Gen Z places more importance on safety than on other considerations.

Image Courtesy Kelley Blue Book and Autotrader study

According to a new study from Kelley Blue Book and Autotrader, Generation Z, the one that comes after the Millennial generation, is enthusiastic about getting cars and driving them, unlike Millennials, who studies have found are blasé about driving,  John Beltz Snyder wrote for AutoBlog.

And Generation Z teens are more concerned with safety features in cars than their counterparts among Millennials, Generation X, and Baby Boomers when they were teens, the study found. Safety features are more desirable than infotainment systems to Gen Z teens, the study shows. “Their focus on safety is closely related to their sense of practicality.”

Attitudes on Autonomous Cars

The study says that members of Gen Z (who range in age from birth through age 17) are Realists, as opposed to Millennial Optimists, Gen X Independents, and “Living the American Dream” Baby Boomers. Safety concerns figure into Gen Z members’ desire to buy their own cars: many of those teens believe that owning a car is safer than ride-sharing.

A full 54% of those surveyed from Gen Z said they like the idea of self-driving vehicles, and 61% believe roads will be safer when most vehicles are self-driving. They believe there will be fewer distracted rivers and fewer accidents with self-driving vehicles. However, 41% of Gen Z teens surveyed worry that self-driving cars will not drive as well as humans do. The 2016 survey was conducted by Ipsos, based on responses from more than 3,000 United States residents between the ages of 12 and 65.

In a related news item, Chris Woodyard reports for USA Today that a Nielsen study found 72% of high school  teens in the U.S. would prefer to have a car they can drive themselves, instead of a self-driving one. However, younger students, in middle and elementary schools, would prefer a self-driving vehicle. The Nielsen study surveyed 1,133 people ages 8 to 18.

Risks of Teen Driving

Yet another recent article, by Bruce Feiler for The New York Times, says there is a high risk that 16- and 17-year olds will have accidents when driving. According to Dr. Charlier Klauer, Virginia Tech Transportation Institute research scientist:

We believe one in four teens is going to be in a crash in their first six months of driving.

Parents try various approaches to prevent their teens from having accidents while driving. For example, one father bought his son a manual transmission car, thinking his son would thus not be able to use a cell phone while driving, as he would need both hands for driving. Feiler notes that it is also safer for teen drivers to drive alone, and without unrelated teen passengers. 

Cutting Distracted Driving

Nicole Morris, a researcher at the University of Minnesota’s HumanFIRST Laboratory, said:

Distraction is highest when boys ride with other boys, whereas boys actually drive safer when girls are in the car. Altogether, passengers are a greater threat than cellphones […] Your cellphone isn’t encouraging your teen to go 80 in a 50, or 100 in a 70.’

Phones still a huge problem, though: Teens’ risk of having a car accident while using a cell phone for texting, talking or checking Facebook is higher than for other age groups, according to Dr. Klauer. She suggests blocking all notifications on cell phones while driving, because the beeps or ringtones can be hard to ignore.

If a teen insists on using a cell phone while driving, it is best to keep it in a dock, at eye level on the dashboard. Phones can create real problems when a driver is not staying focused on the road ahead. “Anything more than two seconds [of distraction] is extremely dangerous,” Klauer said.

Jennifer Ryan, AAA director of state relations, recommends that teens be prohibited from driving between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m. for the first six months until they they have their driver’s license. Parents should extend that period if they feel their teen is not yet ready, she added.

What might be most helpful in preventing risky driving behavior is for parents to be more involved, Feiler said.