Having a car at college can give a student the freedom to come and go from work or to explore surrounding areas without depending on others. But having a car can also mean greater responsibility. Here are some common driving situations that you and your college student should discuss before your – or the student’s own – car heads to college.
Driving in a new area – Urge your young driver to learn the laws in the new community, as they may differ from your hometown. Are U-turns legal? Can you turn right on red? How about turning left on red on a one-way street? Failing to obey local traffic laws may result in a ticket or an accident. The Governors Highway Safety Association website offers a state-by-state look at traffic laws, including regulations for distracted driving, seatbelts, speed limits and work zones. Most colleges have a community liaison office that can provide information about local laws.
Allowing others to drive or being the default driver – Set rules and expectations for who can use the car. When your student is the only roommate or the only one among a group to have a vehicle at school, he or she may become the default driver. Worse, the student may allow others to drive the car. Both result in the car being used more than expected and having a higher risk of an accident. Check with your insurance agent to understand the terms of your auto policy and make sure appropriate coverage is in place. While you may be confident of your student’s driving skills, the driving capability of roommates and friends is unknown.
Alcohol – While everyone hopes and expects their college student to be responsible when it comes to alcohol, college is a time where experimentation and binge drinking can occur. Even the most responsible person cannot think clearly under the influence of alcohol and may decide to drive, allow someone else who was drinking to drive, or to ride with an impaired driver. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism offers a resource guide, “College Drinking,” for parents to use when talking to their college students about alcohol use.
Claims resulting from a motor vehicle accident can have an adverse effect on insurability and insurance costs, whether the auto policy is in the parents’ or the student’s name. Accidents, tickets or other violations may cause insurance premiums to increase. If the car is loaned to another person who then causes an accident, the owner of the vehicle may be held liable. Similarly, if your student borrows someone else’s car and causes an accident, you may be liable if the claim exceeds the car owner’s limits of insurance. Your insurance company will consider all of these factors when deciding how much premium to charge or even whether to renew your policy.
The freedom of being able to drive and go wherever you want, whenever you want, is important to those on the cusp of adulthood, but it is equally important to stay grounded with rules about who can drive and when.
Coverages described here are in the most general terms and are subject to actual policy conditions and exclusions. For actual coverage wording, conditions and exclusions, refer to the policy or contact your independent agent.