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One life-saving tip
Finally, you should encourage your children to get out of any car they feel is being driven dangerously, even if it means phoning you to collect them in the middle of the night or offering to pay for the taxi that brings them home.
A ‘no questions asked, I’ll come and collect you’ policy might be the most pragmatic way of keeping them safe, no matter how inconvenient it turns out for you!
Those are our top tips but we’d love to hear yours in the comments section.
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