8 Car Safety Features To Protect Your Teen Driver

Keep Your Teen Safe Behind The Wheel

Parenting Teens is Tough Enough Without Having to Worry About Their Safety on the Road.

Parents of teens have so many concerns as their child becomes older and learns to navigate life into adulthood. The number one concern on parents’ minds is safety. This is especially true as teens start driving on their own.  We’re here to help.

Gone are the days of giving your child the old family car that is held together by rust and dirt. My first car was a tiny little green thing that would blow off the road in a strong gust of wind. It actually turned off while driving on the interstate in fifth gear. Looking back I wonder: Were my parents trying to get rid of me? I wasn’t THAT bad of a teenager.

Keeping Teen Drivers Safe With Safety Car Features

He’s ready. Are you? Photo: Yvonne Jasinski

Protect Your Teen with These 8 Key Features

Today’s parents are focusing on safety more than ever and car makers are paying attention. Safety experts recommend searching for cars with features that will assist with keeping the car under control in the event of unsafe driving conditions, features that will minimize distractions, and parental controls giving parents peace of mind. These 8 key features will help you sleep more soundly:

1. Electronic Stability Control -Standard on all models beginning with 2012, this feature detects when the car is losing traction and takes corrective action.

2. Antilock brakes – This comes standard on all newer cars.  If purchasing an older car, check to make sure this feature is included.

3. Airbags – Newer model cars have more airbags than ever before, including some models with driver’s side knee protection.  It is important to pay attention to how many airbags a car has and where they are located.

4. Back up camera with rear cross traffic alert – By 2018 this will be standard on all new cars.  The rear cross traffic alert makes a noise when the car is backing up and something is in the way.  This feature should not be relied on too heavily, as it will not always signal if a motorcycle or bicycle is passing behind the car.

5. Bluetooth – This allows the driver to use voice commands to answer the phone or speak an answer to a text message.  This is to prevent distracted driving, which is one of the leading causes of accidents with teen drivers.

6. Navigation – This feature comes standard on some models, but can also be added to an existing car with the purchase of a navigation system.

7. Automatic Crash Notification System – This feature is standard with GM’s OnStar service.  In the event of an accident, the system will notify emergency services of the car’s location.

8. Parental Controls – This is the latest feature on newer model cars.  There are different versions of this feature offered.  Some of these allow you to geo-track the car’s location, set speed limits on the car, keep the radio volume down, and send reports to parents about how the car is being driven.

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The Birthday Girl with her Prius! Photo: Julie Thompson-Adolf

For the latest in safety features it’s best to purchase a newer model car

If you are planning to purchase a newer model car, Ford and GM offer parental control systems to help ease parents’ minds and keep their teens safe. Ford offers MyKey, which gives parents a key in which to program controls for their teen’s car. Mom can set a maximum speed limit, set a top volume for the audio system and even prevent the radio from turning on until all seatbelts are fastened.

General Motors offers OnStar Family Link as an add-on to an existing OnStar subscription. OnStar offers automatic crash notification as well as navigation. With Family Link, parents can set up alerts when the car is driven outside of a specific area. They can receive text messages when their teen arrives at their destination and reports on how the car is being driven. GM also offers voice-activated commands to minimize distractions while driving.

But What if You Can’t Afford a New Car?

For families or teens on a budget, there are plenty of safety features available for older model cars as well. Truvolo offers an option to those on a budget who still want the benefit of parental controls.  This device plugs into the car’s diagnostic port and sends information to parents via an app. This app will report the location of the car, reports on speed, mechanical issues, and a driving report card to help teens take responsibility for their driving.

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The emotional attachment of our cars! A teen girl with new car jumps for joy. Photo Credit: DepositPhotos.com

With all the choices out there, how do you decide what is right for your teen driver?

The IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) and the AAA (American Automobile Association) both recommend a heavier mid-size sedan with as many safety features possible.  Both warn against purchasing smaller cars as these offer less protection for your teen in the event of a crash. SUVs and trucks can be harder to control in inclement weather and present a danger of roll overs.

Look for a midsize sedan with as many key safety features as possible that will fit in your budget. Look for things like a simple command center that will minimize distractions. The less clutter on the controls, the better. It should be easy to control the dials and buttons without looking at them. Look for large side mirrors, making it easier to see the cars around you.

Most importantly, talk to your teen about the dangers of distracted driving.  and teach them how to make the most of their car’s safety features.

Thankfully, I survived my totally unsafe car and lived to write about it—and I’ve forgiven my parents.

Keep Your Teen Safe Behind The Wheel



Jennifer Acocella is a wife, mom, and photographer who juggles the demands those titles bring daily--like most of us!... More about Jennifer Acocella