I recently had a discussion with a friend regarding his 16-year-old daughter and her newly-pressed driver’s license. He was wrought with anxiety over her traversing the roads alone, anguished that she now has newfound freedom away from home and has taken a major step toward womanhood.
While he lay forth his bevy of emotions, I tried to console him with the fact that yes, the march of time is relentless and how poignant the situation must be as a father. I also confirmed that he and his daughter did in fact live in another county, thank God.
That’s because giving a teen a license is the equivalent of handing a caffeinated chimpanzee a blowtorch, hammer and bottle of kerosene. The primate will likely but not assuredly hurt itself, but many things will be destroyed either way.
With absolute confidence I will say that every single teenager will crash within two years of driving solo. There was the instance of a friend of mine who totaled her car less than 24 hours after receiving a passing mark on her driving exam. I had an acquaintance in high school who pulled out of the DMV and caused a four-car pileup before the ink had dried on the card permitting him to drive alone.
Yes, even I, trusted by over a dozen car manufacturers to drive their newest top-of-the-line offerings each week, shunted my first car three months after receiving my license.
With this knowledge and experience, I was taken aback with my friend asked my advice on what kind of car he should look to purchase for his newly-licensed daughter.
It’s a tough question.
After all, you want something reliable for your teen. There’s no hope they will be able to do minor repairs or everyday maintenance when many don’t have the knowledge base to operate a toaster without help.
You also want it to have plenty of built-in safety features for their inevitable first crash. And because you know they will crash it, you want something that is both reliable, safe, filled to the brim with active safety features but also cheap.
My first car, a 1994 Chevrolet Lumina was certainly inexpensive when I took possession of it 12 years after it rolled off the assembly line. So naturally my parents weren’t out of too much cash when I hydroplaned it into a telephone pole at the ripe age of 16.
That said, if the car had come with traction control, all-wheel drive or stability control, I might have never lost control.
As a parent, you could opt for a car with more safety features, but of course, it will mean more a hit to your wallet when your teen’s car hits what will likely be a stationary object. Thirty feet off the road.
Cars these days are filled with ways to keep drivers out of bushes and bridge abutments, including lane-departure warnings, lane-keep assist, blind-zone monitoring, rearview cameras and intelligent cruise control.
But is it worth it to spend the dough for a relatively new car for a brand-new driver?
I fear I was no help to my friend because I said, ideally, the perfect car for a teen would be made of pillows, have a top speed of nine MPH and have more built-in monitoring systems and safety features than the Space Shuttle. And since even a teenager would find out how to wreck a car like that, it should cost no more than $1,000.
Unfortunately, no such vehicle exists, so my friend will have to decide whether an affordable car with plenty of standard safety features or an older beater is best for his sanity. Either way, it will be crashed. Ultimately, it’s just up to the car how soon and at what severity the wreck occurs.
And for any teens out there reading this, don’t get angry of offended by the statements I’ve made. It’s not that you are bad drivers — you’re terrible drivers. But it’s not your fault. You simply do not have the experience that your parents have on the road. Which, of course, is a few decades of being a terrible driver.