One of the most exciting days in a teen’s life is when he or she gets their driver’s license. It’s also one of the scariest for parents. Parents know that it takes time and experience to become a competent driver. Teens often believe that because they can stop at stop signs, put on their seat belt, Parallel Park and stay in a well-defined lane, they are competent enough.
Unfortunately, that’s not the case. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), list motor vehicle crashes as the leading cause of death for U.S. teens. Seven teens –ages 16 to 19- die every day from motor vehicle injuries. According to a new study, more teens could survive serious auto accidents if they are driving newer cars.
While older cars may be less expensive, newer models are more likely to come with better standard safety features. Larger and heavier cars may also offer more protection.
"We know that many parents cannot afford a new vehicle," said the study's lead author, Anne McCartt, senior vice president for research at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. "Our message to parents is to get the most safety they can afford."
Researchers analyzed data from 2008 to 2012 from the U.S. Fatality Analysis Reporting System, which included information on 2,420 drivers ages 15 to 17 and 18,975 drivers ages 35 to 50.
The majority of teens that died (82%) were in cars that were at least 6 years old. A smaller, but significant proportion of teens (31%) were in cars 11 to 15 years old. For comparison, fatally injured teens were almost twice as likely as their middle-aged counterparts to be driving a car that was 11 to 15 years old.
Researchers say that they can’t prove that older cars driven by teens actually increase the risk of death if they are in a motor vehicle accident. However, there is good reason to think that teens would be safer in newer cars.
Older cars have older seatbelts that can wear and tear with age. Airbags were not required in cars till 1997 and 1998 for trucks. Today, they are standard equipment. The biggest safety upgrade though, has been the addition of electronic stability control.
Ultimately, McCartt said, though newer model cars tend to have more safety features, protecting your teens is not as straight forward as just steering clear of older vehicles. "We did find older vehicles that met our safety criteria," she said.
Still, it's a rare older vehicle that has electronic stability control — an important safety feature that helps drivers keep control in extreme maneuvers, McCartt said. "That's something that is standard on new cars since it was a requirement starting in 2012," she added.
Extreme maneuvers can quickly happen when something unexpected happens while driving. There are also plenty of distractions that can take your eyes off the road such as reading or replying to a text, eating or drinking while driving, cell phone calls, Changing CDs or radio stations, video watching, looking at or entering data for a GPS, talking to passengers. The list goes on. These distractions are certainly not limited to teens, but they have the least experience behind the wheel.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has compiled a list of affordable used vehicles that meet important safety criteria for teen drivers that can be found at http://www.iihs.org/iihs/ratings/vehicles-for-teens.
They also have a list of recommendations to consider when purchasing a car for a teenager. They are:
• Young drivers should stay away from high horsepower. More powerful engines can tempt them to test the limits.
• Bigger, heavier vehicles are safer. They protect better in a crash, and HLDI analyses of insurance data show that teen drivers are less likely to crash them in the first place. There are no mini-cars or small cars on the recommended list. Small SUVs are included because their weight is similar to that of a midsize car.
• Electronic stability control (ESC) is a must. This feature, which helps a driver maintain control of the vehicle on curves and slippery roads, reduces risk on a level comparable to safety belts.
• Vehicles should have the best safety ratings possible. At a minimum, that means good ratings in the IIHS moderate overlap front test, acceptable ratings in the IIHS side crash test and four or five stars from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
Most teens will eventually get their driver’s license – that’s a given. If a teen is still a minor, it’s up to the parents or responsible guardians to help choose a car that will give them the best chance of survival if an accident should happen. That choice may include a newer model.
The study was published online in the journal, Injury Prevention.
Source: Linda Carroll, http://www.nbcnews.com/health/kids-health/cheap-old-car-might-carry-deadly-cost-teens-study-n271321