I was hoping to avoid this but now that my three sons are driving, we need a third car.  (No, as wonderful as they are, I’m not going to buy them their own cars!)  But I have been thinking about buying a car so the five of us can share three cars instead of two. Of course, I don’t want to spend a lot of money on this third car but I want to make sure it’s safe.

Sheila Yu reviews a new study, published in the journal Injury Prevention, that provides some helpful advice:

A new study found that teens who drive newer cars may have a lower risk of getting into fatal car crashes. The reason? Newer cars were more likely to come with standard safety features — like side airbags and electronic stability control — that older cars lacked.

Larger, heavier cars may offer better protection than smaller, lighter cars, the authors of this study said. They added that “Parents may benefit from consumer information about vehicle choices that are both safe and economical.”


Looking at automobile fatalities from 2008-2012 comparing teenagers ages 15-17 and adults ages 35-50, the study found that the larger the vehicle, the fewer fatalities:

  • 29% of the fatalities were in “mini” or small cars
  • 23% midsize cars
  • 12% large or very large cars
  • 17% SUV’s
  • 17% pickup trucks
  • 2% minivans


The study also found that teenagers tend to drive (and die in) older vehicles while middle-aged people like their parents prefer newer models:

Overall, 82% of the vehicles driven by fatally injured teenage drivers were 6 years old or older, including 34% that were 6–10 years old, 31% that were 11–15 years old and 17% that were 16 years old or older.


Linda Carroll breaks it down further:

Researchers found that that almost half of the teenage drivers killed on the roads in the past few years were driving vehicles that were 11 or more years old and lacking key safety features found in newer models, according to the study, published online in the journal Injury Prevention.

“We know that many parents cannot afford a new vehicle,” said the study’s lead author, Anne McCartt, senior vice president for research at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. “Our message to parents is to get the most safety they can afford.”


The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IHSS) provides new car crash ratings for the automobile industry and some buying guidelines for parents of teens:

The recommendations are guided by four main principles:

  • Young drivers should stay away from high horsepower. More powerful engines can tempt them to test the limits.
  • Bigger, heavier vehicles are safer. They protect better in a crash, and HLDI analyses of insurance data show that teen drivers are less likely to crash them in the first place. There are no minicars or small cars on the recommended list. Small SUVs are included because their weight is similar to that of a midsize car.
  • Electronic stability control (ESC) is a must. This feature, which helps a driver maintain control of the vehicle on curves and slippery roads, reduces risk on a level comparable to safety belts.
  • Vehicles should have the best safety ratings possible. At a minimum, that means good ratings in the IIHS moderate overlap front test, acceptable ratings in the IIHS side crash test and four or five stars from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).


A big, new car it is, then.