I was recently speaking with a buddy of mine who was in the market for a used car for his 17 year old daughter. He was asking me about not only what I thought he should get her, but why. We talked about safety, performance, size, economy and reliability. Basically all the mainstays that anyone would want to know about. Since we were talking about a 17 year old girl, the first thing that came to his mind was how to prevent her from texting while driving. My answer… get her a car with a manual transmission. For some reason this never entered his mind, but when I said it you could see the light bulb go off in his head. If you’ve got one hand on the wheel and the other on the gear lever, then the probability of you texting someone goes down exponentially.
My next suggestion was to get her something that was relatively small with moderate performance and standard safety features like stability control, traction control, anti-lock brakes and of course, airbags. Many newer cars built after 2007 have these features standard, but make sure you do your homework before any purchase is made. Take a look at cars like the Volkswagen Jetta, Scion XB and the Hyundai Elantra for starters. These are all cars that would fit the bill as far as reliability and economy go. These cars have manageable performance levels and are small enough so that one isn’t carting around their entire graduating class.
I also suggested some sort of driver education course as a mandatory edition to his master plan of keeping his daughter safe. For that I directed him to a program called, “Survive the Drive” that’s given by a gentleman named Bob Green. It not only educates teens on everything that they need to know about driver safety, but it builds their confidence behind the wheel. In all honesty, a course like this is more important then the car you finally choose for your child and can, in the end, save their lives if a mishap occurs. I have no doubt that watching a child drive on their own for the first time can be a harrowing and nerve racking experience for a parent. However, if that child is educated on the rules of the road and is given insight into the pitfalls that can befall them, they will be much better prepared for when they take that first solo drive.
Here are some great links for more information on teen driver safety:
• National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
• Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
• National Safety Council
• Consumer Reports List of Recommended Used Cars for Teens.