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Make Safety Your Priority When Picking Your Teen’s First Car

By Aghabegian & Associates on April 26, 2021

Most parents anticipate their child’s first car with both pride and anxiety. Your teenager may have put in a lot of hours on the road and rigorously studied for the test, but it is hard to let go of the fear that they could be hurt in an accident. This anxiety is not unfounded, as teenagers are often involved in more serious accidents than other demographics.

By providing proper guidance and training, you can help keep your child safer on the road, but another important factor to consider is the type of vehicle your child drives.

Why Are Teen Driving Accidents More Dangerous?

Teenagers have the highest risk of being involved in auto accidents, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), with nearly 2,500 being killed and an estimated 285,000 requiring emergency room treatment in a recent year. As startling as these numbers may be, fatal teen accidents have decreased over the years, with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reporting a 33% drop in teen driver deaths over a 10-year period, and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) seeing a 76% drop in a 45-year period.

One reason teen fatality rates are becoming less severe over the years is better education and vehicle safety. Driver’s education has grown and expanded over the past few decades, with trainers offering more hands-on classes and well-rounded curriculums. It is not uncommon for older drivers to take the new driving tests and encounter tougher, more complex questions. Modern cars are also significantly safer than older models from the 1980s and ‘90s, and manufacturers have focused more research into improving driver safety.

However, experience is still a major factor in auto accidents. Teenagers are simply less experienced at handling vehicles safely, and the rise of cellphones has limited their progress. While more effort needs to be put into making teenagers more aware of distracted driving, the IIHS may have determined another major issue regarding vehicle safety.

The Age of the Vehicle May Trump the Driver’s Experience

When analyzing teen driving accidents, the IIHS started to take a closer look at the types of vehicles drivers were operating. In most cases, teen drivers operate small sedans or mini-cars, which are more than 11 years old. For comparison, older drivers tend to drive newer vehicles, with less than 30% operating cars that are more than a decade old.

With regard to size, smaller vehicles are simply less safe in a collision. Larger vehicles like SUVs and jeeps can cause significantly more damage to a standard sedan while keeping their occupants safe. Small cars, while efficient, can trail behind in safety ratings.

While it makes sense for parents to go for a budget-friendly option when picking their child’s first car, safety should be a top priority. As mentioned earlier, a car from the 2000s is generally safer than a car from the ‘80s or ‘90s, but there have been major advancements in recent years. Most carriers offer budget-friendly sedans that have rear-facing cameras, motion sensors, electronic stability controls, side-airbags, and strong frames, making them safer in a collision.

Weight is also a major factor, as lighter vehicles are more likely to involve serious injuries to their occupants when compared to heavier vehicles. The IIHS noted that many teen drivers involved in fatal accidents drove vehicles lighter by 250 lbs. when compared to those of adults in collisions. In many cases, choosing to upgrade from a mini to a heavier sedan is a smarter option for new drivers.

How to Pick a Car for Your Teenager

No one is suggesting that you buy your child the newest, flashiest SUV on the lot, but there are ways to balance budget and safety when picking a car. The IIHS and Consumer Reports have compiled a helpful list of safe cars models from 2014 and after that parents should consider when selecting a vehicle for their teenager. This list includes average pricing to help fit your budget while also keeping your teenager safer.

Parents should also pay close attention to:

  • Safety ratings: Both the NHTSA and IIHS run vehicles through several crash tests to determine safety ratings and provide useful information about a car’s ability to handle a collision.
  • Safety features: Newer models may have flashier designs and interiors, but it is the safety features that you should keep an eye on. Electronic stability control is one of the best options for teen drivers, as it will help them stay in their lane and out of danger.
  • Weight: Heavier vehicles naturally handle better in a collision, but you should also watch out for vehicles that need more stopping power or have large blind spots.
  • Horsepower: Manufacturers love to go on and on about horsepower or which model can go “0 to 70” in a few seconds, but speed is dangerous for teenagers. Best to focus on a vehicle with a moderate speed rather than one that has a high horsepower.
  • Recall Dates: The NHTSA tracks and warns drivers of recalls on cars and auto parts on a regular basis. If a car has an open recall, its best to talk to a dealer and make sure the vehicle is up-to-date with new parts.

If you do happen to be injured by a teen driver or your child is injured in a collision, we encourage you to reach out to us at Aghabegian & Associates, PC. We have more than 40 years of combined experience and have recovered more than a $125 million for our clients. Our Glendale car accident attorneys can sit down with you and your family in a free consultation and talk about your options. There is no cost to speaking to us, and we provide all services on a contingency-fee basis, meaning you do not owe us a dime unless we win your claim. Call us at (818) 507-4311.

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