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Is Your Teen Driving a Dangerous Car?

Car crashes are the leading cause of accidental deaths for teenagers in the U.S. This is why, when you hand over the keys to your teen, you want to know that you have done everything possible to protect them – including putting them in a safe vehicle.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) recently released a report that suggests that not all vehicles are created equal when it comes to the safety of teen drivers.

The organization recognizes that teens often drive older used vehicles that are either handed down by parents or bought for significantly less than the price of a newer vehicle. However, those vehicles may be lacking many modern safety features. Parents should not settle for those unsafe vehicles, the IIHS states.

What Are the Safest Used Vehicles for Teen Drivers?

In the June 2014 report, the IIHS provides lists of suggested safe vehicles for teen drivers. In coming up with the lists, the IIHS focused on four basic principles:

  • Teen drivers do not need major horsepower in a vehicle. In fact, parents should stay away from buying high-powered, fast cars for their teens. It may encourage the teen driver to take unnecessary risks.
  • Electronic stability control is a “must” when it comes to buying your teen a car. An ESC system can detect when a driver has lost steering control. The system automatically applies brakes and helps to correct the issue.
  • Look for bigger and heavier vehicles. These vehicles tend to perform better when involved in an accident. For this reason, no small cars made the IIHS list of top choices for teen drivers.
  • Vehicles for teen drivers should have the highest safety ratings possible.

The IIHS came up with two lists of recommended cars for teens. One list provides “best picks” for parents with a budget up to $20,000. The other list provides “good picks” for parents with a budget under $10,000.

Among the higher-priced models listed by the IIHS are:

  • Large cars: Saab 9-5 sedan, model years 2010 and later
  • Midsize cars: Toyota Prius v, 2012 and later
  • Small SUVs: Honda CR-V, 2012 and later
  • Midsize SUVs: Volvo XC60, 2010 and later
  • Large SUVs: Buick Enclave, 2011 and later
  • Minivans: Chrysler Town & Country, 2012 and later.

For parents shopping on tighter budget, the organization’s top picks were:

  • Large cars: Acura RL, model years 2005 and later
  • Midsize cars: Subaru Legacy, 2009
  • Small SUVs: Nissan Rogue, 2008 and later
  • Midsize SUVs: Mazda CX-9, 2007 and later
  • Minivans: Volkswagen Routan, between 2009 and 2011.

You can see the other vehicles identified by the IIHS here.

The IIHS surveyed 500 parents and found that, despite safety risks, parents most often purchased small or mini-sized cars for teen drivers, with 28 percent buying vehicles in this category. Parents should read through the IIHS report, which may cause them to think twice about the vehicle they are providing to their teen.

Why Does Vehicle Choice Matter?

Not all vehicles are the same. They respond differently in accidents. Because teen drivers are at such a high risk of being involved in a crash, it only makes sense to invest your money in the safest vehicle possible.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that accident risk is highest among teens when compared with all other age groups. Per mile driven, teens are at a risk three times greater than drivers ages 20 and older.

Of course, choosing a safe vehicle is only part of the equation. Teens must also learn and be constantly reminded about safe driving practices.

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