Teens' driving hits parents in purse

MICHAEL FORBES
Last updated 05:00 26/07/2013

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Parents have been warned that they face forking out thousands of dollars to insurance companies if they let their teenagers flout the terms of their restricted driver licences.

Insurance and Savings Ombudsman Karen Stevens issued the warning yesterday after The Dominion Post reported on an Otago University study that showed teens on restricted licences were crashing at an alarming rate and routinely flouting the law.

A quarter of almost 900 teenagers who took part in the study crashed while on their restricted licences, and about 80 per cent of them broke at least one of the licence conditions.

Ms Stevens said a lot of parents did not understand that their insurance polices would not cover their children if they had an accident while breaching their restricted licences.

The most common breaches are driving between 10pm and 5am without a licensed supervisor in the front passenger seat, and carrying passengers unsupervised.

The Ombudsman's Office investigated about 250 complaints a year from parents who felt their teens should be covered by their insurance despite having broken those rules, Ms Stevens said.

"In terms of restricted driver's licence cases, I can only remember one or two that we've actually upheld in favour of the complainant, because generally the law is quite strict. Even if they say having passengers in the car didn't cause the accident, what they've actually got to show is that not having a supervisor didn't cause the accident."

The complaints her office looked into were probably "the tip of the iceberg" when it came to the total number of parents having to pay damages for rule-breaking teens, as most simply accepted the law and moved on.

In many cases, those teens had caused thousands of dollars in damage to the family car and were also being pursed for damages by others caught up in the crash.

"Most teens tend to have lapses in responsibility when it comes to sticking to the letter of the law," Ms Stevens said.

"It's over to the parents to make sure that their teens are not flouting the licence requirements. It might worry these teenage drivers a bit more if they fully appreciated that they might end up paying for the damage themselves."

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- The Dominion Post

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