Keeping young drivers safe on the road

September 12, 2012 1:10:43 PM PDT
Car accidents are the number one killer of teenagers, more than from cancer, gun violence, or drug use. The statistics are frightening.

The number of driving related teen deaths is on the rise in Texas, according to the Governor's Highway Safety Association. That's reason enough for parents to take steps to make their children better drivers.

Renee Pisarz says her 18-year-old son Stephen was just a few miles from his destination when his car skidded on ice and flipped several times, killing him and injuring his passenger.

"We'll never be the same," she said. "To lose a child is the greatest loss."

What haunts Renee is that Stephen was not wearing a seat belt, a factor in about 60 percent of fatal car accidents for teens. Distractions like texting or talking on the phone are also factors. And in fatal accidents 27 percent of young drivers were drunk.

Liza Barth with Consumer Reports said, "The first year of driving is the riskiest. Actually, 16-year-olds are three times more likely to get in a crash than18- or 19-year-olds."

Consumer Reports says traditional drivers education isn't enough, and recommends advanced training programs to teach teens how to handle emergency situations and become safer drivers. They also say new technology like Ford's programmable MyKey reminds teens to do the right thing.

"Ford's MyKey has some interesting features," Barth said. "A teen can't put the radio on until the seat belt is fastened. And also parents can set a top driving speed."

The car itself is also important.

Barth explained, "Parents tend to buy their teens older cars because they're less expensive, but they don't have the latest safety features and that can make all the difference."

Consumer Reports says two really important safety features for teens are electronic stability control and side curtain air bags.

There is some good news -- far fewer teens are dying in car crashes now than they used to, due in large part to graduated driver licensing. These laws place restrictions on teen drivers, like limiting late-night driving and the number of passengers. States with the strongest laws have seen a clear reduction in the number of crashes and fatalities.

This is a list of cars Consumer Reports says are good for young drivers:

Acura TSX
Chevrolet Equinox (V6, 2010-2012)
Chevrolet Malibu (4-cyl., 2008 or later)
Ford Focus sedan (2009-2011)
Ford Fusion (4-cyl. and hybrid, 2010 or later)
Honda Accord (4-cyl., 2008 or later)
Honda Fit (2011 or later)
Hyundai Elantra (2011 or later)
Hyundai Elantra SE (2008-2010)
Hyundai Elantra Touring
Hyundai Santa Fe (V6, 2007-2009, no third-row seat)
Hyundai Sonata (4-cyl., nonturbo, 2006 or later)
Hyundai Tucson (2010 or later)
Infiniti G25
Kia Forte (2010 or later)
Kia Optima (nonturbo, 2010 or later)
Kia Soul
Kia Sportage (4-cyl., nonturbo, 2011 or later)
Mazda 3i Touring (2009 or later)
Mazda 3s Touring or Grand Touring (2007 or later)
Mazda 6i (4-cyl., 2009 or later)
Mitsubishi Outlander (2007 or later, no third-row seat)
Nissan Altima (4-cyl., 2010 or later)
Nissan Rogue
Nissan Sentra (2010 or later)
Scion xB (2008 or later)
Subaru Forester (nonturbo, 2009 or later)
Subaru Impreza (nonturbo, 2009 or later)


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