My daughter just learned to drive. As a parent I'm concerned for her safety above all else. As an attorney I am too well aware of the risks and liabilities a new driver brings to the family. I've contemplated all sorts of plans to avoid or limit our family liability as she started to drive. What is worse is that her two brothers are ready to follow her footsteps behind the wheel. So I figured I better make a plan now that will last for more than a decade!
Here is the plan:
A) Use the year of permit time Florida requires to really sink in as many driving lessons as possible. We even paid for a few private driving lessons (3 lessons at $50 per hour) just to get an objective read on her progress. We let our child drive as much as possible. Eventually, we allowed her to drive with other family members in the car.
B) Buy the child a car worthy of being in if/when there is a crash. Sounds funny, but that's how I thought about it. I recognize many families can't afford a new car or even another car, but if at all possible, let the child drive the newest, safest and most advanced car you can afford. Here is my logic - I'd rather face financial hardship and give my kid the best shot at surviving an accident. My research showed that huge cars, even large cars, are not as safe as newer smaller/mid-sized cars. We researched a ton of cars, too much to give advice on which cars to purchase here, and landed on a 2011 Nissan - which had great safety ratings, 9 air bags and no roof crush (in case the car rolls over in an accident) problems. Look for as many real safety features as possible. Some mandatory ones for me: front wheel drive or all wheel drive (I have no clue if the stats support this, but we have driven a LOT of cars and if there is any slickness to the road (rain, sleet, ice or snow) front wheel drive is much easier to control). ABS (anti-locking breaks), front and side impact air bags, no roof crush problems (harder to find, but possible with a little digging on Google).
C) Prohibit other kids in the car for 6 months. Sure we allowed some exceptions over time, but it made our kid respect having other lives in her hands. We stressed the heavy weight of responsibility driving brings.
D) Finally, I boned up and added a lot to my car insurance and excess insurance policy. You need to have $250,000 underlying bodily injury insurance for any real protection. An additional $1 or $2 million dollar excess policy wouldn't hurt. Then if you have the means, buy a corresponding Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Policy as well. Accidents are exactly that, and inexperience leads to a lot of them. Don't allow a few hundred bucks a year not spent on insurance to ruin a lifetime of saving.