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The youngest drivers pay 60 per cent more for insurance. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
The youngest drivers pay 60 per cent more for insurance. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Young Drivers

Teenagers’ cars are older, smaller and less safe: study Add to ...

Many teenagers are driving vehicles that do not offer good crash protection or lack important safety technology, according to research released Wednesday by the U.S. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, a group financed by the insurance industry.

The study shows that teenagers killed in crashes while behind the wheel are more likely than adults of their parents’ age to be driving vehicles that are smaller and older. Larger, heavier vehicles generally provide much better crash protection than small ones, and older vehicles are less likely to be equipped with proven safety enhancements like electronic stability control and side air bags. Also, the study notes, vehicles’ crashworthiness has improved over time.

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Data in the report showed that 29 per cent of drivers 15 to 17 who were killed in crashes were driving small cars or minicars, compared with 20 per cent of drivers 35 to 50 years old. And 82 per cent of the teenage motorists who died were driving vehicles at least 6 years old, compared with 77 per cent of the adults.

Thirty-four per cent of the teenage driver fatalities occurred in vehicles that were from 6 to 10 years old, 31 per cent were in vehicles from 11 to 15 years old and 17 per cent were in vehicles at least 16 years old.

Middle-age adults who died in crashes were more likely to be driving newer vehicles. The data showed that 23 per cent of fatally injured middle-aged motorists were driving vehicles no more than 5 years old, compared with 18 per cent for teenagers. But even when teenagers were driving relatively new cars - less than 3 years old - 57 per cent of those were small cars or minicars.

The institute defines minicars as those weighing from 2,000 to 2,500 pounds - a Mini Cooper, for example. Examples of small cars would be the Toyota Corolla or Ford Focus.

Data for the study came from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System and focused on crash statistics from 2008 - to 2012. Vehicle identification numbers were used to identify make, model and model year.

The insurance institute says parents should consider four main points when choosing a vehicle for a teenager: Avoid vehicles with a lot of horsepower, since those can tempt teenagers to drive too fast; look for larger, heavier vehicles, which provide better protection in a crash; get a vehicle with electronic stability control, which helps a driver to maintain control of a vehicle on curves and slippery roads; and choose a vehicle with the highest possible safety rating.

If you have questions about driving or car maintenance, please contact our experts at globedrive@globeandmail.com.

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