Don’t Buy “An Old Beater” For Your Kid

I hate going to funerals, especially to funerals for a teen-ager.  What made this funeral worse, was I had to pronounce her. I didn’t even recognize her when I did. The daughter of good friends, came into my trauma service, dead on arrival- not a thing we could do- and only an hour later when I heard that my good friends daughter had died in a car accident did it hit home—that was the little girl I had known for years, now 19 years old, killed in a wreck.

Allie died 15 years ago and it all came back to me when my brother-in-laws son, Austin, was in an accident – he walked away, and so did everyone else. But the feelings of a senseless life lost, well, they never go away.

So here is the message: You are going to buy your teen a car, and you think- “I’ll buy them an old beater.” –DON’T.  Instead, buy them the car that has the most advanced collision avoidance technology you can get.  It won’t be the car they want, it will be a car more expensive than yours, but its your kid.

My son is almost 2, and in 14 years he will be getting a car.  When my brother-in-laws son, Austin, got in a wreck I could only imagine what Bob felt.  Thankfully all walked away but the truck.  As I leaned details of the wreck it was clear, a collision avoidance system would have avoided the wreck entirely.

Some people say “The old cars were made of steel, that’s what you need, an old truck would not have been totaled.” That is true- but the energy of impact if it is not absorbed by the truck Austin was driving, would have been absorbed by his body.  So having a new truck saved him.

As a trauma surgeon I saw too many teenagers die in automobile accidents – some as little as 25 miles per hour.  I also saw teenagers come in who walked away from major collisions – and they walked away because they were in the right automobile.

Here are the new features that are put in the collision avoidance technology:

Radar sensors that trigger the brakes if you are getting to close to the car in front of you—had Austin’s truck had this he would not have had the impact he did. These features also trigger an alert that tightens seat-belts, adjusts headrests, and close windows.

Lane alerts – that tell you not to change lanes because someone is in your blind spot.

Adaptive cruise control that sensors the traffic ahead of you to keep you at a safe following distance.

Teenagers do not react as adults do, they don’t drive as safely as adults do, and their brains are not yet developed. In some ways they over-react to collision systems.  Having a smart car that does this for you is helpful.

So, if you have a son or daughter that needs a new car – don’t get the old beater- get the one that has the most collision avoidance systems you can obtain. These are starting to appear in some cars like the Ford Taurus, but have been available in the Volvo series for a while. Oh- and if you are getting a new car — get one with collision avoidance.

So yes, your son or daughter might not get the car they want, but they will get the car they need – and if they do get into an accident, they will be much better protected.

Dr. Terry Simpson About Dr. Terry Simpson
Dr. Terry Simpson received his undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Chicago where he spent several years in the Kovler Viral Oncology laboratories doing genetic engineering. He found he liked people more than petri dishes, and received his MD. Dr. Simpson, then became a renowned weight loss surgeon, and a leading advocate of culinary medicine. The first surgeon to become certified in Culinary Medicine, he advocates teaching people to improve their health through their food. On the other side of the world, he has been a leading advocate of changing health care to make it more "relationship based," and his efforts awarded his team the Malcom Baldrige award for healthcare in 2011 for the NUKA system of care in Alaska. A frequent contributor to media outlets discussing health related topics and advances in medicine, he is also a proud dad, husband, author, cook, and surgeon “in that order.” For media inquiries, please visit


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