Older Cars a Bad Choice for Younger Drivers

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FRIDAY, Dec. 19, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- New research warns parents that buying an older car for their teens may put their young lives at risk.

Nearly half of teen drivers killed in the United States between 2008 and 2012 were driving cars that were at least 11 years old and often lacked important safety features that are available on newer cars, the study found.

Eighty-two percent of teen drivers killed in crashes were in cars at least six years old, 34 percent were in cars six to 10 years old, 31 percent were in cars 11 to 15 years old, and 17 percent were in cars at least 16 years old.

Teen drivers killed in crashes were nearly twice as likely as middle-aged drivers to be in a car that was 11 to 15 years old, 20 percent vs. 12 percent, according to the study published online Dec. 18 in the journal Injury Prevention.

The findings are from an analysis of more than 2,000 teen (ages 15-17) driver deaths and almost 19,000 middle-aged (ages 35-50) driver deaths.

Only about one in 10 of the vehicles driven by fatally injured teens had electronic stability control. This feature is particularly useful when a driver loses control, a relatively common problem among newly licensed young drivers, the researchers noted. They said electronic stability control can reduce the risk of death in single-vehicle crashes by about half and by about 20 percent in multivehicle crashes.

Only 36 percent of vehicles driven by teen and middle-aged drivers had optional or standard air bags, but those driven by adults were slightly more likely to have air bags as standard equipment.

The study authors also looked at the types of vehicles in fatal crashes and found that 29 percent were in a mini or small car, 35 percent were in a midsize or large car, 17 percent were in pickups and 17 percent were in SUVs.

Teens who died in crashes were more likely than middle-aged drivers to be in a mini or small car (29 percent vs. 20 percent) or a midsize car (23 percent vs. 16 percent), and less likely to be in a large pickup (10 percent vs. 16 percent).

Because teens are more likely to get into crashes than older drivers, it's important for parents to consider safety as well as cost when choosing a vehicle for their children, the researchers said.

Newer vehicles are "more likely to have better crash test ratings and important safety features such as [electronic stability control] and side air bags," they noted, adding: "Parents may benefit from consumer information about vehicle choices that are both safe and economical."

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about teen drivers.