Teen Driver Accident Prevention: Car-buying Tips for Parents

Decades of research and data have consistently identified the direct correlation between teen drivers and accident causation. In fact, the CDC reports an average of 7 fatalities per day amongst teens between the ages of 16 and 19, making motor vehicle crashes the leading cause of death for this age group. Ensuring that your teen has the skills and training to handle the responsibility of driving is certainly one of the most critical factors to preventing accidents. However, parents are also encouraged to take into consideration the type of vehicle that their teen will be driving. The Chicago Auto Accident Attorneys, of Zneimer & Zneimer P.C., discuss some important tips to guide parents in the process of buying a car for their teen driver.

Vehicle Size. Studies show that nearly a third of fatal crashes involving drivers between the age of 15 and 17, occurred while the teen was driving a small or mini car. Not only are teens less likely to crash a larger, heavier vehicle, but bigger cars afford more protection in the event an accident were to occur. On the other hand, larger vehicles may be more difficult to maneuver, and can be more susceptible to rollovers. The best options for teens are midsize cars, large sedans or small 2WD SUVs.

Engine Power. When it comes to teen drivers, as a vehicle’s power increases, so does the risk for accident. Quite simply, teens do not need to be operating vehicles with powerful engines that can accelerate rapidly, because this can cause them to engage in risky driving practices (i.e. speeding; testing the car’s limits). Four-cylinder vehicles are the more appropriate choice for teens—they are not only safer, but also offer the added benefits of better fuel economy and reduced impact on the environment.

Safety Components. In previous times, selecting an affordable car often meant choosing price over safety. Nowadays though, most modern vehicle come equipped with standard safety features, making it easier for parents to find a car for their teen that is both affordable and safe. According to AAA’s Teen Car-buying Guide, parents are encouraged to look for later-model vehicles that offer: (1) Electronic stability control (ESC); (2) Anti-lock brakes (ABS); (3) Frontal and side-impact airbags; (4) Adjustable head restraints; and (5) Daytime-running lights.

Crash Test Ratings. Taking advantage of prior crashworthiness research is perhaps the most useful tool that parents can use as guidance in selecting a safe car for their teen driver. There are a number of resources from which parents can access data regarding independent crash tests, but two of the most reputable rating sources are the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Parents are encouraged to look for vehicles rated by the IIHS as ‘Top Safety Picks,’ and that have a minimum four-star rating, but preferably five-star rating, by the NHTSA.

Unleashing your teen driver to navigate Chicago’s dangerous roadways can be a frightening and unnerving experience for any parent. However, by doing your homework, and taking the time to investigate whether a particular vehicle is the appropriate choice for your newly-licensed and/or teen driver, parents can both aide in the protection of their own child, as well as contribute to the safety of others.