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Published: Saturday, 4/28/2007

Teen driving limits also cut policy costs

BY MARK REITER
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

At least three insurance companies are offering discounts on auto coverage to parents of teenage drivers whose driving privileges are restricted by new state rules.

A law that shortens the hours when 16-year-olds can get behind the wheel and restricts the number of passengers they can have went into effect April 6, triggering Grange Insurance to cut rates for parents of the teenagers.

The Columbus insurance company will drop rates in June, giving the biggest break - 5 percent - for 16-year-old male drivers, who are subject to higher rates under insurance industry tables. The reduction could save policyholders up to $200 a year.

"The law is really paying dividends in creating safety for these drivers and other people on the road," said Patrick Flaherty, a Grange spokesman.

The law, which expanded upon the state's 1999 graduated driver license law, prohibits drivers under the age of 17 from operating a vehicle between midnight and 6 a.m. and restricts those who are 17 from driving between the hours of 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. Also, a 16-year-old who is not accompanied by a parent cannot have more than one nonrelative as a passenger.

Mitch Wilson, a spokesman for the Ohio Insurance Institute, said Ohio is among 43 states that are using some form of graduated licensing for teenagers.

"The law was strengthened to help those new drivers gain more experience and get exposure to being behind the wheel," he said. "Studies have shown that crashes do decrease, and that obviously is a good thing because it saves lives and injuries."

In anticipation of the rule changes in Ohio, State Auto Insurance lowered rates 5 to 10 percent over the last 18 months for policies with teen drivers. It would consider further reductions if accidents among that age group drop, the company said.

"We are confident that the Ohio law will have favorable effects," said Gary Johnson, regional vice president for operations in Ohio.

Lisa Finney, an Allstate spokesman, said the insurance company dropped rates for young drivers last summer in anticipation of the new rules.

While State Farm Insurance, Nationwide, and American Family Insurance Co. are convinced that the law changes foster safer conditions for roadways, spokesmen said they do not have plans to cut rates.

"We are taking a wait-and-see approach," said Kim Lust, a spokesman for State Farm.

Contact Mark Reiter at:

markreiter@theblade.com

or 419-724-6096.



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