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You Don't Have to Sacrifice Safety for Your Teen's First Car

You Don't Have to Sacrifice Safety for Your Teen's First Car

It's not always best to buy a cheap "beater" or pass on an old hand-me-down to your teen.

Morgan Cihak, program manager of advocacy initiatives at the National Safety Council, has spent numerous years instilling healthy lifestyles and values to people of all ages through community and state-level programs.

When shopping for a car for your teen driver, many of us are tempted to find something that fits only two criteria: Can we afford it and does it run?

But it is not always the best decision to buy a cheap “beater” or pass on an old hand-me-down to your teen. Newer cars often come equipped with newer technology, which can be crucial in keeping your teen safe on the road.

Common safety technology features may include blind-spot monitoring, lane departure warning, automatic emergency braking, forward collision warning (which warns of an impending crash) and many more. The key message is don’t ignore safety when car shopping with your teen; put it at the top of your list. You should not make a decision based solely on the cost of the car.

However, cost is a major factor for most parents, one that most families cannot ignore. Fortunately, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) recommends vehicles for teen drivers based on both safety performance and affordability. The list features within a price range of $2,000 to $20,000 and incorporates four main criteria:

  1. Young drivers should avoid fast cars. Powerful engines and fast vehicles can be tempting for young drivers.
  2. Choose big, heavy vehicles. They provide more protection in the event of a crash and studies show that teen drivers are less likely to crash larger vehicles.
  3. Prioritize electronic stability control (ESC). This feature dramatically improves driver safety by helping to maintain control of the vehicle on less-than-ideal roads with curves and slick surfaces.
  4. Pick a vehicle with the best safety rating possible. According to IIHS, the ideal teen vehicle should receive at least 4 out of 5 stars from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

In addition to a vehicle’s overall rating there are many safety features to check before buying, such as:

  • Do all of the seat belts work? Make sure you inspect all of them closely.
  • Does your teen fit in the car well? Can he or she adjust the settings and mirrors so they are able to drive comfortably while having a clear view?
  • Are there any open recalls on the car you are looking at?
  • Make sure you and your teen can have a test drive that is longer than just a few minutes around the block.

It’s essential to get a safe and secure vehicle for your teen because their inexperience means they are more likely to be involved in a crash than more seasoned drivers. So take the time to find a car that will keep your teen safe and, while you’re at it, make sure both you and your teen really understand how the safety features work.

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