Special to The Davis Enterprise
Taking the driving test and earning a license is a cherished rite of passage for teenagers across the country. With their license in hand, they view the road as their gateway to independence and they eagerly look forward to what’s around the next curve. In order to do this, however, a teen must have access to a car.
Many families with teens look for a used car for the family’s newest driver. Used cars can help a family stay on budget with a new driver in the family, but new research from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) shows that many teenagers are not driving vehicles that have good crash-protection features. The research found that teenagers tend to drive older vehicles, which are less likely to have safety features such as electronic stability control and side airbags. Teenagers who drove a vehicle that the family already owned were even more likely to drive an older model. In a survey, two thirds of parents with teens driving a car that was already in the family said the vehicle was a 2006 or older model. Another study found that among 15 to 17-year-old drivers in fatal crashes between 2008 and 2012, 29 percent were in mini cars or small cars, and 82 percent were in vehicles at least 6 years old.
In light of these reports, here are some guidelines for providing teenage drivers with the safest vehicles:
• Avoid high horsepower – Teens may want speed and power, but this temptation can overwhelm immature and inexperienced drivers. Vehicles with higher horsepower can tempt teens to exceed the speed limit or cause them to lose control on curvy and hilly roads.
• Weight and size – Vehicles that are larger and heavier provide better protection for drivers and passengers in a crash. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety did not include any mini cars or small cars on its list of best vehicles for this reason. There are some small SUVs included because they are heavier vehicles.
• Electronic Stability Control – Computer technology is helping to make cars safer for all drivers. Be sure the car you purchase for your teen has Electronic Stability Control, which helps drivers maintain control of the vehicle on curves and slippery roads. This technology started appearing in luxury cars in the 1990s, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has implemented rules requiring this technology in all new passenger vehicles sold in the United States since 2012.
• Best crash test ratings – The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety provides safety ratings for the most popular cars, SUVs and minivans. Vehicles for teens should perform well in these tests and those conducted by NHTSA.
Based on these guidelines the IIHS has created a list showcasing the best choices for used vehicles in several price ranges. The list of the best vehicles for teenage drivers includes vehicles that meet these safety recommendations, including standard electronic stability control, which is especially important for teens. They are also sorted by price to help parents research the best vehicles and match their own budget. The research found parents pay on average about $9,800 for vehicles for their teens, but many spend far less.
“Unfortunately, it’s very difficult to get a safe vehicle for a teenager at the prices most people are paying,” says Anne McCartt, IIHS senior vice president for research. “Our advice for parents would be to remember the risks teens take and consider paying a little more.”
Visit the IIHS to learn more about safe cars for teens.