Short Ride in a Fast (or Old) Machine: Your Teen’s Car Could Be a Problem

You probably remember your first car fondly. Perhaps it was a hand-me-down from an older sibling, or maybe it was the only thing you could afford with your measly after-school job wages. It may have been ugly, quirky, and unreliable, but to you it meant freedom and adulthood.

With your own teens hitting the road now, you may be going through the same song and dance with them, trying to balance affordability and safety. Perhaps you are more financially secure now, and you want to treat your teen to the car of your own teenage dreams. Before you take your new driver out to the dealership or used car lot, however, you may want to read up on the latest reports from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

The Car You Choose for Your Teen Could Put Them At Risk

It is no secret that teens and high-performance vehicles are a bad mix. Inexperience coupled with developing judgment skills can often mean trouble in a vehicle designed to go fast, ending in a ticket at best, and serious injury or death in the worst-case scenario. What many parents do not know, however, is that the other cars teens drive could be just as dangerous as flashy sports cars.

The IIHS has done several reports on teen auto insurance claims, and found that cars most popular among teenage drivers are often contributing to injury and accidents among the age group. In the newer car market, sports cars are not the only dangerous vehicle for young drivers—the seemingly innocent compact and mini vehicles are involved in accidents at twice the rate of middle-aged drivers when driven by a teen. The short wheelbase and higher maneuverability of these vehicles often cause teens to make sudden movements that compromise the car’s stability. Coupled with the decreased crash protection in smaller cars, these cars prove especially risky for young drivers.

Another common danger hidden in plain sight are the older cars being driven by teenagers. While your trusty 2006 sedan may seem like a safe choice, cars built before 2007 often lack the safety features that newer vehicles offer, like side airbags and stability control.

Finding a Balance Between Practicality and Safety for Your Teen’s First Car

While most parents do not see much sense in purchasing a brand-new car for their teen, they also want to keep their kids as safe as possible. Finding the right balance for your family is your own mission, but one that can be accomplished within reason. Do your research before purchasing a car and find the safety features that you value most, keeping horsepower, handling, reliability, and crash protection in mind. Remember: not every teen car accident can be prevented, but the right car can determine whether your teen walks away.

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