Choosing A Safe Car for Your Teenager
Choosing a safe car for a teenager is not to be taken lightly. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) recommends families follow four main principles when looking for a safe car for a teenager:
- Stay away from high horsepower. Vehicles with more powerful engines can tempt teens to speed to “test” their performance.
- Bigger, heavier vehicles protect better in a crash. They offer more crash protection than smaller vehicles due to their size and weight. The best models also have side air bags, as well as the standard driver and passenger ones. An anti-lock braking system (ABS) is also a great feature to help teen drivers avoid a crash.
- Electronic Stability Control (ESC) is a must. This advanced driver assistance system (ADAS) technologies feature, which helps a driver maintain control of the vehicle on curves and slippery roads, reduces risk on a level comparable to seat belts.
- Vehicles should have the best safety ratings possible. At a minimum, that means good ratings in the IIHS moderate overlap front test, acceptable ratings in the IIHS side crash test, and four or five stars from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
It’s also a good idea to consider the rollover factor when choosing a safe car for a teenager. Some vehicles, such as SUVs and pick-up trucks, may seem safe due to their size and weight. But because they’re more likely to roll over during a crash, these types of vehicles are not recommended for teens. Due to their inexperience, teens are more likely to overcorrect or to drive off the road when distracted or to avoid a hazard, which can lead to rollovers. Check vehicle safety ratings at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Insurance Institute for Highway Safety websites before making a purchase.
Sharing A Car
In addition to being thoughtful about a safe car for their teenager, parents should also consider how their teen gets the keys and whether sharing a car is best. According to research conducted at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, teenage drivers with "primary access" to a vehicle are more likely to use cell phones while driving and to speed than their peers who share a car with their family. These teens are also more than twice as likely to report having been in a crash than those who share a car.
When parents hold the car keys, it also creates opportunities to constructively remind teens to buckle up and to refrain from cell phone use while driving. It also offers teens the opportunity to share where they are going, whom they’ll be with, and when they will return.