Cedric Stephens | Motoring and insurance tips for new drivers
QUESTION: I am the proud father of 18-year-old twin girls. They are the stars in my eyes. They recently passed their driving tests. This occurred the same day and on their first attempt. Can you offer any advice about driving that would be appropriate for my daughters at this time? Also, what are some of the basic things that they should they know about motor insurance?
N.B.W., Kingston 8
INSURANCE HELPLINE: The Road Safety Unit in the Ministry of Transport & Works, in partnership with the makers of the non-alcoholic drink Malta, sponsored a very informative article, "Tips for New Drivers", in the automotive section of last Sunday's Gleaner.
After I read it, I wondered why motor insurers were missing in action. Aren't plans that have the potential to reduce collisions, some of which result in injuries, deaths and property damage and reduce insurers' profit sufficient reasons for them to participate in programmes designed to shape and change road behaviours? For example, where are the 21st century successors to ICWI's Road Angel Competition?
This newspaper reported on July 17 that general insurers saw a fall-off in their profits at March 31. It was "fuelled primarily by motor business which recorded losses of $2.4 billion". Is the only strategy in insurers' play book to raise premiums?
Some local parents are exposing their toddlers, as young as six months old, to information technology. This is in the expectation that the early exposure will facilitate the cognitive development of their children.
With no apology to my 'friend' a director of a local motor insurer, who invariably greets me with the inane comment that I am always writing about insurance newly-licensed drivers like your daughters, should know basic things about motor insurance, much in the same way that they should know about boys, sex, alcohol, ganja or how motor vehicles work.
Early exposure to safe driving practices creates better drivers. Better drivers cause fewer accidents and society benefits.
Motor insurers by the nature of what they do should have lots of information about safe driving. Are they engaged in the insurance business or in helping vehicle operators manage the risks of vehicle use and ownership? The narrower vision limits their societal contribution. As for your second question, their knee-jerk answer is a probably a no-no.
The Malta scholars programme provides advice under five broad headings: practise driving under different road conditions; get to know your vehicle; drive within the speed limit; avoid distractions; and never drink and drive. The suggestions make sense. As an experienced driver and a caring dad, I am sure that you can use these items as talking points for a discussion with your daughters. Before you do so, check Google. You are sure to find lots more information.
There are three other things that I will add to the list. The first is to allow them to drive under your watchful eyes on your next trip to the country. This is essential. It will help to develop their confidence and driving skills. The second has to do with the use of medications and the use of ganja. Both can impair driving. The third is to ensure that the driver and any passengers always wear seats belts.
INSURANCE TIPS FOR NEWBIES
It is an offence to drive a vehicle on the public roads without motor insurance. Coverage is required by law.
A certificate of insurance or a cover note provides evidence of motor insurance.
Members of the police force will ask to examine evidence of insurance and other documents like driver's licence, registration certificate and certificate of fitness during routine stops and in case of accidents.
Motor policies require that the person driving holds the appropriate permit to operate the particular vehicle. For example, a person who is authorised to drive private cars is not allowed to drive other classes of vehicles.
Policies typically tend to discriminate against young and inexperienced drivers. Young and inexperienced drivers are generally defined as those who have been driving for less than three years or who are below 25 years old.
Contracts of motor insurance generally allow only immediate and sometimes designated family members to drive the insured vehicles. Non-family members should not be allowed to drive except in the event of emergencies.
In the event of an accident the driver is expected to stop and exchange particulars about his/her driver's licence and insurance with the other driver. A report should be filed with the police and with insurers within 30 days.
Finally, I would recommend that you immediately contact your insurers and inform them that your daughters are likely to drive your vehicle from time to time.
- Cedric E. Stephens provides independent information and advice about the management of risks and insurance. For free information or counsel, write to: email@example.com