Amelia Wade is a court reporter for the New Zealand Herald

Insurance warning for teen drivers

Photo / Getty Images
Photo / Getty Images

Astern warning is being sent to teenage drivers - if you breach the terms of your licence, you might not be covered by your insurance in a crash and might be left with a bill for thousands of dollars.

If an insurance policy is void, and young motorists are found to be at fault, they are liable to pay for repairs to their car and the one they hit.

A recent study by the University of Otago found teenage drivers are crashing at an alarming rate and show little regard for the conditions of their licence.

Insurance and Savings Ombudsman Karen Stevens warned parents: "If your teenager is breaching the terms of their licence and has an accident, they will not be covered under your insurance policy.

"As a parent of teenagers myself, I appreciate it is difficult sometimes to get the message through to our children. However, my message to parents is, as the study shows, teenager drivers are more likely to crash.

"Make sure your child realises that if they drive at night or with passengers in breach of their licence they will face the bill for any damage caused. Your insurance will not cover your car or anyone else's that is damaged," said Ms Stevens.

In 2011, AA Insurance found drivers aged between 15 and 25 were 32 per cent more likely to make a collision claim than any other age group, and males aged 15 to 19 tended to have the highest average claim costs.

The average cost of claims for female drivers aged 17 to 24 is $1398, compared with $2273 for males of the same age.

The head of customer relations at AA Insurance, Suzanne Wolton, said for her company there were "shades of grey" in approving a policy payout.

Teenage drivers might still be covered even if they were in breach of their licence as long as that was not the reason for the crash.

But it was better to be safe than sorry, she said. "It depends on the driver, the crash and the licence - every one is different."

Ms Wolton said it was important to drive to the conditions of your licence and to read your insurance policy so you understand what you are and aren't covered for, because if you have an accident and haven't met these conditions your claim might not be accepted.

The university research found that more than 80 per cent of teenage drivers on a restricted licence broke its conditions - 81 per cent admitted to driving with passengers while unsupervised and 65 per cent to driving unsupervised at night.

Of the 893 teenagers studied, a quarter had been involved in crashes.

The research, by staff from Otago's injury prevention research unit and one University of Auckland staff member, suggested that given the high number of licence breaches, law-breaking had become "the norm" among young drivers.

The report also highlighted the important role parents had to play in young people learning to drive.

Those in the study with parents who knew little about licence conditions were more likely to break the rules.

- NZ Herald

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