For years, parents have handed down their older cars to their teenage drivers or even purchased a relatively cheap but older car from a dealer. After all, most families cannot afford to buy their teenagers a new car. Yet a recent study suggests that, statistically, the safest used car for your teen might be the newest possible model vehicle you can afford.
Investigators determined that nearly half of the teen drivers fatally injured on U.S. roads during recent years were operating vehicles that were eleven or more years old. Researchers at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), who published their findings in the online journal Injury Prevention, ascertained that the lack of up-to-date safety features contributed to the fatalities.
The problem is that many parents can simply not afford a new vehicle for their teenage driver. However, experts at the IIHS encourage parents to buy the newest, and subsequently safest, automobile they can possibly afford.
The experts examined data from the U.S. Fatality Analysis Reporting System for years 2008 through 2012. This data included information on 2,240 drivers ages 15 to 17 and 18,975 drivers ages 35 to 50. Fatally injured teens were nearly twice as likely to be driving a vehicle 11 to 15 years old than the group of older motorists. Some additional interesting patterns in teen driver fatalities emerged:
- Sixty-four percent of those teens were driving cars- 29% in a small car and 35% in a mid-size or larger
- Eighty-two percent were driving vehicles that were at least 6 years old
- Forty-eight percent were driving a vehicle at least 11 years old
- Thirty-one percent were driving vehicles that were 11 to 15 years old
Despite not knowing the percent of teens who drive older vehicles, experts still have reason to believe that older cars may increase the risk of fatalities among teen drivers.
Assistant professor of epidemiology in the graduate school of public health and director of the center for Injury Research Community Action at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Tony Fabio points out that teen drivers are statistically less prone to wear their seatbelts. This could be partially due to the fact that they are driving older cars with improperly functioning seatbelts.
The study doesn’t imply that every old vehicle is unsafe. In fact, researchers did encounter some older models that met their safety benchmarks. However, electronic stability control- an integral safety feature that facilitates driver control during drastic steering conditions- was not a mandatory feature on vehicles until 2012.
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