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The Globe and Mail

Youth, car insurance and the Zombie-pocolypse

If you have a teenager in the house, you've probably had the car insurance conversation. It's like a natural disaster: it trashes everything in its path as it leaves some people screaming and others gasping in disbelief.

It costs a fortune for a young driver to own a car.

If you have two adults in the home, and two cars, the kids are considered occasional drivers and you can absorb the extra charge. But the second you go past two cars, the fun begins.

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You usually discover this when Thing One announces he's found his dream car, and tells you what it will cost him. To buy. You pull up a spreadsheet to gently tell him to add in X for gas (or these days, X plus another 5 cents every day at midnight), repairs (if all goes according to plan, which you further explain never happens), and then you save the mightiest blow for last: insurance.

Christopher, 20, has been plotting his dream car for years. It changes slightly, but it typically involves something foreign. While usually an older vintage, it still is unique enough to represent the deep complicated core of a boy growing up in the leafy suburbs where sub shops outnumber violent crimes.

Whenever I brought up insurance, I would watch his eyes glaze over like an Easter ham. I finally ran some numbers on a just-fer-instance car a friend is selling: an old beater`'92 Seville. The verdict? $350 bucks a month. The kid has no tickets. He tells me he's the only one of his friends with a clean record, as if this should make me happier. Instead, I tell him that's why his rates are so steep – he should go blame his friends.

We have this conversation a couple times a year, while he dreams of his car and I dream of having control of my car. Sharing one vehicle, it works much the way you would think: I pay all the bills, and ask if I can use it sometimes.

Ari, 17, will be doing his next level of testing soon, which will add another driver to the equation. As a rule I don't mind – I make them do the grocery shopping and errands, and their bikes and long boards have been hauled out as gas continues its upward spiral. Most of Ari's friends already have their licences and I have to admit, it's handy when it's not my car in play.

When Ari announced he was heading out the other night, I asked if they were walking or driving. I hate going to round up kids at midnight; my slippers get wet.

"Ben's seeing if he can get the car," he told me. "He said he could get it if his mother got really, really sick and didn't go out." I just looked at him.

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"That's horrible. Did you tell him you could walk?"

"No, I asked when he'd know if his mother was really, really sick or not."

This is our thanks for giving birth to the little cretins. Though, looking back, I used to ask my always-dieting mother if she's lost some weight. A few hours later, I'd ask for the car. Worked every time.

Because we are destined to play out this automobile version of three on a match, the issue now becomes who gets to drive when we're all in the car. Ari wins as the G1 holder, but when he's not along, Christopher and I both automatically reach for the driver's door.

"I'm a better driver than you," he says. I consider my 31 years behind the wheel up against his four, my multitudes of advanced training courses against his three, and the fact I've safely driven nearly every type of vehicle on the road. I factor in his youthful reflexes, great vision from riding dirt bikes and the fact he taught himself to drive a stick. I'm about to let him know I'm being fair about this, when he drops the bomb.

"Besides, I can drive way faster than you." He's been on a track once. I took him there.

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"Fast is not necessarily good. You know that. Any idiot can drive fast," I tell him. His girlfriend Pam is watching from the backseat.

"No, really. You're too ... cautious."

"I am smooth. I'm a better driver. I'm watching what's going on better than you." I am calm. I am right.

"If there was an emergency, anyone would want me driving," says Speed Racer.

I notice Pam is being very quiet. I know this will end when Pam indicates she is on my side. Pam is always on my side.

"Anyone who wanted to survive would want me driving," I countered.

"If there was a Zombie-pocolypse, I would be the one who could get away." Yes, he said Zombie-pocolypse.

"Zombies move slowly. You can't just run them over," I replied. Yes, I actually said that.

"Pam, who would you want driving in a Zombie-pocolypse?" he asked. I waited smugly for her answer.

"Christopher," she said quietly. "I'm sorry! He drives faster!"

And they wonder why their rates are so high.

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About the Author
Drive, She Said columnist

Lorraine Sommerfeld began writing when she was about to turn 40, because it was cheaper than a red convertible. Her weekly column Drive, She Said, while existing in the automobile section, is a nod to those of us who tend to turn the key rather than pop the hood. More

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