I have teenage children and my shop is very close to Grand Canyon University so keeping teens safe on the road is a subject dear to my heart. I’m often asked what parents should look for in a car for their teen driver. Of course, all teens dream of the fancy souped up sports car, but that certainly isn’t the safe choice for young, inexperienced drivers.
Teen drivers between the ages of 16 to 19 are far more likely to have a crash than any other group. They tend to underestimate dangerous situations and they don’t always react to them appropriately. It is hard for a mature, experienced driver to always make the right snap judgment when behind the wheel to avoid an accident. Everything happens way too fast, and when you are brand new at driving, it just gets worse.
I always advise that before you pick a car based on price or looks, think about reliability and safety first, and then choose the safest car you can afford to buy. Air bags, stability control, and excellent tires are a good start. Large to mid-size cars are safer than small cars because they are heavier. Sixteen models with the highest crash rates included eleven small cars. I know it is natural to assume that a smaller car is easier to handle and many times the teens like them because they appear sportier, but they are not the safest choice.
You also don’t want to buy a car that has a lot of horsepower or one that has too little. Too much speed and power are, of course, dangerous, but lack of power can be equally dangerous as they are too slow during lane changes.
You might also share with your teen that traffic tickets are mighty expensive these days. For example, just rolling through a stop sign will get you a relatively inexpensive ticket, but by the time you pay all the agencies involved, it can cost you plenty!
When you narrow down your choice of vehicle, check out the crash test scores on Safercar.gov. If you are buying a used car, please have it inspected carefully by your car care provider and let them know it is for a teen driver. They may be able to give you more insight into the safety of the vehicle.