Technology tailored specifically to parents and teens can mitigate these risks and problems. Different car companies offer monitoring programs and ways for parents to deploy speed limiters and ways to lock stereos and gear shifters when drivers don’t fasten their seatbelts. Those apps can also notify parents when teens try to drive outside of their curfew, as stats show teens are significantly more likely to crash or get hurt at night.
Researchers on behalf of IIHS analyzed wrecks from 2016-2019 that involved teen drivers. They specifically focused on wrecks where these built-in car safety technologies were relevant: front crash avoidance, lane departure and blind-spot monitoring. They also examined crash scenarios where three types of teen-focused features would have mattered: speed-limiters, nighttime curfew notifications and gear/stereo locks when seatbelts aren’t used. The results are stark.
IIHS has found that deploying these six types of technologies makes teen driving significantly safer. These features decreased or made teen crashes less severe 41% of the time. These aids also decreased the chance of teen injury by 47% and, get this, the chances of teen fatalities by a whopping 78%.
With all of this in mind, the traditional idea of assigning a teen driver an old beater in which to take their first solo driving reps may actually be a bad idea. I drove a 1981 Chevy Malibu in late high school and early college over 15 years ago when granted, those technologies did not exist in many cars. But now even a 10-year-old car may put a teen at a significant safety disadvantage if it lacks some of the above safety features.
Take into account that the used car market is absolutely bonkers right now. Used car prices are sky-high, as supply is far behind the demand in that realm. Dealerships are reaching out and making offers for people’s used cars, so there is money there to be had for people with extra cars. Likewise, in the rush to find a set of wheels for a new teen driver this school year, the once shoo-in idea of buying a used car for a teen makes little financial sense, too. For just a few thousand dollars more, a brand new car with the latest safety aids could be the perfect answer for a brand new motorist.
Of course, there are benefits to learning the art of driving without the fancy bells and whistles. A driver with a more analog-type of car means they have to rely more on their own senses and self-control, meaning those muscles will inevitably end up stronger. But considering the unmistakable effects of driving with safety and parental aids, the benefits of the latter outweigh the risks of the former. Maybe parents should now consider bequeathing the hand-me-down car to themselves and sending their student driver out in the new 2021 model.
Doug Turnbull, the PM drive Skycopter anchor for Triple Team Traffic on 95.5 WSB, is the Gridlock Guy. He also hosts a traffic podcast with Smilin’ Mark McKay on wsbradio.com. Contact him at Doug.Turnbull@cmg.com.