2016 Update: Safest Affordable Used Cars for Families and Teens

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Safest Used Cars for Teen Drivers under $10K

Many families put a high priority on safety for their kids.  Unfortunately, for various valid reasons, most are not able to go out and buy a brand new car with the latest safety features.  Perhaps others are buying a car for a teen or college student and want something safe, but don’t want them wrecking a new car!  Last year, the IIHS evaluated hundreds of cars to produce a list of models recommended for teens.

I have somewhat different criteria for my teen drivers.  For example, while I also exclude the smallest sub-compact and “micro” vehicles, I have no issue with my teen driving a compact sedan if it is above 2,750 lbs., as long is it has great crash test results.  While compact cars do give up a little in terms of weight in a frontal crash, they are generally more maneuverable and easier to handle and park.  That’s a big deal for new drivers.  And of course, compact cars are less expensive to buy and maintain.  I am also more concerned about having top results in all the actual crash tests, including the new IIHS small overlap test, and less concerned about certain other results.

Unfortunately, the IIHS excludes compact sedans from their list, even top performing models with many safety features and decent all-around crash test scores, including their own small overlap test.  In fact, some models they recommend do very poorly in this newer crash test.  Also, many of their recommendations are well over $10,000.

My Requirements?

  1. 4-star or better NHTSA overall rating
  2. No “2-star” or “1-star” ratings in any individual NHTSA crash test or rollover rating.
  3. No “Marginal” or “Poor” IIHS crash test results in ANY test, including the newer small overlap test
  4. Around $10,000 or less to buy.
  5. Good visibility and handling.
  6. Stability control and side-curtain airbags.
  7. No minicars, sub-compacts or any model below 2,750lbs.  Weight is a bad thing on roads, I know.  More mass means more kinetic energy and more wasted fuel.  But when the other guy is driving a 5,000 lb. truck, the smallest cars become splatter.

Preferences:

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Driver’s Edge: The One Driver’s Ed Class Your Teen Should Take

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Drivers Edge signEvery time I look in the mirror, I’m reminded that I am indeed old enough to have a kid who is driving age. I still feel young and spritely—as long as I get my nap every afternoon after lunch—and it gives me the energy I need to ride shotgun as my son gets behind the wheel every day after school for the long drive home.

Our state did away with driver’s ed in high school long ago—theoretically to save money (note how well our drivers are doing: we’ve set a new record last year for pedestrian deaths, vehicle crashes and resulting deaths are at a crazy high, red light runners rule the intersections, and if you stop at a red light or stop sign before turning right, you are very likely to get hit or honked at). Instead of learning on simulators in classrooms and learning common sense rules and the laws of the road, new drivers literally get tossed behind the wheel of a multi-ton steel box and you’d better hope, folks, that the person teaching them is a decent driver.DrivingSimulator

In-sanity. There are driving schools, of course, and a student driver must either attend a school or take an online class provided through the DMV, plus log 50 hours behind the wheel. Many choose to take the online class because it’s easy. That’s one reason why we have so many red light runners, non-existent turn signal users, and drivers who can’t think past the hood of their vehicle. Enter Driver’s Edge.

Driver’s Edge is a non-profit 4-hour program that gives drivers ages 21 and younger hands-on experience in panic driving situations. I first heard about this program at a Lifesavers Conference many years ago when I saw their booth. I knew when my kids started driving, I’d have them go through the program. Here we are.

Before we even went outside, Jeff Payne, the founder and CEO of Driver’s Edge, talked to us about statistics and the importance of driver’s training. We’re in the safety business around here and we know kids don’t graduate to safe status once they are out of boosters. On the contrary, that’s usually when they are at their most vulnerable: they start making their own decisions about safety and due to brain and emotional immaturity, those decisions sometimes aren’t the best. Jeff outlined some examples:

  • Inexperience: teen drivers simply don’t have the driving experience adults have
  • Drinking and driving: still a leading cause of crashes and kids are still riding with drivers who have had alcohol
  • Texting and driving: less of a problem than it’s been in the past, but it’s still there
  • Seat belts: not buckling up

Driving simulators and political correctness don’t exist at Driver’s Edge. These guys realize that lives are on the line and they cut past the BS; I appreciated the bluntness. Classes are conducted in real vehicles by real race car drivers and there’s an indoor session with local highway patrol and police. Car crashes are the number 1 killer of people under age 21 and DE wants to combat that by teaching life-saving skills. When in the vehicles, young drivers practice evasive lane change maneuvers, ABS and non-ABS braking exercises, panic braking, and skid control. Some parents are still teaching their kids old school techniques of pumping the brakes to stop, so these classes combat that bad advice and while the kids wait for their turn, they also learn what to do if they’re pulled over by the police, basic car care, how to optimally adjust their seats and mirrors, and other things older drivers take for granted.

Driver’s Edge offers events around the country, but mostly in the Las Vegas and Reno areas, the Bay Area, CA, Detroit, Atlanta, and Washington, DC, were on their 2014-2015 schedule. Registration was easy, but tends to fill up quickly since it’s a free event (donations are always accepted since it’s a nonprofit organization). Parents are invited and encouraged to attend to watch their child drive and listen to the experts give advice during the activities. Because Driver’s Edge is only a 4-hour program and doesn’t replace a good driving school, DE recommends these schools specifically if they’re available in your area. If not, do some research and find the best school for your new driver; it could save their life and the lives of those around them.

  • Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving (Chandler, AZ)
  • Mid-Ohio School (Lexington, OH)
  • Simraceway Performance Driving Center (Sonoma, CA)
  • Skip Barber Racing School (various locations)

Pre- and post-tests are given to assess both parents’ and kids’ knowledge and driving comfort levels and they say we’ll receive follow-up questionnaires after one and two years to see if the skills learned have needed to be used. God I hope not.

I know my son is better equipped as a driver now that he knows he can control the car in a panic situation. It doesn’t rain much here in Las Vegas, so I can hardly wait for the next time that it does so we can go out to an empty parking lot to practice our panic stops (unlike that first time in the parking lot where I practiced looking cool as I tried not to yell as he nearly ran over the curb). My son was hesitant to attend the class—probably due to teenage inertia more than anything—but he was so glad that he did afterwards. And I know he was glad to learn from bonafide experts rather than these “experts”: (language warning 😉 )

Are your kids safe in their cart-seat?

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shopping cartsShopping carts: They’re something we use almost every time we go to the grocery store, but behind their helpful exterior lurks a potential danger. A child in America is treated in an emergency room every 22 minutes for injuries sustained by shopping carts.

According to data from Nationwide Children’s Hospital, 530,494 children were treated in emergency rooms between 1990 and 2011 for cart-related injuries, and despite voluntary safety standards adopted in 2004, the rate of injury is actually climbing.

The vast majority of injuries (more than 70%) are from falls from the cart, followed by running over/into the cart, cart tip-overs, and entrapment of body parts. The most common type of injury was head injury (78%), and researchers found a 200% increase in concussions over the study period. Most of these injuries were in children 4 and younger.

kid shopping cartExperts say that redesigning carts to have seating areas lower to the ground would be safer both because children wouldn’t have as far to fall and because it would lower the cart’s center of gravity, making it less prone to tipping over. Until that happens (and even if it does) here are some ways you can help keep your kids safe:

  • Never prop infant seats on top of shopping carts. (We’ve written about that before). It’s better to place the seat in the basket of the cart, use a separate stroller (which might require another person), use a built-in infant seat, or wear your baby for shopping trips.
  • Make sure your child is buckled in, whether in the regular shopping-cart seat or an integrated infant seat.
  • Choose carts that have seating areas lower to the ground.
  • Never allow children to stand up in the cart.
  • Never allow children to ride or hang off the front, back, or sides of a cart.
  • Stay with your cart and child at all times.

Shopping with little kids (or big ones!) can sometimes be emotionally painful, but don’t let it turn physically painful, too.

Britax B-Ready Stroller Arm Bar Recall

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Britax USA/Canada B-Ready Arm bar Recall

Britax Child Safety, Inc., in cooperation with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and Health Canada, is conducting a voluntary recall of select B-Ready stroller and replacement top seat models. This recall involves the foam-padded arm bar on select BReady strollers and replacement top seats manufactured between April 1, 2010 and December 31, 2012. The model numbers included in this recall are identified in the table below.

 

B-Ready Recall

NOTE: No other products are included in this recall. If your Britax product has a different model number than the model numbers listed above or it was made after December 31, 2012 it is NOT included in this recall.

Description of the Defect: Britax has received reports of children biting and ingesting pieces of the non-toxic foam on the arm bar on select B-Ready strollers and replacement top seats manufactured between April 1, 2010 and December 31, 2012. This may pose a choking hazard.

Remedy of the Defect:  Upon request, Britax will send one free black, zippered fabric arm bar cover and a warning label to consumers to apply to their strollers or replacement top seats.

What You Should Do: Determine whether your B-Ready stroller or replacement top seat is included in the recall by inspecting the arm bar on your product. Your product is part of this recall if the foam-padded arm bar on your B-Ready stroller or replacement top seat is exposed and does not have a black, zippered fabric cover. (See images below)

B-Ready Recall 2

If you own recalled product, please follow the steps below:

  1. Visit www.B-ReadyRecall.com to request a kit containing a zippered fabric arm bar cover and warning label.
  2. Remove and discontinue use of the foam-padded arm bar until you receive and apply the zippered fabric cover and warning label. Using the stroller or replacement top seat without the arm bar is safe and permitted. The arm bar is used for child passengers to rest their hands and is not critical for safe use of the stroller or replacement top seat.
  3. Once you receive the kit, please follow the detailed instructions on how to apply the zippered fabric cover and warning label.

If you have questions or concerns, you should contact the Britax Customer Service Department at the dedicated recall line: 1-800-6832045. Customer Service business hours are Monday-Thursday 8:30 am – 5:45 pm (ET) and Friday 8:30 am – 4:45 pm (ET). If you live outside of the US or Canada, you should e-mail Britax.Recall@britax.com.
Britax is committed to the safety of your child and we apologize for any inconvenience this matter may have caused.