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Drew: Safety tips to consider when buying your teens first car

By Samuetta Hill Drew

High school graduation is a mere few weeks away and many teens will be receiving a vehicle as their graduation gifts.  It’s a proud moment for families because it marks the first real milestone in the child’s maturation phase of life. Many parents like to mark the milestone with a new vehicle for their teen to express their love, support and pride. While this is a wonderful expression from the parent, the maturing child is still just that -“a child” – often in their thoughts and decisions. Therefore, as parents, it important to consider some safety tips when selecting your child’s first vehicle of their own.

Let’s begin with a personal story. When my daughter and I test drove cars for her high school graduation gift (note she drove my old car in high school), she kept commenting on the aesthetics and sound system of the car. I, on the other hand, was looking at its safety record. When we finally decided on the vehicle of choice my daughter’s first reply was, “I agree mom this is the best car, because it has a five-disc CD player and that’s the most important thing in a car!” Yes, a high school graduate, on her way to college, made this statement. Therefore, as a parent or grandparent, maturity of thought must weigh in first because car selection is a major decision.

Everyone loves power. If we would admit it, driving fast, while dangerous, can be fun. So, consideration must be given that a teen may want to test the vehicle’s optimum performance. This should be in the hands of far more experienced trained drivers, and then it still continues to be dangerous. Crashworthiness MUST be a factor in your selection decision.

The New Car Assessment Program (NCAP) rates vehicles to determine crashworthiness and rollover safety. The safety rating is determined during controlled crash and rollover tests conducted at the NHTSA’s research facilities. Five stars indicates the highest safety rating and one star denotes the lowest rating.

A vehicle’s size and weight is also a safety factor to consider because of its importance in an accident. The smaller the vehicle, the more likely your teen will be seriously injured in an accident. It may have all the airbags and driver assistance technology, but, when a small car meets a larger object such as a mid-sized car, it is not a fair match. It is recommended parents not consider a vehicle smaller than a mid-sized one.

While reviewing the safety standards, there is an important human behavior element that controls the safety of a vehicle when driven, no matter the size or safety rating. This is why it is important for parents to make sure their teen is fully aware of the consequences of their decisions when behind the wheel. It is equally important, not just for teens, that we all Keep an Eye on Safety when driving, to avoid driving when alcohol-impaired, driving when fatigued, not being a distracted driver and wearing our safety belts.