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The Driving Lessons Conclude: A Parent's Guide to Navigating Your Child's First Vehicle

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There are certain milestones a parent never forgets, like the first word or first day of school. One of the biggest milestones is the day your child gets their driver’s license.

Passing their driving test and getting their license can be an exciting rite of passage, but it can also be scary for their parents. I know because I’ve been there!

If you’re anything like me, you may have a ton of questions and concerns when your teen first hits the road. The main one is, “How do I know that they’ll be safe?”

The reality is that while we can’t control everything our children do behind the wheel, we have the chance to make sure that the vehicle they’re driving is safe and dependable.

If you’re trying to choose a vehicle for your child, I’ve compiled a comprehensive guide to navigating buying their first vehicle.

The Most Important Factors of Your Child’s First Car

When your teenager starts driving, there are several things you’ll want to think about before they get behind the wheel of their first car.

Is the vehicle in good shape or does it need work?

If your child is driving a new vehicle or a pre-owned one, you want to make sure that it’s going to be reliable.

When your teen is driving a car that’s prone to issues or in need of serious repair, it makes them even more vulnerable to hazards while driving. You don’t want them to get rear-ended because the car abruptly breaks down and you definitely don’t want them to have issues with the brakes!

The best way to avoid these risks is to make sure that the vehicle you buy doesn’t have mechanical or structural defects in the first place. And when problems do arise, as they invariably will, make sure that the issue is resolved promptly.

Some parents think that the best way to avoid car troubles is to get their teen a brand-new car. Sure, a new car is far less likely to need repair work than a used one, but your child can still be safe in a pre-owned car.

Deciding between a new or pre-owned car took some serious thought, but one thing I made sure to do was secure an extended auto warranty. Whether a car is new or old, it will likely need repair services at some point. Knowing my teen can get parts replaced or repaired right away if something happens when they’re out on the road makes me feel at ease.

Does it have any safety features?

When your child is behind the wheel, they need their vehicle to be as safe as possible. This is why you should be well-versed in the different safety features of various makes and models.

There may be certain safety features you absolutely want your child’s vehicle to have and others that you’re less concerned with. Every family is different and has unique needs.

Some parents want to have access to safety features that will help to alert their child if they get distracted while driving (thanks to those pesky phones!). Other parents might look for vehicles that have specialized lighting for teens that may be driving in the dark frequently.

Whatever you may be searching for, here are just a few of the top safety features:

  • Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB)

    • An audible alarm alerts the driver of potential oncoming impact

    • Engages the brake system if the driver fails to

    • Can be useful for teen drivers who are easily distracted

  • Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC)

    • Driver establishes the cruise control maximum speed

    • Radar system keeps the car at a safe distance from other cars on the road

    • Uses the AEB system when an imminent collision is detected

  • Dynamic Brake Support (DBS)

    • Automatically adds brake pressure if driver’s brake pressure is not enough

    • Brakes kick in automatically if driver fails to react when an imminent collision is detected

  • Adaptive Headlights

    • Headlights turn with the steering wheel so that light is directed where the car is going

    • Can help teens who drive frequently at night or in rural, unlit areas

  • Forward Collision Warning

    • Camera, radar, or laser alerts the driver when they’re getting too close to something in front of them

  • Blind Spot Detection

    • Sensors alert drivers to things they cannot see in their blind spots

    • Alerts driver of proximity to other cars before lane changes

  • Rear-View Camera

    • Gives driver view of the things that are behind them

    • Aids in backing out of difficult parking spots

  • Facial-Recognition Software

    • Recognizes driver’s unique facial features

    • Alerts the driver if they begin to fall asleep or lose consciousness

    • Can benefit teens who have medical issues like narcolepsy or sleep apnea

While each of these safety features is beneficial in different ways, very few vehicles will contain all of them.

For instance, facial recognition software is a relatively new feature, which means that many cars won’t be equipped with it just yet.

While you can’t control everything about your teen’s driving experience, some of these safety features can help you to feel more confident when you’re not in the car with your teen.

Make sure to consider your teen’s unique needs as you think through the features that will keep them the safest while driving.

Choosing the Best Vehicle For Your Child

It was an exciting, but scary time when my teen started driving, so I understand the anxious feeling that you might have about your child getting behind the wheel!

Worrying about their wellbeing never really goes away, but possessing the right vehicle can ease some of your concerns. If you take the time to make sure that your teen is driving a reliable vehicle with some essential safety features, you can rest a little easier at night knowing they’ll be that much safer on the road.

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