Oh No — My Kids are Old Enough to Drive

By: Tom DeLattre

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My twins will be turning 15 soon. They already started preparing for and taking the necessary tests to allow them to get their learner’s permit on their 15th birthdays. In helping them get through the process, it reminded me of a Florida statute that I have used and relied on in representing clients in the past. But it is the same statute that can be very frightening for the parents.

Florida statute 322.09(1)(a) states, in part: “The application of any person under the age of 18 years for a driver license must be signed…by the father, mother or guardian…”

This is not the scary part. However, section (b) of the same statute states, in part: “Any negligence or willful misconduct of a minor under the age of 18 years when driving a motor vehicle upon a highway shall be imputed to the person who signed the application of such minor…which person shall be jointly and severally liable with such minor for any damages caused by such negligence or willful misconduct.”

Now, that is frightening. “Joint” and “several” in this statute means that, essentially, each individual with liability is responsible for the entirety of damages caused. So, if your minor child is unfortunately involved in an accident that results in injuries, the parent is responsible for simply signing the application.

Although still learning all of the requirements, it is my understanding that our twins can obtain their drivers’ licenses one year after obtaining their permit, which means the parent who signs for them is responsible for their conduct behind the wheel until they reach 18.

Another issue parents face — If they purchase a vehicle for their minor child and whose name should be on the title? My law partners and I have had this debate previously. We know a minor child cannot own a vehicle and, therefore, their name cannot be on the title. I strongly believe that only one parent’s name should be on the title. The title should be in the same name as the parent who signed for the driver license. Each family situation is different and you should get proper consultation from a financial advisor or attorney.

Lastly, there are insurance issues to deal with when your children start driving. It is strongly recommended that you speak with your insurance agent to discuss creating the best strategy for your family. If your children will be driving your vehicles, you simply need to add them to your policy and watch the premium skyrocket! If you purchase a vehicle for your child, the issue of whether it is wise to simply add the vehicle to your existing policy or obtain a separate policy still stands. I would price it out both ways and determine what works best for your personal situation. Our kids start driving next month and let me tell you, my wife and I cannot wait!

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