If you’re nearing the moment when your child takes a real car for a spin for the first time, or even if that nerve-racking moment seems far away right now, safety should be your number-one priority. Yet, even though we all hear the tragic tales of the thousands of teenagers who lose their lives on the road each year in America, we tend to believe that it won’t, or even can’t, happen to our families. Sure, parents still worry – but research now suggests that they may be so worried about some negative consequences that they forget the importance of the real worst-case scenario.
Research Reflects Attitudes Toward Teen Car Selection
The news comes out of Australia’s University’s Centre for Automotive Safety Research (CASR), but the findings are, I think, troubling on a global level. “The safety level of a young driver’s vehicle typically is not the first priority of the driver or their parents – but perhaps should be,” summarized Phys.org. The CASR “found that the majority of the cars driven by under-25s were worth less than $5,000 and the average vehicle age was 12-13 years,” Phys.org added, noting that “very few vehicles driven by younger drivers have ESC,” or electronic stability control. By and large, the article reports, parents think less frequently about the dangers to their children’s lives and more frequently about the costs and hassle of repairing a damaged vehicle or insuring a newer car.
In the United States, we may fall prey to this same logic precisely because, on the surface, it makes sense. Many of us didn’t have all the bells and whistles in our first cars, either. It’s not uncommon for even the most loving parents to realize that their newly-licensed driver may well expose his or her new set of wheels to harsher treatment. To avoid the risk of teen drivers damaging the car, we assign them an older vehicle that costs less to purchase and less to insure. When they’re a little more financially secure, then these young men and women can go out and buy the cars they want, souped-up with all the fancy features they desire.
Addressing Problems with Safety Features – and Our Own Perspectives
The problem is, those 12- to 13-year-old cars don’t have the safety features that come standard in today’s models. No amount of life-saving technological breakthroughs car manufacturers have invented can help the drivers of vehicles that predate these innovations. With young adults ages 15 to 24 experiencing disproportionate rates of fatal collisions, according to the CDC, it may be time to rethink our preconceived notions about what makes a good car for a teenager.
We can’t prevent our teens from encountering careless drivers on the road, but we can teach them to drive defensively and use their vehicles’ safety features correctly. Photo Credit: Flickr (Creative Commons license).
That doesn’t mean that you should run out and buy your adolescent that brand-new sports car (even if he or she argues otherwise). It does, however, mean that we parents should evaluate cars based on safety rather than price alone and guide our teenagers toward choosing cars with solid safety ratings and safety features. We can also go through car manuals with our teens, making sure they understand all of the safety features they have and how and when to use them. Above all – possibly the hardest challenge to overcome – we need to get through to our children as well as ourselves that, yes, it can happen to them. Every teenager killed on the roadway is someone’s son or daughter, someone’s sibling or best friend. No matter how uncomfortable it is to think about, understanding the risks may be the best way for our newly-licensed children to protect themselves and make decisions based staying safe, rather than looking cool or costing less.