Webb Law Centre PLLC
What Car Features Will Keep a Teen Driver Safe?
Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for U.S. teens. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) drivers ages 16 to 19 are nearly three times more likely to be in a fatal crash than those over 20. Technology is both a curse and a blessing for teens. For example, because of advances in technology such as smartphones and streaming services, a teen driver is more likely to be distracted by sending text messages or searching for a particular song. On the other hand, technology is making cars safer.
While teens may want luxury vehicles or sports cars, parents should prioritize safety and reliability. However, handing your young driver the keys to a car is a major milestone for any parent. Whether you decide to pass down your current vehicle or purchase your teen a new car, there are several safety features to consider to keep your teen driver safe.
Should a new driver get a car immediately after getting their license?
It’s best to wait a few months to buy a new driver their own car after they obtain a license. In their first year on the road, teens are almost 10 times more likely to be in a crash. In fact, all new drivers are at their highest risk of getting into a crash during the first six months after receiving their license. Not only will holding off require your teen to establish a safe driving record, but it will teach them that driving is an earned privilege and not a right.
Establishing responsible driving behavior before handing over the keys is more important than any safety feature a vehicle may come equipped with.
Is a new or used vehicle best for a teen driver?
There are benefits to both used and new vehicles. For some families, purchasing a brand new vehicle may give parents peace of mind. A new vehicle means that there’s no chance a car was involved in a crash that could’ve made it unsafe. However, for some families, a new car may be a waste of money considering that teens have the highest risk of motor vehicle crashes among all age groups.
New cars come equipped with the latest safety and modern technologies. For example, a new vehicle will have collision detectors, rear-view cameras, tire pressure indicators and even electronic stability control—a feature that helps stabilize the vehicle during sharp turns and oversteering emergencies. These features will ensure that your teen is aware of their surroundings and assist in safety.
Some parents may choose an older vehicle for their teen’s first car. For example, the Buick Verano is one of the highest vehicles when it comes to safety. Even a used 2013 Buick Verano gets a five-star overall rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, but costs way less than a newer model. Parents should know that even if they choose to buy their teen a used vehicle, choosing a vehicle no older than five years will have some of the coveted modern safety features available on newer vehicles for a higher sticker price.
Is a truck, SUV or car safest for a teen driver?
While an SUV may be larger and make parents believe that they are the safest option for their teen driver, an SUV can be an extremely dangerous vehicle for a young, inexperienced driver. Keep in mind that each additional passenger in your teen’s vehicle is just another distraction. Because of this, you want to minimize the number of passengers in your child’s vehicle. In addition, SUVs (and minivans) have a higher center of gravity and are likely to roll over. This is even more true for an inexperienced driver speeding around a corner.
Experts also don’t recommend small and compact cars for teen drivers. Even though these vehicles are excellent on gas mileage and are usually inexpensive, they sustain the most damage in a car crash.
Trucks are also not a good choice for your teen driver. High horsepower paired with the image of pickup trucks may lead to sensation-seeking, risk-seeking and adventure-seeking behaviors in teens.
Mid-sized sedans are your best bet for keeping your teen safe. These vehicles are a good compromise between two large and too small. You should focus on purchasing your teen a model with high safety and reliability scores.
What are useful vehicle safety features for young drivers?
Because teen drivers are far more likely to get into an accident than adults, putting them in a vehicle with the most advanced safety equipment your budget allows may give you peace of mind, and also prevent them making a fatal driving mistake.
Lane departure warning system
The lane departure warning system is designed to warn drivers when the vehicle is moving out of its lane unless a turn signal is on in the direction the vehicle is moving. This system works on both freeways and arterial roads. In some vehicles, if the driver does not take action, the vehicle will take steps to ensure the vehicle stays in its lane. It is important to remind your teen that this system is not foolproof. If you live in an area prone to snowing, when snow is on the ground the system may not be able to detect lane markers.
Electronic Stability Control
Electronic stability control (ESC) senses when a driver is losing control of a vehicle and makes correction action that the driver can’t. For example, if a driver is swerving or going into a spin on a slippery road, ESC technology will apply the brakes on the individual wheels. Although ESC technology can’t prevent all accidents, the government has mandated that all 2012 model year vehicles and later come equipped with the technology. It is important to note that ESC is not the same as traction control.
Anti-lock brakes are a necessary safety feature in inclement weather or any time the road surface is slick. If your brakes lock up, you can’t steer the car and it may take longer to come to a complete stop. Anti-lock braking systems help avoid both of these dangerous situations. Since 2013, federal guidelines require that all new vehicles have anti-lock brakes in conjunction with ESC.
Forward Collision Warning
This system helps reduce front impact collisions. The system uses sensors mounted in the front of the car to constantly scan the space ahead. If the systems sense that your teen is gaining on the car ahead, the system will alert the driver to hit the brakes. This system is often paired with automatic emergency braking systems.
Rearview camera/Rear Cross Traffic Alert
Rear cross traffic alerts tap into a vehicle’s rearview camera to alert a driver of obstacles in the car’s intended reverse path. Still, this feature is no substitute for actually turning and checking your vehicle’s path. A 2015 AAA test discovered that rear cross traffic alert systems often failed to detect fast-moving obstacles. Because of this, parents should remind teens that no system is better than turning their heads and checking for a clear path.
Eliminate the distraction of getting lost and buy your teen a navigation system. Many new cars offer built-in navigation, but secure an inexpensive device to the dashboard of an older vehicle will do the job just as well.
A major problem for young drivers is distracted driving. When you select a vehicle for your child that has a simple control layout, your teen driver can change the radio station or turn down the A/C without taking eyes off the road.
Much like the parental controls on TVs and tablets, this longtime technology is now available in newer vehicles. These systems allow parents to keep a closer eye on teens ready to hit the road. Parental controls in vehicles allow you to monitor or limit your teen’s activities behind the wheel. These features include:
- Custom alerts
- Real-time vehicle monitoring
- Valet mode
- Monitoring vehicle health
- Reviewing trip histories
- Monitoring hard acceleration and braking
- Creating driver scores
The features allow you to keep an eye on your young driver and their safety. You can monitor the vehicle’s fuel level and tire pressure. In addition, you will know where the vehicle is at all times.
Avoid vehicles with powerful engines for teen drivers
Horsepower for inexperienced drivers should be avoided at all costs. Teens already struggle with impulsivity, and giving them a vehicle with a powerful engine may prove too hard for your teen to resist. Many vehicles recommended for their safety often have high-horsepower versions. The base engines of all vehicles have adequate power for teen drivers.