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Young drivers have a crash rate three times higher than older motorists, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), and they are three times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash.
In fact, auto accidents are the leading cause of teen deaths and drivers 16-19 are three times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash than older drivers.
“Choosing the vehicle your teen drives is one of the most important decisions you’ll make about your teen’s safety,” says Anne McCartt, senior vice president for research at the IIHS. One of the most important factors to consider is crash protection, given teens’ higher risk of accidents. So here’s what you need to know on how to find the right cars for teens…
A lesson on Safety Tests from IIHS:
IIHS tests evaluate two aspects of safety: crashworthiness, how well a vehicle protects its occupants in a crash, and crash avoidance, technology that can prevent a crash or lessen its severity.
To determine crashworthiness: IIHS rates vehicles based on performance in five tests: moderate overlap front, small overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraints.
In the area of crash avoidance and mitigation: IIHS assigns vehicles with available front crash prevention systems ratings:
2015 Top Safety Pick: To qualify, a vehicle must earn “good” ratings in the moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraint tests, as well as a good or acceptable rating in the small overlap front test.
2015 Top Safety Pick PLUS: To qualify, a vehicle must meet the Top Safety Pick criteria, and earn an “advanced” or “superior” rating for front crash prevention.
You may think bigger is better, but that’s not always the case.
- Bigger, heavier vehicles do better in a crash, but the power and handling of a car also should match the experience level of the driver.
- Steer clear of subcompact cars, convertibles, sports cars and large sport utility vehicles or minivans, which may be more difficult for inexperienced teen drivers to control.
- Look for high safety and crash test ratings, which may also help reduce your teen’s insurance premiums in those early driving years.
- Check the vehicle history report for used vehicles. An accident-free vehicle is preferred.
- Have an ASE certified technician look over used vehicles to uncover hidden problems before you buy.
- Select the safest vehicle you can afford based on your budget.
- A safe vehicle does not replace safe driving. The passengers in your teen’s vehicle, their decisions around distracted driving and social behavior all contribute to their safety.
- A family’s hand-me-down or older vehicle may not be the right choice either. Newer vehicles have more safety features, such as electronic stability control and side impact air bags, back up camera and other safety features that can make a difference in protecting your teen.
- Opt for electronic stability control, which became standard on most cars in 2010 and helps drivers maintain control on curves and slippery roads.
Of course, a safe car doesn’t replace safe driving. Look for in-vehicle tools that can help promote safe driving habits.
For instance, seat belts save lives, but only when they are used correctly. In 2010, 60 percent of all 16- to 20-year-old occupants killed in passenger vehicles were not wearing their seat belts. Eliminate driving distractions such as cell phones. Just Drive!
Helping teens drive smarter and giving mom and dad peace of mind while the teen is learning to drive is the smartest choice.
Lauren Fix, The Car Coach®