Safe Driving: The Cars And Tips Every Teen Driver Should Have

Every parent looks at their child taking to the road with a little trepidation. On the one hand, it means he or she is more autonomous and thus less dependent on you than at any other time in life. If you’ve been wanting to breathe easier, then this will help. On the other, teens are not the most responsible drivers in the world and handing the wrong set of keys to yours can invite disaster.

There is certainly a reason auto insurance companies are going to charge you premium prices if you buy your 16-year-old a brand new Mustang. Teenagers tend to “show off” in such cars, leading to costly and potentially deadly accidents, and there are reams of data to prove it.

Rather than outfitting your child with the coolest car, go practical. Thankfully, the IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) has released its list of the safest cars for your teenage son or daughter. Nationwide took the time to isolate the 10 best models, with each car costing less than $20,000. Here’s the quick list.

  • Saab 9-5 Sedan — Model Years 2010 and up
  • Lincoln MKS — 2009 and up
  • Buick Regal — 2011 and up
  • Ford Taurus — 2010 and up
  • Buick LaCrosse — 2010 and up
  • Volvo S80 — 2007 and up
  • Toyota Prius v — 2012 and up
  • Mercedes-Benz C-Class Sedan — 2009 and up
  • Honda Accord Sedan — 2012 and up
  • Audi A4 — 2009 and up

Of course, safety ratings aren’t worth much if there are no clear guidelines on how they’re determined. Thankfully, the IIHS lays out pretty clearly how they’re able to make their final determinations. Decisions are usually made based on for key principles as follows:

Young drivers should stay away from high horsepower. More powerful engines can tempt them to test the limits.

Bigger, heavier vehicles are safer. They protect better in a crash, and HLDI analyses of insurance data show that teen drivers are less likely to crash them in the first place. There are no minicars or small cars on the recommended list. Small SUVs are included because their weight is similar to that of a midsize car.

Electronic stability control (ESC) is a must. This feature, which helps a driver maintain control of the vehicle on curves and slippery roads, reduces risk on a level comparable to safety 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).

To give your kids the best chance of avoiding accidents and earning a solid reputation with insurance, you’ll also want to encourage these behaviors.

Put down the cellphone. Nothing is so important behind the wheel that it’s worth risking your life over. Unfortunately, many teenagers do just that each year, and that’s in spite of the fact they know it’s dangerous. If you want them to establish good driving behaviors and not be distracted behind the wheel, then make sure you’re demonstrating the same kind of safety awareness when you’re teaching them how to drive.

Don’t take passengers. Two teenagers unchaperoned in a car is recipe for disaster enough without adding in more friends. Do NOT let your child be the designated chauffeur for his peers. It only increases the odds of an accident.

Ride shotgun until they’ve earned a solo trip. Many parents turn their kids loose behind the wheel too soon, when their kids simply know the rules instead of when the rules are ingrained into their driving DNA. Make sure that your kids get plenty of practice with you in the car before taking on the road by themselves.


In Summary

As you prepare your young drivers for the responsibilities of car ownership, make sure they’re equipped with a car that encourages safety and the knowledge and discipline essential to the task.

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