Make us your home page
Autos | Teen drivers

Protect teen drivers with vehicles chock-full of safety features

Jake Briner checks behind his car while in a driver’s education class last year at Northeast High School in St. Petersburg.

LARA CERRI | Times (2009)

Jake Briner checks behind his car while in a driver’s education class last year at Northeast High School in St. Petersburg.

Big, boring and slow. That's the formula for teenage drivers, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, a nonprofit that analyzes auto safety and driving issues. • "The vehicle choice for teens is especially crucial because of their higher risk of getting into a crash," said Russ Rader, the institute's spokesman.

The highway safety institute agreed with many of the findings of Consumer Reports, which recently issued its list of the best cars for teen drivers and emphasized the importance of the electronic stability control safety feature.

Such systems sense when a vehicle begins to slide in a turn and applies the brakes to one or more of the auto's wheels to keep the car on course, said Jim Travers, the magazine's associate autos editor.

The feature will be required on 2012 model-year vehicles, Travers said.

According to the highway safety institute, electronic stability control reduces the risk of fatal single-vehicle crashes by 50 percent and fatal multiple vehicle crashes by 19 percent. Moreover, it slashes the potential for fatal vehicle rollover accidents in cars and SUVs by at least 72 percent.

Consumer Reports and the institute both said teen drivers need vehicles with as many safety features as possible, including antilock brakes and curtain air bags.

The crash risk is four times as high for 16- to 19-year-olds as for older drivers, per mile driven, according to the institute. At age 16, the crash rate is double what it is for 18- to 19-year-olds, it said.

A small, lightweight car is not a good vehicle for a teen driver, Rader said.

Consumer Reports is more lenient and has some small cars, including the Hyundai Elantra and the Mazda 3, among its recommendations.

The magazine suggests that teens drive late-model or new vehicles, which are more likely to have safety features and less likely to break down.

Its recommendations for larger vehicles include the Acura TSX, Honda Accord, Kia Optima, Toyota Prius and Volkswagen Jetta. Travers acknowledged that some of these might be outside of a family's budget for teen transportation and recommended used conservative sedans with as many safety features as possible.

Both organizations suggest that parents should avoid SUVs and pickup trucks because of their high center of gravity and added rollover risk. They recommend staying away from performance and sports cars.

"The main issue with teens in general is that they overestimate their skills and underestimate their risks. Teens have a penchant for taking risks behind the wheel. They are more likely to speed, more likely to tailgate and they are less likely to wear their seat belts," Rader said.

On the Web

Consumer Reports:

Insurance Institute for Highway Safety crash ratings:

Protect teen drivers with vehicles chock-full of safety features 05/26/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 25, 2010 10:47pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Los Angeles Times.

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. In advertising, marketing diversity needs a boost in Tampa Bay, nationally


    TAMPA — Trimeka Benjamin was focused on a career in broadcast journalism when she entered Bethune-Cookman University.

    From left, Swim Digital marketing owner Trimeka Benjamin discusses the broad lack of diversity in advertising and marketing with 22 Squared copywriter Luke Sokolewicz, University of Tampa advertising/PR professor Jennifer Whelihan, Rumbo creative director George Zwierko and Nancy Vaughn of the White Book Agency. The group recently met at The Bunker in Ybor City.
  2. Tampa Club president seeks assessment fee from members


    TAMPA — The president of the Tampa Club said he asked members last month to pay an additional assessment fee to provide "additional revenue." However, Ron Licata said Friday that the downtown business group is not in a dire financial situation.

    Ron Licata, president of the Tampa Club in downtown Tampa. [Tampa Club]
  3. Under Republican health care bill, Florida must make up $7.5 billion


    If a Senate bill called the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017 becomes law, Florida's government would need to make up about $7.5 billion to maintain its current health care system. The bill, which is one of the Republican Party's long-promised answers to the Affordable Care Act imposes a cap on funding per enrollee …

    Florida would need to cover $7.5 billion to keep its health care program under the Republican-proposed Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017.  [Times file photo]
  4. Amid U.S. real estate buying binge by foreign investors, Florida remains first choice

    Real Estate

    Foreign investment in U.S. residential real estate recently skyrocketed to a new high with nearly half of all foreign sales happening in Florida, California and Texas.

    A National Association of Realtors annual survey found record volume and activity by foreign buyers of U.S. real estate. Florida had the highest foreign investment activity, followed by California and Texas. [National Association of Realtors]
  5. Trigaux: Tampa Bay health care leaders wary of getting too far ahead in disruptive times


    Are attempts to repeal Obamacare dead for the foreseeable future? Might the Affordable Care Act (ACA), now in dire limbo, be revived? Will Medicaid coverage for the most in need be gutted? Can Republicans now in charge of the White House, Senate and House ever agree to deliver a substitute health care plan that people …

    Natalia Ricabal of Lutz, 12 years old, joined other pediatric cancer patients in Washington in July to urge Congress to protect Medicaid coverage that helped patients like Ricabal fight cancer. She was diagnosed with Ewing's sarcoma in 2013 and has undergone extensive treatments at BayCare's St. Joseph's Children's Hospital in Tampa. [Courtesy of BayCare]