Teenage Driver

Tips for Buying First Car for Foster Youth

A teenager’s first car is a serious consideration. Whether you’re a biological parent, step parent, adoptive parent, foster parent or caring adult, when it comes to young people getting behind the wheel, it’s important to keep safety in mind. Rather than automatically handing off an older-model family car for your child to use, or letting him find something he can afford on minimum wage, here are some things to consider:

● Use a VIN lookup (vehicle identification number) to learn about the car’s past.
● What is the safest affordable vehicle available?
● What are the issues for teen drivers?

Using VIN lookup

To get your money’s worth from a vehicle, it should last through the teen’s college years. By looking up a vehicle’s history through its vehicle identification number (VIN), you may avoid a costly buying mistake.

A VIN number check should disclose if a vehicle has been judged a total wreck by a previous insurance company, which should prompt a buyer to look more closely at its condition. Where a vehicle was last owned is also a significant consideration, as cars from flood- or hurricane-ravaged areas may have serious but difficult to discern damage to electrical components that will be revealed over time.

A free VIN lookup is available from the National Insurance Crime Bureau but it doesn’t cover every make of vehicle and may not include all of the information that a paid VIN lookup service could provide.

Safety matters

Speed was the culprit in more than 30 percent of fatal accidents involving teen drivers, says the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, but it doesn’t always mean that the teen driver was racing. Instead, speeding could simply mean the driver was going too fast for the conditions, that he was too inexperienced to anticipate when to slow down and misjudged a turn, or that his skills were outmatched by the vehicle’s acceleration.

Auto accidents are the leading cause of death of teenagers, claiming six lives of kids between 16 and 19 per day and hospitalizing hundreds more. In 2016, the Centers for Disease Control says that more than 55 percent of drivers under age 20 who were killed in car accidents had been drinking and were not wearing seat belts. Most fatal accidents involving teens take place between 3 p.m. and midnight on Friday, Saturday or Sunday.

What not to buy

Before you hand off a used SUV to your teen, consider that they may be likelier to roll over in an accident than other vehicles and many accidents happen when drivers are backing up (in models prior to dashboard cameras) due to the size of the vehicles. Studies show that drivers of SUVs are more likely to drive without seatbelts and/or to drive recklessly due to a perception of safety or invincibility.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety publishes a list of affordable vehicles that are good options for young drivers based on the following criteria:

● Lower horsepower. Young, inexperienced drivers may not be able to handle vehicles with powerful, fast engines (and they’re likely to be tempted to race them).
● Larger, heavier cars are safer. These vehicles will stand up better in an accident, protecting the occupants against injury.
● Vehicles should have the electronic stability control feature. This enhances steering in slippery conditions, helping a driver stay in control and on the road.
● Superior safety ratings. Cars with the latest in side-impact, the best roof structure and front-end crash test results are obviously the best choices. The National Highway Safety Transportation Administration offers car ratings and comparisons between models on its www.safercar.gov website.
● Vehicles with automatic emergency braking systems are a plus, but those are generally only found in new cars. This feature reduces or prevents rear-end accidents by stopping the vehicle before it can hit another car stopped in the roadway. It will be standard equipment by 2020.

Other safety options

Some car manufacturers offer special devices that help parents monitor teen driving habits and even to control them remotely. Phone apps can similarly monitor driving habits. Because distracted driving is a dangerous hazard, parents may want to look into apps that silence or disable phones when their teen is behind the wheel.

Manufacturers offer the following on recent model vehicles:

● Ford has MyKey, a car key assigned to the younger driver that allows parents to monitor the vehicle speed and even set an upper limit that the car won’t exceed when the teen is behind the wheel.
● Hyundai offers a parental monitoring service that will alert Mom or Dad when the teen driver exceeds a certain speed limit or drives outside of a particular geographic area.
● General Motors allows parents to review driving information after a teen has used the car, including whether the emergency braking system was engaged, speed history and more.
● Chrysler offers a teen driver feature that won’t turn the radio on if seatbelts are not worn, and does not allow safety features to be turned off when the teen is driving.

This is a guest post contributed by Sophie Wright.

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