Posted on May 10th, 2016

Graduating to Safety: Their First Car


Parent or guardian of a high school-aged driver? Then you know all too well what’s around the corner: Graduation season.

For many, this time of year can become a flurry of graduation parties, college preparation shopping runs and fun summer activities. For others, it means one of the biggest rites of passage: Picking out their teen’s first car.

Whether you’re assisting with your teen’s car buying process or purchasing the car yourself, there are a few things to consider before driving it off the lot. Car safety technologies for both older and newer car models are helping to shape our roadways for the better – and can be especially helpful for new or inexperienced drivers.

Car Safety Tech: Unseen Superheroes

Think back to your first car – was safety top-of-mind during your teenage years? For many, the answer is likely “no.” You were probably just excited finally to be able to sit in the driver’s seat and take it out for a spin.

Thankfully, many of today’s car safety technologies work in the background to keep drivers safe without them even knowing it. Features like electronic stability control, which have been standard now since the 2012 model year, work automatically to help the driver maintain control of the car during hard steering maneuvers and can prevent dangerous loss of control. Other features like anti-lock braking systems (ABS) engage automatically to help prevent wheels from locking up – allowing the driver to steer to safety. ABS has now been around for about 20 years. Safety features like these work silently to make a big difference in emergency situations.

School’s Out: Crowded Summer Street

For new or inexperienced drivers, summer may seem like one of the easiest times of year for driving; however, many parents forget the summer means more driving—from home, to work and to friends—which increases the possibility of a crash. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, “the summertime is a particularly busy time on the roads. The reason for this is because school is out. High school students with cars of their own are on the road throughout the day because they do not have class to keep them busy.”

Highway travel is particularly affected by the seasonal shift, but car safety technologies can help keep drivers from risk. When researching your teen’s first car, consider technologies like blind spot monitors or lane departure warning to help your teen driver be aware of his or her surroundings. These features are designed to alert the driver of the potential dangers of multi-lane driving.

Passengers: Collision Avoidance

According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for U.S. teens.” This startling statistic is further magnified by the CDC’s additional research on passenger data: “The presence of teen passengers increases the crash risk of unsupervised teen drivers. This risk increases with the number of teen passengers.”  This statistic was confirmed in a University of Iowa teen driving study that showed that more than 75 percent of crashes had a distraction present in rear-end crashes.

Teen drivers are one of the most at-risk groups when it comes to vehicle crashes. Fortunately, many car safety features combat this trend. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) found “systems with automatic braking reduce rear-end crashes by 39 percent on average, while forward collision warning alone cuts them by 23 percent.” Consider looking into crash avoidance technologies for your teen’s first car – it could make a significant difference in their overall safety.

Additional Considerations

While car safety technologies can help reduce the risks associated with driving, nothing is more important than supervised experience for young drivers. They should have as much driving experience as possible with adult supervisors in all kinds of driving conditions.  Practice locating and understanding the all controls, such as windshield wipers, headlights and all other technologies. Reassure your new driver that they are in control of the vehicle; and while safety technologies are there to help – their safe driving habits will be the most useful skill on the road.MCDW_Logo