PADUCAH, Ky. -
It's the dreaded call no parent ever wants to get. The phone rings and an officer on the other end of the line says your child has been in a crash. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety released a new study that shows nearly half of teen drivers who died in car crashes from 2008 to 2012 had cars that were at least 11 years old. Almost a third drive small cars. It means a lot of teens are hitting the road in cars that don't have top safety features that can save lives.
Some cars are old. Others are new. Some are big, and some are small. The parking lot at Paducah Tilghman High School shows a good example of what teens are driving, but a new study shows the age and size of a car can determine whether young drivers walk away from a wreck. "From my personal experience, you want to put your new driver in something big that's gonna give them some protection in case of an accident," said Chris Austin.
Austin is a father, and he's a sales representative at Mike Smith Kia. He said teens have an eye for what's shiny and new, but most parents come in looking for reliable cars that are safe and affordable. "We'll find something on the lot that will work inside their budget," he said, "We have the security of knowing, as far as safety goes, these are very good vehicles."
Older cars are less likely to have safety features like side air bags or electronic stability control. These are features the study shows may not show up in the vast majority of inexpensive, used cars until well into the next decade.
"That's a long time to wait for a safety feature," said Austin. It's also a lot to put on the line for young, inexperienced drivers with their first set of wheels. A teen's best bet, according to Austin, is a well-informed parent. "If you do your research and look on the websites, you can find something reliable with great safety features. There's no reason you can't put your child in a safe, reliable vehicle."
The study also shows teens overwhelmingly drive smaller, older cars compared to middle-aged drivers. A lot of times, they're driving hand-me-downs from family members that tend to be older models. Top features usually start showing up in luxury cars first before they become standard for the majority of vehicles.