5 Teen Safety Features in New Cars

Teens can make poor driving decisions like speeding or not using their seat belts. According to the IIHS, driving too fast factors into more than a fourth of fatal crashes for teens. Being distracted is also a primary cause of crashes for teen drivers. According to AAA, distracted driving played a role in about 60 percent of all teen crashes and an even higher role in road-departure crashes (89 percent) and rear-end crashes (76 percent).

The top three distractions for teens are interacting with passengers (15 percent), using cell phones (12 percent), and looking at something in the vehicle (10 percent). Auto manufacturers have taken notice of the problem and introduced new safety options just for teen drivers and their parents. Here’s a look at five of these teen safety options.

Ford’s MyKey program

The MyKey program from Ford, which was introduced in 2008, lets parents program a key for their teen driver, which includes limits and enforces good driving behaviors. Parents can set a top speed for the vehicle, create speed alerts, set a maximum audio volume, and prevent teens from turning off the do-not-disturb feature.

Once set up, the system mutes the audio system if seat belts are not worn in the front seats. It also gives early warnings for low fuel or low charge. Driver-assist features are automatically turned on, and restrictions to adult content are turned on for satellite radio if available in the car.

While the system offers a number of teen safety options, an IIHS survey in 2018 found that, while 57 percent of owners of Fords with MyKey knew about the program, only 61 percent were actually using it with their teen driver, reducing its overall effectiveness. MyKey can also be found on Lincoln vehicles.

GM Teen Driver technology

Teen Driver technology first appeared in the 2016 Chevrolet Malibu. With Teen Driver technology now in Chevrolet, GMC, Buick, and Cadillac vehicles, parents can set a speed warning and a volume limit plus receive an in-vehicle report card. The speed limiter also prevents the vehicle from going more than 85 MPH.

Some Chevys require the driver to be buckled up before driving and also mute the audio system until people in the front seats have their seat belts on. Any available active safety technologies are automatically turned on. The in-vehicle report gives information about the teen’s driving, including distance driven, maximum speed, tailgating alerts, and more, so parents can provide feedback.

Hyundai Blue Link safeguard alerts

Hyundai’s Blue Link Remote package offers safeguard alerts that can be turned on. Parents are texted, emailed, or alerted through the MyHyundai app if the curfew, distance, geographic boundaries, or maximum speed limits are crossed. These features do require a monthly subscription.

Volkswagen Car-Net app

In addition to features like remote lock and unlock, fuel check, and car health, Volkswagen’s Car-Net app offers Curfew Alert. This feature alerts owners if the car is driven after a set time. The app can also set speed and boundary limits and call for help during an emergency.

Teen safety apps

Teenage boy driving a car
Teenage boy driving a car | Eric Lafforgue/Art in All of Us/Corbis via Getty Images

Even vehicles that don’t have built-in teen safety features can be used with some third-party apps, including Life360 Driver Protect, EverDrive, Sentinel, Hum, Hum Essentials, Groove, and bSafe Mobile. These apps help track speed, brake use, cell phone usage while driving, and driver reports. Life360 Driver Protect Plan can call for emergency help and also tracks driving in friends’ cars. Sentinel can prevent cell phone use for both the driver and any passengers.

Numerous teen safety features in today’s vehicles help parents supervise their teen drivers and encourage thoughtful driving behaviors even when parents aren’t in the car with their teens. Studies from the IIHS and others have found that the features are working. When teens received alerts and parents were also notified, seat belt use improved and speeding and other risky behaviors were reduced.