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Study finds half of fatal teen crashes involved older, smaller cars

It's a rite of passage in homes across New York and around the nation: Parents handing over the keys to the household's oldest -- and perhaps worst -- vehicle to their newly licensed teen driver.

While the idea of driving around in an older model vehicle likely makes little difference to the teens driving them and makes sound financial sense to the parents doing the gifting, a recently released study by two researchers from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety suggests that this might not be the safest course of action.

Specifically, the study -- published in the latest edition of the journal Injury Prevention -- examined figures in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's Fatality Analysis Reporting System, and made some shocking findings concerning fatal car accidents involving teen drivers between 2008 and 2012.

According to the report:

  • Roughly 82 percent of the teens killed in car crashes during this time drove cars at least 6 years old.
  • Nearly 50 percent of the teens killed in car crashes during this time drove cars at least 11 years old.
  • Almost 33 percent of the teens killed in car crashes during this time drove older cars that could be classified as small.

The authors theorize that the numbers support the conclusion that these older and often smaller cars being driven by teens are inherently unsafe in comparison with newer models, which offer such safety features as side airbags and electronic stability control, and have better all-around crashworthiness.

Unfortunately, experts indicate that it can take upwards of 30 years for safety features to move from being offered exclusively in luxury vehicles to becoming present in 95 percent of cars on the road. This means that newer safety features like side airbags and electronic stability control, both of which were introduced in the mid 1990s, may not become universal until at least ten years from now.

While this is certainly not an encouraging report, it’s important for parents to understand that there are steps they can take to keep their teen drivers safe, including setting expectations, discussing the importance of defensive driving and always setting a good example behind the wheel.
What are your thoughts on this topic?

Source: USA Today, "Study: Half of teen crash deaths were in old cars," Kelsey Mays, Dec. 30, 2014

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