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Michigan Teenagers and driving: How to be prepared

By Michael Morse | August 3, 2009

As a parent here in Michigan, we all know how scary it is to even think about the fact that your child is driving a car. However, there are some new tools out there that can help make the transition as smooth and safe as possible for your teens.

Statistics

We all know that cell phone use can be distracting and causes accidents. A new national study shows that you are 5.9 times more likely to get into an accident while dialing your phone and 23.2 times higher when you are texting. There is absolutely nothing that important that you cannot wait until your car is at a stop to send that text. If you are a passenger in a vehicle and the driver is texting or dialing, you should offer to help and demand that he/she stop doing that activity with you in the car. It is effective and works. Everyone knows you shouldn’t be doing it, but the addictive nature of texting and cell phone use takes over common sense.

Parents should also be aware than when your teenager has a friend in the passenger seat, the risk of a fatal crash doubles. When there are 3 or more passengers in the car, that teen driver’s risk of a fatal crash is three times higher than if he or she is driving alone. This is because of the distraction passengers create. But researchers also believe drivers are more inclined to speed and do other risky things because others in the car egg them on or they want to show off. More than half of all deaths in crashes of 16- and 17-year-old drivers occur when passengers younger than 20 are in the car with no adults present.

New Products

New products are hitting the market to help you as a Michigan parent keep a better eye on your teen.  Sprint and Verizon both have applications that you can download to your phones so you can know exactly where your teenager is at all times.  These applications are a wonderful way to know where your kids are.  However, they do not allow you to track the speed of your teen’s vehicles.

A “black box” similar to devices used to track emergency vehicles and commercial trucks lets parents monitor teen driving in real-time through a laptop or cell phone. The system, which blends cell phone technology with GPS, can be preset to snitch by sending automatic alerts when a young driver is driving too fast, too far or somewhere he’s not meant to be. The system also records speed, miles covered and other driving details on a memory card that can be downloaded later. One Black-box makers is Alltrack USA.

DriveCam’s more advanced system employs a tiny onboard camera that records when risky driving, including speeding, hard-braking or swerving from lane to lane, occurs.

According to a recent IIHS study, high tech devices worked best when a teen heard an alert in the vehicle and had a chance to correct the behavior — before the parents were notified. For these teens, driving more than 10 miles per hour over the speed limit dropped by almost 60 percent, and sudden braking and acceleration fell by almost 40 percent.

Get it in writing with your Teenagers

One of the best ways is to draw up a clear contract that spells out the details of your house’s graduated licensing law and some very specific consequences if it is violated. By way of example, AAA and Allstate have very comprehensive teen driver contracts free for download. By having both parents and your child sign it, you’ll drive home the point that teen driving is a privilege, not a right — one that needs to be earned through responsible behavior.

Who is responsible?

In Michigan, we have a state law which is best known as the Michigan Owners Liability Statute.  This law basically says that if you lend out your car to anyone, a friend, family member or stranger, you are responsible for those people’s actions.  If that person hurts someone while driving negligently, the owner of the vehicle is responsible, as well as the negligent driver.  It is never a good idea to give your vehicle to someone you do not know very well.  The law presumes that if a spouse, father, mother, brother, sister, son, daughter or other immediate member of the family is driving, that you gave the vehicle to that person with permission to drive it.  If your car is taken without permission, then you would not be responsible for the actions of the driver.

Michigan Laws on cell phones and texting while driving:

Detroit, Michigan has a local law prohibiting people from making cell phone calls without a hands-free device.  The law states:

·  Ordinance  Chapter 55 of the 1984 Detroit City Code, Traffic and Motor Vehicles, by amending Section55-1-1, Definitions, of Article I, In General, to add definitions for the terms, ‘Engage in a telephone call’,  ‘Hands-free mobile phone’, ‘Hand-held mobile phone’, ‘Mobile phone’, and ‘Using a hand-held mobile phone’: and by adding Section 55-4-28, Use of a hand-held mobile phone while operating a motor vehicle on a freeway, highway, street or alley prohibited; not applicable to hands-free mobile phone; exceptions; burden of proof ; penalty, to Article IV, Operation of Vehicles.
Passed May 3, 2006

There is a host of pending legislation that can be reviewed here.  Michigan is considering a state wide ban, just like Detroit’s ban.  Just yesterday, the United States Senate has had discussions about a national ban on texting while driving.  Obviously, this issue is not going away and some serious new laws should be in effect soon.

Insurance

One way to protect yourself from civil liability in case your Michigan teenager gets into a crash and injures someone, is to have adequate insurance.  You should make sure that your insurance company is aware that you have a teen in the house that is starting to drive.  You should notify them as soon as driver’s education classes begin.  You should also increase your bodily injury limits to $250,000/$500,000 or more if you can afford to do so.  You should also make sure that you have adequate limits for both uninsured and underinsured motorist benefits.

What is Uninsured Motorist Coverage?

This is a provision in your insurance policy that helps protect you if the negligent driver did not have insurance coverage or if you were involved in a “hit and run” situation.

You can purchase this type of coverage in addition to your policy. So, for instance, if you are ever involved in an accident with someone that is uninsured or that has fled the scene, then you can recover money under this provision from your own insurance company.

What is Underinsured Motorist Coverage?

Underinsured Motorist Coverage is a provision in your policy that applies when the other driver didn’t have enough insurance to cover your injuries.

Say, for instance, you were involved in a car accident where the negligent driver only had $20,000 in coverage, and you suffered injuries costing you $40,000. Because the negligent driver only carried a policy worth $20,000, you could only recover a maximum of $20,000 from the negligent driver. If you had an underinsured motorist provision in your policy, then you could make the claim against your own carrier for additional money to help pay for your expenses.


If you have any questions about Michigan No-Fault Insurance, or what to do after an accident, you can call for free answers to your questions today at 800-281-0606 or email

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