Parent’s Guide to Insuring a Teenage Driver in Michigan
This time of year, as the leaves begin to fall and kids return to school, marks an important milestone in many teen’s lives – the beginning of driver’s training. Handing your child the keys to the family car is an exciting and difficult day for any parent. While kids are excited to hit the open road and gain some independence, we as parents often worry about our children’s safety. What most parents fail to consider at this moment, however, is whether it’s time to add their teen driver to the family car insurance policy. Insuring a teenage driver can be stressful for any parent. The added expense of insuring a teenage driver, coupled with the confusing language of insurance policies regarding when to do so, can compel any parent to put this process off.
However, knowing when to insure your young driver can be confusing – whether it comes at the onset of driver’s training, once they officially start logging road hours, gain their learner’s permit, or finally obtain their driver’s license. This article details the obligations parents must adhere to regarding their teenage driver, as well as the drastic consequences their teen may suffer if they are not insured.
The Process of Becoming a Licensed Michigan Driver
Before delving into the insurance obligations parents must follow when their teenager begins driving, it is important to understand the process of obtaining a driver’s license in Michigan. Michigan law requires teenagers to go through the Graduated Driver Licensing System before they can apply for a license. The Graduated Driver Licensing System teaches teens to drive by slowly increasing their driving privileges. This process consists of two driver education segments and three licensing levels. Once a teenager reaches the age of fourteen years, eight months old, they can begin segment one of the licensing process.
Segment one includes:
- 24 hours of classroom instruction;
- Six hours of behind-the-wheel instruction, and;
- Four hours of observation time in a training vehicle.
Once segment one is complete, your teenager (with parental permission) can apply for a level one driver’s license at a Secretary of State branch office. A level one driver’s license lets your teenager drive with a parent or another adult 21 years or older. Teenagers can start the second driver’s education segment after they have had a level one license for at least three months. During those three months, your teenager must log 30 roadway hours.
Segment two of driver’s education includes:
- Six hours of classroom instruction, and;
- Logging least 50 hours of supervised driving.
Once a teen completes segment two, they can receive a certificate of completion. After your teen receives that certificate and has been driving for at least six months, they may apply to take the driving skills test. Passing the driving skills test grants them their level two intermediate driver’s license. Certain restrictions apply to level two license holders, including who is allowed to ride in the vehicle with them. After having a level two license for at least six months, your teen may be eligible for their level three full license. Your teen must be at least 17 years old and must have driven 12 straight months without getting a moving violation, accident, license suspicion, or a violation of the graduated license restrictions.
Knowing When to Insure a Teenage Driver
Equally important to your child receiving the proper education to safely drive a car is a parent’s education on how and when to notify their insurance company regarding their teen’s use of the family vehicle. Most often, parents add a teen driver to the family’s auto insurance policy. However, due to the changing dynamics of the modern family – such as multiple households, blended families, custodial parent obligations, etc. – discussions with your insurance company early on in the process about when and how to add your child to the family auto insurance policy is important.
Most Michigan no-fault insurance policies generally do not require additional insurance for teenage drivers who are not yet licensed. However, the vehicle that your teen uses to accumulate their required “behind-the-wheel” hours must have properly acquired no-fault insurance coverage. Oftentimes, this no-fault policy will cover your teen driver in the event they are in an accident. But it is important to understand that each and every Michigan insurance company may have different requirements for notifying them when teenagers begin the process of learning to drive before they’re licensed.
Once your teen has completed their required “behind-the-wheel” hours and passed their driving test, a parent’s insurance obligations may change. Therefore, once a teenage driver reaches this point, parents should notify their insurer and confirm whether any additional no-fault insurance is required. In situations where your teenager owns his or her own vehicle, insurance companies may require that separate auto no-fault insurance is purchased for that vehicle. When purchasing that insurance for this separate vehicle, it is very important to disclose fully and completely all of the information requested by the insurance company. This information often includes where the child lives, and who else may be driving the vehicle, among other things.
Finally, all too often, people are tempted to withhold information from their insurance company when adding new teenage drivers or new vehicles to their insurance policy in order to get a cheaper insurance rate. Avoid that temptation. If insurance coverage is purchased for new drivers without disclosing all of the information requested by the insurance company, the insurance company can legally cancel your insurance policy – even after the auto accident has occurred.
What Happens if You Fail to Notify Your Insurance of Your Teenager Driving?
Failing to notify your insurer that your teen will be driving the family car or their own vehicle can have drastic consequences. If you don’t notify your car insurance company of your new driver and they cause or are involved in a serious car accident while driving, your insurer may not cover your teen’s medical bills. Further, your teen may not be able to sue an at-fault driver who caused the car accident, even if your teen was completely innocent and suffered serious injury as a result.
While some parents may be tempted to put off adding their child to their insurance policy due to an increase in the price of insurance, this is a risk that will not pay off. Failing to add your teen driver to your insurance can result in your entire insurance policy being void. This could mean that not only your child but also yourself could lose no-fault benefits in the event of an accident. Further, it is also important to ensure all of your communication with your insurance company is in writing so that there are no misunderstandings. By keeping an open and honest line of communication with your insurance company, you can ensure that you will not be paying monthly premiums for insurance benefits you will never receive.
If your teenager was involved in an accident, it is best to reach out to an attorney experienced in no-fault law and all the nuances surrounding insuring a teenage driver. Our experienced attorneys at Sinas Dramis Law Firm have helped many Michigan families advocate for the rights of their teen drivers in the unfortunate event that they are involved in or cause a car accident.