Kelley Blue Book
Safe Cars for Teens
If your teenager just received a driver's license, it may be hard to imagine handing over the keys to your car. However, you want to ensure your new driver sets out on the road in a safe car.
The statistics on teen auto accidents are scary. In fact, teen drivers have the highest auto accident rate of any age group. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (I.I.H.S.), the risk of a crash per mile driven is 4 times higher between ages 16 and 19 compared to older drivers. There are various reasons that contribute to the high number of young drivers involved in auto accidents. A lack of experience, speed, and distracting friends can all play a part. As a parent, there is something you can do to protect your teen; choose a safe car for your teen.
Avoid vehicles that encourage reckless driving.
Teen drivers not only lack experience, but may also lack maturity. As a result, speeding and reckless driving is common. Sports cars and other vehicles with high performance features, such as turbo-charging, are likely to encourage speeding. Choosing a vehicle with a more sedate image reduces the chances your teen will be in a speed-related crash.
Pick a vehicle that offers good crash protection.
Teenagers should drive vehicles that offer state-of-the-art protection. Unfortunately other issues such as car costs, fuel costs, and insurance rates take priority with most parents and their teens. Insurance companies will rate your insurance cost based on the most expensive vehicle you own regardless of the vehicle your teenager drives. If money was no object, you might select the safest vehicle on the market. I.I.H.S. experts say that teens are often frequently better off driving the family’s sedan with newer safety features.
Don't let your teen drive a small vehicle.
Small vehicles offer much less protection in crashes than larger ones. However, this doesn't mean you should put your child in the largest vehicle you can find. Many mid-size and full-size cars offer reasonable crash protection. Check out the safety ratings for mid-size and larger cars.
Avoid older vehicles.
It’s tempting to buy teens a cheap old fixer-upper, figuring they’re going to get in a fender bender or two. But this can be a dangerous route. Most of today's cars are better designed for crash protection than cars of six to ten years ago. For example, a newer, mid-size car with airbags would be a better choice than an older, larger car without airbags. Older cars are also most likely to breakdown. Most cars sold after 1994 in the U.S. have dual air bags. New cars have better engineering. All things being equal, your teen can be safer in a newer, larger, and heavier car. But that is not the only consideration.
Many sport utility vehicles and pickup trucks are among the heaviest of vehicles on the road but are not necessarily the best vehicle for your teen. These vehicles have a higher center of gravity which can make them more prone than other vehicles to rollovers. A swift steering maneuver or a dropped tire off the side of the pavement might be all that’s needed to get one of these larger, heavier vehicles to rollover. It’s difficult enough for an experienced driver to know what to do, much less a new driver. Another concern is that SUVs can seat more people. One of the most common reasons teens have auto accidents is the combination of distractions by friends in the car and maturity level.
Before you make a final choice on the car your teenager will drive, consult the U.S. Department of Transportation (www.dot.gov) or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (www.iihs.org). Also, use Consumer Reports rule-of-thumb to select a car with a 0-to60-mph time between 8 and 11 seconds. This weeds-out hot rods and turbo-charged cars as well as sluggish clunkers that can create risk while merging onto the highway. Mostly, Consumer Reports recommends four-cylinder-engine vehicles for teens such as the Honda Accord, Honda Civic, Nissan Altima, Toyota Corolla, and Toyota Camry. Visit www.consumerreports.org for further recommendations and further details.
While getting a driver’s license is an exciting rite-of-passage for teens, it can be enough to make a parent frantic. But with safe driving practices, a reasonably safe car, and appropriate supervision, you and your teen can both enjoy less stress and safety first!