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Image: Chevrolet

It’s been three years since my oldest child started driving. And I still haven’t stopped pushing the invisible brake pedal on my side of the car when she’s behind the wheel.

In addition to the huge insurance rate hike that came with a new teen driver came a significant portion of my gray hair — I’m pretty sure I had all brown hair three years ago.

And now her younger sister just got her learner’s permit. Hello, is this Just For Men? I’d like to buy some stock. Please?

Seriously – putting someone who’s only been on the planet for 15 years behind the controls of what I lovingly call a 4,000 pound killing machine is a lot to ask. A LOT!

For those of you playing along at home, this is where I do the “back in my day” thing.  You’ve been warned.

Back when I first started to drive, the only distractions to my 100% focus on driving (stop laughing) were the radio/cassette player and the four friends who didn’t mind being seen cruising around in my maroon 1978 Chevy Monte Carlo. No mobile phones, no texting, no Snapchat, no GPS maps telling us where to turn. Just me, my buddies, and Van Halen. And as long as I arrived back home without any scratches or dings, my folks were none the wiser.

Those days are over.

As part of the first-ever Traveling Dad Conference, held at Walt Disney World in February, Chevrolet introduced me to its 2016 Malibu, a gorgeous vehicle that – in addition to being fun to drive around the streets of Orlando – will give dads everywhere some peace of mind.

(And I might get a break from my invisible brake pedal.)

In case you’re rolling your eyes at my invisible brake, Chevrolet provided me with some stark stats that will make you sober up:

  • Car accidents are the #1 cause of death for teenagers;
  • Young drivers account for nearly a third of all accidents;
  • 2,163 teenage drivers died in car accidents in 2013.
Teen Driver Report Image

Image: Chevrolet

This is serious.

Thankfully, a Teen Driver option comes with selected 2016 Chevy Malibu models, which gives parents a way to teach their teens safe driving habits. And guess what?  It comes with a built-in report card so parents can review data with their teens and reinforce the safe driving message.

I found the Teen Driver system pretty easy to activate on the Malibu I drove – the parent selects a PIN, and then links the system to the teenager’s key fob, so the car knows when the teenage driver is operating the car. Parents can pre-select speed warnings (between 40-75 miles per hour) that will warn the driver when the warning speed has been reached. And if the front or passenger seatbelts aren’t fastened, the radio (and any device connected to it) is muted until safety belts are fastened.

(And in case your teen is one of those who listens to Van Halen – or whatever – very LOUDLY, parents also can set a maximum volume for their teen.)

The Malibu also offers some other safety features, if equipped, that activate when the teen is driving – and cannot be turned off manually. These are things like Stability Control, Side Blind Zone Alert, Traction Control, and Daytime Running Lamps.

Teen Driver is less like a nanny than a teacher – teens and parents can review the report card together, and parents can ask about what was going on in the car, for example, when speed got too high or there were forward collision alerts.

My teenagers know how seriously I take their safety and how concerned I am that they obey traffic laws, are “consistently predictable” behind the wheel, and drive defensively – that is, they know that they are not the only ones on the road driving 4,000 pound killing machines. The Malibu’s Teen Driver feature is designed to prep teens like mine for a lifetime of safe driving habits.

 

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My first three cars were Chevys – the Monte Carlo and a 1979 Impala while I was in high school, followed by a 1988 Corsica for college. My teenagers haven’t asked me why I had two cars in high school. It’s a little embarrassing, but let’s just say if my ’78 Monte Carlo had been equipped with the Teen Driver system, I might never have had to replace it with the ’79 Impala.

That radio muting and forward collusion alert might’ve come in handy before I got distracted by Van Halen and plowed the Monte Carlo into a light pole in the Safeway parking lot one night after work.

Buh-bye Monte Carlo and hello Impala.

It was an expensive lesson learned, but one that probably won’t ever have to be learned by a teen in a 2016 Malibu.  But that invisible brake pedal is here to stay.

— Boyd Rogers

Boyd Rogers is a Traveling Dad and the husband of Traveling Mom Carissa Rogers. Boyd travels extensively for work and almost as frequently with his wife and three children.

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