You can reduce the risk of your teenage drivers

Wrecked car

No doubt about it, teen drivers are a risk to their safety and their family's financial security.

Higher auto insurance premiums, along with unexpected events like accidents and traffic tickets, take a big bite out of the family budget.

Is there anything you can do as a parent to minimize the risk to your teen's life — and your wallet? You bet.

According to the experts, more teens ages 15 to 19 are killed in car accidents with teen drivers than by any other cause. One out of five teen deaths results from a teen-behind-the-wheel accident.

Although the percentage of teens receiving a driver's license has been declining over the past decade, it still remains a rite of passage for most high schoolers.

Any parent with a recently minted teen driver knows what the extra expense of adding a rookie driver to the household involves, particularly with placing that inexperienced driver on the family auto insurance policy.

According to industry experts, adding a teen driver to your family's car insurance can boost the annual premium by 50% to 150%, and boys are more expensive to insure than girls.

That translates into a hit of several hundred dollars to the family budget's bottom line.

Most insurers offer avenues to reduce those premium increases, such as a good-student discount for teen drivers maintaining a certain grade-point average. A teen completing specific safety/defensive driving classes might also qualify for a discount. Even a teen's involvement in certain civic organizations may reduce premiums.

But let's face it, most teens aren't going to meet those qualifications. And even if they do, the chances are still high that they will be involved in an accident of some sort before they turn 20.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), teens ages 15 to 20 make up less than 7% of the total driving population but are involved in 14% of all fatal crashes.

Every ticket your teen driver has, as well as any crash — however minor — will cost you money.

This cost will be the deductible and increased premiums if you involve your insurance company or the out-of-pocket expense if you don't.

We know a lot about when and why teens get into accidents:

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But research also shows that teens whose parents set driving rules are half as likely to get into an accident.

According to our experts, there are steps a parent can take to reduce teenage driving risks and the inevitable extra costs risky behavior causes.

Among them:

Continue Monitoring Your Teen Driver. Being able to parallel park and recognize street signs doesn't mean your teen is prepared to meet the challenges of everyday driving. Earning a license is just the beginning. Continue riding with your licensed teen driver for at least the first few months, overseeing progress and evaluating judgment.

Limit the Number of Passengers. Put firm limits on the number of friends your teen may drive around at any one time. Brand-new drivers probably shouldn't have any other teens in the car. Drivers with a year or more experience should be limited on the basis of maturity and skill.

Establish a Driving Curfew. Put a firm limit on how late your teen driver can be out with the car. As experience increases, you might extend the limit.

Everyone Buckles Up. Some teens will have issues with sounding like mom when insisting friends must buckle their seat belts, but get the commitment from them that everyone will be belted. The car simply doesn't move until everyone is buckled up.

Cellphone Off. No teen can resist the temptation of reading and responding to texts or answering a ringing phone. Your policy should be that when driving, the cellphone is turned off, period. Even if the car they are driving has an integrated, hands-free system, teenage drivers have their hands full just paying attention to what's going on around them without being distracted by a phone conversation.

Require Permission to Drive. Always know when your teen is driving and the destination. Requiring permission to drive will reduce frivolous trips while reinforcing your position as lord of the car.

The idea is to do what you can to keep your teen out of harm's way while avoiding those extra costs that come with every ticket and accident.

Setting and enforcing a few rules will do both.

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