Choosing a safe car for your young driver
In the first year after getting a licence, probationary drivers are more at risk of being involved in a crash than almost any other driver on the road. One way of reducing the impact of a crash, or maybe even avoid a crash, is to ensure your child is driving the safest car in your price range.
What are the facts?
- Young drivers (under 26 years) tend to drive the oldest and least safe cars.
- Australian research estimates that if all young drivers killed or seriously injured in crashes over the past five years had been driving the safest vehicle of the same age as the one they were driving when they crashed, more than 500 young deaths and serious injuries could have been prevented. This is a reduction of deaths and serious injuries of more than 60 percent.
It is important to realise that not all cars are equal in terms of safety. Cars within a similar price range may differ in the level of protection they offer occupants in a crash and the available safety features that assist the driver to avoid a crash.
If you're looking to either buy a car for your child or are helping them with this process, there is plenty of information available to help you to find the safest car that meets your needs.
If you decide to purchase a brand new car, find out its ANCAP safety rating. ANCAP (Australasian New Car Assessment Program) provides independent information on the level of protection provided by most popular new car models, in the most common types of crashes. ANCAP safety ratings are based on internationally recognised crash tests, with vehicles awarded a safety rating of between 1 to 5 stars, with 5 stars being the safest.
If you are buying a used car, check the Used Car Safety Ratings which also use a five star rating system. These ratings are based on the analysis of actual records of more than seven million crashes on Australasian roads.
What is safe enough?
As new drivers have a very high crash risk, it is recommended that all probationary drivers should drive a car with a 4 or 5 star safety rating.
You do not have to spend a lot of money to find a safe car for your new driver. Some used cars rated as either 4 or 5 star cars can be bought for as little as $5000.
What can parents do?
Many parents either fund or help fund their young driver’s first car, offer advice or assist with the process of buying a car. While your child may be more attracted to other features of a vehicle, purchasing a safe vehicle is one of the best ways you can help protect your child when they are a P plater.
Some ways you can help your child choose a safe car are:
- Start by looking at a range of cars that suit your budget, travel needs and style and then pick the one that is safest.
- Do some research, ideally together with your child, and find out which cars provide the best protection in the event of a crash and have crash avoidance features such as electronic stability control (ESC).
- Insist that the vehicle purchased has a four or five star ANCAP or Used Car Safety rating.
- Only agree to test drive cars that meet the four or five star minimum so that you and your child won’t get swayed into buying a less safe car.
Remember that your child values your opinion and this is one of the biggest purchases they will make and that your advice and guidance is critical.
As your child will probably have their first car for a number of years, the safety benefits of choosing a safe car will be long lasting. As they are likely to be driving their friends and other family members, having a safer car will also protect others.
If your new driver will be driving one of the family cars when they are first licensed, try to ensure that they drive the safest car in the household, and perhaps only insure the safest one for their use. This will mean that the most vulnerable driver in the household is driving the safest car. If they are driving at a high risk time, such as at night, it is especially important that they drive the safest car in the household.
Howsafeisyourcar.com.au provides ANCAP and Used Car Safety Ratings (UCSR) for most popular cars sold in Victoria since 1990. Safety feature specifications are also available for all cars. Detailed information about important life saving safety features is also included.
“In doing our car research my son and I learnt a lot about the different safety levels of cars. It helped us choose the best car for him. Although he paid for the car, I was pretty involved and was able to steer him to a safe car that he was happy with.”