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Is rule-breaking teen driver insured?


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Question: My 16-year-old granddaughter lives with me and has a provisional license (and is allowed to drive alone at this point). Do I need to add her to my car insurance policy?  Lately, she has refused to follow the nighttime driving and passenger restrictions for her license type.  Will insurance cover her if she is in an accident even if she’s cited for a provisional license restriction violation?  

Answer: Since your granddaughter is a household member and already licensed to drive alone, it’s important for you to notify your auto insurance provider immediately that she lives with you and get her listed as a driver.  Once she is on the policy, its coverages and benefits will extend to her when she drives your vehicles -- even if she is caught driving against the license restrictions. (See “Who can drive your car?”)

Car insurance companies differ on when to add young drivers to a policy.  Some auto insurers require you add a child when he or she is at the permit stage (when the teen must still have an accompanying driver), while others will allow you to wait until the child can drive alone. Since your granddaughter can already drive alone, it’s definitely time to add her.

If your granddaughter continues to drive your vehicles without being on the policy, then your auto insurance company may be able to deny claims arising from any accident she is in, saying you misrepresented who lived in your home.  Or it may cover the accident but charge you back premiums from the date she received her license (if she were living with you at that time). 

Fortunately for your situation, insurance companies don’t void car insurance policies merely because someone is cited for a violation of traffic or provisional licensing law.   So, just as a person who runs a red light and crashes is covered by his or her insurance policy, your granddaughter would be covered if she runs a stop sign at 11 p.m. with other teens in the car and crashes.

You're covered -- but are you in charge?

There are some circumstances in which your granddaughter might be considered unlicensed -- making it possible that the insurance company wouldn't cover a claim because it excludes coverage to those without a valid driver's license.

Your state might consider her unlicensed if she is caught driving against her license restrictions, for example. If her driving record deteriorates to the point that her license is suspended or you exclude her from your policy, your car insurance would not cover any claims if she wrecks your car.

Perhaps it's time for you to take away your granddaughter's access to a car until she agrees to abide by the provisional license restrictions, but that is a choice only you can make.

Adding a teen driver to your car insurance policy is expensive even in the best of circumstances. (See “What a teen does to your car insurance costs.”) When you add her to the policy, search for discounts to help balance out the hike in premiums.  Discounts may be available for good grades, completion of a driver safety course or placing a device in a car to monitor her driving.  Don’t be afraid to ask for other discounts since they vary by insurer.  (See "Your guide to car insurance discounts")

If rates with your current car insurance company are too high, shop around.  You may be able to save hundreds, if not thousands, annually on auto insurance premiums by comparison shopping.  (See “3 ways to save big on car insurance”)

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