Although today’s youth are not as eager to learn to drive as previous generations, getting a driver’s license and driving their first car remains an important rite of passage for teens. Unfortunately, a recent study found that many teens are driving vehicles that are woefully insufficient in terms of crash protection and safety technology.
This is particularly crucial, as car crashes remain the leading cause of death among Americans ages 15 to 19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Among 500 parents queried by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), just over half reported buying cars for use by teen drivers that were from the 2006 model year or earlier; if it was a model that was passed down from parents or an older sibling, two thirds were eight years old or more. That’s significant because vehicles of that vintage are far less likely to include safety features such as electronic stability control and side-impact airbags than are cars from more recent model years.
What’s more, 28 percent of parents/teens picked subcompact and compact-sized cars that inherently fare worse in a collision than do larger and heavier models. A separate IIHS study shows that teenagers killed in crashes are more likely to have been driving small cars and older vehicles than adults.
Many parents tend to purchase an older “beater” car for a couple thousand dollars or less as a teen driver’s first ride, but the experts suggest families dig deeper into their pocketbooks to properly safeguard their offspring. “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 to parents would be to remember the risks teens take and consider paying a little more.”