Half of Teen Crash Deaths Involved Older Cars, Research Shows

Is Junior on your last nerve, bugging you for a sleek new ride rather than the decade-old hand-me-down you drove when he was in kindergarten? We feel you, Mom and Pop. But this time, Junior might just have a valid point, according to results of a new study released by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Turns out that nearly half of drivers ages 15 to 17 killed in auto accidents between 2008 and 2012 drove cars that were at least 11 years old.

Researchers analyzed data from the government’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System, informally known as FARS. That data shows, compared to middle-aged drivers killed in car accidents during the same time span, teens overwhelmingly drove older, smaller cars. It also revealed that 82 percent of teens killed in wrecks drove cars that were at least six years old.

But before you cave and pony up for that sleek new 2-door convertible sports car, be sure to remind Junior that it’s not just older cars, but smaller ones that pose the most risk. Older rides lack the latest safety features like side airbags and electronic stability control. In fact, side airbags were standard features in just 12 percent of the vehicles driven by teens who were fatally injured in the incidents reviewed in the study. And Electronic stability control came standard in just three percent of them.

But even in newer vehicles that have all the safety-minded bells and whistles, IIHS statistics show that death rates in small cars involved in multi-car crashes are nearly twice as high as those in large sedans.
In single-car crashes, 11 people per million were killed in large sedans in 2007. But in small cars, that figured jumped to 35 per million. In mid-size cars, the death rate for single-vehicle crashes is 17 percent less than for small cars.

So, when shopping for Junior’s new ride, opt for something newer that also features a wider, lower profile to reduce the risk of a rollover. Insist upon safety features like driver and side airbags, antilock brakes, working seatbelts, head restraints and traction control and electronic stability control systems. And make sure any pre-owned vehicle you’re considering gets a thorough looking over and test driving by a trusted auto mechanic.

So what was your first ride? Did you cruise the strip in a new ride or were you happy to get the keys to Dad’s old beater? Post your first car stories on the E3 Spark Plugs Facebook Fan Page.


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