Choosing a safe car for your teen

Teen Car

 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that the risk of a car accident is higher among 16- to 19-year-olds than any other age group.

In 2010 alone, nearly 282,000 teens wound up in emergency rooms after wrecks. Some good news: The most important safety feature in a car — the driver — can be improved through education. For example, about half of teens in a 2011 study by the CDC said they rarely wear their seat belt — but that’s something that can be changed. And, the CDC has found that education is one way to increase seat belt use. While reprogramming the organic software (a.k.a. “the young driver’s brain”) may be difficult, selecting hardware (a.k.a. “a vehicle”) shouldn’t be.

Rather than specific models, focus on how the vehicle is equipped.

ESC, ABS and airbags

First, aspire to get a vehicle with Electronic Stability Control (generically called ESC, but described under various acronyms by different manufacturers). ESC is a computer system that can provide a magical butt-saving by helping to prevent the car from spinning out or plowing straight off the road. Imagine having a professional race driver take the wheel when things get shaky: That’s ESC. Note: ESC is a wonderful invention, but, of course, safety systems don’t replace the need for safe driving practices.

In addition to ESC, vehicles made in 2012 or later must also have an anti-lock braking system (ABS), advanced head restraints and the latest crash structures. Many produced before 2012 had those features, as well. You might also want to check whether the car has side air bags, which are not required by the NHTSA, the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. If you can’t afford a vehicle made in 2012 or later, vehicles built no earlier than about 1999 also had several safety features. These include side-impact structure and dual front airbags, both of which were required on cars built in the late ‘90s.

Buy — and maintain — a ‘safety system’

Understand that you are buying a “safety system” for your teen — but it needs to undergo basic maintenance to do its job of keeping your teen safe. The vehicle’s tires are one main area to focus on when it comes to maximizing its safety features. To keep the safety system at its peak, check your teens’ tire pressure at least once a month. And, consider replacing tires well before they were to the legal minimum (either 2/32 inch or 1/32 inch in states that have a legal minimum requirement). An easy way to measure: Insert a quarter, Washington’s head down, into the most-shallow groove, if you can see the top of George’s wig, replace the tires.

Source: Allstate Insurance