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Letting Your Teen Drive Your Newer Car: Difficult or Easy Choice?

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National Teen Driver Safety Week 2019

October 20-26 is National Teen Driver Safety Week.  Keeping kids safe in cars has been our focus at CarseatBlog for over a decade now.  That doesn’t stop when they move out of a booster into a seatbelt!  Did you know that the risk to older teens is much greater than the risk to younger children in motor vehicles?  In fact, driving and riding with other teen drivers is simply the most dangerous routine activity that many teens will ever do in their life.   Unlike kids in some younger age groups, car crashes are still the #1 killer of teen drivers.  There were almost 2000 deaths and over 230,000 injuries to teens age 16-19 in car crashes in 2017 in the USA.  By comparison, there were 270 deaths and roughly 41,000 injuries to children age 5-8 in the same period according to CDC Data.

For young children, child passenger safety advocates have a guideline that we prefer to put the least protected occupant in the most protected seating position if possible.  For example, a child in a rear-facing carseat generally is very well protected from side impacts, so they could be placed in an outboard seating position, while an older child in a backless booster might ride in the center seat if appropriate.  Is the same principle even more important for teen drivers, given the much higher number of injuries and fatalities?

Of course, teen drivers are always in the driver seat, but what vehicle are they driving?  Are they in mom’s newer SUV with the top safety ratings and crash avoidance features?  Maybe they don’t get to drive the newest car in the family, so they use dad’s sedan from five or ten years ago that still has good safety ratings.  Or, are they in a used compact car from 15-20 years ago that may have been in a crash with frame damage?  Is putting the least safe driver in the safest vehicle available to them a mantra we should be teaching?

 

 

Yes, it’s tough to let your 18 year-old drive that shiny newer car, knowing that it’s more likely to get some dents and scratches.  It’s even tougher to let your new teen driver take the wheel of the newest car in the household, with a much greater risk of it being wrecked in a crash.  The problem is that inexperienced teen drivers also have a far greater risk of being severely injured.  Those advanced crash avoidance features may be what can keep them out of a crash.  If they do crash because of inexperience or distractions, those top safety ratings may be exactly what they need to avoid serious injury.  We have a list of safe and more affordable used and new cars for teen drivers.

If you are worried about your children in carseats being injured in a car crash, consider this table below.  In 2017, about 1,200 children age 0-14 died in motor vehicle crashes.  With any contagious disease, that would be considered an epidemic with immediate public outcry and government action.  Nearly 6,700 young adults age 15-24 died in crashes the same year.  For any cause of death, this is nothing short of a crisis.  According to the CDC, “Per mile driven, teen drivers ages 16 to 19 are nearly three times more likely than drivers aged 20 and older to be in a fatal crash.

You did your best keeping your young kids in carseats and safe in crashes.  It’s so much more important to do the same once they start driving and riding with other teens!  Please, consider the risks before making your teen drive the least safe vehicle available to them in the family.

More fon Teen Driving rom NHTSA

2019-2020 Update: Safest Affordable Used & New Cars

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Safest Used Cars Deals for $10K or Less, & Best New Car Safety Picks Under $25K for Teen Drivers and Families

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 are concerned they might wreck a new car.  Earlier this year, the IIHS evaluated hundreds of cars to produce an updated list of recommended models for teens.  A similar list was created by Consumer Reports.

NHTSA: Teen Driving

I have somewhat different criteria for my teen drivers, with the most emphasis on actual crash test results and crash avoidance safety features.  For example, while I also exclude the smallest sub-compact and “micro” vehicles, I have no issue with my teen driving a compact sedan, but only if it has very good crash test results.  Compact sedans are less expensive to buy and maintain, plus they are generally easier to maneuver and park, especially for an inexperienced driver.

Unfortunately, the IIHS excludes compact sedans from their list, even top performing models with many safety features and good all-around crash test scores, including their own small overlap test.  In fact, some models they have recommended in the past do marginally or poorly in this newer crash test.  Like Consumer Reports, many of their recommendations are well over $10,000 even with very high mileage.  Speaking of Consumer Reports, they omit many very safe choices if the vehicle didn’t do well in their proprietary reliability rankings.

For this list, the requirements are very objective and focus only on safety with a price threshold.

Safe Used Vehicle Requirements:

  1. 5-star NHTSA overall rating
  2. IIHS Top Safety Pick
  3. Around $10,000 or less to buy
  4. Good visibility and handling
  5. No sports cars, minicars, sub-compacts or any model under 2,700 lbs
  6. No “2-star” or “1-star” ratings in any individual NHTSA crash test or rollover rating
  7. No “Marginal” or “Poor” IIHS crash test results in ANY crash test, including the newer small overlap tests

Safest Used Vehicle Preferences:

  • IIHS Top Safety Pick+
  • No 3-star NHTSA ratings in any test
  • Midsize or larger, 3,200 lbs. or more
  • Stability Control and Side Curtain Airbags standard
  • 2011 or newer.  In 2011, the NHTSA began crash testing with its improved crash test system that doesn’t compare to models before 2011

Safe Vehicle Wish List:

Back Seat May Not Be The Safest Place for Your Child? Wait….What?

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You may be seeing news headlines about a new project to research the safety of rear seat occupants.  Unfortunately, some media outlets have misinterpreted the intent of the study and have some very misleading headlines.  “Study shows the back seat may not be the safest place for your child in a front-end collision,” says NBC News and some of its affiliates.  Though new studies sometimes do contradict old research, that is not the current intent of this new paper from the IIHS.

NBCnews.com

Now consider the headline of the IIHS press release, “Rear-seat occupant protection hasn’t kept pace with the front.”  In fact, that is exactly the purpose of this new project.  The IIHS is developing a new crash test to help promote improvements in safety for rear seat occupants.  This study was not designed and likely does not have enough statistical information to change our current recommendation to keep all children 12 and under in the back seat whenever possible.

According to Russ Rader, Senior Vice President of Communications at the IIHS:

While we looked at real-world cases involving occupants age 6 and older, the focus is on adult passengers because they appear to be the most vulnerable to seat belt-related injuries to the chest, especially the oldest occupants.   The long-standing recommendation to parents hasn’t changed: The back seat is still overall the safest place for properly restrained children to ride.

It is important to point out that in a study like this we seek out the cases where people were seriously injured in order to understand what engineering changes might have affected the outcome.  It is also important to look at the entire population that could be affected by any changes in order to make sure that solutions for older vulnerable occupants do not negatively impact children.

Photo courtesy of IIHS

Be a smart consumer of news and know that the media is trying to draw your attention. When it comes to the safety of your child, find all the facts before making any decisions.  Please keep your children age 12 and under properly restrained in the back seat if at all possible!  If you have no other option than to place a child in the front passenger seat, please feel free to contact us through our facebook page or talk any child passenger safety technician for safest practice recommendations!  If best practice advice ever changes in the future, we will be sure to inform you, as will the IIHS, NHTSA and other occupant safety agencies.

March Madness of Fashions Final Four

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It’s not too late to vote!  We’re down to our final four of fabulous fabrics!  Visit our facebook page now to vote and come back this weekend to vote in our championship game: https://www.facebook.com/carseatblog

Our first match featured two Cinderellas, #11 seed “Lanai” from Chicco vs. our #15 seed “Seascape” from Evenflo.  Both these fashions have won their first two games by big voting margins from our readers.

In our second match, our highest remaining seed, #4 Graco “Matrix” was up against reader-nominated #8 “Bohemian Blue” from Maxi-Cosi.  “Matrix” is one of the best selling neutral fashions against a very pretty Pria pattern that knocked off our #1 seed Britax “Cowmooflage” last round!

Update: The championship game pits “Lanai” vs. “Bohemian Blue”, both winning their final four matchups by nearly two-to-one voting margins!  Voting ends Monday afternoon, April 8th.