Teen and Driver…now there are two words that scare the heck out of most people. And, when the two words are combined, that’s when it’s the scariest. My daughter turned 16 last October. She has had her provisional driver’s license since then, but I have been too “busy” to take her to the DPS to get her actual driver’s license. I must admit, I am worried about releasing her into the cruel, speeding, red light-blowing World.
But it is inevitable. She has made an appointment for her final test. It’s going to happen. And, when it does, until she gets her own car, should I hand over the keys to my car and hope it’s returned in one piece? I have owned that car for 8 years without a scratch. I park it in a garage and wash it regularly. It looks like I just drove it off the lot. Plus, there will be times where we both will need wheels. So I will have to invest in a car of her own. And that day will come soon. How will I decide which car to buy when she wants a sports car or a gas-guzzling SUV?  I want a car I know she’ll be safe in. A sports car is out of the question. It would be too tempting in a sports car to drive aggressively, not to mention the insurance rates.  An SUV is more difficult to handle and is more prone to rollover in an extreme situation. I can see that she already has difficulty driving my SUV.

Apparently the safest vehicle for a new driver would be a midsized car with a four-cylinder engine, automatic transmission, ABS, and high crash test scores. The logic is that a midsized car is big enough to protect occupants in a crash, but small enough for a novice driver to easily handle. The four-cylinder engine limits acceleration capabilities of the car, and generally provides better fuel economy (and thus improves the car’s “carbon footprint”). My little hippie chick will be concerned about that aspect, for certain. And automatic transmissions are easier to drive. ABS also makes braking easier, especially for a novice driver. Oh, these teen drivers…

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration publication, “Buying a Safer Car” has a selection that meet the above criteria, as well as pricing issues. It was very helpful for me. And, here’s the great part, since their website has issues from previous model years available, it is helpful for comparing used cars (which is all I can afford right now). Plus, I truly believe that the first car should be a practice car. There will surely be some scratches and dings (hopefully minor ones).  My first car was like a boat…and when it went to the junk yard, crushed on all four sides, it was about the size of a Mini Cooper. The NHTSA selects vehicles that scored the maximum five stars for frontal collisions and front side impacts, and had at least four stars for rear side impact. All cars also scored at least four stars in the rollover evaluation. In viewing the recommended list, there is no doubt that none of these cars listed are vehicles my daughter wants to own. But I will remind her that she is getting a car and with that comes independence!

And a few more suggestions to add to your list when searching for that teen machine, AWD (all wheel drive), if available, is desirable to improve traction in poor weather conditions. Try to stay away from too many optional electronic gadgets in the car, as teens can be easily distracted and need to focus on the important task of …driving! … duh!

Until next week…keep your teen safe…and do your research when choosing their ride.

Daun Thompson