For most parents, handing a set of car keys to a teenage driver for the very first time is a worrying experience. That's why we've listed several features that offer peace of mind and are currently available on new cars. And while some, like airbags or seatbelts, are safety features, others are technologically advanced gadgets like Kia's UVO system, designed to help keep tabs on young drivers and limit their behavior on the roads.
Chevrolet Sonic Airbags
While it's true that an increasing number of small cars boast airbags that cover nearly every surface of an occupant's body, no vehicle offers as many as Chevrolet's subcompact Sonic. Indeed, the small car offers a whopping ten airbags. In addition to typical standard dual front and curtain side airbags, the Sonic also boasts impressively thorough front and rear torso-protecting side airbags, a rarity even on many of today's luxury cars. Undoubtedly, the airbags contributed to the Sonic's five-star crash test score with the federal government's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)--a difficult feat for a subcompact car.
Parents who have trouble falling asleep while their children are out may rest more easily if they have a vehicle with Ford's new MyKey technology. According to Ford, MyKey appeals to concerned parents by offering a long list of futuristic safety equipment programmed to one of the vehicle's keys. Such features include an earlier low-fuel reminder, audible chimes at certain speeds, and extra warnings to improve seat belt use. The automaker also says each key is programmable to keep drivers within a certain speed or limit a vehicle's audio volume, providing further peace-of-mind to concerned parents. The feature is currently standard on all of Ford's vehicles, from the inexpensive Fiesta subcompact to full-size trucks and SUVs.
Hyundai's available BlueLink infotainment system offers dozens of cutting-edge features for car shopping parents worried about their teen drivers. One such item, dubbed "Geo Fence," sends an email or text message to parents when the vehicle exits a specified area. The system also deters curfew breaking by providing email or text alerts to parents when the equipped vehicle is operated after a set time. BlueLink can even alert parents when an equipped vehicle exceeds a specified speed. Hyundai says the system is available in the Azera, Elantra GT, Genesis Coupe, Sonata and Veloster, and will be introduced throughout its entire lineup within the next few years.
While an increasing number of cars are adding infotainment technology to their options lists, Kia's UVO system touts an especially thorough voice command function. Designed to help drivers place hands-free calls and adjust the vehicle's stereo, UVO may at first seem like it encourages concentration on activities besides driving. But since many young drivers are likely to fiddle with the stereo and place calls without help from voice commands, we think UVO provides a great way to ensure that young drivers keep their hands on the wheel while they're doing it. While the system is currently only offered in the Optima, Rio, Sorento and Soul, Kia says it will become available in all its vehicles within a few years.
Toyota Knee Airbag
Although most drivers are unlikely to consider knee protection in a car accident, Toyota offers just that in several of its latest models. Indeed, a handful of Toyota vehicles, including the recently redesigned Camry, offer standard knee airbags designed to guard against knee and leg damage in a front impact. While that may seem unimportant compared to protecting other areas on occupants' bodies, the knee airbag is logical considering the force at which a driver's knee could strike the dashboard. According to Toyota, the airbag is surprisingly effective, cutting down on leg injuries sustained in many frontal impacts.
What it means to you: Many carmakers are offering terrific equipment for keeping young drivers safe on the roads.